Monthly Archives: February 2011

Hamlet, One Of The Best…

A recent visit to London gave our Education & Projects Director an excuse to go to the Theatre….

I recently visited my son in London. “Let’s go to the theatre,” he said.

“How antisocial; I’ve not seen you for weeks,” I said, “What is the play about?”

“Oh, you probably won’t like it….it’s about a man who murders his brother to sleep with his brother’s wife, the hero’s girlfriend goes mad and is found drowned, probably murdered – his two university friends are decapitated, he stabs to death his girlfriend’s father, his girlfriend’s brother is killed in a fight, his mother poisoned and her ‘new’ husband stabbed and poison rammed down his throat…..”

“Let’s go,“ I said. So off we went to see ‘Hamlet’ at the National Theatre.

Rory Kinnear is marvellous as Hamlet. He offers the right blend of manic depressive behaviour and intelligent scrutiny of others. It’s the first time I’ve seen an actor smoking on stage used as an anti-social gesture because no-one else does. His problem is not that he can’t act and take revenge; it’s he can’t find the right circumstances to justify his revenge to himself until the end of the play, of course!!! His grasp of Shakespeare’s language and stagecraft is superb.

When Claudius first appeared, I thought, “My God. It’s Berlusconi!” I found his portrayal disappointing and weaker than I would have expected. Certainly overshadowed by the Player King. I have never seen ‘the play within the play’ done better – a totally engaging piece of physical theatre. Great ghost, movingly in torment – how they made him appear and disappear I couldn’t work out.

Surveillance is everywhere; it’s modern dress in an autocratic state – ring any bells? No-one is ever alone; everyone, every room is bugged; cameras are everywhere – set speeches are made for a wider audience with characters – especially Claudius knowing they are being filmed. Even Ophelia’s bible is bugged.

It’s the fifth time I’ve seen ‘Hamlet’; not as good as David Warner’s at Stratford in 1965 – God am I really that old? But well worth seeing, one of the best; and after 4 hours – yes the text has been cut – my bum wasn’t numb…and it’s coming to the Lowry in Salford.

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Shhh…. ‘keep’ it to yourself!

Our Visual Arts & Projects Officer Rebecca Alexander talks about the latest developments at Clitheroe Castle Museum….

We’re waiting until all permissions have been granted before we announce who we and Lancashire Museums Service have awarded the second Contemporary Heritage commission to. Knowing I need to keep his/her name under wraps is at the forefront of my mind while still trying to let you in on some of the developments.

The Artist Site visit day was a densely foggy day as these photos show…

The thing with Clitheroe Castle is that it never disappoints whatever the weather. It is always magnificent and the weather – shine, snow, fog, rain (the order in which I have experienced it), only steeps the place in more mystery and atmosphere. I was there yesterday with The Artist and the project team on a site visit in the drizzling rain and there were still a lot of families exploring the grounds. Good old (& young) Brits! Macs and wellies on and I’m sure there were tourists braving it too.

I can tell you that the piece will be sited in the Castle Keep and it’s going to be quite an experience. I can’t wait to tell you more!

What Next For Public Art?

AUSTERITY OR OPPORTUNITY?

A seminar by Maggie Bolt
Wednesday 9 March 2011, 2-5 p.m

Burnley Mechanics, Manchester Road, Burnley BB11 1BH

FREE

                                                       Image: Dream by Jaume Plensa, St Helen’s

Over the past eight months the landscape for cultural activity and development has dramatically shifted. Partners and methods of delivery are changing daily, and the focus on quality environments and the need to ensure that thoughtful practice informs thoughtful places has been swept over by a surge of cost cutting, shedding of professions and a culture of austerity. But hard times shouldn’t equate with poverty of thinking – in fact it is even more important, when resources are tight, to explore the left field and embrace creativity and innovation. Maggie Bolt will be talking about the challenges she thinks public art now faces, where new partnerships might be found and what we need to do in order to equip us for this very different world.

Maggie’s talk will be followed by local case studies of public art projects across Pennine Lancashire and discussion.

This seminar is free and open to anyone, but will be of particular relevance to those working in regeneration, planning, housing market renewal, development control, community and arts services.

Maggie Bolt has over 25 years experience in the contemporary visual art field. She is a creative and strategic thinker, who has specialised in the field of public art and is widely recognised as one of the key players in this sector nationally and internationally.
 
This seminar is the last in a series organised by the Creativity Works for Regeneration Group.

The seminar is FREE, and will take place in the Tudor Room at Burnley Mechanics, Manchester Road, Burnley. Tea/coffee/biscuits provided.
To book a place, please contact Lucy Green on lucy@midpenninearts.org.uk

For further information please contact Piotr Bienkowski on piotr.bienkowski@blackburn.gov.uk

These seminars are funded by Lancashire County Council through their Public Art Allocation

Stezaker, Sculpture, Sunflowers Star Trek

A couple of nights in London provided the opportunity to catch up with some exhibitions that had attracted my attention and eat lots of nice food!

Whitechapel Gallery

First stop was the Whitechapel Gallery’sshow by John Stezaker. I really like the Whitechapel as a destination in its own right, regardless of what’s on. It’s a superb space and well worth a visit.

The exhibition blurb describes the work as follows: ‘British artist John Stezaker is fascinated by the lure of images. Taking classic movie stills, vintage postcards and book illustrations, Stezaker makes collages to give old images a new meaning. By adjusting, inverting and slicing separate pictures together to create unique new works of art, Stezaker explores the subversive force of found images. Stezaker’s famous Mask series fuses the profiles of glamorous sitters with caves, hamlets, or waterfalls, making for images of eerie beauty.’ I have to admit that I’m probably not the best kind of gallery visitor, in that I get bored, very easily! I enjoyed the exhibition, but I did start to get distracted before I’d viewed all the pieces. I loved the basic premise of the work but the repetition did start to get to me.

Modern British Sculpture

Next, the Royal Academy and the Modern British Sculpture show. They describe the show as, ‘… the first exhibition for 30 years to examine British sculpture of the twentieth century. The show represents a unique view of the development of British sculpture, exploring what we mean by the terms British and sculpture by bringing the two together in a chronological series of strongly themed galleries, each making its own visual argument.’ The show is certainly subjective and has created quite a bit of controversy over what was included and, more so, what was left out. No Gormley or Kapoor for example. Overall I very much enjoyed the exhibition, it includes some wonderful pieces. I was surprised by some of the inclusions and struggled to engage with a few. I loathed the piece by Damien Hirst, which features thousands of flies plaguing an abandoned barbecue scene, although I imagine it did exactly what it was supposed to, it made my skin crawl! I had some childish fun watching other visitors’ reaction to Epstein’s sculpture ‘Adam’. This is an unashamed overtly sexual depiction of primal masculinity. (I hope you all get the sub-text there!) Watching fellow visitors struggle with the urge to touch ‘it’ was a lot of fun. In case you’re wondering I kept my hands to myself, but only because the attendant was watching!

The RA is also good for a bit of people watching. The very glamorous restaurant (which includes a little ante-room of big leather armchairs where you can order snacks) is worth a visit.

Tate Modern

A brief visit to Tate Modern left me feeling seriously disappointed. The Unilever Series of installations in the Turbine Hall have been fascinating and reading about Ai Weiwei’s installation, ‘Sunflower Seeds’, I imagined that I would enjoy this as much as I have the others. You may have read that the piece, composed of 100 million hand-crafted porcelain seeds, had been designed for visitors to walk over and interact with. However, concerns about visitors and staff breathing in porcelain dust has led to visitors being banned from walking on or even touching the piece. A film showing the creation of the piece left me feeling two things. The first was that the fantastic sound created when the seeds were walked on was integral to the installation, and without it the piece felt very sterile. Second, I was rather uncomfortable that I had to be protected from the dust, when the 100’s of Chinese artisans who created the seeds worked in less than protected circumstances.

My disappointment had to be tempered with a nice lunch in the 2nd floor restaurant and lots of browsing in the shop.

The National Portrait Gallery

I went to the NPG primarily to visit the show of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. Photography is a favourite genre of mine and I enjoyed this show. However, the best thing about the visit was completely unexpected. I came across Marc Quinns’ piece ‘Self’, which is a sculptural self portrait made of nine pints of his frozen blood. I had seen photographs of this work and read about it since it was first created in the early 90s, and I have to be honest I’d dismissed the work as an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ piece from the Young British Artists phenomonon. Hands up, I LOVED IT! Just goes to show you should never judge anything by the hype. I thought it was extremely beautiful and I’d urge you to take a look if you’re visiting NPG. I’ll admit it wasn’t a universal reaction, some other visitors experienced repulsion rather than admiration, but it’s one to see in the flesh (pardon the pun)!

The café here was a bit dull so off to Liberty’s for afternoon tea. For lovers of quality design, extraordinary architecture and great cake, this place is a must.

All in all I had a great couple of days of gallery visits. I find the experience equally valid whether I love or hate an exhibition. The worst thing is when I can’t engage with them at all and leave feeling indifferent.

PS – a colleague has pointed out that I haven’t mentioned the strongest cultural moment of my visit. I hadn’t included it as it might make you think that I’m something of a nerd, but as he pointed out, I am, so… I ran into George Takei! Okay, for any of you non-nerds out there he played Mr Sulu in the original Star Trek. It was quite a fun moment, I was saved from making an idiot of myself, only because someone else already was. A young American leaping up and down shouting (imagine mid west/southern accent) ‘oh my god, it’s you, it’s you, look everybody it’s him, from Star Trek, oh my god, oh my god…’. Mr Takei it should be noted was the perfect celebrity, he stopped, let the guy take a photograph, gave him a hug and then moved away as fast as possible without actually running!

Melanie Diggle
Finance & Admin Director

Streets in Action Highlights!

I was kindly invited by Graham Wilson, Chief Executive of the National Authority of British Market Authorities (NABMA for short) to speak at their conference in Birmingham last week on 27th Jan. The theme was Streets in Action, and I was able to present a case study of Talking Shop in Lancaster, where we’ve been putting artwork into empty shop windows around the city.

It was a great opportunity to show market and town centre managers what can be achieved when you work in a creative way in town centres, and I spoke alongside Alice Angus, the artist who worked on the project. See the website for more info: http://www.midpenninearts.org.uk/talking-shop-lancaster

I also got to hear from some speakers that I would never otherwise have come across, working as I do in the arts sector. Here are my conference highlights:

Chuggers Watch Out!

Did you know that a ‘chugger’ (short for charity mugger!) can only take three paces towards you, three alongside you, and three following you in their bid to get your attention? Any more than these nine steps and they are contravening the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association ‘Code of Conduct’ that the charities employing them are usually signed up to. So email any complaints about contravening of this rule to nick@pfra.org.uk – apparently he loves a good complaint, as Head of Standards it means he can make sure he is doing his job!

Character Zones

Apparently this is the buzzword taking over from Cultural Quarters, which are close to my heart as many moons ago I wrote my dissertation about them. I like the idea that an area is celebrated for its ‘character’, which can apply to a wider range of contexts.

Ambush Marketing

Staff from the Olympic 2012 team told us about this and their attempts to control it for the games next year. Ambush marketing is basically when people don’t get permission for advertising in public spaces and hijack a building or public space – so for example projecting images on the Houses of Parliament or parking an empty bus covered in advertising behind news reporters at the scene of an event. Sounds like fun, but I can only imagine the mayhem if they didn’t try to control it.

So some very different perspectives for me gained from the day, and I met several useful contacts too. Also got to meet the lovely Nick Owen of ‘Anne and Nick’ breakfast TV fame who was presenting awards, so a minor celeb-spot too, which always makes my day!

Lucy Green,

Talking Shop Project Coordinator

Mid Pennine Arts Launches Project Pride

North West Arts Charity playing pivotal role in renewal of Pennine Lancs heritage sites!

MID Pennine Arts has announced the launch of a ground-breaking major new scheme that will focus on the heritage of Burnley, Accrington and Nelson.

The focus of “Project Pride” will be to look at how trade and industry has shaped the towns over the last 200 years. The project will research and interpret the industrial heritage of three key places within the towns – each of which is facing major change in coming months and years, and each of which has played a pivotal role in shaping the identity of the towns.

Project Pride locations include Burnley’s Weavers’ Triangle, which is set to be the focal point of a major regeneration programme; the recently refurbished Victorian Market Hall in Accrington; and the junction of Leeds Road and Manchester Road in Nelson, which is currently in the process of being re-developed. The Nelson site includes the ‘Lord Nelson’ public house, from which the town took its name.

Mid Pennine Arts has been working with local Councils to help reignite local pride of place relating to town centres, particularly amongst younger people. Through Project Pride the arts charity will be working with groups of people aged 13-15 from local schools to develop ideas for the project to uncover and celebrate their heritage. The project will work alongside libraries, museums, North West Sound Archive and Lancashire Record Office.

Organisers hope that the project will enable young people to learn about their heritage and understand how trade and industry enabled the towns to grow into the places we know today. The project came about after Mid Pennine Arts successfully applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Young Roots’ programme to fund the project that will continue until summer 2011.

Lucy Green, Mid Pennine Arts’ project coordinator for Project Pride, said: ”We did some initial work last summer – a consultation with young people from the area, from which grew the idea for the project. That has seen us win £25,000 worth of funding, which is a real coup for the area in this tough economic climate. We are now looking for the right artists to work with, who can help to bring the young people’s ideas to life!”

“We want the project to bring about the re-telling of stories that have defined our identities and shaped our communities. Our ultimate objective is to inspire everyone involved in the project to think differently and in a more positive way about the place in which they live. We want Project Pride to inspire people and to demonstrate some of the many good reasons to be proud of where we live!”

More details about the project and the opportunities for artists to get involved are on the Mid Pennine Arts website: www.midpenninearts.org.uk/opportunities