Monthly Archives: March 2011

Arts Council Funding Decisions – Disappointments for MPA and for Lancashire

Wednesday 30 March

Mid Pennine Arts announces today that it has not been successful in its bid for Arts Council portfolio funding for the three-year period from April 2012.

The Pennine Lancashire organisation was bidding for funding from central government alongside 1330 arts companies across the country. The Arts Council announced all results at 10am this morning. Only half the applicants have been successful, as the Arts Council implements a projected 29% cut in its funds.  MPA is one of 206 established clients to lose support.

MPA has been responsible for leading major projects like the Panopticons series of new landmarks, which has won national awards and attracted national and international attention to Pennine Lancashire. The Panopticons are featuring on two national TV programmes this spring.

MPA Creative Director Nick Hunt said:

“We are very proud of MPA’s work, a long history of achieving extraordinary creative results while working in some of the UK’s most deprived communities. So of course we are deeply disappointed by the Arts Council decision.

MPA’s funding, however, is secure for the year ahead, and we have some very exciting projects taking shape. In June we launch the second commission in the Contemporary Heritage series at Clitheroe Castle. Projects led by young people – the Project Pride series supported by Heritage Lottery Fund – are just kicking off in three Pennine Lancashire towns. There is much more in store, and while the coming year’s programme unfolds we will also be planning for how we operate in the future.

MPA has been active for 45 years and was here before the Arts Council’s North West operation. It represents a partnership approach to enriching the cultural life of our communities, and that will be ever more vital in these tough times. MPA has navigated major changes in the past, and this news represents a fresh challenge for our exceptional team to rise to.

We are grateful for the past support of the Arts Council, and the stalwart support of Lancashire County Council and all our many project partners.

Today we are also thinking about the bigger picture. Congratulations to the companies who have been successful.  There is great news here for some very deserving groups, like our friends at More Music, Burnley Youth Theatre, Spot On, Curious Minds, The Grundy, Art Gene and more.  We are delighted for them.

Our thoughts, though, are mainly with the many excellent arts organisations across England who have heard the same bad news. This includes too many of our colleagues and friends across Lancashire, where culture makes a huge contribution to public life, economy and tourism. It is a sad day for the arts.’


If you require further information please contact Philippa Roddam, Marketing Coordinator on 01282 421986 ext 205 or email


A Performance to Treasure…in Salford

Our Education and Projects Director David Smith has been to the theatre again, but this time to a sell out performance in Salford…

Went to see a play about an old man and his three daughters in Salford. No; it wasn’t ‘Hobsons’ Choice’ – but close….

I went to see ‘King Lear’ at the Lowry – six performances in a 1,700 seat theatre in Salford sold out for Shakespeare!

It was a touring Donmar Warehouse production and did they make the audience work hard! But the cast had to work hard themselves…It was the barest stage I have seen in years; in three hours the only props were a map, a joint stool and a chair! It meant listening, focusing hard on the language; terrific weight of responsibility on the cast in how they handled the language of the play because each scene had to be created through the language. The set – huge walls of monolithic looking ‘distressed’ planks which extend to cover the stage floor – had a feel of a period outside any historical time that we know.

Lear is a foolish old man who breaks up his kingdom and gives it away yet doesn’t understand that in giving his kingdom away his kingship goes with it.

He divides it between two of his daughters leaving his youngest without her rightful share.

It is an incredibly strong cast with a Fool who shows his love for Lear, whilst understanding the harm Lear has done. It is just one of a number of painful contradictions in the play.

But, like all the great tragedies, the play demands a great central performance if we are going to stay in our seats for three hours. Derek Jacobi delivers. He moves from the absolute tyrant who revels in the sycophantic flattery of two of his children whist throwing himself into an incandescent rage at his youngest daughter who speaks the unacceptable truth. He reveals an inner fear of the onset of madness before exposing the torture of a mind breaking and then shows moments of clarity of his perception of his own and the human condition when he is exposed and powerless.

This production offers the most moving climax to a Shakespearean tragedy I have ever seen. A great cry of despair from Lear as he enters carrying the body of his youngest daughter Cordelia. As he lays her on the ground testing her breath with a feather across her lips the whole theatre was silent; 1,700 hundred people so quiet the silence was tangible –an audience hardly breathing until the old man’s heart cracks and we hear the rattle of death in his throat…

A performance to treasure…and in Salford.

Creative Learning and Participatory Research

Our Education Coordinator Steph Hawke talks about her experience as a ‘Creative Agent’…

Creative Partnerships is a scheme introduced by the government in 2002 with the aim of returning creativity to a curriculum increasingly weighted towards numeracy and literacy. Delivered across Merseyside and Lancashire by creative social enterprise Curious Minds, Creative Partnerships has enriched the Creative Learning programme at MPA over the last six years.

In September Curious Minds welcomed me to the team as a ‘Creative Agent’ and since then I have been helping four schools to investigate how creative approaches can help meet their needs. What’s fascinating about the Creative Partnerships process is its clear emphasis upon ‘action research’. But what does this mean?

In the early years, action researchers were academics who sought to involve their research participants more than was typical in conventional research (Herr and Anderson, 2005: 2). One of the founding fathers of action research for example, Kurt Lewin, who developed his ideas in the 1930s, was motivated by a desire to give workers a greater say in their work contexts (Whitehead and McNiff, 2006: 21).

By the 1950s in the US, action research was being used in the field of education. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that action research achieved popularity in the UK and in some cases, particularly in the early work of John Elliot (well known internationally for his contribution to the development of the theory and practice of action research), Lewin’s goals were not quite achieved. In Elliot’s early work, power remained with an external researcher who looked into other people’s practices, interpreted the findings and assessed validity so that power, “never really devolved to the practitioners” (ibid). Perhaps the most important feature of action research is that it should shift power and control from the academic researcher to those who are usually described as the subjects of the research (Herr and Anderson, 2005: 2).

Central to action research is its concern with participation (Costello, 2003: 6). The process focusses upon action taken by participants within the organisation (or whatever community of practice is engaged in the research). The action is observed, reflected upon, exploratory changes are made as a result of this observation and new actions are taken. Action research is therefore practical and focussed on change. Lewin’s 1964 model suggested that action research should be a cycle of planning, acting, observing, reflecting and re-planning with participants taking full ownership of the process.

How does this translate to a Creative Partnerships project? This is what I’ve been exploring over the last few months. It means identifying an area of need – how to integrate the Spanish language across the curriculum for instance, or how to develop the teaching and learning of issues of global diversity – and inviting a Creative Practitioner to deliver sessions in school that explore solutions. It means listening to children’s feedback – what do they like, what works, what do they want to do next? And it means teachers testing their zones of comfort, participating, scribbling ideas, photographing and testing out the techniques they have seen modelled. Creative Partnerships involves honest reflection examining what worked, and any unexpected outcomes, and the adjustment of plans as a result. Above all, Creative Partnerships is a golden opportunity to explore and unleash creative approaches in school, engaging reluctant learners, inspiring busy teachers. It is embraced by those deserving schools and treasured by the Creative Agents lucky enough to have been involved.

Costello, P. J. M. (2003) Action research. London: Continuum.

Herr, K. and Anderson, G. L. (2005) The action research dissertation: a guide for students and faculty. London: Sage Publications.

Whitehead, J. and McNiff, J. (2006) Action research living theory. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

A new Contemporary Heritage commission at Clitheroe Castle Museum.

Mid Pennine Arts announce new Contemporary Heritage commission at Clitheroe Castle Museum.

Contemporary Heritage: A new way of seeing

“This is a composer who can get right under the skin.” Journal of Music in Ireland.

MID Pennine Arts have this week announced that the second Contemporary Heritage commission – that will be at Clitheroe Castle Museum – has been awarded to international prize-winning contemporary composer Ailís Ní Ríain.

Born in Cork, Ireland, Ailís captured the public’s imagination in 2009 with ‘Lighthouse Lullaby’, in Maryport, Cumbria. Ailís made the lighthouse sing. Her composition incorporated the sounds and rhythms of the lighthouse’s position at the harbour entrance. The piece interacted with the natural sounds and acoustics of the cast iron building to create an ever-changing improvised performance.

At Clitheroe Castle Museum, Ailís will create a sound installation in and around the Castle Keep. Her composition is inspired by the story of the Lancashire Witches and the 400th anniversary of the Witch trials in 2012. Ailís will be working with 10 women and 2 men aged 18 to 80+ who live or work in Clitheroe. The ‘hummers’ will spend time together with Ailís, understanding her work as a composer and how she creates her music. Each person will hum a song which has a personal poignancy to them which will become part of the installation.

Ailís said, “Clitheroe Castle Museum and grounds are fascinating. The Keep itself is particularly inspiring and I found the panel on the Lancashire Witch Trials in the Museum curious and indeed shocking. The Keep is incredible and has terrific scope for engagement with the public which is something I focus strongly on throughout my artistic work. “

Contemporary Heritage is an ambitious programme of artist commissions at stunning historic sites across Pennine Lancashire. The commissions, inspired by Pennine Lancashire’s heritage, animate each site and offer visitors a rare chance to experience major works of art by artists of national and international standing outside urban centres.

Contemporary Heritage brings an extra dimension to our partners’ venues, creating a new way of seeing the history and heritage of these sites. Mid Pennine Arts will deliver a programme of creative learning activities associated with each commission to further surprise, inspire and delight participants. Contemporary Heritage provides a terrific counterpoint to some of our heritage treasures, and attracts a new audience to explore the splendours of Lancashire.

Burnley’s Towneley Hall and Park is home to Not Forgotten, the first Contemporary Heritage installation by nationally acclaimed artist Geraldine Pilgrim.

Nick Hunt, Mid Pennine Arts Creative Director, said: “Contemporary Heritage is an ambitious programme of new art that makes dramatic use of some of our outstanding heritage locations. We are delighted to be working with Clitheroe Castle Museum and thrilled that Ailís has accepted the commission. Her installation will bring contemporary art, local people and a unique place together. It will give visitors a very new experience of this wonderful Lancashire landmark.”


Notes to Editors

If you require further information, images or would like to interview Ailís Ní Ríain or Rebecca Alexander, Visual Arts Programme Manager from Mid Pennine Arts – please call Julian Jordan from BrandSpankin’ on 01282 878 301 or email Further Contemporary Heritage installations are planned at Gawthorpe Hall, Helmshore Mills Textile Museum and Turton Tower.

About Mid Pennine Arts

We are a driving force for the arts, recognised nationally and internationally for devising and delivering integrated programmes that inspire, surprise and delight. We work in some of the most deprived communities in the UK yet have a longstanding track record of powerful, high quality work, demonstrating profound social and economic impacts. Our portfolio includes prize-winning public art for breathtaking landscape settings. Commissions of bold, contemporary work combine dynamically with exemplary programmes of creative learning and creative community engagement. Strong relationships with extensive networks of local partners have been consolidated over decades.

Our mission: we bring art, people and places together to transform perceptions and change lives.

Mid Pennine Arts Charity registration number 250642

Hummers Wanted!


Hummers wanted!
Mid Pennine Arts and Clitheroe Castle Museum are looking for 10 women and 2 men between the age of 18 and 90+ to work with contemporary composer Ailís Ní Ríain to create a sound installation for the Castle Keep at Clitheroe Castle in Lancashire.

International prize-winning contemporary classical composer Ailís Ní Ríain has been awarded the second Contemporary Heritage commission.

Contemporary Heritage: A new way of seeing is an ambitious programme of site-responsive commissions at historic sites across Pennine Lancashire. The interventions, inspired by Pennine Lancashire’s heritage, animate each site and offer visitors a rare chance to experience major works by artists of national and international standing outside urban centres.

Ailís is particularly interested in public sound art, opera, music-theatre and presenting contemporary music in diverse spaces.

You don’t need to be musical and you won’t be asked to sing! Just think of a song which means something to you and that you know well enough to hum.

The ‘Hummers’ will spend an hour together with Ailís in the Pendle Hill room at Clitheroe Castle on Friday 8th April 10-11am. Over cups of tea and biscuits, she’ll talk about her work as a composer and how she creates her pieces. She’ll play examples of her music; talk about the Contemporary Heritage programme and about how she’ll be working with you.

Each ‘Hummer’ will spend an extra 20 minutes 1:1 with Ailís. This will be a relaxed conversation leading to you humming a tune which means something to you. You can bring along words as a prompt if you like.

The recording will be used in the sound installation. Ailís will work your part into all the other recordings and the listener will not be able to identify an individual ‘voice’ (hum).

We would be delighted if you would like to take part in this unique opportunity. If you are available on Friday 8 April between 10am – 11am and for a further 20 minutes during the day, please call or email Rebecca to book your place and your 20 minute session with Ailís. You are welcome to look around the museum for free, usual price £3.65.

Ailís will telephone all the ‘Hummers’ for a chat before Friday 8th April.

To book your place, or if you’d like more information or would just like to have a chat about the project, please call Rebecca on 01282 421 986 ext 207 or email  Rebecca will ask your age as we would like a wide range of ages to participate.

Contemporary Heritage is a Mid Pennine Arts partnership programme working in collaboration with Lancashire Museum Service. 

10 Facts About Arts Award

MPA’s Business Director Rob Carder tells us all about Arts Award and how it can benefit young people….

Mid Pennine Arts is an Arts Award assessment centre. We can help young people achieve their Bronze and Silver Arts Awards. What is an Arts Award? Read on…

1. Arts Award is a national qualification that supports young people to develop as artists and arts leaders.

2. Arts Award is open to all young people aged 11 – 25.

3. Arts Award is an accredited qualification at three levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold) offered at Levels 1, 2 and 3 on the QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework) and is accredited by Ofqual.

4. Launched in 2005, the Arts Award is managed by Trinity College London in association with Arts Council England.

5. Between Nov 2005 and Feb 2011, the Arts Award involved over 13,853 professionals working with young people, resulting in over 40,276 awards.

6. The award fosters creative, communication and leadership skills and helps to prepare young people for further education and employment.

7. Young people can gain their awards through any art form, as creators of their own work or supporting an arts production.

8. At each level, young people are assessed on their understanding of their art form, creativity, and communication. At Silver and Gold level they are also assessed on their planning and review skills.

9. Young people work with a trained Arts Award adviser who supports them to achieve their aspirations. The adviser will usually be a professional artist, teacher or youth worker.

10. Young people take part in the award at an Arts Award centre. Any organisation which supports young people’s arts activities can register to be a centre e.g. schools, arts organisations, youth groups, young offender programmes, community projects.

Want to know more?

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