Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Last Word

Our Creative Director, Nick Hunt, was invited to write the ‘Last Word’ column for the latest edition of Arts Professional (find it here).

Excitement mounts chez nous as we contemplate a June break, and a first visit to Musiques Metisses, the long-running boutique festival that celebrates the French bonds to West Africa and other global music hotspots. We do it on our own doorstep, too. When we drove into Manchester last week to see the stupendous Portuguese fado singer Mariza, we were being music tourists. Feargal Sharkey is exactly right: “Music provides a huge boost to UK tourism, it drives growth, it sustains thousands of jobs across all regions”. Except it’s not just music, it’s our vibrant contemporary arts. It’s culture that drives tourism in this rainy island. And it is a powerhouse for the economy. Even the Prime Minister knows it.

Last summer, David Cameron gave a keynote speech on tourism, driving home its vital importance to the UK economy and ‘the recovery’. His choice of venue told you everything that he knows but may not acknowledge… Not a museum, a resort or a stately home, but the Serpentine Gallery’s temporary pavilion, the latest in a crazily ambitious series of commissions from leading-edge architects which has been a triumph of vision and ambition – and of cultural tourism. David Cameron seems somehow to grasp this, but the tragedy is that his government does not walk the walk.

 So now we plunge into the perfect storm of cuts – arts councils, local authorities, and, worst of all, the abolition of the regional development agencies and their huge strategic programmes. Few cultural projects will get a sniff of the miniscule Regional Growth Fund that replaces them. As architect David Chipperfield unveils his second temple of modern culture in six weeks, maybe we have enough infrastructure now? Perhaps we can just get along, from here on…Well, no. The cogs of the cultural powerhouse need to keep turning. And some of the first effects of it grinding to a halt are seen in the sad scenario of plummeting numbers of earning opportunities for individual artists. Much of this will be due to the abrupt halt to public investment in regeneration and regional development. And surely this can only be exacerbated by the number of public realm commissioners omitted from the new Arts Council England (ACE) portfolio. If the artists are not being sustained now, we will all feel the effects later on.

Meanwhile, the ACE/Turning Point report suggests that visual arts organisations need to strengthen their business models and enhance their ‘sustainability’. But is this reasonable, when so often the real profit and loss account is in the world outside? Turner Contemporary, for example, will not ultimately be judged on how much it earns, but on whether it transforms future prospects for Margate. A tall order, but if anyone can do it…

All power, then, to Gulbenkian for an award shortlist with real wow factor – and evidence that outstanding work can spring from the most disadvantaged communities. Why not invest in them all, Gulbenkian? You know it makes sense. And then there is Culture + Conflict. Michaela Crimmin’s initiative and the other case studies leave me awestruck. It is humbling to realise how much tougher things can be, and how, still, art can rise to the challenge. In the week when Ai Weiwei has finally been glimpsed, alive and well, we must be grateful for small mercies.

This week Nick will cross to the Dark Side (Yorkshire) to marvel at the opening of The Hepworth. But why should Wakefield have two world-beaters? At least both Hepworth and Yorkshire Sculpture Park are showcasing young Lancashire artists – Halima Cassell and Rebecca Chesney.

Nick Hunt is Creative Director of Mid Pennine Arts and a member of the Culture Forum


The Dress Appears. (via Project Pride Nelson)

The latest about Project Pride Nelson.

The Dress Appears. The group has done most of its research and now is the time to use this to develop the final piece. Last week I sourced a dress and a shop display mannequin. As soon as the participants saw the dress ideas started to fly. We began the session by developing an action plan, everything has to be completed by Friday July 1st 2011 & so this leaves 6 sessions in which to complete the exhibit, design & order promotional material & organise t … Read More

via Project Pride Nelson

Adventures in Facebook 2: This time its personal! (via EDIdeasdervish)

Having just switched the Mid Pennine Arts facebook presence to a page, this workshop will explore how that was done and other important tips about getting the best from facebook.

Adventures in Facebook 2: This time its personal! I've just spent most of the day preparing my presentation for Wednesday evening's Adventures in Facebook workshop at Oswaldtwistle's Civic Arts Centre (starts 6pm, ends a little after 8pm, cost £5 per person). I started by reviewing my presentation for Valley at Work, which led to the realisation of how far I had travelled since then. At that point in time I was researching facebook pages and how they might be put to work to promote my businesses … Read More

via EDIdeasdervish

Evaluation of Creative Partnerships Work With Schools

David Smith and Steph Hawke were at a Creative Partnerships event yesterday at the Cornerhouse. The event was led by David Wood, an independent consultant who has been working on analysing the findings of all the lengthy project evaluation forms that Creative Agents have been submitting to the projects database over the years since CP began in 2002. His project took a sample of 80 change schools and 9 case studies which were researched over 2 years. More info and the reports are available at

His findings showed:

  • the majority of schools focussed on arts based subjects (literacy, animation/ digital tech, art & design) – which indicates that even as the CP agenda shifted from funding for the arts to a drive to develop creative teaching and learning in disadvantaged schools, headteachers were still keen to put the funding behind the arts
  • across the curriculum CP has impacted mainly in the areas of
    • learning environments
    • tackling cultural disadvantage and isolation
    • parental involvement – (CP has made a difference to family learning)
    • staff development – (the biggest distance travelled was the development amongst staff of a commitment to creativity)
  • 5/9 case study schools said if funding allowed, they would like to keep their Creative Agent as a critical friend
  • Whilst early years and foundation stage projects had embraced new philosophies like that of Reggio Emilia,  few were taking this intellectual dialogue about pedagogy into the other key stages – schools still don’t seem to be reading beyond Ken Robinson’s ‘All Our Futures’ – this is something that Pat Thompson and Ken Jones in their research with Nottingham and Keele Universities, have described as ‘sense making collective intelligence’

After this initial presentation, the participants were asked to work in groups to look at what concerned us about the research and what confirmed for us our own feelings about CP. We moved into looking at creative skills development and how to evidence this. We were asked to look at examples of evaluations and suggest which elements were good and which, as agents, we would be looking to probe. After lunch the afternoon focussed on help and advice for completing the paperwork for the Change Schools Programme.

Project Pride Nelson Begins! (via Project Pride Nelson)

A lovely update on the progress of Project Pride in Nelson by artist Karen Alderson.

Project Pride Nelson Begins! Project Pride Nelson has its background in ‘Talking Shop’, an art and regeneration project managed by MidPennine Arts (MPA). Talking Shop has encompassed projects that focus on the importance of independent trade in local communities. See Project Pride Nelson’s aims are  -to enable young people involved in the project to learn about how Nelson has developed through the growth of trade and industry to … Read More

via Project Pride Nelson