With two launch events on subsequent weekends in March the MPA team, artists and venue staff have been working flat out to have everything ready on time. All was planned down to the last detail including preparations for rainy spring weather. What we got was two weekends of bitterly cold winter weather including serious snowstorms for the second opening. Despite this everything went ahead, with the addition of extra layers, hats, scarves and gloves!
K-Scope at Turton Tower on Saturday 16 March
Turton Tower is a wonderful gem of a venue that is a delight to explore. Owl Project‘s installation there is in the library and the gardens. As the rooms are rather small we thought we’d have a marquee in the beautiful gardens for refreshments, speeches etc, not realising just how cold it would be. Thankfully our guests are a hardy lot and over 80 turned up for the event and enjoyed the hot coffee and cupcakes provided by the team at the Tower’s cafe. We were especially pleased that so many brought their children with them as K-Scope is an ideal contemporary art installation for young people. The wooden analogue computer in the library is interactive, you need to turn the handle to see it come alive, so kids (big and small) loved that and there was a queue for much of the afternoon. As for the listening horns in the gardens, all the guests were fascinated by what they could hear. Was it really the sound of James Kay’s amazing subterranean workshop?
MPA’s Creative Director, Nick Hunt, acted as master of ceremonies for the launch and we were delighted to be joined by Steph Murfin, Pennine Lancashire Museums Curator of Applied Arts, who talked about the ‘Wonderful Things’ campaign which is celebrating the amazing, weird and wonderful collections and stories of Pennine Lancashire Museums.
The final speaker was Simon Blackmore, one of the three artists, along with Antony Hall and Steve Symons, that make up Owl Project. He explained the research and development that had taken place that had lead to the creation of K-Scope which gave a fascinating insight into the history of Turton Tower. Simon, Antony and Steve spent the rest of the afternoon talking to people about the work and demonstrating how it works, which was much enjoyed by the guests.
Flicker at Gawthorpe Hall on Saturday 23 March
On Friday 22nd we woke to snow storms, snow drifts and freezing cold weather. After much deliberation of the logistical problems (staff being able to get to Gawthorpe to open it, for example) we decided to go ahead. 120 people had booked to come to the launch and in all honesty we thought less than a quarter would make it, so we were delighted when over 80 people joined us to celebrate the opening of this beautiful and emotive work. Many of the volunteers from the photoshoot, which was integral to the work, joined us and enjoyed trying to spot themselves in the finished installation. Unfortunately the artist, Catherine Bertola, wasn’t able to make the journey from the North East and was very disappointed not to be there. However we were lucky to have some other very special guests who helped us open the work. Nick Hunt acted as MC again and introduced: Bruce Jackson, County Heritage Manager, Lancashire CC; Jane Beardsworth, Regional Director, Arts Council England and Co Cllr John Shedwick, Chairman of Lancashire CC who did the official honours of declaring the installation open. In lieu of Catherine, MPA’s Project Manager for Contemporary Heritage, Lucy Green spoke and thanked all the many volunteers, partners and funders who have made Flicker possible. It was a bitter sweet moment as it was Lucy’s last day with MPA (she’s moving to Contact Theatre, Manchester) and a bit emotional for the rest of the team.
We were delighted with the reaction to Flicker and how worthwhile the guests thought their journey through the snow had been.
As with K-Scope at Turton Tower many of the guests had not visited the venue before and as well as enjoying the contemporary art had discovered a fascinating heritage venue that they will visit again. The perfect response to a Contemporary Heritage installation.