Category Archives: Creative Partnerships

Burnley at the Heart of Europe

It may not be very fashionable to be a ‘good European’ at the moment but Burnley is certainly playing its part in Europe.

The Council of Europe, a body of 47 nation states (not to be confused with the European Union), has awarded Burnley ‘le Diplôme européen’. The award has been made for its work in improving relationships between the people of Burnley and other European countries, in particular the people of its twin town, Vitry-sur-Seine, close to Paris. Indeed it was the only town in the UK to receive the award. Only 12 were offered to towns from 47 countries across Europe.

It was great too, to see that a part of the application was arts based, and related to Mid Pennine Arts!   It was possible to go back and highlight Nick Hunt’s well received presentation on the Singing Ringing Tree and the Panopticons to a huge cross-section of arts organisations from across Europe, South America and the United States at the opening of a new gallery for contemporary art from the whole of France, the Mac Val, in the Val de Marne department of northern France.

Included too was the award from the European Greenways Association (EGA) in Nancy, northern France, received at the award ceremony by Helen Yates. If you remember, the award was for MPA’s work supporting the transformation of a disused railway line into a greenway for local people in Padiham: walkers and cyclists. Mercedes Munoz, Director of EGA said: “…by removing barriers to everyday walking and cycling, greenways bring communities closer together.”

Mention was made of a visit by arts workers in Spain to Burnley’s Youth Theatre. The visit, organised by Arts Council England, offered presentations (from Nick for MPA and from Curious Minds) on Burnley’s commitment to public art, arts in the community and arts education in schools.

Of course the bid covered the work of Burnley’s Twinning Association: organising ramblers visits to and from France, 20 weeks of French lessons for its members, and welcoming 31 guests from Vitry into the homes of local people in April this year.

The Council too, has also contributed in hosting study visits over the last five years from groups of social workers, voluntary associations and students from Germany, France, and Norway. At the same time officers from the Council have actively participated in conferences and award ceremonies in Berlin, Slovenia, Gerona, Bilbao and Vilnius in Lithuania..

…and there is a huge amount going on in our schools!

Well; the European Diploma was collected on behalf of Burnley Council at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg by an honorary MPA staff member… David Smith!

Burnley (Lancashire) - Axel E. FISCHER Germany, Jean-Claude Frécon,  President of the Congress of the Council of Europe Burnley (Lancashire) - Axel E. FISCHER, Allemagne, Jean-Claude Frécon,  Président du Congrès du Conseil de l’Europe


What do the arts mean for young people?

Dr Steph Hawke, MPA’s Creative Learning Programme Manager recalls some recent work with young people.

What are the benefits of arts and culture for young people?  Is it easy for a young person in Pennine Lancashire to engage with the arts?  In February and March 2012, Mid Pennine Arts set out to explore these and other issues with two groups of young people. This involved a series of focus groups and creative activities. Curious Minds North West commissioned the research which fed into their wider intelligence gathering across the region.

The Creative Learning team worked with two groups of young people, aged between 14 and 15 and based in Accrington and Burnley. We asked them a range of questions: what do you do in your free time?  What arts activities do you engage with?  What do you do regularly?  What have you tried and stopped – and why?

Then we made a cultural visit – the Accrington group saw musical theatre at the Lowry Theatre.  The young people were set the challenge of trying something they had never done before. They explored digital photography and made a short film.

After being in the audience and taking part in a creative workshop, we asked the young people: what did you love?  What could have been better?

Finally we explored the barriers to engaging with arts and culture, what stops young people from getting involved?  The young people were encouraged to suggest ways of unlocking the arts.  In Burnley the group produced a manifesto for what young people want from their arts experiences.

We recorded the discussions digitally with photographs and sound.  We transcribed the discussions and analysed them with qualitative data analysis software.  Visit our website to view the powerpoint report from the project.

Local Children help Artists on Preston’s new Greenway

The Preston to Bamber Bridge Greenway has seen additional development over the last few weeks through the installation of three sculptures. Commissioned by Mid Pennine Arts, artists Martin Maudsley and John Packer developed a creative engagement programme that engaged the local communities and school children surrounding the Greenway through workshops and events which took place last year.

Two of the sculptures are educational pieces based on train couplings, reflecting the history of the area. These have been engraved with poetry from the children who participated in the school engagement programme, led by artist Martin Maudsley. The children from St Mary Magdalen’s Catholic Primary and Middleforth C of E Primary School, spent time on the Greenway discovering natural and historical elements of the site through sensory walks and collecting objects for drawing. The poetry was a result of their experiences and what the Greenway meant to them. The pieces have magnifying and fish eye lenses incorporated into the couplings to allow the surroundings to be viewed more closely.

The third sculpture took the form of seating. With the aid of artist John Packer, pupils from Lostock Hall Community High School & Arts College interpreted the ideas of the primary school children and developed them into designs. The end result was seating based loosely on leaf designs.

All three pieces have been built by John and can be found along the main route into Preston and around the Whitehouse Junction Nature Reserve area of the Greenway. The main access points of the Greenway are Avenham Park, Leyland Road opposite the fire station and Factory Lane after the junction with Old Tram Road.

Development of the Greenway initially began in 2010 and saw the disused railway line turned into a multi user Greenway suitable for walking and cycling. The area was surfaced creating a path suitable for outdoor activities and the route, which is open to the public, now forms part of the National Cycle Network.

Helen Yates, Mid Pennine Arts Community and Projects Officer said, “These sculptures add to the offering of the Greenway making it an even more exciting and inviting place to spend the afternoon walking and cycling. It will also encourage schools to use the Greenway as a new learning environment.”

Brockholes is the Art of Destination.

Lancashire’s new wetland centre, Brockholes, which opened last year as a haven for birds and wildlife, is set to attract a different type of visitor this month. For one day, Brockholes will host Art of Destination, a unique conference event that aims to stimulate and inspire by exploring a range of exciting creative projects.

Art of Destination brings together projects that take derelict or unregarded space and transform it into somewhere special – new community assets, new kinds of visitor attraction, or ‘destination art’. Brockholes itself is a prime example – centred on a spectacular floating village of ecobuildings that were commissioned from an international design competition.

And Brockholes will have a unique look for the day, with an eye-popping temporary installation on site, specially commissioned from international artist Steve Messam.

Sneak peak of the temporary installation by Steve Messam which can be seen at Brockholes at the conference

The event, organised by Mid Pennine Arts in collaboration with Lancashire County Council, will showcase partnership work in the County, highlighting the European award winning Padiham Greenway programme alongside high profile, inspiring case studies from the region, the UK and beyond.

Guest speakers will include French artist Marco Dessardo, the London architecture collective Assemble and specialists from Liverpool Biennial, Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Grizedale Forest. Commissioned artist Steve Messam will also be contributing to the debate, in spite of the small inconvenience that, on the day, he will be based at a studio in Shanghai! Steve’s installation on the site will be accessible to Brockholes visitors, on the day itself and right through to Easter weekend.

Art of Destination takes place on Thursday 29 March and will be introduced by County Councillor Kevin Ellard, Chair of Lancashire County Council Arts Task Group. The day is aimed at arts specialists and enthusiasts, as well as professionals in environment, regeneration and public realm, education and public policy.

For more information visit

Tickets are available through eventbrite

Young People in Focus

Author Stephanie Hawke

What do young people do in their free time? Do they engage with arts and culture? If the answer is yes, then how and why do they do this? If no, then what’s stopping them?

MPA are helping Curious Minds find out the answers to these and other questions as part of a miniature action research project.

The first two sessions took place at The Hollin’s Technology College, Accrington last week. The young people considered their level of engagement with arts and culture before choosing ‘interventions’ to make and reflect on. They chose to engage with digital media and theatre.


So  a few days later, Matt Gartside from Zumamedia joined the group in school to give them his digital photography top tips. What do you think of the results?

Next week we’re off to the Lowry Centre to see some musical theatre!

Creative Consultation in Fleetwood

Getting creative – how would YOU improve a school’s outdoor spaces?

Mid Pennine Arts are helping a school in Fleetwood develop their ideas for new and creative school spaces. We have been engaged by creative social enterprise Curious Minds  to deliver this programme of work.

Flakefleet Primary are having major changes to their school building in the coming year – but what about the outside spaces? To get their creative ideas flowing, a group of teachers have volunteered to work with MPA Education Coordinator, Stephanie Hawke, to be a ‘Change Team’.

We met artist Sean Creagh  on Friday 10th June. We looked at photographs of all the amazing creative learning environments Sean has worked on in other schools and were really inspired. Then, Headteacher Mr Barnes took us on a tour of the spaces outside school and we talked about what we’d love to see there in future (whilst ducking the Seagulls!)

Our next steps are to introduce Sean to the children at Flakefleet and together collect up all of our thoughts about what makes an outdoor space good or bad. Then we can think about how to make Flakefleet’s new school even better!

We had some great ideas, here’s a Wordle to illustrate what we talked about. How would YOU make the school’s grounds more inspiring?


Chris May

Chris and the newly arrived Gabriel at the opening of Not Forgotten, September 2010. Photo by Janet Barton.

Everyone at MPA was shocked and deeply saddened in late April when the news came through about the sudden, unexpected death of our good friend and colleague Chris May.  In the weeks since, we have witnessed a huge, collective outpouring of love, affection and respect for this very charismatic man – powerful testament to the effect he had on the lives of very many people, and the big hole he leaves in our cultural lives.

Chris was Chief Executive of Curious Minds, based near us in Burnley.  Curious Minds, if you are not familiar with their work, was the independent organisation that emerged in Pennine Lancashire from the introduction here of the government’s national flagship scheme for creative work in schools, Creative Partnerships.  Our team members David and Steph have been heavily involved in Creative Partnerships, and Curious Minds has commissioned a lot of work from our organisation.

Before that, Chris had worked at Action Factory, the participatory arts group based in Blackburn, and then at the Arts Council, where as Social Inclusion Officer he was for a while MPA’s main contact.

I first came across Chris before that though, when he had set up the rather quixotic enterprise of a cafe/bookshop/lounge in Sabden antiques centre.  A crazy idea, and it bit the dust soon after, but that blend of ambition, optimism and energy with a touch of the plain daft was a recurring characteristic of this lovely man.

When the very big deal of Creative Partnerships came to Pennine Lancashire, with the prospect of investment on an unprecedented scale, nobody was so well equipped to direct it as Chris, and to make of it such an enduring, outstanding success.  It was no surprise, then, in the recent Arts Council funding round, when Curious Minds secured the big prize of the regional role for the North West, as one of the national cluster of ‘bridge organisations’ for young people.  A triumph for Chris and his team.

This triumph was in stark contrast to our own disastrous result for MPA from the Arts Council, but I was really looking forward to seeing Chris again very soon.  His combination of insider knowledge, gusto and irreverent, wicked wit meant he could be relied upon to be wonderfully, scatologically rude about the Arts Council.  Where will I get that kind of therapy now?

Chris was so very full of life, and just lately, very obviously had so much to live for.  He had recently set up a new home with new partner Kate, and Gabriel had arrived last summer to seal the deal.  All our thoughts are with Kate and Gabriel, and Chris’s wider family.  For the rest of us, he has simply left an enormous, Chris-shaped hole in our cultural life. We are really going to miss him.

Nick Hunt