Category Archives: Mid Pennine Arts

My Mid Pennine Story…

Hi, I’m Katie, I’m 15 and in Year 10 at St Christopher’s CE High School. I have been doing a  work experience placement here at Mid Pennine Arts for two weeks. I didn’t know very much about the organisation before I arrived, so this is all very new to me. MPA is in the middle of compiling a digital archive, to celebrate their 50 year anniversary and I am very pleased that I have been involved in this process. Whilst looking through images, brochures, leaflets and posters I found some things that I found particularly interesting and wanted to investigate further. Throughout my time here, I have been doing just that and I would like to share some of my findings with you here on this blog.

I’ve been dancing and performing since I was three, so naturally many of the projects and events that stood out for me were about dance and theatre. I’ve tried to pick a few projects from each decade, so that you can get a sense of how MPA has developed but also because I wanted to explore the early years of the company.finished-contraptions

In the 1970’s The Mid Pennine Association for the Arts set up a travelling theatre company called TheatreMobile. The company travelled around the Mid Pennine area performing shows, plays and pantomimes in a range of venues for all different age groups. One thing that struck me about the performances was how little it cost to go and see them – I think the most scrooge-and-marleyexpensive that I found was onIMG_7365.JPGly 60p! Today you struggle to buy anything for that price and to see a performance of theduo-photo-1 same nature would be far more expensive. I decided to do some research about prices in the 70’s and I’ve discovered it cost only five pence for a pint of milk and nine pence for a loaf of bread; 20 cigarettes would only set you back 30p and you could buy a Mini for only £600! Something else I have discovered from an old newspaper article is that the early shows were done with five actors, no lights and a £50 budget, which again is quite amazing. I came across another press cutting, talking about how actors from TheatreMobile had been to visit and entertain children who had to spend Christmas in hospital; MPA is all about bringing people and communities together and I think this really shows that    the ethos has always been this way.1970s-northern-ballet-company

Also when looking through projects from the 70’s, I discovered the Northern Dance Theatre, who were the only regional ballet company. They toured around the area performing their latest ballet each season, the earliest documentation I can find of this is in September 1970. What really stood out to me was their photos and how exquisite they looked in them, and as I do ballet myself I can truly appreciate how hard they must have worked. It seems that the Mid Pennine area loved them too, because they made numerous appearances throughout the 1970’s.

I1980s-collagen the 1980’s, a dance company called the Lynx Dance Company came to visit the Mid Pennine area, they were a contemporary company, who focused heavily on getting dance into schools. I found this interesting because today there still isn’t much dance in schools and I think it’s a really important and valuable thing to have.

Accidentally, I stumbled upon an exhibition of dance photographs by a man named John Austin called ‘Out of the Limelight’. I found myself fascinated by this because John said he wanted to photograph dancers because when he takes a photo, he is looking for perfection and he thought this was true of dancers also. Everyone in the dance community strives for perfection, however small the performance and even just in rehearsals, but not many people get to see this side of it all. John’s photographs not only show the pretty costumes and outstanding performance but the blood, sweat, tears and hard-work that goes on behind the scenes to create the picture that the outside world gets to see.

When setting up the MPA50 exhibition at Radio Lancashire, I discovered an extraordin60ary and beautiful project from the 1990’s. This was the Mughal Tent or the Shamiana – groups of local women joined together to create a banner, along with lots of other groups from around the UK, and the finished banners were put together in a tent at the Victoria and Albert museum in London. The finished product is exquisite and the level of hard work and attention to detail is obvious.  In May 1996, there was a performance from the Abasindi Dancers and Drummers, they performed songs and dances 1990's collage.jpgfrom East, South and West Africa. From searching through the archive, I get the impression that the 90’s was a real decade of world culture for Mid Pennine Arts as it is the first time I can see events from around the globe and from people from different backgrounds and cultures.

In the 2000’s MPA launched its largest project to date – Panopticons. Before, I arrived at the start of this two weeks, this project was the one I knew most about, as I have visited three of them on numerous occasions but still I decided to do a bit more research on them. The project got its name from the word ‘Panopticon’ which means structure, space or device providing a comprehensive or panoramic view, all of the four Panopticons are placed high up, and the aim was to get people out into the countryside so that they could see the stunning views. Throughout the building of these, MPA managed to keep the community spirit alive by involving local people, schools and organisations as well as creating jobs and supporting businesses. One thing that definitepanopticons-collagely shines through in all the projects is the community ethos of the company.

The Singing Ringing Tree is made from pipes of steel stacked in layers to make the shape of a tree in the wind; the wind blows across these tuned pipes to create a low, almost humming like song.

The Atom is located in historic Wycoller which can be dated back to 1000BC, the structure is constructed of Ferro-cement with a coating of metal-based paint. It can provide shelter but the circular cut outs also make great viewing spots for the surrounding scenery.

The Halo is a steel lattice structure suspended five metres above the ground on a steel tripod. It is situated above Haslingden on an old quarry and former landfill site. The Halo is lit at night and glows a dark blue colour, this makes it appear to be hovering over Lancashire and is clearly visible for miles around.

Colourfields is the only Panopticon that I have not visited, so I wanted to find out some more about this one. It is a transformation of the cannon battery that was installed for the park’s opening in 1857 to house two Russian cannons captured during the Crimean War. Colourfields was built here to incorporate this piece of history, rather than it being dismantled and lost forever. It adds new dimensions of shape, height and colour to Blackburn’s Corporation Park and has fantastic views over to Lytham, Southport and Fleetwood.

Before I arrived I was given some publications to read, one of which was about a project in 2014 called Truce. After reading about it, I was keen to find out more; Truce was all about commemorating the First World War, a topic I know quite a lot about through History and English. The project included: a performance about the Christmas Day truce from a local man’s perspective, a choir, made up of local volTruce collage.jpgunteers, who sang songs just like the soldiers did on Christmas Day, a textile piece made up of poppies made by local people and a young people’s football tournament- to commemorate the football game in No-Man’s Land. Again, this project involves all kinds of people and really brought people together to celebrate something that happened 100 years ago.

 

Completely bycopy 150.JPG chance, I found out that MPA was involved with tbest11smhe redevelopment of the Coppice in Accrington; I’ve lived in Accrington virtually all my life and never knew who and what had actually gone onOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA. There were talks and workshops in the allotments for the public and local primary school; a chance to think and put forward ideas for the further development of the area in the future and the Avenue Parade entrance to the park was completely restored by artist Michael Scheuermann along with the steps leading up to the monument at the top.practical-comp-4-5-12-007

Projects are constantly going on, sometimes right underneath our noses that we don’t know about or get involved in. I think this should be a lesson learnt to everyone that you should find out what’s happening and get involved in some fun activities and projects in your local area!

 

 

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Thoughts from the Singing Ringing Tree – Zoe Greenhalgh

Music Leader from the Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree, Zoe Greenhalgh, recalls her experience…

Relationships

For me, the joy of working on projects such as this, is the wonderful human connections with the very young that are born out of musical play and exploration, without any need for speech.  Singing is such a wonderful medium; no right or wrong, just variations which have infinite potential for development in a whole new direction.

In the settings the day comprised of working with all children in the nursery in small groups of 6-10 each supported by a member of the nursery staff which allowed the children and myself to become well acquainted and build a good relationship. It also enabled me to learn something of the children as individuals; how confident they were, their readiness to sing and make music, their ideas and interests, quirks and foibles.  In these small groups I became familiar to them and they to me, meaning that I could structure my teaching to support their individual needs whether musical or otherwise.  Progress and participation was good and much enjoyment was evident.

The Singing Tent

In one setting I came to know the children over a number of weeks working with small group and their key worker before creating and opening the “singing tent” for business. The groups were predominantly adult led so the tent was intended to redress the balance by offering the children the opportunity to initiate and lead the musical activities, for me to join in with their play.

The “singing tent” was constructed from a clotheshorse and some music printed fabric held together with clothes pegs.  This was intentionally only large enough for me and two children to occupy at any one time thus maintaining a sense of intimacy that might elicit the engagement of even the most timid of children.  Sometimes it was situated inside in the nursery, sometimes outside in the garden.  I stayed in the tent with my ukulele and the children came and joined me as and when they liked.  The ukulele turned out to be a good provocation for the children to respond to: they were attracted to the sound and wanted to play it, but were inclined to play with some delicacy, either listening intently to the sounds they produced or strum it as an accompaniment to their singing. It was often not played at all.

I had tried different instruments for variety – a small number of quality percussion instruments and chime bars – but whilst the children enjoyed exploring these, as a joint interactive activity it was not very fruitful.  Likewise, me sitting in the tent just singing with no instruments was not as attractive, possibly because the sound of a singing voice is a familiar one in the setting.

Within the intimate, private space of the tent, these children recognised me as a play partner and offered me the crown jewels – magical musical connections with voice, sound and rhythm, spontaneous original song improvisations, musical play of all shapes and sizes.  What an honour and infinite pleasure to be so accepted and trusted with their precious offerings.

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Inspiration visit to the Singing Ringing Tree

Ways of working…

During this project I have worked in a more formal, adult-led manner with small groups of children as well as in a more informal, “free flow” way. Both are valuable in their own right but I believe that the impact is greater than the sum of its parts when the two approaches are combined.  How important then that educators within the setting have the musical confidence and skill to scaffold and support children’s musical creativity and development, and that staff development is built into the project in a workable manner.

From my experience; Thoughts on project planning and delivery

All projects of this sort give a cohort of children access to musical experiences beyond those normally available in the setting; musical exposure and engagement that without the project they would not have had.  Fantastic!  What is more difficult is to build in longer term legacy for the settings in subsequent years.

I believe the most crucial and detailed part of all projects is the planning stage.  There is this great idea to run a project doing “X” which would work really well with these leaders in this location and we could build in “Y” and “Z” – wow, how exciting!  This is perhaps the easy bit.  What follows is the contacting of settings and individuals involved to gain interest in being involved which is relatively straightforward, particularly where relationships already exist.

Then comes the nitty gritty of how it will work on the ground, what it will look like in reality, firm commitment to dates, time, staff availability, trips out, available physical space, parental/photo permissions, etc. etc.  This is the really tricky bit.  It is so important that all parties “buy in” to the concept and that the finer detail is worked out collaboratively with all partners at the earliest stage of planning, especially those involved in the day to day delivery.  Settings are very busy with many demands upon their time and energies making this level of detail sometimes hard to sort out, but it is precisely this, along with the ongoing communication between the visiting music practitioner and the setting staff, that turns an ordinary project into an extraordinary one that leaves behind it something truly worth having.  This collaborative, committed relationship means that the project activity is more than just a “bolt on” extra, that it is integrated into the setting beyond the allotted project time, extending reach to more children and developing staff confidence, knowledge and skill and impacting positively on practise within the setting and the experiences of its children.

Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree from Mid Pennine Arts on Vimeo.

Hi there!

Alex Heaton - Intern - June 2016 - 2My name is Alex and I am in my second month as Assistant Producer Intern at Mid Pennine Arts, where I feel incredibly lucky and excited to be undertaking my placement year. I have just finished my second year of University, studying Illustration and Contemporary Art at Huddersfield, but come from the local area. This meant I already knew about Mid Pennine Arts and some of their amazing work. I wanted to join MPA because I am passionate about bringing arts to the community and I feel there is sometimes an absence of this, and MPA do a wonderful job of engaging a wide community for their work.

I am going to be helping Nick, Melanie and the other project managers with some of the projects as they advance towards their completion, which I find brilliant as I have never been involved with projects on such a large scale before. A few I have been helping out with are: Burnley Canal Festival (27 & 28 August 2016), Spodden Valley Revealed and 50 Years of Mid Pennine Arts.

I have only been at MPA for four weeks and already feel as though I am growing, both in learned skills and confidence. So far I have attended a lot of meetings, these help me gain more in-depth knowledge about the projects, how they are brought together, and how good communication is an important part of the process. This has, slowly but surely, been helping me with my confidence. I have also been minute taking, which is really useful, as it is helping me learn to write down key points when making notes, rather than writing down every part (no matter how irrelevant)!

We recently had a Spodden Valley Explorers event at Whitworth family fun day, where a few of us went down in our exploring gear and welcomed new explorers, helping them make badges and inviting them to share their stories of the area. This was to raise awareness of the Spodden Valley Revealed Project. It was great seeing both kids and adults alike join in on the fun, and wonderful how excited everyone was when the final badges came out. I have to say I got a bit too enthusiastic about the badge making myself. I feel as though badge making brings out the inner child in everyone, though some people won’t readily admit it!

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I have also been helping with the 50 Years of Mid Pennine Arts project, and have found reading through the old programmes and press cuttings really interesting, as I am scanning them in preparation for the digital archive. This sometimes proves to be quite hilarious, when any member of the team finds a particularly funny story or headline. Though we do sometimes have to drag ourselves out of the time warp, as you could get lost in them for days!

Along with the many lovely and wonderful people I have been given the opportunity to meet, I am very excited to say that this week I will be meeting the artist Lucy Birbeck, who is creating the flags for Burnley Canal Festival. I can’t wait to know a bit more about her working process, and I feel I have lots to learn from her.

Four weeks has flown by, and I can’t quite believe how much I have already learned at MPA. I always start each day with excitement when thinking about all the projects that are in progress, and I am so excited about the parts I am going to be here to see all the way through – like Burnley Canal Festival! I can’t wait to learn more from the kind and helpful team at MPA and all those I encounter while working here, and I would like to thank everyone I have met so far for being so friendly and great.

Dr Steph Takes on the Marathon

We are feeling very privileged at  the moment, not only is Barbara Sanders still on her way from Penzance, on foot, but one of our Trustees has also been out in all weathers, training hard for this weekend’s London Marathon.  Both are undertaking these extraordinary feats to raise funds for MPA’s 50th Anniversary.

Dr Stephanie Hawke, has been pounding the tow path of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, racking up a 100 miles of training runs.  Steph first became involved with MPA as a 16 year old on work placement.  Some years later we were very pleased to welcome her to the education team, which she went on to lead in 2011 after completing her PhD.  Although we lost her to Curious Minds a while back, Steph has stayed involved with MPA by joining the Board of Trustees.

Steph Hawke 2 - training for London Marathon April 2016

Steph says, “I started running with a fantastically supportive group organised through Burnley Leisure. My first race was the Jane Tomlinson Burnley 10k.  I got the bug and within 12 months I’d joined Clayton Le Moors Harriers, run six half marathons and had my sights on the big one. I was delighted to win a place for the Virgin London Marathon 2016 and started training in January running through ice, hail, lightning, wind, rain and sun. As the mileage increased the Leeds Liverpool Canal provided the perfect track, and apart from being hissed at by surprisingly threatening geese, I have successfully pounded more than 100 miles of training. There’s a physical price to pay for that kind of endurance and I’ve had painful massage and acupuncture not to mention experimenting with ice baths and agonising foam rollers!

I’m raising money for Mid Pennine Arts to establish an award for young artists. The organisation has brought vibrancy, colour and texture to Pennine Lancashire for 50 years, often with little recognition – who doesn’t love the Singing Ringing Tree? MPA make me proud to live in Burnley and I want to inspire the next generation of artists to work in our quietly fabulous historic and rural environment. “

Steph has contributed so much to MPA over the years and we are delighted to benefit from her efforts once again.   We know how hard she’s been training for this and appreciate it enormously; we hope that people will help her reach her target of £800.

Contributions to Steph’s fundraising can be made via Just Giving.

Steph Hawke - training for London Marathon April 2016

Revealing the Spodden Valley

This spring we are delighted to welcome a new but familiar face to the MPA team as Diana Hamilton gets to work as Project Manager for Spodden Valley Revealed This is our  major new project promising some transformational impacts for communities in the Whitworth area of Rossendale. Unfolding over three years,  Spodden Valley Revealed will explore the long timeline of human settlement there, through an engagement programme involving local people of all ages, and a range of exciting artist commissions.  The end result will be an innovative, linear heritage destination for local people and visitors to explore, adding rich content to the off-road cycling and walking route which will become the Valley of Stone Greenway.

Diana has worked around the North West, managing arts and public realm projects, for over 10 years. She is passionate about telling the stories of a place in a creative and engaging way and re-interpreting heritage for new audiences.

Previously, Diana led on the development of the Irwell Sculpture Trail, which stretches 33 miles from Salford to Bacup, putting together a 6-year plan to secure Arts Council capital funding for its redevelopment.  She has supported the creation of a brand new Sculpture Centre at the heart of the trail in Bury.  Most recently, she managed an experimental public art programme across five new interchange sites for Transport for Greater Manchester, including temporary commissions, digital trails and events, testing a new way for working for that organisation.

Diana has worked across many other cultural events, opening up unexpected spaces such as a medieval tower and shopping space for Barnaby Festival, and local churches, parks and an armoury for Bury Light Night.  For Station Stories, she partnered with Manchester Literature Festival to create a live storytelling event at Manchester Piccadilly station, taking an audience in headphones on a journey of six newly commissioned stories, told by an unknown storyteller in the throng of commuters.

This depth of experience and breadth of imagination, combined with her knowledge and understanding of the North West, mean that Diana is brilliantly well equipped to take forward our unique vision for Spodden Valley Revealed.  With Diana getting to work now, we are delighted to be getting started on this fantastic project.

You can contact Diana via email for more information on Spodden Valley Revealed.

Diana Hamilton - Project Manager for Spodden Valley Revealed - March 2016

Not Lost, Just Interning!

Isobel Cecil - Assistant Producer Intern - 2016Hello! I’m Issy, Mid Pennine Arts’ new Assistant Producer Intern for the next six months. I’m very excited to be undertaking this role, and feel very lucky that I was selected.  Hopefully I can enrich MPA’s fabulous work with some of my previous experience and my enthusiasm for socially engaged arts.

I’m going to be working alongside Project Managers, as well as Nick and Melanie, developing projects and getting stuck in with MPA’s engagement work. This is an exciting time to have joined MPA as they put together the celebrations for their 50th anniversary. On my first day I arrived to see our team of dedicated volunteers shifting through some beautiful MPA event posters from the 60s/70s – one of which I was very tempted to take home and hang on the wall…

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Out with fellow Senior Explorers

I graduated from the University of Manchester last year with a degree in English Literature and American Studies. After completing my final year of uni, alongside becoming a Student Producer for the Whitworth Gallery and volunteer at Manchester International Festival, I became invigorated with a passion for widening public engagement in the Arts. I then went off to New Delhi to teach the most enthusiastic and intelligent children debating skills, art and literature. All of these past experiences meant that when I saw this internship, I jumped at it. Luckily I landed the role!

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The Very Special Meeting with Wild Rumpus

It’s the start of my third week today and already I’ve become a Senior Explorer Silly-iously Serious Cecil with the mighty Bowland Explorers; explored the old railway line through Whitworth and met lots of the lovely people who interact with MPA. Furthermore, I’ve fully thrown myself in by moving to Burnley, and managed to find a room just over 100 meters away from the office! I’m very excited to keep going and get more and more immersed in the great work MPA do.

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Exploring the Spodden Valley with Project Manager Diana and artist Steve Messam

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Scenery around Whitworth

I’ve been welcomed wonderfully and thank you very much to Super Slow Way and Lancashire County Council for supporting my post!

 

issy@midpenninearts.org.uk

 

 

Penzance to Burnley – Day 14

Long-time supporter and Friend of MPA, Barbara Sanders, is undertaking the most extraordinary feat this spring. Barbara is walking from Penzance to Burnley and is asking people to support her efforts by donations to MPA.

Barbara’s first few days saw some atrocious weather and she had to battle driving rain and gale force winds, but she kept going.  On the 7 March she finally got some of the weather she had been hoping for and completed the longest distance to date at 17 miles and 1,166 metres of ascent.  The improved weather has helped her catch up with the schedule, which had been delayed by the earlier dreadful conditions.  Yesterday, on Day 14, she passed 186 miles and 12,000 metres of ascent.  To give you some context the 10,000 metre, or ascent mark, is equivalent to Everest!   Barbara will have a few more of those to do before the end.

The last few days she’s had the company of two friends who have provided wonderful support.  They have walked with her and cooked fantastic cordon bleu meals from a tiny camper van. To thank them Barbara provided the singing for a dance on the beach to celebrate a birthday.  Not sure where she found the energy for that!

Barbara is regularly keeping us updated on her progress and sending lots of great photographs of her travels.

Contributions to Barbara’s fundraising can be made via Just Giving.

Look out for updates on Barbara’s progress on this blog and on our Facebook page.