Tag Archives: arts-advocacy

ground-UP at Anfield Home Tour

MPA’s Creative Learning Programme Manager, Dr Steph Hawke, is one of three creative collaborators working on Burnley Borough Council’s project ground-UP along with Cath Ford and Iain Broadley.  The three of them joined a group from Lancashire visiting Anfield Home Tour, part of the Liverpool Biennial programme. Here’s Steph’s blog about the day.

Anfield Tour

Is it really possible to know a place if you have never lived in it? Existential philosophers have expressed an interest in sense of place as ‘lived experience’. They wanted to get to the very essence of place through a study they called phenomenology.

On Wednesday 5 December 2012, Cath, Iain and I hopped on a minibus in Liverpool and came screeching, slap-bang, face to face with a tale of lived experience so heartbreakingly poignant and electrifyingly angering that we were able to think of little else that week. We didn’t live in that place, but through an incredible artistic intervention we certainly experienced its phenomenology.

This was the Anfield Home Tour. Originally commissioned as part of Liverpool Biennial, the tour is a careful weaving of personal experience, literary talent, comedic improvisation and theatrical direction that combine to tell a story, or many stories, of life in an area of housing market renewal. The tour reveals tension between insider and outsider accounts of Anfield’s situation; the resulting ‘insider’ narrative is so rich in colour and texture that lived experience in Anfield is brought into sharp focus.

Housing Market Renewal arrived in Anfield some fifteen years ago. As ‘Carl’ our tour guide pointed out – the emphasis here is upon housing market renewal, not community renewal. In his view, this has been a project entirely focussed on the future with little regard to the ‘now’. The gleaming Keepmoat future has yet to arrive for many who continue to live in Anfield, in a diverse housing stock of Victorian terraces, some humble, some grand: five bedroom redbricks with period features. These are the houses Phil and Kirsty dream of except for their ‘location, location, location’. Because in Anfield residents have been told their location is one of deprivation, undesirable, and their houses not good enough. Conversely, as Jayne Lawless explained when our minibus parked outside what was once her family home, “we didn’t feel deprived”.

Anfield TourHere stood the now ‘tinned up’ terrace in which Jayne’s parents raised their family, both worked and Jayne had a comfortable home in a safe and caring community. When they were just five years away from paying off their mortgage, Jayne’s parents were forced to sell through compulsory purchase order. They didn’t get a fair price and, for their new home, they had to take on more debt which Jayne will be liable for when they pass away.

As did Bob, who climbed on board our minibus outside what was once his home. A DIY enthusiast, he’d invested in his house over many years, only to watch the damp creep in when surrounding properties fell empty and the council failed to make them watertight. Hospitalised with pneumonia, kids setting fire to empty houses on his street, he was finally delighted with his relocation. He chose not to dwell on the money he lost in the transaction and the fresh debt he’ll pass on to his offspring.

On and on the tour went, with one resident’s story layered upon another until finallyAnfield Tour we were asked inside Sue’s house. Bought by her grandma in 1920, she described the ways in which her family had modernised and in turn restored this beautifully presented home. A compulsory purchase order has hung over it for years and Sue still doesn’t know if she is staying or going.

She hangs on as her surroundings fall into the ‘controlled decline’ of absentee private landlords, antisocial tenants and neglected empty houses from which flora grow through into the walls of Sue’s loft space. Sue was barely able to conceal the emotional pain and burden of stress this has weighed upon her for no small number of years.

At the conclusion of our tour, we disembarked at Homebaked. Here over hot tea and fresh bread, we were reunited with all of this story’s characters and they explained what they plan to do next…


Jeanne van Heeswijk has been working with the community in Anfield for the last two and a half years. Through the 2Up 2Down / Homebaked project the community can take matters into their own hands. Here the community have come together to reuse a block of empty property made up of a former bakery building and two adjoining terraced houses.

They have set up the Homebaked Community Land Trust, a cooperative organisation with its roots in the garden city movement. This will enable the collective community ownership of the properties and the reopening of the Bakery as a social enterprise.   Visit the Homebaked blog to see what they’re up to.

Loaf by loaf, brick by brick, 2Up2Down is building a new idea of community, work, social space and with it a new community resilience.”

Find out more about ground-UP and the South West Burnley Museum.


I love this job

I love this job

A chill November afternoon; rain in the air.  Every time the door opened you could feel the damp breath of autumn in the wind.

I had just had afternoon tea with eleven ladies from a Lancashire Libraries’ Reading group from Whalley. We were about to visit the Contemporary Heritage installation ‘Taken’ by Ailis Ni Riain in the Castle Keep.  It is inspired by the true story of the Lancashire Witches. But before we could move there were some challenging questions: “Who is paying for this? Where does the money come from? Lancashire’s logo is on the flyer – does this mean we that we are paying ? Is it a sensible use of money in these difficult times? The great thing about the discussion which followed was that I was not expected to answer all the questions – they just set everyone off.  When you belong to a reading group, I realised, you are used to challenge, the challenge of other opinions being different from your own.

Onwards and upwards…to the Keep.

All we did was to lean with our backs against the castle walls, in silence at first; listening….listening to the layers of voices in the wind, to the humming, to the chords from the harp…the perfect instrument, an inspirational choice for the mood of the piece and for this setting.

..and what did they say when the silence was broken?  There was no more     talk about funding…

“…I could feel their voices in the stone…you can see them sitting on a cold    floor, rocking back and forwards with their heads in their hands  murmuring,   humming…it should stay here as a part of the experience of visiting the Castle; it really takes you back in time…I can still hear their voices now we’ve come back…those poor women…there was a real feeling of despair up there…yes, of hopelessness, disturbing…I think there are places where these  things are still happening….”

I don’t have say more only that it a privilege to share this experience with  this group of ladies….and of course the afternoon tea!

I love this job.

Author: David Smith

TAKEN is open daily 10am-5pm and can be visited till early Summer at Clitheroe Castle Museum, Clitheroe BB7 1BA.

Free admission to the installation in the Castle Keep

Have you seen TAKEN already?What are your thoughts?

A belated reflection on Manchester’s International Festival: ‘The Life and Death of Marina Abramović’…a personal view….

A belated but fascinating theatre review by David…

image from www.citylife.co.uk

Why would you want to observe your own life and death in public in the theatre and take a central role in the performance?

Well; the Manchester International Festival called and off I went to my beloved Lowry – no irony there: when you are a Salfordboy and know what was there before and what the Lowry vision has done for the city, you cannot but love the place.

‘The Life and Death of Marina Abramović’ was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and I can say with all due modesty that I have seen a lot of theatre. I am so naïve that when I bought my ticket – no-one else would come with me…did they know something I didn’t…I thought from the title that Marina Abramović was dead.  How wrong I was.

In the late 50’s and 60’s a controversial strand of European theatre emerged called the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’. So controversial that it caused riots in some of the theatres where plays were performed. The high point was Samuel Becket’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ an enormously influential play written in French by its Irish playwright who then translated it back into English for English speaking audiences.  One of the strains that these ‘Absurd’ plays placed on the actors was physical discomfort and pain: buried in sand, standing in dustbins, sitting in the same chairs for hours…. It was a movement which seemed to come to a dead end.

A later development in European theatre has been ‘physical theatre’ which as its name suggests places great physical strain on the actors – I saw an adaptation of Kafka’s short story. ‘Metamorphosis’ where the actor metamophoses into a beetle before your eyes and behaves exactly like one scurrying up walls and across the stage floor…

Where is all this going you may well ask…well; it’s helping me work out what ‘Marina Abramović’ is about…stay with me….

You will know something about the surrealist movement in art and the juxtaposition of the ordinary with the absurd…you will, perhaps, have seen some images of Salvador Dali…if not, there is an exhibition of René Magritte at Tate Liverpool running throughout the summer.

This play draws on the all three: the absurd, surrealism and physical theatre.  If that was not enough it uses a Greek-like chorus, draws on film and photography.

So; 388 words after I started what was it about?

It explores the life of the performance artist Marina Abramović.  It is as though Marina is using ourselves, the audience as a sort of catharsis in sharing the pain she has experienced in her relationships, particularly with her mother and her father.  The play digs deep into her psyche presenting us with visually striking images – some so striking they are still with me – images so disturbing some people walked out; others crazily comic.  The play opens with three corpses on stage with three dogs sniffing around scattered human(?) bones.  Other images so surreal they still make no sense to me: an elephant swimming under water, a triptych film of a man shaving, a film of a single eyelash over an eye – have you seen the opening of Buñuel & Dali’s  Un Chien Andalou?  I closed my eyes on each sequence waiting for something terrible to happen…it didn’t but that was the sense of expectation that was building…

But there is brilliance within….

The whole piece was held together by a brilliant performance by Willem Dafoe, at moments reminding me of Beetlejuice or the Joker in Batman, at others like Winnie in Becket’s Happy Days, buried up to his chest in mounds of newspaper cuttings of Marina’s life, reading extracts dispassionately like Krapp’s Last Tape’. His detached narrative style became a thread which held the whole performance together.

And then there was the music and performance of the Serbian singer Svetlana Spajić adding a moving melancholic, mournful thread which brought an intensity of passion I have not heard before in the theatre.

…and what of Marina herself?  It strikes me that there is a certain arrogance in a play which invites me to share with her the unremitting pain of her life and death whilst she is still alive; that suggests she feels such a weight of her own importance that the performance ends with a kind of messianic resurrection; that she feels that she cannot stand aside from the drama but must play a part in it herself. Why not it’s her life? No; it isn’t; it’s a play, a representation of a life; it’s not real…and who is the weakest actor in the play, the weakest singer?  You’ve guessed:Marina.  She just couldn’t let go.

I’m glad I went.  Was it performance art or play?  I’m still working it out.

Audience Development for Arts Advocacy or the popcorn & candy top 10 reasons to support the arts

Audience Development for Arts Advocacy or the popcorn & candy top 10 reasons to support the arts.

This is an excellent blog, well worth a look!

Arts advocacy for arts funding (via Audience Development Specialists Blog!)

I know this is a post from America, but it speaks to me and all our friends and colleagues here in the UK.

Audience development & arts advocacy for arts funding These are strange times.  For every arts cut story I find in news sources across the country, there is at least a story to match of an arts group raising money to help a community.    Today there was an arts cuts article for Wisconsin, and meanwhile in Joplin, MO, there was an article of an arts festival raising funds to help rebuild the community after the devastating tornado damage. Artists and arts organizations have been attempting to reason … Read More

via Audience Development Specialists Blog!