Tag Archives: Arts Council England

Contemporary Heritage Launch Events Defy the Weather!

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 Listening to a speaker horncomputer 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.

K-ScopeThe 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.

FlickerWe 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.

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

Arts Council Funding Decisions – Disappointments for MPA and for Lancashire

Wednesday 30 March

Mid Pennine Arts announces today that it has not been successful in its bid for Arts Council portfolio funding for the three-year period from April 2012.

The Pennine Lancashire organisation was bidding for funding from central government alongside 1330 arts companies across the country. The Arts Council announced all results at 10am this morning. Only half the applicants have been successful, as the Arts Council implements a projected 29% cut in its funds.  MPA is one of 206 established clients to lose support.

MPA has been responsible for leading major projects like the Panopticons series of new landmarks, which has won national awards and attracted national and international attention to Pennine Lancashire. The Panopticons are featuring on two national TV programmes this spring.

MPA Creative Director Nick Hunt said:

“We are very proud of MPA’s work, a long history of achieving extraordinary creative results while working in some of the UK’s most deprived communities. So of course we are deeply disappointed by the Arts Council decision.

MPA’s funding, however, is secure for the year ahead, and we have some very exciting projects taking shape. In June we launch the second commission in the Contemporary Heritage series at Clitheroe Castle. Projects led by young people – the Project Pride series supported by Heritage Lottery Fund – are just kicking off in three Pennine Lancashire towns. There is much more in store, and while the coming year’s programme unfolds we will also be planning for how we operate in the future.

MPA has been active for 45 years and was here before the Arts Council’s North West operation. It represents a partnership approach to enriching the cultural life of our communities, and that will be ever more vital in these tough times. MPA has navigated major changes in the past, and this news represents a fresh challenge for our exceptional team to rise to.

We are grateful for the past support of the Arts Council, and the stalwart support of Lancashire County Council and all our many project partners.

Today we are also thinking about the bigger picture. Congratulations to the companies who have been successful.  There is great news here for some very deserving groups, like our friends at More Music, Burnley Youth Theatre, Spot On, Curious Minds, The Grundy, Art Gene and more.  We are delighted for them.

Our thoughts, though, are mainly with the many excellent arts organisations across England who have heard the same bad news. This includes too many of our colleagues and friends across Lancashire, where culture makes a huge contribution to public life, economy and tourism. It is a sad day for the arts.’


If you require further information please contact Philippa Roddam, Marketing Coordinator on 01282 421986 ext 205 or email philippa@midpenninearts.org.uk

Arts Council Funding Announcements: Our View

By Nick Hunt, Creative Director: Mid Pennine Arts

There have been reports in the local press about the arts funding decisions. The reports are factually accurate, but give a quite distorted view of the mood of the moment amongst arts organisations. All our colleagues in Pennine Lancashire arts companies have been expecting cuts, and planning for them. We know that we will have to take our share of the coming austerity. The Arts Council had advised us to plan for 10% less funding. This is what we were expecting for next year. So it may sound strange to say so, but this week’s news is good news!

The Arts Council is taking a deep cut, but has managed to insulate most of the organisations it regularly supports from the full effect of that. They have also given us comfort by confirming funding for 2011/12 very quickly, at an early stage, so we have a secure year and a half, in which to make plans for a tougher time ahead. On both these counts they have done well by their client companies, and we are grateful to them.

The reports also make it sound like Mid Pennine Arts is the big loser here. Again that gives a false impression. The cut is a standard 6.9% across all client companies. So MPA takes the biggest hit simply because we are the biggest client in Pennine Lancashire. We will continue to receive the largest investment, and in the current climate we are very grateful for that. It represents £175k of inward investment into the economy of Pennine Lancashire, and we will work harder than ever to multiply its value to our local communities.

There are plenty of aspects of the government cuts to be very gloomy about, including today’s news about the Housing Market Renewal programme being stopped dead in its tracks. MPA has had the chance to do some terrific work with Elevate/ Regenerate in HMR areas, and we know what a blow this is for those neighbourhoods.

But the arts funding news means that some brilliant local companies can stop the sleepless nights for a while, and can plan ahead to continue making a big contribution to the lives of our local communities. The glass is at least half full!