Tag Archives: david smith

Are you a bit ‘sniffy’ about musicals?

Another blog in the series from our roving arts & culture reporter David Smith

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Well I am… or at least I was…  Over a family meal when the subject of musicals came up I dismissed them all with:  “I don’t like musicals!”  And then, of course, I had to start trying to justify my arrogant posture.  “Come on Dad, explain yourself; that’s a bit of a scattergun approach…”

“Well, most of the audience are ‘of a certain age’.”

“Like you?”

“Well  yes; you don’t see the theatre full of young people.  The narrative is always weak, characterisation thin and often you are lucky to find one memorable song.”

Have you ever felt like you are walking on ice and you can feel the ice cracking underneath you with each step you take?  That is exactly how I felt and waited for the broadsides to come.

“Wait a minute; you took us to see Joseph, Blood Brothers, West Side Story, Cats… I suppose Billy Elliot doesn’t appeal to young people either!”,  and the list went on.  “They may not have the characterisation of King Lear but those theatres were full of young people.”

Basics in Burnley produces a musical each year with a cast wholly of young people, and you encouraged me to audition for Burnley Youth Theatre‘s West Side Story, came another voice across the table.

“Then you won’t want to have one of the tickets I’ve bought for Sweet Charity at the Royal Exchange”, chipped in my wife Kay enjoying my discomfort.

“I give in…”

And so at the  weekend we went to see Sweet Charity.  What a show!

new_sweet_charity_532

Charity Hope Valentine is a ‘hostess’ dancer in a New York gents’ club.  She falls in love with clients – always the wrong one – believing everything they say, longing for the marriage proposal which her friend know will never come.

Kaisa Hammalund is terrific as Charity.  She fills the stage with a an energy and vibrancy which left me exhausted.  She engages so perfectly with her audience that we are all wanting her love quest to succeed… the underlying irony in the show is that there is no charity on offer.  It highlights attitudes to women, makes fun of the excesses of 60’s hippies… and more.

The whole cast is excellent I can hardly say that there are no memorable songs when I am still singing them in the car: Rhythm of Life, Hey Big Spender, If My Friends could See Me Now, There’s  Gotta Be Something Better Than This.

The direction from Derek Bond is brilliant.  There is a disco sequence which took me back to my 60’s disco days with all the moves I attempted exaggerated and presented like a Matthew Bourne piece of choreography.  The scene where Charity finds herself in the bedroom of a film star when his partner returns, hiding under the bed and under a covered tea-trolley is hilarious.  The stage craft making use of a minimalist set allows each individual member of the audience to be engaged throughout yet showing smooth transitions between scenes with clever lighting.

…and the music from a band visible on stage throughout is magical.  It is a show that had me laughing out loud, miming the songs and tapping the lady’s foot next to mine.

Go and see it, if you can (on at the Royal Exchange, Manchester until 28 January).

I love musicals;  I can’t understand anyone who says they don’t… I’m off the see Strictly Ballroom at the West Yorkshire Playhouse next week… watch this space.!

 

 

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

David On Tour: Part Three – Jerwood

Editor: The continuing adventures of David Smith during his week in Brighton…

 

‘Cultural tourism’ is on everyone’s lips in the south-east: ‘Turner Contemporary’ in Margate, ‘The Towner’ in Eastbourne, ‘De La Warr Pavilion’ in Bexhill and ‘Jerwood’ in Hastings.  The role of the arts in social and economic regeneration continues to have credence. Well, it was ‘The Jerwood’ for me. My first time in Hastings.

£8 to get in seemed a touch on the expensive side especially when one of my party only wanted clean toilets whilst the other some lunch.  So we started with lunch – fresh crab salad and sandwiches left everyone in good mood especially as I had paid for everything so far.  How refreshing too to visit a gallery with huge panoramic windows letting in the outside.  Two huge pieces by Quentin Blake of artists on the beach drawn especially for Jerwood held the attention of all the diners.

Quentin Blake

In the gallery Quentin Blake, who lives just round the corner, had been asked to respond to 10 pictures he has chosen from the collection. More than that, he concentrates on each of the artists showing them at work on the beach by Jerwood in a way that you makes you smile as you explore them – Stanley Spencer with his pram!  Alongside each drawing he has included a piece of text he has written for each piece. I only knew of Stanley Spencer; so it was a fascinating introduction to a number of artists whose work I didn’t know: from Edward Burra to Prunella Clough.  It was also a way into seeing the part of the Jerwood collection on display which focuses on modern British art.

As a Salford boy, it was great to stumble on Lowry’s, Canal Bridge, which I hadn’t seen before.

Coming back to ‘Cultural Tourism’ and regeneration: it’s great to think that Mid Pennine Arts has been making its own significant contribution in our region since 2003 with Panopticons, Land and now the LANDMARKS programme in the Forest of Bowland.  They are all worth visiting or revisiting.

David on Tour: Part Two – Not everything goes to plan!

Editor: The continuing adventures of David Smith during his week in Brighton…

 

iwm-branch-nav-lambethI’d seen an interview with the artist Mark Neville on Newsnight about his photographic exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London.  Fantastic publicity you could only dream of for your exhibition.  Mark Neville was commissioned to spend two months with 16 Air Assault Brigade in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as a war artist.  Neville was taken out on two hour patrols during which soldiers were seriously wounded.

From the Brighton train it is only a brisk walk from Victoria Station.  Arriving for the 10 o’clock opening there were already lots of people arriving to pick up their timed tickets for the World War One Galleries.  But we weren’t going there. Arriving on the third floor I asked two assistants where the exhibition was. Neither knew who Mark Neville was nor that there was a photographic exhibition on the floor.  Hmmm….

Finding the Gallery with Mark Neville written large over the entrance we found seven striking photographic portraits.  What was striking and disturbing was the youthfulness of the British soldiers – teenagers; juxtaposed with Afghan children.

You can see them for yourself here.

Look at Firing Range or Supplies for 2 Scots Regiment.  Then try: On patrol in Sangin.

Firing Range - Mark Neville

Firing Range – Mark Neville

There were three films to see as a part of the exhibition. We sat in the dark waiting… nothing.  Off to see the nearest assistant who said he would call a technician.  We sat again in the dark waiting… nothing. I went out to find another assistant who said she would call a technician.  We returned to the dark, waiting… nothing.  Other visitors arrived but just moved on when they realised that there was nothing to see.

Now for the main information desk three floors down, besieged by Sunday visitors.  I explained our problem.  The assistant kindly phoned for help whilst I was there.  We visited another exhibition: Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War whilst we waited.  We returned to the Mark Neville exhibition to find an assistant flicking on and off a remote control; it was now 11.30am.

“It won’t work he said authoritatively.”  We gave up and moved on… This never happened in the Gallery at Mid Pennine!!

I can’t believe that no-one had checked that everything was working at the start of the day.  Was it working the day before, or the day before that?  Had anyone noticed?

Let’s hope it will come to IWM North on the Salford Quays!

David Smith

 

 

David on Tour: Part One – Suffering for One’s Art!

I had a week to spend in Brighton.  When my son said, “ I’ve booked for us to go to Shakespeare’s  Globe to see Anthony & Cleopatra, and I am paying!” I glowed and jumped at the chance.  Being equally generous in spirit I said, “I’ll pay for us to see Hamlet at the Royal Exchange”, (more about that in October…).  But there is always a catch isn’t there… what did someone say about ‘a free lunch’?

We chose Sunday 10 August, the day hurricane Bertha hit the south of England.  Our tickets, I learned, cost only £5 each because we were standing with the groundlings in the open air… standing for three hours on a concrete floor… in the middle of a tempest… talk about suffering for one’s art…

John Munby’s production was terrific; terrific because it was able to make clear the complex politics between Egypt and Rome and within Rome itself.  But any success for this play depends on the quality of the actors playing Anthony and Cleopatra and the chemistry between them.

Image - Eve Best - no.17Eve Best (you may have been following her in The Honorable Woman) as Cleopatra, worked the audience beautifully.  Here is an actor who understands the art of engagement, who understands completely the opportunities offered by this special theatre space that is the Globe. She dominates and energises it. The groundlings lean on the edge of the stage close enough to touch the actors.  At one point early in the play, at the height of Cleopatra’s playful sexuality, she strokes the hair, the cheeks of a groundling on the edge of the stage and then kisses him on the lips!  Oh that it could have been me…!  At the end as she prepares for death in defeat, kneeling at the end of the stage, a groundling offers her hand which Eve takes in both hers and kisses it… the shared silence in the auditorium was so thick you could touch it as we held back our tears.  She possesses real powers of enchantment.

Clive Wood’s Anthony presents a strong on-stage physical presence.  He is an ageing, hardened, hard drinking soldier seduced by the sensuality of Alexandria and Cleopatra.  His portrayal underlines the differences between Rome and Egypt.

Do you know the feeling during a long production as you ease from one cheek to the other in your seat, or in this case from one foot to the other…?  Well I didn’t realise my feet were aching until we were heading off towards the tube.  And as for Hurricane Bertha, it poured down and yet I was still hot, sweaty, mesmerised on the banks of the Nile!

David Smith

Editor: Look out for Part Two, coming very soon!

Todmorden Artist’s Tour 2014

For the 10th year Mid Pennine Arts, funded by Todmorden Town Council, has commissioned an artist to provide a theme based workshop to all seven primary schools in Todmorden.  This year the art form was visual art and the theme was Environment.   Mid Pennine Arts and all the schools involved are very grateful to Todmorden Town Council for their financial support in making these wonderful workshops happen.

Tod 2014 - collage 1

What follows are extracts from the project evaluation:

Before his retired in October 2013, MPA’s David Smith discussed the theme of the 2014 tour with Maria Cooper, head teacher at St Joseph’s RC Primary.  Maria emphasised how involved all the schools are with environmental issues, as is Todmorden as a whole.   The theme of environment would allow the artist some scope to adapt the theme for each school based on the particular topics they were addressing. As always with the artist tour the primary aims are that the workshops are enjoyed by the schools and that they will make an effective contribution to the children’s learning.

Once the theme was approved by the Town Council, MPA knew just which artist to work with. Cath Ford is a very experienced and versatile community artist who has worked with MPA on several projects and has the issue of environment at the core of her own practice.

Cath planned three activities from which each school could choose their preferred option. She would spend a day at each of the seven schools and run a two-hour workshop in the morning and afternoon. The school could choose whether to have two separate groups or one group doing both sessions. Each workshop focussed on work at Key Stage 2 which allowed the schools the choice of involving children from Year 3, 4, 5 or 6.

The overwhelmingly popular choice of activity was Eco Totem in a Day with six of the seven schools choosing it. Ferney Lee was the exception, choosing instead Scrap Sculpture and Assemblage/Trash to Treasure.

Eco Totem: Along the north-western coast of North America (America and Canada), some Native Americans create totem poles. Depicting people and animals, totems are used for different reasons in different tribes, but often tell stories, family histories or are used for protection. Totems can be used to make a statement, to tell the story of a family or group (the word originates from a word meaning ‘his kinship’) and to communicate an idea.

In this workshop pupils explored the idea of totems and how they are used to tell stories and make community statements. The class worked on faces, animals and symbols which make a powerful statement about their attitudes to the environment and to creating a more environmentally friendly world. The resulting 6 foot plus totem was then displayed in school.

Scrap Sculpture and Assemblage/Trash to Treasure: Artists throughout history have used found objects and other people’s trash to create unique and expressive art works. Artists often look differently at the world, seeing beauty in places, people and objects discarded by society. Trained artists and outsider artists create magic worlds from rubbish that enrich our world and ask questions about what is trash and what is treasure.

In this workshop pupils created temporary sculptures from scrap materials, experimenting with design and form during a series of group challenges before looking at the work of artists who create assemblage sculpture from scrap objects. Using the learning from the first challenges and looking at artists’ work, each pupil created their own piece of assemblage in the form of a face/human.

Tod 2014 - collage 2

Outcomes: Cath encouraged the children to consider their own response to environmental issues throughout the workshops, discussing how their choices impacted on the environment and pollution through, for example, recycling. All the materials were sourced from a specialist scrap store, so that the children could see how items could be reused and not discarded.  The children had to work in small groups and cooperate to create the final pieces, enhancing their team building and communication skills.

Facts and Figures

Schools:

  • Castle Hill Primary
  • Cornholme Primary
  • Ferny Lee Primary
  • Shade Primary
  • St Joseph’s RC Primary
  • Todmorden Junior School
  • Walsden St Peter

Participants:

  • Classes = 9
  • Girls = 114
  • Boys = 123
  • Total = 237

Teacher Feedback:

  • It was a very rewarding experience for the children. They learnt a lot, reinforced learning from other areas of the curriculum and produced a beautiful piece of art communally at the end. It also necessitated working cooperatively, solving problems and discussing solutions together.
  • It was interesting to observe how to use other areas of the curriculum to inspire and create such a good piece of art that the children can be proud of.
  • It was an excellent day, full of creativity, team work and ideas. I would highly recommend it.
  • A fabulous job […] well timed and organised, the children had plenty of time to think and work, good balance.
  • I liked the use of all the different materials and how all the parts came together to create a larger object.
  • The children learnt about the benefits of recycling and how it can change the environment for the better.
  • The children had to work together in small groups and cooperate to make the final product. So team work, listening and taking turns was a vital part of the project.
  • Very good at raising awareness of environmental issues – ideas of being green.
  • Children enjoyed group work and working as a team.
  • Artist very knowledgeable and interacted with children.
  • Good to see a day long workshop and how something can be taught and created in a day – good for teaching isolated topics.
  • Artist was really child friendly and approachable.
  • Very impressed with final product.
  • Children really enjoyed the workshop.

Tod 2014 - collage 3

Pupil Feedback:

  • It felt like it meant something.
  • It felt good to work as a team.
  • It was really fun and creative and tells a good story.
  • A super workshops and I would like to do it again.
  • I liked how we used rubbish which was going to [be] thrown and we made something good out of it.
  • Nice to share all our ideas with the group.
  • I really liked how we had to think about which material would look the best.
  • I thought it was a really creative idea.
  • I like having the choice to make what I wanted.
  • Was pleased to be part of the team.
  • Really enjoyed working with the different materials […] enjoyed the free choice.
  • I thought it was creative of Cath to get some junk and make a totem pole with [it].

106

When did you last go to Cleveleys?

I’ve not been to Cleveleys since I was I was seven.  Sixty years later I had this illogical urge to eat fish and chips on the sea front.  On a cold sunny morning I arrived on the promenade.   It is new, all of it!  Part of an improved sea defence scheme to prevent the town being flooded.  It is magnificent; not just a pile of concrete but an art inspired design called The Wave.  It literally flows along the sea shore and you can imagine in a storm how the water will swirl and be channeled back into the sea.

June 14 blog - image 5

Search for seashells and you will find Mary’s Shell standing on the shore.  It’s a four metre high sculpture designed by Stephen Broadbent.  Children were climbing on it, sliding down it , hiding within it and dancing around it.

June 14 blog - image 4

On the same sandy beach they raced over to touch the Sea Ogre standing in silvery sea foam: 12 tonnes of polished and unpolished limestone carved by Adrian Wright.

June 14 blog - image 8And what else?  Explore the Sea Swallows – aluminiumJune 14 blog - image 7 beacons standing high above the promenade or our dear friend John Merrill’s nine metre long wooden Paddle. You will remember John, who has worked closely with Mid Pennine Arts, for his White Lightning on the Padiham Greenway.

The inspirational thread for this artwork is an illustrated children’s story: The Sea Swallow by Gareth Thompson, illustrated by Hannah Megee.  I remember poring over a copy brought into the Office by Steph Hawke.  It had originated in the Lancaster Literature Festival.  It too is worth a look.

And the fish and chips? ….try ‘Kay’s Fish and Chips’ just opposite the promenade.

DAVID SMITH

Cleveley’s Sea Defence and Promenade Scheme – Wyre Borough Council

Mythic Coast Artwork Trail – Visit Lancashire

Photographs courtesy of Aran Smithson (Evoke Photographic) & Alan Cookson