Tag Archives: LCC

Family History Exploration: Computers and Creativity!

Starting in summer 2013 and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, we’ve been helping the local community explore Gawthorpe Hall, through oral history, photography and the creative arts, in a project called Portraits of the Past.   We wanted to capture what the Hall means to the community that surrounds it. Focussing on the heritage of this magnificent 17th century house in Padiham, Lancashire, we looked to encourage local people to engage with its magnificent collections and learn about the fascinating stories of the people who would have lived, worked and used the Hall and its grounds.

To achieve this we’ve organised a series of events and activities and the most recent was on the 4th April, when a group of people interested in exploring their family history joined us for a day. It started with exploring Gawthorpe Hall and the history of the Shuttleworths and then they researched their own ancestry and finally explored the mysteries of creativity!

We started the day at Gawthorpe Hall where Rachael Pollitt de Duran, the Museum Manager, gave us a guided tour along with lots of information about the family that had lived there, the Kay-Shuttleworths.

Some members of the group had not been inside Gawthorpe Hall before and found the building and its history fascinating. In the Long Gallery it was hard work for everyone to obey the instruction not to touch the amazing wallpaper, thank goodness there’s a small sample to touch!

Ughtred James Kay-Shuttleworth - Caricature in Vanity Fair 1904

Ughtred James Kay-Shuttleworth – Caricature in Vanity Fair 1904

Once the tour was completed we headed down to the kitchen where the Lancashire County Council Community Heritage Team gave a presentation on how to begin tracing your own ancestors, using the Shuttleworth family as an example. Lots more was discovered about the family during the presentation, not least some of the more interesting first names. The group was particularly taken with Ughtred!

The team guided the group through the various online sources available for research as well as providing useful tips for getting the most out of searches. Everyone was very pleased to learn that the websites Ancestry and Find My Past are available to use for free through Lancashire Libraries, where you can book up to two hours computer time a day. You can find out more about the online resources available from the county here. As Fiona from the team said, “they’ve paid so you don’t have to”.

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Next everyone headed over to Padiham Town Hall, which also contains Padiham Library. We stopped for lunch, although in fact, the discussions about Gawthorpe Hall and family history continued throughout. After everyone was refreshed the group split into two.

Group One worked with the Community Heritage Team in the library’s computer suite getting to grips with researching via online resources. Group Two worked with artist Cath Ford to discover creative ways to display their family trees, photographs and mementos. Although many of the group were not experienced computer users, the thought of doing ‘art’ seemed much more frightening that using the computers! That didn’t last long though. Cath is very experienced at working with people who think they can’t be creative. It didn’t take her long to get them all experimenting with frames, craft paper, old magazines and other materials to create backdrops for some of the family history artifacts they had collected. Marriage certificates, discharge papers, medals, stamps, maps, adverts and of course photographs were added to flat and box frames to create very thoughtful and personal pieces of art. With the added bonus of being able to put on display some of these wonderful mementos. Nobody finished completely, mainly because they were leaving space for items they had at home, but they left with their frames and a bucket load of materials and ideas.

Halfway through the afternoon Group One and Two swapped over and the feedback was that each had enjoyed both activities. Cath and the Community Heritage Team made a good number of creative and computer converts!

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The final event of the Portraits of the Past project will take place at Gawthorpe Hall on April 26th between 1-4pm. Find out more on our website, but to whet your appetite…

Take a walk through the grounds with storyteller Steve Fairclough; discover the joys of letterpress printing with Print for Love of Wood; explore the strange delights of The Palace of Curiosities and meet Betsy the Victorian scullery maid!

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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.

Art of Destination: Sunshine, Souvenir and Skyping Shanghai

Lucy Green, MPA’s project manager for the event, recalls Art of Destination. 

The Art of Destination conference we held at Brockholes at the end of March was a fantastic success, and I think we’ve all just about recovered from the busy lead up to the event. Thanks to everyone who came along and who contributed, Lancashire County Council for commissioning the conference, and Arts Council for supporting it.

The invited speakers gave a great range of perspectives on their very own Art of Destination – we had Laurie Peake talking about some wonderful artists she has worked with through Liverpool BiennialSteve Messam skyping us from Shanghai to talk about his current projects; Assemble collective describing their fantastic self-initiated work Cineroleum and Folly for a Flyover, and international artist Marco Dessardo explaining his unique approach to creating site-specific work in a traditional gallery space.

Highlights were the beautiful sunny weather we were delighted to have for the day (let’s hope there is more to come!) and the fantastic turn-out that gave us the suitably eclectic audience mix we were hoping for, which really spanned the arts, culture, tourism and regeneration sectors: artists, architects, arts officers, designers, curators, County Councillors and commissioners were all in attendance.

The low point was the fact that Steve Messam’s wonderful piece Souvenir, commissioned by LCC especially for the event, was sadly damaged by vandals soon after it had been installed earlier in the week.  The first showing of the work in the UK following presentations in Shanghai and Venice, by the day of the conference it was far from its original wonderful and ethereal state.  However, some fantastic images remain of Souvenir, so we’re glad that we were at least able to document its fleeting existence so we could share it with the audience who attended, as well as show it online.

Audience feedback rated Brockholes as a fantastic venue, and it’s one we would definitely recommend as conference hosts as well. The conference venue itself is a large, spacious room with beautiful views over the water, and forms part of the Visitor Village that is floating on the lake at the reserve.  An amazing piece of architecture in some lovely landscape, the Village and surrounding site is well worth a visit.  Also, just as importantly, Brockholes passed the conference-goers ultimate test – brilliant catering!

You can see more details of the event and images here.