Tag Archives: steph hawke

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.

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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.

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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.


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


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.


Engage Summer School 2012: Dynamic Roles / It’s All Mediating

Finland’s Singing Ringing Tree?

Dr Steph Hawke, MPA’s Creative Learning Programme Manager, reflects on an action packed week in Helsinki…

As arts educators we find ourselves working in a shifting milieu of economic and political change both nationally and internationally.  How are our roles becoming more dynamic?  What does it mean to mediate?  At the end of May I spent a week in Helsinki at the Engage Summer School 2012 which provided a space to consider and debate these questions.  The Summer School took in a two day conference, Its All Mediating  hosted by Kiasma Museum of Modern Art.

In order to deliver measurable social impact, we learned from Tate Liverpool’s Lindsey Fryer that partnership and mediation are essential, but to beware the weasel words!  On the other hand, the value placed on arts education by Helsinki city, was celebrated by Eeva Mussari of Annantalo Arts Centre who described Helsinki school children’s free two times five  entitlement.  Helsinki Art Museum’s Kaisa Kettunen highlighted the  shifting roles of the arts educator, as she explained her work as an educator who is also head of customer services.  Kate Self, of Ikon Gallery Birmingham, led a thought provoking discussion of  the relationships between curatorial and educational practice in Ikon’s Slow Boat  programme.  Finally, Maija Tanninen, Director of Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki, explained that effective education is all about finding the right beer!

Weasel Words – Lindsey Fryer, Head of Education at Tate Liverpool, summarised for an international audience the unprecedented attention enjoyed by arts education under the UK’s previous political administration.  Tony Blair’s New Labour rallying-cry of ‘education, education, education’ combined with Ken Robinson’s All Our Futures report drew focus and funding towards creativity in the curriculum.  The case has been made for the value of arts education programmes to non-arts partners (health sector, prisons etc.) and the evidence of social and economic impact has been gathered.  This has led however to an overused terminology that risks sucking the meaning from the projects it is used to describe.  ‘Creativity’ Fryer suggested, has become a weasel word, undermining the work with which it is associated.  She expressed concern that the phrase ‘social impact’ might similarly begin to lose its clout.  Warning against cynically motivated attempts to evidence social impact, Fryer reminded the conference that educators cannot be tasked with relieving society’s ills.  We can however, be confident that our contribution to society is access to and ownership of cultural heritage. So, as learning comes under intense scrutiny, educators therefore need to step up and work together with our strategic partners in order to truly achieve social impact.  Indeed, for the arts educator: it is all mediating.

Two Times Five – The city of Helsinki places high value on the arts in education and Eeva Mussari, Course Planner from Annantalo Arts Centre, described the ways in which her work is subsided.  In Helsinki every school child is entitled to a course of two hours of art education at Annantalo Arts Centre over a five week period.  Young people can continue to pursue an interest in the arts in their own time through subsided free-time courses.

Shifting Roles – Helsinki Art Museum’s Kaisa Kettunen described the educator’s role as ‘advocate for the audience’ and educators have a role in every exhibition team at the Museum.  Interestingly however, Kettunen’s role is as Head of Education and Customer Services which gives pause for thought about the dynamic roles of educators.  Audiences are engaged with the work of the Helsinki Art Museum in a number of ways.  Notably the Tennari Youth Group have begun to develop confidence in the Art Museum having initially thought such places were “just for ladies over 40, sipping champagne”.  The group have found their voice through their Ten Minutes with Tennari  YouTube films in which they interview the museum’s current artists.

Curator, Educator or Both? – Kate Self, educator with Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery, described Slow Boat, a youth programme moving into its third year.  Activity takes place on a canal barge in keeping with Ikon’s rich history of contemporary art on Birmingham’s waterways.  Kate talked about the way in which artists are chosen to work on the Slow Boat project, and how closely this process resembles curatorial practice.  Slow Boat’s artists are selected not for their educational experience but for their research-based practice styles.  In its most recent cycle, Slow Boat has been working with artist Sarah Browne.

Sarah has chosen the theme of ‘scarcity’: scarcity of resources, of tools, of ideas and opportunities.  The theme draws inspiration from some of the social and political parallels between today and the 1980s, and the way in which 1980s anarchistic radio resonates with contemporary online media.

Kate foregrounded the similarities between educational programming and contemporary art curatorial practices at Ikon.  This opened a rich vein for discussion: How should an artist be contracted for educational work when the brief is so open?  Is researching an artist and their work key to successful educational programming?  Is it a problem for educators to work closely with the same artists as their curators?  Do educators tend to favour local artists and curators those from farther afield?  If so, why is this?

Finally Kate talked about the way Ikon as an institution continually absorbs its socio-political context.  As Birmingham loses its youth service, educators at Ikon expand into roles as youth workers, tasked with addressing issues such as unemployment.  Whilst education programmes speak to these wider agendas, they remain at Ikon, very similar to artistic practice.  The group were led to consider, is education process-driven whilst curating focusses on product?

Finding the Right Beer – Maija Tanninen, Director of Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki, began her presentation with an image.  She showed a vintage Carlsberg advertisement in which Finland’s design classic, the wildly curvaceous Alvar Aalto vase, is filled with lager.  The strapline? “We couldn’t see the beauty of the object until we filled it with our favourite beer.”  She suggested this is the role of the educator or mediator: in our quest to help audiences engage with our exhibitions and collections, we are all in the business of finding them the right kind of beer.

Thanks to the European Commission’s Grundtvig Programme for generous funding.

Moomin dolls in the National Museum

At Espoo Museum of Modern Art as part of Helsinki’s World Design Capital 2012 celebrations: the world’s first ever mass-produced, futuristic house invites people to learn about the wild visions of future housing in the 1960s

Swedish sculptress Eva Löfdahl won the 2004 open competition organised by the Suomen yrittäjien patsassäätiö, a Finnish foundation for entrepreneurs statues, to honour and acknowledge Finnish entrepreneurs with an impressive public art work.


What do the arts mean for young people?

Dr Steph Hawke, MPA’s Creative Learning Programme Manager recalls some recent work with young people.

What are the benefits of arts and culture for young people?  Is it easy for a young person in Pennine Lancashire to engage with the arts?  In February and March 2012, Mid Pennine Arts set out to explore these and other issues with two groups of young people. This involved a series of focus groups and creative activities. Curious Minds North West commissioned the research which fed into their wider intelligence gathering across the region.

The Creative Learning team worked with two groups of young people, aged between 14 and 15 and based in Accrington and Burnley. We asked them a range of questions: what do you do in your free time?  What arts activities do you engage with?  What do you do regularly?  What have you tried and stopped – and why?

Then we made a cultural visit – the Accrington group saw musical theatre at the Lowry Theatre.  The young people were set the challenge of trying something they had never done before. They explored digital photography and made a short film.

After being in the audience and taking part in a creative workshop, we asked the young people: what did you love?  What could have been better?

Finally we explored the barriers to engaging with arts and culture, what stops young people from getting involved?  The young people were encouraged to suggest ways of unlocking the arts.  In Burnley the group produced a manifesto for what young people want from their arts experiences.

We recorded the discussions digitally with photographs and sound.  We transcribed the discussions and analysed them with qualitative data analysis software.  Visit our website to view the powerpoint report from the project.

Young People in Focus

Author Stephanie Hawke

What do young people do in their free time? Do they engage with arts and culture? If the answer is yes, then how and why do they do this? If no, then what’s stopping them?

MPA are helping Curious Minds find out the answers to these and other questions as part of a miniature action research project.

The first two sessions took place at The Hollin’s Technology College, Accrington last week. The young people considered their level of engagement with arts and culture before choosing ‘interventions’ to make and reflect on. They chose to engage with digital media and theatre.


So  a few days later, Matt Gartside from Zumamedia joined the group in school to give them his digital photography top tips. What do you think of the results?

Next week we’re off to the Lowry Centre to see some musical theatre!