Category Archives: Arts and Culture

Larmer Tree Festival

This summer I was invited back to Larmer Tree Festival in Salisbury to manage the Adults Workshops. It’s a great opportunity for people visiting the festival to come and learn how to make something with guidance from professional artists, in a relaxed space amidst from the hectic festival. Here a some of the creations from the weekend.

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Larmer blog pic

Promoting Community Events Through Twitter

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Last week I had an interesting discussion with a shop owner in Warwick, who was keen to understand how to use Twitter to promote a festival in the town. The challenge, it seemed, was to spread the message as far as possible when the festival’s Twitter profile didn’t have many followers. He was convinced that the answer was to get a high profile or celebrity tweeter to retweet the festival’s tweets! So I thought I would put together a few of my favourite tips for community event organisers, on how to harness the power of Twitter as a tool for creating a buzz about an event.

1. Follow local people – shops, businesses, and regular tweeters who have a connection with the town, and interact with them.

2. Communicate with your followers – keep them updated and encourage them to spread the word.

3. Tell people that you are tweeting – include your Twitter name on your printed and online communication materials and create a campaign using a #hashtag to encourage people to engage with the twitter conversation.

Type on Tuesday

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of DIY hand-drawn type, especially when it involves tea and cake!  Spotted in Hatton, Warwickshire.

Type on Tuesday

Yarnbomb Hits Case Lane

Last weekend, some unexpected woolly creations appeared in the hedgerows down the country lane where my parents live.  It has become the talk of the local pub as the neighbours try to make head or tail of the knitted and crocheted blossoms and bugs hanging from the trees.  I am reliably informed that they are still there although looking slightly worse for wear due to the cold weather!

Yarnbomb

Yarnbomb

Yarnbomb

Yarnbomb

Yarnbomb

Bristol Street Art: See No Evil

Visiting Bristol last weekend for the first time since I was little, a large proportion of my trip consisted of tracking down street art with the help of this handy app.  My favouritesite was Nelson Street, transformed last Summer by See No Evil street art festival.  Organised by local people, the festival commissioned 40 international street artists to create work on the building facades on either side of the street.  Using 700 litres of paint and 3500 spray cans, the artists created the largest outdoor permanent art installation in the world, and attracted over 50,000 visitors to Nelson Street.  The vibrancy and impact created goes to show how an area can be transformed when the local community, artists and funders work in collaboration to bring a little colour and creativity into everyday life.

Nelson Street Bristol

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Type on Tuesday

Street art typography across Nelson Street, Bristol.

Type on Tuesday

The Challenge Of Incorporating Pop-ups Into UK Cultural Policy

As I ponder the tricky question of “what does cultural policy involve?”, I am taking a look at the challenges that face local authorities as they begin to incorporate pop-up empty shop arts spaces into their cultural policy agendas.

There is wide-spread acknowledgement as to the benefits that artists and arts organisations bring to local communities when a pop-up takes over an empty shop.   December 2008 saw the highest vacancy rate of commercial shop units across the UK since records began, the figure estimated at 5% of shops on the high street standing vacant (Local Data Company 2008).  This figure tripled in 2011 to 14.5%, with as many as 1 in 3 shops empty in some towns (Local Data Company 2011).  As a result, pop-ups are a growing practice amongst artists and arts organisations, aided by charitable business rates relief and kick-started in 2009 with funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).  Further empty shops funding was granted by Arts Council England, but appears to have since dried up in the cut-backs.  This has left artists and arts organisations who are keen to make use of empty spaces struggling to find funding sources to cover the expense that invariably comes with running spaces and the project costs associated with pop-ups.

With the increased number of empty shops on the high street and growing demand from the creative community to make good use of the spaces, local authorities face new challenges as they begin to incorporate pop-ups into cultural policy agendas. Political factors are an important consideration such as setting best practice and good governance, changes in government policies and law (e.g. rate relief), conflict of interest between landlords and charities, commercial zoning restrictions.  Economic factors include the ever-changing funding landscape that artists and arts organisations are constantly being affected by, the increased number of empty shops on the high street, the rise in the number of unemployed artists and cultural workers.  This in itself raises concerns over the ongoing issue of cultural labour and the expectation for artists to deliver more for less, along with calls to include more voluntary workers in projects. The social benefits of pop-ups are widely talked about (although complicated to measure), such as reducing crime and vandalism, bringing people together, and instilling a sense of pride of place in the community.  Environmental effects are perhaps more immediate and obvious; adding vibrancy to a local area, making positive use of an otherwise wasted space, improving the cosmetic appearance which increases commercial letting potential – often the end result of a pop-up is that the shop is permanently let – in turn adding value to the local economy.  The very nature of pop-ups – temporary and unpredictable, is also a big challenge for policy makers to overcome.

My objective is to find resources discussing the topic of pop-ups, narrow down the key challenges that face policy makers working to incorporate pop-ups into cultural policy, and draw conclusions as to how the practice can be supported and made more sustainable to provide a lasting legacy for the cultural workers involved, members of the community and local authorities needing to see a return on their investment.

Frieze/ David Nash Sculpture/ Cultural Policy

1.  This year I visited Frieze Art Fair for the first time, a rare and interesting insight into the contemporary art world and it’s followers.  I found the amount of artwork on show hugely overwhelming, and it felt quite odd to experience art in a busy and bustling environment (unlike the normal calm, quiet gallery setting I’m used to seeing art in which allows space for contemplation and appreciation of artworks).  It was however an interesting experience, due in large part to the eclectic mix of people milling around which made for good people watching! Afshin Dehkordi’s review of the contemporary art fair highlights important issues surrounding the affect commercialised art fairs are having on artists and their practice, including the benefits that arise from artists using art fairs as a platform to commodify and sell their art to subsidise more experimental or community based work.

2.  The sculpture garden in surrounding Regent’s Park was more my scene, allowing walkers and joggers to encounter contemporary art as they went about their business.  Black Light 2012, David Nash.

3.  I’ve been frantically researching and reading up on cultural policy since starting my course earlier this month.  First assignment is in the form of a 3000 word essay in response to the question “What does cultural policy involve?”.

Glass/ Hand Bound Book/ Embroidered Brooch

This week I started the MA Cultural Policy Management course at City University London. I have been inducted, stocked up on pens and notebooks, and have a huge pile of reading to work my way through!  Beginning the course meant that last week I had my final day working with More Arts, and I was stunned by the number of cards, gifts and well-wishes I received from those I have worked with over the last three years.  Thank you to all the artists, volunteers and team More Arts.  Here are just three of the beautiful gifts I received – all handmade in Berkshire.

1.  Glass by Christine Morgan.

2. Hand constructed book with hand printed cover and leather spine by Joy Frey.

3. Embroidered brooch by Anne Beckingham.

Elaine Callen: Artist

I’ve grown up with the work of Elaine Callen (who happens to be my aunty). My earliest memory of enjoying her work was when she painted a mural onto a heating pipe in our conservatory, it was the talk of the close we lived in and friends still remember it!  My parents are keen collectors of her work, from early huge colourful oil on canvas forest canopies to subtle mountain and moss pastels inspired by the Mourne Mountains.

Who or what most inspires your work?
My work is inspired by the landscape around me. By the wild beauty of  mountain, moor and bogland.

What’s a typical day in your life as an artist?
My day begins with tea in bed and a chance to recapture dreams before the day intrudes. A brisk walk on the beach awakens and consolidates ideas and designs. Back to the studio for coffee and contemplation of work in progress before getting absorbed in painting till the need for tea overtakes. By the afternoon I could be working on tapestry designs for The Big Weave community tapestry project or perhaps cycling to the harbour to help out at The Front Room Vintage/Craft pop-up shop. I like to paint in the evening, in the gloaming, till the last of the light goes.

What’s the piece of work you’ve created that you’re most proud of?
Any piece which captures the feeling of place and a little magic.

Where can we see more of your work?
The Front Room
Vintage pop-up shop
65 South Promenade, Newcastle, Co. Down, N. Ireland

Whats the best thing about being an artist?
Tea in bed!