Launch of Surround VR by Judi Alston, One to One Development Trust

We set up during the afternoon in the Terrace Gallery at the Art House – projector out, laptop ready and VR headset prepared for action. It was September Art Walk night and there was a definite buzz in the air. So much great stuff on all over the City – we weren’t sure who would turn up.

We built the gallery environment 15,000 ft above Wakefield: a psychedelic, beautiful, surreal, sensory space, not confined to logic or convention. We wove in six artworks created by ‘new to VR’ artists, each having their own area along with their ‘Artists Statement’. Our inspiration for the project was make a piece of digital interactive art that flies the banner high for the cultural offer of Wakefield district.

We want to celebrate creativity, digital innovation and experimentation. Funding from Wakefield Arts Partnership gave us the support to push our own creative boundaries whilst training up other artists.

We set up a ‘private view’ for our participating artists before the Art Walk opened. Five of the six artists who took part came; each explored all the other artists’ work first and flew around the aerial gallery high above Wakefield city centre – before finding their own exhibit. It showed a curiosity of their peers work and perhaps some nerves as each artist explored the curated pieces and the environment we’d developed. What was noticeable was how much more confident the artists were using VR, navigating through a virtual space.

According to the Art House figures, over 350 people visited to see some great exhibitions on show in the building, and it felt like a lot of them made their way into our exhibition.

I love watching people using VR – experiencing something we’ve created. It is almost like a performance where the person ‘having a go’ becomes a part of an installation; their responses and movements corresponding with a projection of what they are seeing becomes a ‘living artwork’.

It is important that people feel supported and safe as they enter a head set, particularly when they launch from the bespoke holding area we built as a set of huge doors open and suddenly you are in a flying in a gallery in the sky.

I’m always mindful of the impact of VR on people at public gatherings like Art Walk where you are facilitating and supporting an experience that maybe new, exhilarating or daunting, perhaps even disorientating. There isn’t time to do a run through on peoples physical or mental states so it’s important that you remain very present and in-the-moment with them throughout the experience. Its exhausting and fun facilitating a constant stream of people wanting a go.

The Art Walk brought young and old into Surround and plenty of in-between ages. My two favourite moments were with people at each end of the spectrum: a young girl aged 11 waited ages to have a go. I asked her if she liked art and ever went to galleries. She said yes “but I’ve NEVER been to a gallery in the sky”. After she came out of Surround she said, “I would never get bored in that gallery” and scribbled ‘AWESOME!!!’ on our feedback board.

Towards the end of the night, an elderly man with a white stick came in. He told me he was in his eighties and only had partial sight. After I ran through with him what was about to happen he was still very keen to have a go. I must admit I was nervous. He embraced the experience with grace and curiosity in a way that is often seen in that generation. When he took the head set off he was so pleased he’d seen this; he said he saw better in VR than in normal life. He wanted everyone to experience it.

We hope to expand Surround to include further artwork created for VR and enhance its reach -Wakefield’s Virtual Reality Art Gallery. We hope to be sharing good news on future developments soon.

To follow the project on social media, use #SurroundVR.
Join One to One Development Trusts  Mailing List for updates about our work, events and opportunities http://eepurl.com/duuMsH

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten Women of Wakefield

Sarah Cobham of Dream Time Creative is leading the ‘Forgotten Women of Wakefield’ project and is dedicated to ‘blue plaque parity’ in Wakefield by 2028 (which will be 100 years since ALL women got the right to vote).

Nationally less than 13% of women are represented on Blue Plaques. In Wakefield there are currently only 4 Blue Plaques dedicated to women against 34 to men or buildings. Ultimately this makes it harder for women to be seen as having contributed to the public life of our city and normalises the concept that women are not as important as men.  Sarah takes inspiration from Florence Beaumont, our suffrage woman who, despite opposition, carried on with her reforms, regardless.

Read more about this important project on Sarah’s blog at –

Forgotten Women of Wakefield

Wakefield Arts Partnership members remember Chris de Saram

 

Dean Freeman, Festival Director, Long Division

“As a music promoter, I learnt a lot about the world of Jazz through Chris. Much of that world was so different to my Indie / DIY roots, yet we also shared similar challenges and goals. I was always impressed that Chris didn’t want to rest on his laurels and was always looking for a new way to engage people with Jazz. Back when I was at Unity Works, we introduced a Jazz programme, but were both keen it wasn’t hidden up in the halls, but down in the cafe where we could ‘inflict’ it on the Westgate passerby. It was also a great way to support young performers. We got no support from the management, and the bar staff were utterly bemused, but we both found delight in it. We always wanted to do the same with Long Division Festival and I’m so glad in 2018 we did. Chris had a batch of bands he admired but was never sure if the regular Wakefield Jazz audiences would engage, so we found a slot for Shatner’s Bassoon at The Hop. They divided opinion completely – which is great – and I heard some remark it was the best performance they’d ever seen. I was shocked to hear of his passing, perhaps most because I’ve only ever seen him passionate, engaged and fully ‘alive’ in all he’s done. I couldn’t imagine him not being there. He deserves huge recognition for his work with Wakefield Jazz, in particular his outward looking approach and keenness to connect outside the city, and outside the genre – it is a large legacy to have left behind. ”

 

Judi Alston, CEO, One to One Development Trust 

“It’s hard to believe that Chris is no longer with us, his passion for Wakefield Jazz and for the arts in general was very apparent and consistent over the many years we knew each other. I will remember Chris as always being extremely helpful and open to ideas, like when we were looking for musicians to support or perform as part of a film project with Friends of CHAT Parks on the Wakefield Castle film, Chris linked us up with musicians and offered his full support of the project. Chris was like that, open, helpful and a doer, he was also very committed to supporting young musicians and emerging talent. I was very pleased when Chris joined Wakefield Arts Partnership and he offered his insight and expertise on many an occasion including organising the music for one of the first WAP events. We had discussed working together on an archive project about Wakefield Jazz, I hope one day we can realise this in his legacy. Chris was a significant and well-respected person in the cultural scene of the Wakefield District and he will be much missed. Our condolences are with Chris’s family and close friends.”

 

Fran Smith, Principal Consultant, Beam

“Chris clearly had a knowledge and expertise about Jazz which was reflected in the consistently high quality programme he presented over many years at Wakefield Jazz Club – but he was also unwaveringly outward looking towards other artforms and generous with his expertise. His energy and enthusiasm to embrace opportunities for new collaborations and experimentation between jazz and other artforms was inspiring. Chris was always keen to work with others to find new ways to share his love and passion for Jazz and to introduce the artform to new audiences. I was lucky enough to work with Chris when he proposed the idea of staging an event, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, with renowned jazz singer Christine Tobin as part of Wakefield Lit Fest in 2014. The event which fused poetry and music, with the performance of a collection of songs based on the poetry of WB Yeats, was my first introduction to Wakefield Jazz Club and was a revelation both to me and the festival audience who attended – many who had not been to a jazz event before. As one of the founding members of Wakefield Arts Partnership and a close colleague and collaborator with many of us over the years he will be sorely missed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Long Division 2018

By Dean Freeman, Festival Director

Capturing the buzz and excitement of an event like Long Division in words, a few months after the whole thing took place, is incredibly tough. It’s so ephemeral, you quite truly ‘had to be there’.

I’ll come back to that. But what I can talk about is cold, hard numbers – which I actually find quite exciting. It was the largest Long Division Festival to date; we doubled our audience, using 25 different venues over five days. We programmed music (from electro to jazz to punk to folk) alongside art exhibitions, Q&A sessions, spoken word, workshops and all manner of things that fall between the cracks of those mediums. It’s now unquestionably the largest music & cultural festival in the district.

Charlotte Hatherley at Wakefield Cathedral by John Jowett

 A big step for us was the addition of free to attend events. 114 events / performances were free, plus 37 days of free to attend exhibitions. This was only made possible with the support of Wakefield BID. Although Long Division has always been very good value, I realised that 25 pounds is still a large barrier if you aren’t culturally engaged or feel you understand what the festival is, and who is performing. The barrier was not the cash value, but the cost of taking a risk. The absolute majority of the new attendees were from the Wakefield District.

 One of my favourite stats was that 81% of attendees said they had visited a venue or place they’d never been to before during the festival. More than ever before, it felt like we took over the city centre. The BBC Introducing stage on the precinct was hard work to organise but was a revelation. Seeing people in the streets of Wakefield laughing, smiling and dancing was wonderful. Drawing so many people from across the UK to the city and to have them explore all the cool and sometimes secretive parts was great too.

It was those moments that encapsulated the buzz of the event. Wakefield felt like Berlin or a New York Borough – except it didn’t; it still felt like Wakefield, but a brighter Wakefield, one more alive.

Crowds gather for Billy Bragg at Wakefield Cathedral, Long Division Festival, Wakefield, 2nd June 2018

It was the great leap forward we needed. To work with so many partners, venues and artists was very rewarding and we are excited about 2019 already.

In the interim, we will be launching our Manifesto For A New Wakefield book. This will compile materials from the thirteen commissions from Wakefield based artists that appeared at the festival, alongside write-ups and information on organisations and businesses we feel are really pushing Wakefield forward.

The launch will be at an event at 7A Project Space on December 15th. This unique warehouse like space is run by Neon Workshops. There will be live performance, food and drink and a chance to get hold of a copy of our limited edition book. You can find more information here.

 

One Day after School, Precinct Stage, by John Jowett

Banner image: Wakefield precinct by Alexandra Vaughan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Division Live Sessions: Simon Widdop – I Saw I See. Introduced by National Coal Mining Museum for England

A series of live sessions for Long Division Festival 2018. Filmed by Skysail Studios and commissioned by Wakefield Arts Partnership as part of a series of collaborative commissions. Each musician, performer or band is introduced by a different Wakefield Arts Partnership member.

Long Division Live Sessions: Simon Widdop – I Saw I See. Introduced by National Coal Mining Museum for England.