Above and Below the Surface – A Social Geographic Map of Wakefield District

The latest in our series of blog posts about collaborative arts commissions between Wakefield Arts Partnership members, features the collaboration between Edgelands Arts and the National Coal Mining Museum for England (NCMME).

 

Blog by: Bev Adams, Co-Director, Edgelands Arts

How often do we think about the ground beneath our feet? Do we ever stop and think about how the subterranean landscape can affect the nature and shape of the communities above?

Edgelands Arts and NCMME asked these questions as part of their recent project supported by the Wakefield Arts Partnership. Armed with the understanding that mining was the key industry in Wakefield for over a century, Edgelands Arts worked with volunteers from NCMME to map the mines in the District.

35 mines were located from memory and by looking at books and old maps.

Tony Wade, Co-director of Edgelands Arts, then drew a simplified map of the Wakefield District, pinpointed the mines, made some cut-out pitheads and took the now three dimensional map to NCMME, asking visitors to add their memories to it. Over 100 people interacted with the map, writing memories on cards and adding more mines.

Stories emerged about how miners could walk underground for miles, and how some mines were connected, allowing miners to descend in one village and ascend in another.

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Edgelands Arts showed the map again, in the Art House, as part of the recent Wakefield Art Walk. A further 140 people interacted with the exhibition, adding more mines to the map along with childhood memories of playing on or near the spoil heaps, of women eating lumps of coal to combat indigestion, and how the coal seams are so shallow in the west of the District that people still dig coal out of their gardens to this day. The total number of mines now mapped is close to 60.

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The most overheard comment at the Art Walk exhibition was “fascinating!”

The map provides a stimulus for conversation and social interaction. It brings people together to explore our District and share our knowledge of it. It explores the past to understand the present and look to the future. It helps us to understand how Wakefield has been shaped geologically, topographically and culturally.

There is a further opportunity to interact with the Map at National Coal Mining Museum on 3rd June as part of NCMME’s 30th anniversary celebrations.

 

Collaborative Commissions: Tango Unchained – HQ Arts and Wakefield Jazz

HQ Arts, established in 2003, is a professional arts company based in Featherstone. HQ Arts specialise in participatory arts projects and have worked locally, regionally and nationally, delivering high quality projects for and with people who would not ordinarily access the arts.

Wakefield Jazz is a not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers, in its 31st year. It presents high quality live jazz weekly with local (North of England), national and international musicians who are keen to visit.   We present a wide range of styles and group sizes with limits excluding New Orleans or Freely Improvised music.   Our setup and membership has made our outward-facing activities limited so far and we hope to capitalise on this project to do more.

Tango Unchained is a short performance project bringing together Stuart Hawkes and Karen Quigley from HQ Arts together with musician Pete Rosser to work with older residents from across the district to create an original performance. Tango Unchained will explore the passion and stories behind the tango to reveal the hidden depths, hidden stories and hidden talents of Wakefield.

It’s Thursday 22 February 2018, I’m travelling with Pete Rosser to Castleford, to meet with our Tango Unchained group. This will be our second meeting with them. We have a plan, an accordion and the means to make tea and coffee.

They are already waiting for us in the William Street Working Men’s Club, the kettle is on.

William Street Working Men’s Club overlooks the rugby pitch where Lock Lane Amateurs play. We rehearse in front of the stage on the wooden dance floor. The bar staff are busy cleaning.

We start with a warm up: physical stretches to make sure that everybody’s parts are moving and drama games to test their reactions.

In our first three hour session together we deconstructed the tango and agreed key physical movements and gestures. We explored the stories and imagery behind the dance and worked with music to find the essence of the tango and the physicality of the piece.

With Pete at the accordion we rehearse our Tango moves. We add some Tango attitude and punctuate with moments of stillness. We ask them to work out a route across the space. They have an agreed starting point and finishing point. We repeat. We add a tango gesture, a moment of stillness, the essence of tango. We repeat. We build and add another gesture; more tango and more passion. We repeat until we have a sequence. They have now walked about four miles! They need tea and cake.

In the second part of the session we facilitate a writing exercise. They are happy to be sitting down. We all laugh a lot. We share what we have written, we laugh some more.

I gather up the stories that Karen and I will shape before our final devising session.

A quick reminder of the dance moves we’d learned earlier and there is just time to check everyone’s availability for the next rehearsal before we are off.

We have to finish on time, there is a funeral tea at two o’clock.

Stuart Hawkes is the Artistic Director at HQ Arts

“The music helped enormously with Pete leading us in on the squeeze box with that special tango rhythm and that made it much easier to image ourselves in the role.   – it had to be all sleek , smooth then staccato moves, so with a bit of practice we began to feel like dancers, when we weren’t laughing our socks off anyway, and not a wobble in sight. ” Bren, Tango Unchained participant.

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Collaborative Commissions: WE ARE & The Art House

WE ARE is a partnership between Amy Lilley and Lucy Norton. We provide a platform for early career artists and young businesses through a variety of collaborative projects and events. We first started working together in 2013, when we met volunteering for Beam after both returning to Wakefield from University. In trying to obtain work in a creative industry in the area we found that there was a real lack of opportunities for young artists and professionals in Wakefield. We decided the best way to solve this was to create opportunities for ourselves, and we began to design and facilitate our own projects and events to address this. Since then we have worked on a variety of creative projects such as film nights, exhibitions, markets and residencies, all with the aim to help other young, emerging creatives who are in the same situation we were. We now also run a space in the city centre called Crux where we host events, gigs and share the space as studios with other creatives and musicians.

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During January we’re working on our WAP co-commission with The Art House, an arts development agency and accessible studio space in Wakefield. We wanted to use this opportunity to work on a project with an organisation who has a lot more experience than us! To be able to learn from each other and bring different experiences and knowledge to the table for this project seemed like a great idea.

Together we’re facilitating a two week residency with 3 artists and a collaborative duo, culminating in an exhibition at the Wakefield Artwalk on the 31st January. WE ARE and The Art House selected the artists for the residency with help and insight from Nicola Freeman from The Hepworth Wakefield’s curatorial team. I think a collaboration like this is important for these kinds of opportunities as the variety of organisations involved can each bring different opinions and knowledge to the table, which in turn brings more to offer to the artists taking part. 

Selected artists

Holly Rowan Hesson is planning on creating an installation which captures interesting sculptural forms which take inspiration from her walks through Wakefield. The work will focus on highlighting the things most people take for granted or don’t notice at all, such as old railings and shop shutters.

Holly Rowan Hesson

Image: Holly Rowan Hesson

Joseph Jackson will be taking his audience on holiday to Pugneys Country Park. He’s interested in the idea of holiday advertisements and how ‘fake’ or unattainable they are. He’s creating a large scale sculpture using images of Pugneys lake to break it down and give the illusion of a vacation at home.

 Yoke is artist duo Annie Nelson and Chris Woodward, they plan to construct test sculptures and maquettes which celebrate the historic importance of the Aire & Calder navigation to Wakefield, and those who use and enjoy it today. They’re using this opportunity to test out ideas which will feed into a larger future project.

Yoke

Image: Yoke

Wakefield Artwalk

2018 marks 10 years since the Artwalk first started in Wakefield, and to celebrate the occasion we’re working towards making this year’s events extra special. We hope there’ll be lots of exciting projects coming up and we’re really looking forward to seeing more projects from the other WAP members’ commissions in March too.

The upcoming Artwalk is on 31st January 5pm – 9pm, our artists in residence will have their new work on display at The Art House during the evening and there’ll be more information on their practice to see too.

Other great exhibitions to see on the Artwalk include The Art House’s current artist in residence, Rich White, who will be exhibiting work created during his month long residency.

At Neon Workshops, Black Hole by Richard William Wheater is the third installment from the artist’s ongoing rooftop neon text series called ‘Things People Say’ and Unity Social Pop Up Cafe Bar will be presenting the work of local artists Dave Foley and Jamie Oldroyd. You can find out about all the events taking place this January here.

We hope to see you there!

Wakefield Arts Partnership Collaborative Commissions

Members of the Wakefield Arts Partnership (WAP) have teamed up to develop a series of exciting multidisciplinary collaborative projects to be showcased at Wakefield Artwalk events on 31 January, 28 March and 30 May.

The first commission, which will be shared at Artwalk on 31 January, is the result of a collaboration between The Art House and WE ARE which has seen the delivery of a programme of ‘micro’ residencies. Artists Holly Rowan Hesson, Joseph Jackson, Yoke (Annie Nelson and Chris Woodward) and Emma Papworth were each selected based on their proposals to create new work about or inspired by Wakefield.

Upcoming collaborations that will be shared in March include –

National Coal Mining Museum for England (NCMME) and Edgelands Arts

‘Above and Below the Surface’ – exploring the impact of Wakefield’s hidden geological coal seams on the visible landscape and the social lives of the people who live in the area.

HQ Arts and Wakefield Jazz

‘Tango Unchained’ – creating a short performance piece with older Wakefield residents that takes Tango and storytelling as its starting point.

Long Division & Skysail Studios/ various WAP partners

Creating a series of short films to reveal more about WAP partners and where they work.

One to One Development Trust and Axisweb

‘Surround’ will offer local artists and community members the opportunity to work in Virtual Reality to create playful new artwork for showcase in an online VR gallery.

Back in November 2017 The Good of Small Things and the Cluntergate Centre collaborated on a project entitled ‘What Makes Horbury?’ – a celebration of making, creating and doing by the Horbury community with artist Andy Abbott.

Image Credit - Andy Abbott - What Makes Horbury Event

Image Credit Andy Abbott - what makes Horbury event 3

Image credits: What Makes Horbury? event – Andy Abbott

All of the collaborations are being documented by Wakefield College students under the mentorship of experienced Wakefield based filmmaker Nick Singleton. Films created will be shared through the WAP website and twitter account over the coming months and will be showcased as part of a collaborative event during this year’s Long Division Festival on Sunday 3 June 2018.

The commissions are being managed by WAP coordinators, Beam, and build on the work of artist Andy Abbott who delivered the first artist commission, ‘Hidden Wakefield’, for Wakefield Arts Partnership in 2016. This project aimed to creatively engage Wakefield communities in a dialogue about place – stimulating and gathering information and stories that highlight local distinctiveness. As a focus for the project Andy set up the ‘Wakefield Centre for Dark Matter’, which took the form of a mysterious travelling pyramid that archived and exhibited the hidden, hard to find, strange and wonderful aspects of Wakefield that more people should know about. Andy’s work can be viewed online at – http://wakefieldartspartnership.org/hiddenwakefield/

WAP collaborative commissions are supported by Arts Council through its Grants for the Arts programme as part of Beam’s Arts In Place III project.

A Manifesto for a New Wakefield

Manifesto with Seed Fund

Long Division started back in 2011 because there was inordinately high amount of music being created for such a relatively small city. As crazy as it seems seven years later, PRS declared Wakefield the UKs third musical city, based upon the amount of people claiming royalties.

 

There were a high number of creatives but there were very few opportunities for those people to have their work heard. So we created a festival that was just too good a proposition for (most) people to turn down. That drew audiences to the city and gave these artists the platform they deserved.

 

Over the years we became more and more interested in the wider culture of Wakefield and in building on that idea of collectively offering something too good to miss.

 

Yet in many respects, the struggles for those artists trying to find their place, or find an audience for their work have remained, if not increased. The trouble can be knowing where to start or, in an increasingly risk averse arts world, finding someone who will take a punt on something unknown.

 

It’s something we want to help with. Our Arts Council funded project “A Manifesto For A New Wakefield” will set out our vision for a future Wakefield. And we want that to be formed by the city’s creatives.

 

One way that anyone can get involved in this is through our Seed Fund Programme. Artists can apply for up to £250 to fund a new idea that will then be debuted at the festival in June. We want the artists to the think about the concept of what a manifesto for the future of Wakefield might include. Beyond that, there are no limits. It can be fully realised, it can be an experiment, it can be music, poetry, film, photography and a hundred other things we aren’t going to waste your time by listing.

 

Aswell as the Seed Fund, we will be directly commissioning artists to create significant new works and will be handing over programming budgets to new Curators – and offering mentoring as required.

 

After the festival we will compile all the Seed Fund and other Commission work (and plenty of other things too) into a physical Manifesto which we will proudly wave in people’s faces.

 

Applications are open until February 19th. The full brief and the application form can be found on our website.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATIONS – Judi Alston

It seems a long time ago since my first ever film commission, which was for the NUM filming the Miners Gala in Durham. It was in the days of large cameras with dock-able lenses and huge battery belts like something The Terminator would wear. In 1989, I thought I’d do my own film making until the time I got my act together and got a proper job (it wasn’t even known as ‘Indie film making’ then). 28 years later, having made over 300 films, some for broadcast, I have now given up on the notion of “regular 9 to 5 employment” altogether. For me working in the arts is a way of life.

I do feel proud that somehow – often against all odds – our team and I have managed to keep One to One Development Trust (formally One to One Productions) going throughout different governments and recessions. There have been many changes and different paths in my journey as a film maker. The biggest change has been in technology.

Bands and Banners Judi Alston on camera 1991

I remember using a cranky old typewriter to produce our first ever business plan in 1988 which won us an award of ‘The Most Innovative Business in Yorkshire and Humber’ from Barclays Bank. Our first ‘public funding’ came shortly after from Wakefield Council, allowing us to get a whole suite of video equipment including an AVID editing system. In the early 1990’s we felt like pioneers of non-linear editing and community film making. Visitors would come from all over the region to see our ‘cutting edge’ studio. I remember some peoples shock and prejudice when we were filming – a woman with a camera! TV cameramen were the worst.

Shuttling through the timeline of our work, the common thread throughout it has been our core values and a strong set of ethics about working with communities; engaging people often on the margins; promoting, celebrating or exploring heritage; engendering a sense of community pride and well-being.

Whizzing onto July 2017, a rainy night at Castleford Tigers RLFC, a packed-out ‘best room’ full of fans, players, supporters and other well-wishers. We are launching the Cas Tigers Heritage Project: a two-year Heritage Lottery funded project with Tigers Trust to create an online ‘Memory Box’ and Virtual Museum to engage fans, the Club and the wider community on a massive move to their new purpose-built stadium (imminent but delayed). It’s been a truly amazing and very enjoyable heritage project. As our guests are trying on VR headsets and exploring the Virtual Museum we’ve created, I have one of those weird out-of-body type moments where I can see so clearly what it means to have kept our integrity as artists, but to have also been open to changes in technology – and being able to adapt creatively to use it.

Packed House Cas Tigers Heritage Launch

I love how media can be used now, the way it has converged. How ‘digital’ can bring things together. At One to One through our in-house studio Dreaming Methods we are advocates and pioneers of what many describe as a new artform: ‘digital storytelling’. I am still passionate about film and documentary – but my interest and appreciation of media is also now on how we can fuse it together; how we as artists can push the boundaries both creatively and technically and how we can engage others in this creative journey, using our skills to influence what will come next.

We’re currently creating a digital story called WALLPAPER VR with funding from Creative England’s Games Lab Leeds initiative (check out our teaser trailer). In my experience of working in the arts, it’s not often that you get the opportunity to take an existing project into a second phase or to develop it further. However, this is the case with WALLPAPER, a narrative game originally funded by the Arts Council back in 2014 as an interactive installation for a gallery setting at Bank Street Arts, and part of a research project with Sheffield Hallam University (SHU).

WALLPAPER is the story of PJ Sanders, Head of Product Innovation at US based company POPPITECH. Following the death of his mother, PJ returns to the UK to his historic home, Dalton Manor, which has been in his family for generations. Needing to clear the house and prepare for sale, PJ toys with his latest product; an experimental device primed to help him uncover the mysterious history behind a room in the house that has remained locked since his childhood. It’s an immersive experience about family secrets, mysteries and the future of technology.

Mrs Smith Cas Tigers Heritage Project launch 2017

Re-purposing WALLPAPER from a digitally projected installation to a Virtual Reality experience is indeed a challenge. We tested audience reaction by creating one scene in VR as a prototype – the reaction was very positive (as you can see in our Being Human Festival film documenting responses).

To do this type of intensive processing work you need easy access to the right tech and a highly resilient attitude to problem solving! A big challenge for us now is being able to keep to date with the hardware and software that we need to do the work. Capital Local Authority grants like those that funded our production studio in the early 1990s seem like a distant dream.

There is a creative buzz around Wakefield now. It’s been gathering momentum over recent years. Big initiatives like The Hepworth and the recently successful Cultural Destinations funding from the Arts Council are the headliners but there is also a rich DIY culture of pop-up events and festivals.

We are currently preparing to showcase WALLPAPER VR at two local events. The first is at Nostell Nights – a great initiative by Nostell Priory to run themed events every few months with a rich art focus and different performers. Explore the beautiful Nostell environment (and its attics!) and enjoy a DJ set provided by Long Division, a bar by Wakefield Beer Exchange, poetry by Paul Bateson and other creative stuff. We will be showing WALLPAPER as in interactive projection and VR experience. It should prove to be a magical night and well worth the visit.

Friday 9th September WALLPAPER at the Nostell Nights: Hidden Spaces event https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/events/629f94bb-6c75-4192-900b-3fcc0c6fbbdd/pages/details

At the end of September, we are delighted to be part of the Wakefield Literature Festival ‘Talking Loud and saying summat’ organised by BEAM and A Firm of Poets. We are part of the ‘We Need to Talk About Music’ programme talking about music, literature and life.

Saturday 30th September 11.00am Mechanics Theatre: WALLPAPER VR Launch and talk about developing a narrative game with soundscape for VR https://www.wakefieldlitfest.org.uk/events/331-wallpaper-vr

It’s been an interesting and exhilarating journey to get where we currently are and to be launching our latest projects. We would love you to attend Nostell nights, and our Lit Fest Launch. Both events are free (£5.00 to book on the Nostell Attic Tour in advance).

So, if you fancy experiencing something “out of the ordinary” (or out of reality), and having a hands-on play with our latest technology – which is somewhat different to the “cutting edge” tech we used in the 90s! – you know where to come. 🙂

Wakefield Jazz ~ Festival Programme 2017

Wakefield Jazz is proud to be celebrating their 30th Anniversary during May 2017 (and on 2nd June).

They are branding the 5 weekly gigs as a Jazz Festival including a Northern Line band, an International artist, a currently in vogue band, a favourite for entertainment and a reprise of the band, and music, commissioned for their 25th Anniversary.

On 5th May The Firebird Quartet gets things going – Jazz North Ambassador artists.

 

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12th May the consummate entertainer Jay Phelps brings his quartet.

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19th May  Wakefield Jazz actual anniversary date, featuring the Jonathan Gee trio with Tim Whitehead playing Jonathan’s Wakefield Suite and other material.

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26th May  The Dominic Galea Quartet.  Dominic makes a rare visit from Malta with his London band.

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Finally, on 2nd June the season concludes with a band making lots of waves since the launch of their new CD.

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www.wakefieldjazz.org
Full price for each gig payable
at the door £10.00
Students £5.00

Special offer available for purchasing multiple tickets – see website for more details.