The heat of June is upon us. In Europe at least, we’re beginning to take tiny steps towards the new normal. As we sit on the cusp of the future, I’m enjoying taking moment to look back at what was good in the second half of 2019. Not least because family circumstances at that time meant that I didn’t have chance to share news of the exciting projects I was working on.
First, I had the privilege of working with award-winning ceramic artists Vicky Lindo and Bill Brooks, supporting their successful Arts Council England Project Grant application. With Arts Council investment secured, Vicky and Bill were able to make an extensive new body of work, the Dead Dad Book collection, for the 2019 British Ceramics Biennial in Stoke on Trent in September. Presented as part of the event’s flagship exhibition, AWARD, Dead Dad Book – think Windrush generation meets North Devon Slipware – won the Biennial’s biggest award for ground-breaking and progressive ceramics. I could not have been more delighted for Vicky and Bill, who hail from my own neck of the woods in North Devon.
In October I began working with moving image and sound artist Dr Deborah Robinson, taking over from her previous curator to support Deborah in developing an exhibition based around the artist’s new film work, Time Being. The work is part of Waiting Times, a multi-stranded research project on the temporalities of healthcare, funded by the Wellcome Trust.
November saw the opening of Sea Garden, a contemporary art exhibition for which I provided curatorial support during the spring and summer, researching international artists whose work not only connected to our concept – an exploration of our relationship with the sea – but were also accessible during a period which saw the UK withdraw from the European Union. Featuring artists such as Dorothy Cross, Mikhail Karikis, Susan Derges and Turner Prize Nominee Lucy Skaer, as well as new South West Commission by Bryony Gillard, Sea Garden showed at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) until January 2020.
Autumn also saw me wrap up Devon D-Day, a multi-partner project commemorating the 75th anniversary of the preparations for D-Day. As project producer I got to handle everything from exhibition production to public relations. One of many highlights was my work with MultiStory Theatre to promote their performance project, Over Here.
As always, the creative delights of my work were underpinned by enquiry of a more logical kind. I continued to help organisations question and capture the nature and value of what they do. In particular I’ve been both pleased and challenged to work with Plymouth Music Zone as the charity works to capture the value of Lived Experience Leadership and to model it for the wider arts and community sector.
Autumn highlights from my Artistic and Quality Assessor work for Arts Council England included a visit to Making Space, a socially-engaged public realm project by artist Jessie Brennan, commissioned by UP Projects for Royal Docks, Newham, London.
Which is a good place to end. Because today, as the entire creative and cultural sector reels from the Covid-19 tragedy, a new way forward may be slowly coalescing. Alongside much of the rest of society, we are asking whether the economic growth model is still useful, or whether it’s time to put culture and creativity back at the centre of human growth instead. I for one would love to see that starting to happen in the months and years ahead.
Don’t forget, if you have ideas, projects or challenges that could do with a bit of clear thinking or a fresh perspective, don’t hesitate to get in touch.