Tuesday, 1 July 2014

BENEATH THE PAVEMENT - An Introduction (Day One)



Beneath The Pavement is a 2 day consultation and development programme, commissioned by the Stoke-on-Trent City Centre Partnership and   organised and delivered by AirSpace Gallery in association with Appetite. 


The City Centre Partnership consists of a group of individuals, businesses and organisations who are concerned with enhancing the all round offer of the City Centre to the general public. Stoke-on-Trent City Centre which currently suffers from a lack of public use, particularly in its night time economy, is undergoing a phase of economic regeneration and so the CPP is keen to explore alternative cultural possibilities for the City Centre, to generate new ideas in order to attract more people in to the City.

Programme Designer, Anna Francis and AirSpace Gallery have developed this programme to find spaces and opportunities in the City Centre for artists and creatives to propose work, events and activities, with the aim of developing a series of proposals for cultural possibilities in the City's Public Realm. Crucially, these proposals will not only explore such opportunities and potential, but will advocate for the benefits of working with artists. The aim of the programme is to set up a Presentation Event and Publication Launch which would pull together all of the proposals and deliver them to a group of invited, relevant city stakeholders, businesses and leaders.


The initial artist development programme took place on Friday and Saturday 27th and 28th June at AirSpace. The 16 applicant artists and practitioners -  Ben Evans, Chloe Ashley, Faye Binza, Jane Howie, Katrinka Wilson, Michelle Rheeston, Morna Lockie-Anrig, Nick Davies, Phil Rawle, Richard Redwin, Sarah Nadin, Sam Mace, Siobhan McAleer, Sarah Richardson and Kat Boon - were joined by four lead artists - Anna Francis, Emily Speed, Mark Gubb and Dan Thompson -  each with a particular speciality and experiences of working in the Public Realm.

DAY ONE

Mark Gubb Presents
Following introductions from Anna Francis for AirSpace and Gemma Thomas for Appetite, either side of lunch on Day 1, and designed to introduce the artist group to the possible ways of working,  the delivery team set out the context, as each Lead Artist delivered a presentation to the group - outlining their practice and experience, and setting out key principles in working in this area. Through a series of examples, Stoke-based artist Anna Francis talked around the idea of finding, negotiating with and flagging up Gaps often through performative
Emily Speed Presents
intervention, while Emily Speed looked at the relationship between person and architecture. Mark Gubb explored the possibilities of public realm from small interventions which invoked ideas of memory and former presence to large scale public sculpture and Dan Thompson, founder of the Empty Shops Network talked about the importance of individual action and activity, and group and community making.

In between the 4 artist presentations, Jonathan Bellamy of the CPP and Rachel James - Chair of the CCP sub group Culture, Leisure and Tourism, led an orienteering tour of the target area - allowing the artists to get a sense of the landscape and setting. The walk covered the area and streets of the city lying within the 3/4 ring road, and also included access to buildings which could have a possible use - such as an amazing court room in the Town Hall, and the soon to be developed #1 Bethesda. The final stop was a trek up to the 4th floor of the City Library to get a great overview of the Smithfield Central Business District development.


In the afternoon, following a bite of lunch supplied by local hostelry,
The Glebe, Steve Ralphs of the City Council Landscaping and Design team came in to lay out the thinking behind and attitudes to the ongoing Public Realm improvements and modification works currently underway in the City during which the group learnt of the many and varied logistical problems inherent in such an undertaking, as well as finding out about the obstacles and difficulties that might arise in terms of any proposed artistic activity.

Day One finished with some group working, in the space and out in the target area, as each Lead Artist co-ordinated a group of 4 artists, and set about the task of what could be achieved and the best methodologies to use - and capped off with a short walk investigating the problems of Stoke's night-time economy.


All in all, then, a long (10 hour), but fruitful day.  The artists left a bit tired, but energised and full of ideas for what they could do with Stoke's City Centre Public realm - now for Day 2...

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