Wednesday, 2 July 2014


Partial Reflections on Beneath the Pavement

I arrived in Stoke at 9am on Friday, plenty of time, I felt, to find somewhere to park and get to Airspace for 9.15am. Turns out it’s £5 all day to park in Clementson car park and the twenty year old, foggy, scratched glass parking meter only took pound coins. This meant a trip round the one- way system to park in Tesco to get change and then back to Clementson car park. I made it to AirSpace for 9.19am I reckon - a semi-professional arrival and some haphazard experience of Stoke city centre already under my belt.

There was a lot more of us than I expected. AirSpace Gallery is a great space. Hearing talks by Anna Francis and Mark Gubb on Saturday morning was an apt intro to the session. Two different approaches to engaging with context, opening up rather than streamlining what work in the public realm can do.

The first walk with Jonathan Bellamy and Rachel James was a great intro to future plans and desires from the CCP. It gave a newcomer like me an insight into the vision for the city, not just it’s current state of play.

After a lovely lunch Emily Speed and Dan Thompson gave two more diverse, humorous and inspiring presentations around what can be possible. These were intersected by an understandably cagey presentation by Steve Ralphs from the Stoke Council Regen Team (he was presenting to a room of us opinionated, nosey, inquisitive artists after all, possibly not what a council wants from it’s public).

To end the first day Emily Speed initiated a silent walk around the city centre. This was both intense and empty, allowing Stoke to speak for itself in all it’s forms. Stoke’s architecture speaks of a rich past based on industry, it’s new building sites shout about a monocultural, council-led ambition. It’s audible atmosphere hardly speaks at all, neither crowded by cars nor people, but views through the gaps in buildings sing of the moors surrounding this centre of six towns.

Day two began well following a good night’s sleep thanks to the endless goodwill of AirSpace’s Glen (thank you). This is followed by an in-depth talk on the innovative curation of Jennie Syson and a second action research session with my lead-artist Mark Gubb. The afternoon brought the chance to chat with Mark in a relaxed, informal environment about ideas we each had around proposals for Stoke. This ends with a fragmented thought I had over a year ago finding a solid context here. Mark being instrumental in teasing out it’s possibilities.

Day two was rounded off with a group chat around the form our results can take along with who and how to approach their presentation to public bodies. This brought up a lot of interesting points around how artists can approach decision makers. For me this was the most stimulating and new experience of the two days and felt invaluable.

Upon leaving I felt I’d left behind an experience I will gratefully pull form in the months to come, both through the like-minded and generous people I’ve met as well as the rich experience of the programme.

Nice one AirSpace, I’m looking forward to the next phase.

Nick Davies, 29th June, 2014

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