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08/28/2013 / katiemcgivney

Harris Flights: Interview with Rod Dubrow-Marshall

Recently I was lucky enough to interview UCLan’s pro-vice chancellor, Rod Dubrow- Marshall who works closely with Preston City Council and various other arts groups to grow connections across the city, working in partnership to create events like Harris Flights.

In particular, I found his thoughts on the benefits of having a space for community groups as well as professional performers, and students from UCLan highly interesting in which he stated, “Preston city centre doesn’t have a performance space like this, obviously its a massive addition to the city to have that space thats freely available, thats freely bookable that artists of all different kinds can use and I think its really transformed that part of preston city centre, in the time its been up (…) I think its great theres that kind of open air auditorium that people can come and perform, test out and experiment, be creative”. Also saying, “I know from talking to some people who’ve already been on the steps theres a clamour for that space to happen more often”.

When asked what will the city of Preston take away from the Harris Flights, Dubrow-Marshall commented “I think they’ll take away that Preston really is a hotbed of creativity, theres an awful lot of creative and diverse talent in the city and Harris Flights has brought it together in one place, its displaying that rich panoply of events and performances, and thats something that needs to be captured and tapped into the future.”

On the regenerative effects the project might produce Marshall suggested, “I think it brings people into the city, it also potentially brings artists and creative talent (…) from the universities point of view students on creative arts programmes, are also having the opportunity to showcase what they are doing to a wider audience,  which means Preston is more of a magnet for capital (wherein) people are interested in investing not only their money, but also their time and creative talent, in projects based in the city.

He goes on to suggest that potentially it can have a regenerative effect” noting that “physically, of course, its an area that much of the time is empty, and therefore we have through this project completely turned it around and turned it into a space thats full of activity that people are coming to a lot more than normal. So for a temporary period the city centres being regenerated. The real question is how to build on that more permanently of course”

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08/27/2013 / katiemcgivney

Harris Flights: Interview with ‘In Certain Places’ co-curator Elaine Speight

KM: Can you tell me a little bit about your work with In Certain Places?

ES: I have worked as a curator on In Certain Places since 2005. During this time, I have had the opportunity to work with a number of very interesting artists, who have each developed projects that have engaged with, and generated unique insights into the city of Preston.

KM: The design for ‘Harris Flights’ features a performance space for community groups as well as professional performers, what are some of the benefits of this in your opinion?

ES: Preston is home to a large number of creative individuals and organisations, which each contribute to the creative life of the city. By literally providing a platform for the activities of such groups, Harris Flights will help to make the city’s cultural infrastructure more visible and expose the existing creativity within Preston.

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Ludus Dance performing on the steps, photo credit: Charles Quick

KM: What do you hope the audience and the city of Preston will take away from the intervention?

ES: My hope is that, by experiencing the artworks and activities of people in Preston, which will be presented on the Flights, as well as the artwork in the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, people will be inspired to create their own urban interventions.

KM: After a successful program of Guild celebrations last year, do you hope that the ‘Harris Flights’ will build on ‘the legacy of the guild’ and reaffirm Preston as a cultural destination?

ES:Rather than attempting to define Preston as a ‘destination’, my hope is that the Flights build on the ‘legacy of the Guild’, by generating a larger audience and greater support throughout the city for the work of artists and other creative practitioners.

KM: There has been a lot of debate locally about the navigation of the Museum. Do you think the Harris Flights project will encourage non-museum goers/ new audiences to enter the building and participate? 

ES: The Harris is a wonderfully inspiring building and a fantastic resource for the city. However, partly due to its architecture, people sometimes feel reluctant to enter the building, whilst others only know it as a library and never venture upstairs to the galleries. By providing direct access to the first floor, I hope that the Flights will encourage more people to visit the art gallery. By extension, I also hope that the gallery opens itself up further, by actively supporting the development of artists in the Preston, for example by providing greater opportunities for them to exhibit their work in the main galleries, or to use the building as a venue for film screenings, talks and other events.

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First day of the Harris Flights, photo credit Charles Quick

KM: In Certain Places traverses in temporary interventions, do you think that the transitory nature of the project will spark debate about long term fixtures/changes to the city?

ES: Rather than sparking debate about long-term changes, I hope that the project will highlight the importance of transitory and spontaneous forms of creativity within the city. There are many different types of artists in Preston – those who produce work for galleries, those who make music, those who paint graffiti, those who create events, etc. My hope is that, by making some of these activities more visible within the city, the Flights will demonstrate the richness of creative practice in Preston and the importance of supporting and providing more opportunities for this.

KM: What regenerative effects if any, do you think the project may produce?  (increased footfall to the city centre/ raise expectation for use of the space)    

ES: I hope that the Flights will encourage more people to think about how the Flag Market might become better used as a truly public space: a place for performances, demonstrations and other community events.

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Preston Youth Dance performing on the steps, photo credit, Charles Quick

KM: What are your thoughts on the creative community in Preston? Do you think the project will help gain a national profile for the city?

ES: Preston is home to a very vibrant creative community, which the city council and other decision-makers in the city could better support, for example by reducing the amount of ‘red tape’ involved in putting on events in the city and creating a less risk-averse culture. Such support would help to create a much more lively and exciting city and would contribute towards its national profile. Through their support of Harris Flights, both the University and the Council have demonstrated that they are keen to build upon the Guild legacy by providing more opportunities for creativity in Preston, so I think that the future looks promising.

08/27/2013 / katiemcgivney

Harris Flights: Interview with Joanna Heaton

“Its a unique experience” UCLan’s public engagement manager, Joanna Heaton on the Harris Flights installation, part of her job requires her to help UCLan’s researchers link up with groups outside the university.

Heaton intoned that one of the main benefits of a featured performance space was the “Bringing together (of) academics and community groups and our students and showing that there are no barriers, that we can all work togther, that performance is as relevant to each of those groups as to the other. Thats a huge part of my role as a public engagement manager, and about taking things out of the university as well, beacause not everybody will come here to UCLan”

Heaton also dicussed her role managing the science fair within the university noting, “Its interesting to see things born at the science festival now taking place at different events in the city”

On what she hopes the city of Preston will take away from the Harris Flights, “Its a unique experience and that these buildings that might look inaccessable and perhaps people don’t see the opportunities within the buildings, if we could get them in there they can see theres something in there for everybody”

On the popular assumption surrounding museums “I think people have a real difficulty, a museum is often seen to be a dull place for many people, but if you could just get them through the door or bring whats inside out to them and show them that there are many ways in engaging them (…) I think for the people of Preston it will hopefully get more people to engage with the Harris who normally would just walk straight past”

In regards to the impact of last years Guild Heaton stated, “Certainly within UCLan the guilds been a real catalyst for people thinking about working accross the institution and outside of the institution with different groups and I think its really raised awareness of what our community is. So from the universities perspective, were not just the university staff and students were a much bigger community and anything like this  that helps to keep the momentum of the guild going is beneficial.”

08/22/2013 / katiemcgivney

Artist Commission: ‘Thirty Instruments Loaned by Ladies’

Artist Jeni McConnell is looking for volunteers, specifically thirty local ‘ladies’ who have an object they would like to have considered for loan, described as  ‘A public performance event bringing museum processes out into the open air’, is one of the sixty acts and events specifically commissioned for the Harris Flights programme.

“Drawing upon the Harris museum’s rich background, “The thirty objects, selected for their small size and interest will be formally announced and ceremonially carried up the steps to a waiting gloved museum attendant who, in turn, will place them into a display cabinet within the museum. 

This project plays with the usual methods of museum loan and acquisition, making a grand gesture of the normally unseen arrival of most display objects as a journey through back doors, loading bays and basements.  The project engages the public in the process, but limits the receipt of items to only those from females, questioning the historical male domination of these environments, as well as rules of discrimination. It uses old ways of documenting and recording the objects, reflecting back on how it would be been from when the museum first opened. ”  Artist Jeni McConnell

In order for your object to be considered you will need to fill out the following online application form, http://tinyurl.com/kk5yevd . Then e-mail a clear photograph of your object, with your name and the object title in the subject line to thirtyinstruments@gmail.com

For more background information about the commission see Jeni McConnells blog specifically devoted to the development of the project. To keep up to date with the trajectory of the project be sure to follow its twitter and facebook pages as well.

08/20/2013 / katiemcgivney

Project Update

‘Harris Flights’ has officially been open for four days now, thus, I thought it was important to provide an update on the project so far alongside relevant information and links.

Having recently uploaded interviews with architect of the project, Charlie MacKeith, cultural development manager, Samantha Blackburn and head of arts and heritage Alex Walker. I intend to upload two more interviews from UCLan before the end of the project, combined with some sort of reflective analysis. Having entered what I like to refer to as the ‘reflective stage’ of the project, with only two weeks left of the internship the last month has revealed a variety of debates and discussions, that I intend to share over the coming weeks.

Credit: Harris Museum and Art Gallery

For the full programme and event listings for the rest of the flights be sure to download a copy of the official brochure from either the Harris Museum and Art Gallery/Preston city councils websites, and keep checking the In Certain Places facebook page for more info.

Additionally, those that intent to visit the flights over the coming month, don’t forget to tweet using the hashtag, #HarrisFlights as part of what makes the ‘Harris Flights’ and ‘In Certain Places’ work unique is the dialogue it cultivates with the residents of Preston as to how the space can and should be used.

 

 

08/20/2013 / katiemcgivney

Harris Flights: Interview with Alex Walker Part 2

Part two of a recent interview with Alex Walker, head of arts and heritage at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery.

Once again the topic of building upon the Preston Guild’s legacy came up, in which I found Alex’s comment that, “Harris Flights is very much inspired by the guild and the way all the community groups came together to produce something really special (…) the animation of the flights is dependent on hundreds of people at different points getting involved and participating” highly relevant.

When asked about the navigation the building walker commented, “The Harris gets a lot of visitors, but we do have a slightly difficult entrance in that you don’t come in the front, you come in at the sides, and the face that the museum presents onto the market square has this big wall which is not particularly inviting (…) we don’t want to be imposing we want to be inviting this (Harris Flights) will be an informal sort of entrance to the museum and it will only be temporary, although there will be some people I’m sure who will upon seeing the steps be drawn into the building for the first time”

On whether the project will inspire long term fixtures and changes to the the city Alex suggested, “This is part of an intention by the council to make the city more animated, in particular the area around the market square theres been a lot of work done to make it more welcoming, the pavings been relayed, theres work going on currently on the war memorial which will look absolutely beautiful once its finished and this project will demonstrate what a fantastic space the market square is as a venue for all sorts of events and activities including cultural and artistic events.”

On the topic of regernative effects the project may produce Walker offered, “Well we all know that city centres are having difficult times at the moment, theres the draw of internet shopping and out of town shopping and town centres in order to draw people in have to offer new sorts of experiences that you can’t get normally ordering something off Amazon and so having activities happening in the city centre we hope will encourage more people to come in and use the city centre to feel alive”

When asked about Preston’s creative community, Walker commented, “We have got a great creative community in Preston and its developing month by month, theres new emerging arts organisations that have appeared in the city in the last five years or so (…) the Harris Flights will provide a showcase for many of those groups to show their work and talent”

Lastly on the topic of gaining a national profile for the city Walker infered, “This project is a little bit wacky, a little bit unusual, its quite striking were taking a very sort of serious monumental building and doing something temporarily to it to give it a completely different aspect and to have lots of poeple animated, using it and occupying it (…) so hopefully it will capture the attention of people beyond Preston”. She also went on to comment that everyone who they’ve talked to locally and beyond locally have expressed an interest in the project

08/18/2013 / katiemcgivney

Harris Flights: Interview with cultural development manager Samantha Blackburn

Recently I was lucky enough to get an interview with Preston City Council’s cultural development manager Samantha Blackburn. Heavily involved in the delivery of the project, I was eager to capture her voice and thoughts on the project.

KM: Can you tell me a little bit about your work with Preston City Council and how the collaboration with In Certain Places came about?

SB: I am Preston City Council’s Cultural Development Manager.  I’m based within the Harris Museum & Art Gallery team and also have a city wide remit to work with both the voluntary and professional arts sectors and a wide variety of community and other voluntary groups to develop the cultural landscape of Preston on a strategic level.  Preston City Council has a new cultural framework for 2013-18, that is out for consultation at the moment:  once the final framework is agreed and signed off, I will be involved in ensuring its’ themes are delivered and met.

I understand that Charles Quick from In Certain Places has had the concept of a temporary set of steps for the Harris in mind for several years and now seemed the right time to bring it to life.  Earlier this year after approaching architect Charlie Mackeith to design the temporary staircase installation, Charles Quick met with a small group of Preston City Council members of staff to discuss making it a reality – specifically Officers who were heavily involved in co-ordination and delivery of cultural projects and events for the 2012 Guild; including colleagues from our Events team and the Harris Museum & Art Gallery.  Once it was established that the Harris Flights was financially viable, a steering group was put together including me and aforementioned colleagues, with the aim of co-ordinating a month programme of cultural events for the Flights.  Of course, the wider steering group has been working with us throughout this process, including colleagues from health & safety, legal and finance to make sure that the project is managed safely and in accordance with all of Preston City Council’s policies and procedures.  The guidance we have received from colleagues in many additional departments such as marketing and communications, licensing and communities has been invaluable – Harris Flights would not have been possible if not for this team effort and partnership working across the Council.  One of the specific roles I have played in Harris Flights within the programming group has been to work with colleagues to decide which artists to commission and to make sure that when a ‘call-out’ was made to local and regional artists and community groups to get involved, that as many people as possible found out about the opportunity and had the chance to take part.

KM: How long have you been working on the Harris Flights project?

SB: Since about April this year – as with all projects and events of this nature, the momentum builds more and more, the closer you get to the event launch and it’s been a hive of activity in our offices across the Council over the last few weeks, ensuring everything is in place for the first weekend!

harris flights construction

Harris Flights under construction Credit: Charles Quick

KM: A lot of people don’t realise the amount of work put into a project like this and public arts practice in general, what kind of obstacles have your team faced/had to consider? 

I would support the comments made in previous posts by colleagues in terms of ensuring contingency plans are in place for the unpredictable English weather – plans are organised by our Events team in terms of the events logistics during the times on-site when the weather lets us down and threatens to interfere with all of the hard work taken to programme.  There are also plans that are put in place by colleagues in our Communications team to ensure that accurate and helpful messages are put out on such occasions so that the public know exactly what is happening and that they have the most up-to-date information on any changes to the programme.  We are signposting residents and visitors wanting to find any updates to follow the Harris Flights and Preston City Council Twitter hash tags to get this information in the fastest way possible.  I would also reiterate the comments by architect Charlie MacKeith that a challenge in the build was examining how the stairs, which were designed as stand-alone infrastructure, would work in conjunction with a Grade I listed building.   Again, this would not be possible without the collaboration between departments in Preston City Council and professionals based within In Certain Places.  In relation to the programming group, we have had to consider within each week’s schedule that there is, we hope, something for everyone – there is a huge range of ‘happenings’ taking place from science demonstrations organised with our partners UCLan such as martial arts demonstrations – it’s not just about appealing to the arts aficionados!  Although we do hope all ‘culture vultures’ come out to the amazing offer of theatre, dance and film on offer!

We have ensured that Preston City Council’s Inclusion Reference group members have been involved in feeding into the Equality Impact Assessment for Harris Flights – this is a essential process and ‘living’ document that is created for every event and project Preston City Council organises.  We need to ensure that access is considered for the Flights – ‘where can people with mobility impairments view the performances,’ for example, is a question that is addressed in the plan.  Access isn’t just about physical impairments of course, we have to look at all potential barriers to involvement including financial, social, and many more.  One method of making the events financially inclusive, for example, is making the decision that all of the event on Harris Flights will be free of charge to attend.

KM: The design for ‘Harris Flights’ features a performance space for community groups as well as professional performers, what are some of the benefits of this in your opinion?

It is absolutely essential that we provide an opportunity for locally based performers to utilise the space to showcase their talents and build their audiences.  Following up from previous mention of ensuring equal access, this includes enabling both local and regional performers, amateur groups and professionals to have their place in the programme.  There has been a call-out for buskers which we want to encourage in the scheduled programme during week day lunch time periods.

In addition to a wide range of types of events – lectures, book launches, science demonstrations, artistic interventions and sport demos, there is a wide cultural mix of performances.  We have ensured that young people can use the space to express themselves creatively – for example, there will be a music showcase co-ordinated by local organisation Shotta TV and DnB solutions and performances by up and coming young singer-songwriters from the area as part of the 4poets showcase on 24 August.  Also, local parkour experts Street Monkeys will be performing their acrobatics and the Blaze young producers are taking over on the 7th of September to perform an ‘interactive’ timeline’ featuring key figures from art, history and literature local to Preston and Lancashire.  There will also be a special Faith Forum and BME forum community day and some fantastic performances featuring Indian dance and a unique one-off Caribbean Carnival event representing only a small proportion of Preston’s rich multicultural population.  In addition to a wide community programme, we have commissioned 19 artists/arts organisations to create new work inspired by and including within the new devised work, the heritage of the Harris Museum & Art Gallery and of the city of Preston.  It was very important that the link between the museum and the history of Preston was included in the brief for the commissions to represent a creative bridge between the museum and the temporary set of steps linking from the inside to the outside of the building.

one voice performing flights

One Voice community choir performing at the Harris Flights opening weekend, Credit: Alex Walker

KM: Can you tell me about some of the featured acts and events?

SB: Where can I start?  There are 60 different events taking place over the five weekends and four weeks when the Harris Flights project is in place.  In addition to the events I have already mentioned, Ludus Dance working with young people from the Preston Youth Dance company and the Ludus Youth Dance Company will be presenting two new dance performances later on this month.

On Sunday, 1 September, artist Andy McKeown will be lighting up the museum with a newly devised lighting installation featuring images from the Harris’ architecture and collections and historical highlights of Preston.

We’ve also commissioned ‘Visio’ from arts organisation Bluestreak Arts.  This performance on Monday, 2 September, will fuse live music, audio visual media, live theatre and dance, all inspired by the story of James Hibbert, the architect of the Harris Museum & Art Gallery.

Of course, visitors will also have the opportunity to experience the Harris’ Volatile Light temporary exhibition until 26 August and visit a new touring exhibition from York Art Gallery – ‘Masterstrokes’ which opens on 7 September.

The final weekend will feature a two day film festival by arts organisation They Eat Culture that will provide a chance for visitors to get involved in a unique immersive experience!

KM: What do you hope the audience and the city of Preston will take away from Harris Flights?

SB: A real sense that exciting, unexpected and creative things can happen in Preston – not just for the Guild!

harris flights opening

Harris Flights opening ceremony, Credit: Alex Walker

KM: After a successful program of Guild celebrations last year, do you hope that the ‘Harris Flights’ will build on ‘the legacy of the guild’ and reaffirm Preston as a cultural destination?

SB: My experience of being involved in organising projects for the Guild and then ultimately being a part of one really hit home to me the huge significance that this event holds for Preston people, and not just people who live in the city, but those who have moved on to other places, all around the world, who come back to Preston for this very special occasion.  There was a huge variety of events and activities on offer last year for people to get involved with and we are very much trying to offer a wide range of programming within Harris Flights.  One main legacy of the Guild that will be evident during the Harris Flights include a revisiting of the sense of excitement in being part of events in Preston to which everyone is welcome to get involved in.  Further, people in Preston do like to shout about their talents when they are provided with the platform to do so and Harris Flights is an excellent ‘platform’ for this, and part of a new overall approach to how the Preston City Council will be planning cultural events and projects for years to come.   I think the partnership between Preston City Council, UCLan, the local community and arts sector is an absolute strength and essential to sustaining this approach.

KM: There has been a lot of debate locally about the navigation of the Museum. Do you think the Harris Flights project will encourage non-museum goers/ new audiences to enter the building and participate? 

SB: Absolutely!  In addition to the temporary physical structure and diverse programme, we have made sure to get the message out that visitors who are not able to traverse the steps will be welcomed to take our lifts up to the first floor of the museum.

KM: Do you hope the project will encourage debate about long term fixtures/changes to the city?

SB: Yes, in the context of the work that is happening along Fishergate to make that gateway a more ‘people friendly’ environment and other significant developments such as the cenotaph redevelopment supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund which will be unveiled later this year.  It’s worth mentioning the Forgotten Spaces Preston competition with RIBA North West, Preston City Council, UCLan, Lancs County Council with support from the Eric Wright group.  The competition asked entrants to consider specific redundant sites (such as flyovers and disused car parks) put forward by Preston City Council’s Planning Department as spaces that could be part of the local community.  Submissions will be showcased in the Old Post Office building this Autumn.  All of these projects, including Harris Flights, contribute to this dialogue in a constructive and creative manner.

harris flights opening day

Harris Flights opening ceremony, Credit: Alex Walker

KM: What regenerative effects if any, do you think the project may produce? 

SB: To regenerate the public’s passion for community events and re-spark the debate regarding creative uses for public spaces.

KM: What are your thoughts on the creative community in Preston?

SB: It’s quite diverse and it is growing – I am very keen for artists and arts organisations to raise their profile not just in the city but across Lancashire and beyond, and also to gain more investment in the future from lottery funding and other sources such as sponsorship to grow their organisations.  We are looking to help support the creative community as part of the new cultural framework albeit within a context of very uncertain times in local government.  The City Council has made a commitment to supporting culture in the city through the Harris Flights this year.

KM: Do you think the project will help gain a national profile for the city?

SB: It’s very difficult to predict what the media will pick up on!  A concerted effort has been made by our Marketing and Communications staff to ensure the message gets out there – a lot of hard work has taken place to ensure people know about Harris Flights and the programme of events.

It is our focus to offer a varied programme of events through Harris Flights for a wide range of residents and visitors, for their enjoyment and entertainment during the summer holidays.  It’s also very important to those involved to offer to new and returning students starting a new term at UCLan an exciting taste of what Preston has to offer.  Anything else we gain from Harris Flights will be a bonus!