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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.

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