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08/17/2013 / katiemcgivney

Harris Flights: Interview with Alex Walker Part 1

Part 1 of an interview with Alex Walker, Head of Arts and Heritage at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, about the Harris Flights installation

On the topic of having a performance space for professionals as well as community groups Walker stated “I think one of the really exciting things about the Harris Flights is that there will be a real mix of activities happening and, there will be professional arts groups very often working with communities themselves, so for example Ludus dance will be working with a group of young dancers and will be having workshops with them to develop a performance which will make reference to the architecture of the museum”

When asked what she hopes the city of Preston will take away from the Harris Flights Walker answered, “They will literally be able to see the Harris Museum from a diffrent perspective by climbing up the steps (…) they will be able to get up close to parts of the building that are normally not open to the public and also they’ll be able to turn around and look out onto the Market Square (…) that view has been seen by lots of VIP’s it was used for the Guild proclamations, when the queen came to Preston, thats where she stood and looked out onto the city. So that view of the city that normally has been quite a privilledged view will be seen by everyone, and I think thats exciting people like to see things from a different view.”

08/17/2013 / katiemcgivney

Harris Flights: Interview with architect Charlie MacKeith Part 2

Part two of an interview with Charlie MacKeith, architect at Research Design about the Harris Flights installation, 17th August – 15th September 2013

On the nature of the Harris Flights project MacKeith commented ‘it is turning out to be a structure that is inviting a variety of responses, there is no one method of performance or presentation’

On the conception of a performance space for the Harris Flights, Mackeith noted that the intention was to have a “staircase that could be used for performance, and that performance could be people sitting having lunch or running up and down it” noting “it’s another form of entry into this building (Harris Museum) which in itself is a form of performance”.

When the topic of “I’m always really excited about the reponses people have (…) ‘can I come in?’ ‘what is it?’ ‘tell me a story’, its a direct interaction, and exactly the same thing was going on yesterday, we had ten guys setting up the aluminium standard staging system and people were gathering around the Harris fencing,  ‘whats going on?’ ‘Is it free?’ you know there was this whole series of questions (…) about this quick change.”

“Theres been some really interesting responses, for example this young couple from Preston, they see the banner from about three years ago, saying ‘Now Open’, and they made the connection that morning that this staircase linked to the sign, and therefore the Harris for the first time was now open beacuse of the staircase.”

On the legacy of the guild MacKeith commented, “Its about building on that one-in twenty years cycle of procession”

When asked what he hopes the city of Preston will take away from the intervention he replied, “We’re hoping that this will change the way the Harris is used, we know people come into the library, yet theres a break between people using the library and venturing up to the first floor” noting its a “chance to learn why people might not engage and enter historic buildings”

“Whats really exciting is that this could become an annual or biennial event, yes its a very simple structure, I want to see the impact of the events taking place on it (…) hopefully people will build momentum and start to compete”

On the construction of the project MacKeith had to say, “What we’ve ended up with through Charles vision is a unique event thats quite fantsatic. The guys who’ve built the stair, they do events staging all over Britain on annual cycles, they have never used their system against an existing building until now (…) thats very exciting”

Once again the topic of a national profile came up in which MacKeith inferred, “Its more about the local pride, proud Preston, I’ve given up on trying to wonder how one gets a national profile and what triggers international comment or national comment, on one level I’m not interested, its more about how people will use the space here.”

08/17/2013 / katiemcgivney

Harris Flights: Interview with architect Charlie MacKeith Part 1

Part 1 of an interview with Charlie MacKeith, architect at research design about the Harris Flights installation, 17th August – 15th September 2013

On his background and relationship with the Harris “growing up on the edge of Blackpool the Harris was one of the key cultural centres”

On the initial remit for the design “the design is an idea about, how we could make a stair a stage and the different ways of doing that, and it would have to be for a very short period. We didn’t know where the money was coming from. This isn’t London its more exciting, what can you do with virtually nothing”

On the choice to feature a performance space “its a setting, a framework for something much more important for whats going to go on, which are the 60 events taking place on it. Now thats the exciting thing. It was not ‘design a staircase’, it was design a neutral background for these activities”

On original architect James Hibbert’s original design plans for the Harris “I love the arrogance of the guy, you know hes an elderman of Preston, and he has this vision (…) as Prestons getting grander and grander theres this need to express its value, its civic importance, and that is done through a gothic guild hall in the 1860’s, but then along comes this incredible museum, an art gallery and library. It’s all about improvement of the citizens of Preston, its an extrordinary gesture (…) theres this realisation its now the most important thing in the square’

On the navigation of the building “you have to be initiated to get in, its not a welcoming, inviting building, so we wanted to play a game with that blank wall”

08/14/2013 / katiemcgivney

In response to ‘The pop-up designs changing the city landscape’

Having been a research intern on the Harris Flights project for over seven weeks now in addition to interviewing people, familiarising myself with public arts practice and its related discourses, the internship has also seen me cultivate an interest in other temporary art projects sporting a similar ethos to the regenerative Harris Flights. In which, I recently came across the following Guardian/Observer article, ‘The pop-up designs changing the city landscape’ (Moore, 2013) and found its inclusion of a variety of temporary interventions including but not limited to, a floating cinema and a refurbished car-park highly interesting as Moore (2013) notes

‘These are pop-ups, temporary constructions intended to enliven public places (…) initiate, design and build these glimpses of what a better city – more open, more social, more pleasurable, more surprising – might be. Often pop-ups defy economic gravity, relying on unfeasibly large quantities of unpaid enthusiasm and persistence in getting stuff on the cheap. (…) They are reminders that, for all its apparent fixity, built space is always in motion, always prone to being readapted and reimagined. At their best they use temporary pleasures to make permanent changes to the way people can inhabit their neighbourhoods.’


First day of construction on the Harris Flights – Photograph: Bernie Blackburn

One thing I did find disconcerting within the article was the lack of coverage on interventions situated within the North West, in which Harris Flights would have been an interesting case study to include, embodying Moore’s description accurately.

Through recent interviews with members from the institutions involved in the delivery of the Harris Flights, one of the largest strands of debate that has emerged concerned whether or not the project will raise the national profile of Preston. Opinions have been divided; while some felt Preston should receive recognition in the same vain Liverpool and Manchester have as embodying the attributes of a cultural capital. Others have stated that the projects intended audience is the city and the surrounding area of Preston, noting their opinions and viewpoints are those the projects hopes to have the biggest influence on.

08/14/2013 / katiemcgivney

Harris Flights: Interview with Lorraine Norris and Bernard Hayes Part 2

Part two of a recent interview with CEO of Preston City Council Lorraine Norris, and Corporate Director of Community and Business Services, Bernard Hayes.

In particular, I found their thoughts on urban regeneration through cultural intervention, alongside the possibility of raising the national profile of Preston very interesting.

When asked about any regenerative effects the project might produce, Norris replied, “We really believe that arts and culture and entertainment has got to be part of the future of the city centre. City centres have taken a blow in the last few years partly beacuse of the recession and austerity but also because of there are just changes going on in the way that people see city centres, none of us need to come into city centres anymore to shop for everything that we need. We’re all keen on pressing the button and buying things off the internet.”

Hayes also expressed his thoughts on the creative community commenting, “I think the creative community in Preston is a real force and a force that can do wonderful things in the city, but at the moment what I think is happening is there operating in their individual areas and communities and we really want to bring that force together, and really believe if we can bring that force together we can have areally vibrant and creative cultural and arts centre in Preston”.

On the topic of a national profile, Norris inferred “Preston needs to find it niche (…) what really matters is Preston taking further steps achieve some of those (regernative) goals, I’m confident that Harris Flights will help us do that (…) Its not the national profile thats the prize here, its the engagement and enjoyment and participation of vibrant creative industries in the city”.

08/14/2013 / katiemcgivney

3 days to go: Reactions to the Harris Flights in tweets

Part of my job as a research intern requires me to capture the voices and thoughts surrounding the Harris Flights project and the regenerative work of In Certain Places. Twitter is an extremely useful tool to maintain and engage audiences in a dialogue, due in large part to its immediacy.Thus, I thought  it would be a good idea to feature some of the views and opinions of the citizens of Preston, in an attempt to gauge and record public response to the art work and interactions with the space.

Responses have been largely positive, with people taking pictures and voicing their curiosity and excitement.

However as with any artwork, interpretations are subjective, with some people expressing their appreciation of the Harris building in its original state, while others have voiced their appreciation for past interventions, with one gentleman suggesting the redux of the ‘fountains’ (aka Appearing rooms, another In Certain Places project) alongside the Harris Flights.


For more reactions to the Harris Flights project and to join in the conversation check out the official Twubs page – a live feed about the project featuring real time tweets, videos and images

08/14/2013 / katiemcgivney

Harris Flights: Interview with Lorraine Norris and Bernard Hayes Part 1

Part one of a recent interview with CEO of Preston City Council Lorraine Norris and Corporate Director of Community and Business Services, Bernard Hayes,  their thoughts on urban regeneration through cultural intervention, alongside the possibility of raising the national profile of Preston city are particularly interesting.

When asked about the kind of obstacles those in public arts practice and its adminsitration face, Hayes answered “Non withstanding the project barriers, weather etc, our difficulty in Preston I think is really that we haven’t got a coherent arts and culture partnership where we can bring all the partners from all the arts and cultures centres together, so we can work together on these projects and benefit on the cross-fertilization of ideas and thats something the council is really keen to put in place moving forward”.

Hayes added, “We certaintly want to involve our community and arts groups in being able to put on public performances. Harris Flights is a fabulous opportunity to kickstart this. We are moving forward wanting to put on the flag market, which is a fabulous performance space for Preston, a series of performances of community arts events and cultural events throughout the summer and we’re trialing that going forward this year”.

When asked about what she hopes the city of Preston will take away from the intervention Norris commented, “I hope there will perhaps be a discovery of some of the talent that is actually in the city for some people, and that we might be able to bring in some exciting things from outside the city, but the main thing really is we want to encourage people’s enagement in cultural activity open new experiences to them, some of which I’m sure they’ll love and some of which they may say well thats not for me” adding “this is an opportunity for some of our homegrown talent to which there is plently in Preston to use this as a blank canvas to offer to people”.

Norris also provided some insight into the legacy of the guild stating, “We knew that when we came out of Guild year we’d certainly have a challenge to sustain that level of activity because we just did not have the resourses to keep that going moving forward, but our objective has been to say we would like to bring activity into the city centre, we would like to have on offer in the city centre on a regular basis some sort of cultural, lesiure, entertainment experience as part of a reason for being in the city centre as a draw to bring people in. The Harris Flights is really the first one of those post-guild experiences, one of the things that attacted us to this project was the ability to have multiple events”.