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Supercritical Mass – International Residencies and innovation in the arts

5 Aug

Following our own positive experiences of residencies at the end of 2011 we started experimenting with a view to developing a Curated Place residency programme for artists wanting to work in the UK. Developing relationships with both venue and creative partners in Manchester we sought to introduce international talents to the North of England to both contribute to and learn from the strong arts sector here.

The Supercritical Mass projects of Australian artists Luke Jaaniste and Julian Day was a real highlight. Developed over two residency periods we initially hosted SuperCritical Mass for a mini-residency in November 2011. Working closely with the music department at the University of Salford and with the artists communities in Islington Mill we delivered a masterclass and artists talk to students before devising and delivering two performances in the University and in the nearby Peel Park.

This short 5 day residency was inspired by innovation development models of quick hit, low cost, managed risk projects and intended as a proof of concept performance. We very deliberately developed the format to develop the profile of the project for participants and funders alike. It worked.

Creating high quality documentation of the pilot which we could distribute widely and being able to very clearly state how we would scale the project up we received significant funding from Sound and Music to develop the second phase of the residency programme – hosting the artists for two weeks as part of the FutureEverything festival 2012 to deliver one of the most ambitious Supercritical Mass projects to date – a vocal performance at Manchester Cathedral.

A huge success for artists, participants and audiences alike we were able to learn a lot about how high-quality residency programmes can be delivered in the UK and we’re now in a position to expand our own residency programme to become a more formal international artist exchange – but with a twist. Rather than simply inviting artists to work in a creative vacuum we’ll be insisting that visiting artists work in collaboration with local participants who will then make a reciprocal residency visit to our international partners to develop the projects on an international platform.

Tomorrow we’ll be formally launching the new Curated Place site which will outline the programme and how it will work. If you’re a mid-career artist, with experience of exhibitions and commissions in the UK and interested in participating sign up to our Facebook and Twitter feeds for the latest and for ways to apply when we launch.

British Council Cultural Leadership International Programme – building international links and inspiring a new Curated Place residency programme

2 Aug

In October 2011 I was lucky enough to be taken to Istanbul by the British Council as part of their CLI programme.  From over 180 applications seven of us from the UK were taken to Turkey with the aim “to engage the new generation of cultural leaders around the world in the discussion and development of common strategies to tackle global cultural issues”.

The seven of us taken from the UK were Haidee Bell, Innovation Programmes Manager, Creative Economy, NESTADaniel Gorman, Director, Firefly InternationalRohan Gunatillake, Lead Producer, Edinburgh Festivals Innovation Lab, (now Sync) ; Karena Johnson, CEO/Artistic Director, The BroadwayLaura McDermott, Joint Artistic Director, Fierce FestivalElhum Shakerifar,  Creative Producer, Postcode Films; and me

The programme revolved around two key areas: management and leadership development. On the one hand the programme focussed on developing core cultural management skills of participants, through quite traditional seminars and workshops. However, where most people found most benefit was through the chance to get to know their peers – all emerging cultural leaders looking to develop their international exposure and experience.

Alongside my participation in the programme Curated Place also sent out a documentation crew to capture the ideas behind the events.  Again we sought not simply to capture digital footage that was relevant only to people around the immediate time of the events but to interrogate the experience and knowledge of those involved in the programme – both presenters and the remarkable CLI participants.

By filming more intimate discussions with interviewees, instead of simply capturing raw footage of scripted conference presentations, we wanted to get a personal insight into the professional worlds of those in and around the CLI programme – creating a resource that would give longer term insight into what connections could be made from the programme across international arts communities rather than just those within the room.  By ensuring these videos and that knowledge was available to anyone with an internet connection we aimed to dramatically increase the impact of the programme and the longevity of the investment made over the week of the programme.

Later this year as part of the programme I’ll be travelling to the middle east to establish new reciprocal residency programmes for UK artists and curators to develop collaborative projects with local artists at a similar point in their career – seeking to extend their creative horizons out of the regional and national to an international programme.  All of it building on the insight and relationships started by CLI in Istanbul.  More on this next week…but if you’re desperate to know follow us on Facebook and Twitter to hear the latest.

From Counting Sheep to Finnegan’s Wake: The Dawn Of Digital Thinking – micro documentary and live events

1 Aug

Something a bit more digital from the Curated Place archive – a piece we developed off the back of our work on the 2011 Future Everything festival.

Wanting to get away from dry documentation of events that so often ends up as digital landfill, lacking impact after the event, we developed an idea for series of films taking highlights of the festival into an abstract micro-documentary format that would prime our audiences for the next festival.

Giving a teasing insight into the artwork showcased at the preceding festival and synopsising the ideas that were discussed, we developed a format for a marketing campaign that was built around a series of five short interlinked films – each of a duration that responded to how people actually digest digital media.  By building a story about the broader impact and concept of the festival we aimed to create a sense of anticipation around 2012 using more than just advertising budget alone.  Simultaneously we wanted to create a more usable resource from the footage captured in previous incarnations of the conference by giving some order and rationale to the archive and presenting a way in to the often jargon-filled world of digital culture.

The first film featured highlights from interviews carried out with Chris Speed and Bill Thompson exploring the dawn of digital thinking and the impacts for society as a whole. Far from just been about the technology it shows how the digital revolution changes how we think, act and relate to one another. Although abstract the teaser film was linked to the source interviews – all carried out with a clear vision and purpose as part of a medium-term strategic plan to develop the documentation and distribution of the festival’s resources – along with a curated digital resource pack.

Although only ever rolled out as a pilot/proof of concept at Future Everything we’ve now developed a solid format for for turning the documentation of one-off events into a resource that reaches beyond established audiences and will be something you’ll be able to see us extend on the new Curated Place site (from Monday) around our work on this year’s Liverpool Biennial.

An example of the source footage from Chris Speed where he expands his ideas outlined in the micro-doc. We wanted to hook people in with a brief film then give them access to more in-depth content.

The Truth: The Story of UK Hip Hop (full documentary)

30 Jul

Later this week we’ll be launching the new Curated Place website.  To celebrate we’ll be posting some of our highlights from past productions, starting with “The Truth” a film made with director Teddy Nygh for our 2009 exhibition “Homegrown”.

The brief was simple – make the most comprehensive documentary covering the development of UK Hip Hop from its origins to today told by the people that created the scene.  The result is a film that brings together legendary names of the UK scene – from Saxon Sounds through Rodney P, Roots Manuva to Giggs and Sway all telling their part in the story that makes up a uniquely British music and a uniquely British culture.

Just back from British Council CLI Programme in Istanbul

30 Oct

Lost in Istanbul
The last week has been a real eye-opener.  Even with everything Curated Place taking off in the last year (hence the quietness of the blog) getting out of the UK to meet with cultural leaders from around the world has truly been a career highlight.

Over 5 days an incredible group of 47 participants selected by the British Council from 18 countries discussed the power and worth of cultural policy, the impact of culture on society and the opportunities afforded to cultural practices by digital technologies.  I was one of the participants but I also worked with the superb filmmaker Maria Gabriella of LittleStar and social media expert Jenny Jones to document the whole programme in a format developed by Curated Place and LittleStar that we’ll be rolling out across the arts and cultural world later this year (get in touch for more details if you’re doing an event and want it professionally covered with more panache than a corporate sales pitch).

Some on-the-fly films and audio are already available but we’ll be producing more lyrical mood pieces over the next two weeks that completes the package as a useable resource post-event.  Here’s a link to Audioboos with participants, and you can see some of the films here. Should give a hint at where we’re going with it.

Josephine Burns, BOP Consulting at Cultural Leadership International, Istanbul from British Council Arts on Vimeo.

The full list of CLI participants is on the British Council website and it makes for impressive reading but meeting these impressive people in the flesh exceeded my already sky-high expectations.  With a professional development programme to implement over the next year I’m extremely excited to capitalise on the networks created and the friendships started in Istanbul.  My head is still spinning from the whole experience but somehow I’ve got back to the UK with a remarkable clarity about the possibilities and the priorities I need to focus on over the next 12 months.

Thanks to all CLI participants.  2012 is going to be incredible.

Tamara Takishvili at Cultural Leadership International, Istanbul from British Council Arts on Vimeo.

Salwa Mikdadi, Head of Arts and Culture Program at Emirates Foundation from British Council Arts on Vimeo.

Secret City Zoetermeer Makes National Dutch news

20 Sep

nrcnext 20-09-2011 in beeldGreat news today as Secret City Zoetermeer, the latest project from Andrew Brooks and Curated Place hit the centre spread of quality Dutch broadsheet NRC Next.

The exhibition is now open at the Stadsmuseum Zoetermeer until February with the next Secret Cities project in the Netherlands already taking shape.


Salford University Graduate? Work for Curated Place!

3 Dec

Curated Place are extremely happy to announce, in a time of recession, we’re hiring!

Thanks to the Graduate Gateway programme at Salford University we’re looking to take on two Salford graduate placements to help us develop the Modern Lesbian project onto a national platform.

We have vacancies for a Creative Assistant and a Web Designer to work 20 hours a week for 12 weeks from the 3rd of January.  Both positions will be working closely with photographer Rachel Adams – if you don’t know her work you can still find the Modern Lesbian exhibition on the walls of 52 Princess Street.

You can find full details by following the links below:

Curated Place – Creative Assistant

Curated Place – Web Designer

However, sadly the opportunities aren’t open to all – you must be a graduate of Salford University.

Applications are open for the next 2 weeks only so if you want to work with us or know someone that does tell them to get their skates on!

UPDATE: After a few enquiries you don’t have to have graduated this year – you just have to have graduated from Salford to qualify – talk to the Salford Careers University Office for more details on their criteria – 0161 295 5088 /

Curated Place at The Edinburgh Lectures – tickets available now

14 Sep

Talking Cities - The Edinburgh Lectures 2010/11

Today tickets for the Edinburgh Lectures go on sale with some very flattering coverage showing up in The Guardian referring to the forthcoming lecture from Curated Place’s Andy Brydon and Andrew Brooks as “one of the visual highlights on the line-up”.

We’ve been invited by the loverly Queen Margaret’s University to be their guest speakers after they heard about our forthcoming exhibition Edinburgh: Secret City that we’re aiming to reveal as part of the 2012 Edinburgh Festival.  There’s an incredible line-up for the entire series including  Andrew Dixon, chief executive of Creative Scotland, Alberto Magnaghi, professor of territorial planning at the University of Florence and Professor Bruce J. Katz, urban policy expert and adviser to the Obama administration. And us.

Edinburgh Observatory

In the lecture, “Never Let the Facts Get in The Way of a Good Story: Memory, History, Authenticity and Truth” we want to explore how our work taps into the mechanisms by which cities create their memories, at once embedded in the past and yet lived, and living, in the present. We’re looking to tease out the tensions between history, memory, truth and identity, firstly by examining images of Edinburgh presented in film and literature, but also by drawing on the stories we’ve already collected from British urban subcultures and by revealing some of the stories that are informing our work as we make our way around the cellars, towers, undercrofts and back alleys of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh: Secret City - Brooks & Brydon on location in Edinburgh

If you know of anyone with good stories from the Scots capital we’d love to talk to them as well as hearing any suggestions of lesser known films, literature or locations that shape your imaginings of the city – just leave a comment below or contact us through the Curated Place production pages.

But more than that we’d love to see you at the Scottish Storytelling Centre early next year when we get up on stage to deliver both the lecture and a sneak peek at the incredible imagery that we’re creating in one of the most charismatic cities in the world – if we get enough interest from the North West we might even arrange a Curated Place jolly north of the border.

Never Let the Facts Get in The Way of a Good Story: Memory, History, Authenticity and Truth
Thursday 24 March 2011 from 6.00pm
Scottish Storytelling Centre
Tickets available now at just £5.00

The Modern Lesbian Live Studio Preview

3 Sep

Charlotte Varnam & Victoria Ramsdale

Huge thanks to everyone that took part in our live studio events over the weekend especially to everyone that generously donated to the project to help us take it forwards. With almost 100 people getting in front of the camera to add their portraits to the wider project we’ve got our work cut out over the next few weeks. We’re hoping to have The Modern Lesbian website redesigned and rebuilt to reflect the project developing by October.

In the mean time we’ll be posting more of the interviews that informed the exhibition here on the Curated Place blog and alongside resuming normal service keeping abreast of the arts and cultural scene in the North West and beyond.

Vicki Swinden & Cat Burgess

From here we’re looking to extend the project nationally and we’re looking for partners to help us make the next phase possible so if you know of anyone involved in or looking to get involved in LGBTQ arts please hook us up.

Jo Quinn & Claire Davies

Finally a massive thanks to everyone that got involved on both sides of the camera but especially the TML crew who volunteered their time to make the project happen.

The TML Crew

The Modern Lesbian: Mary Murphy – Politician and Activist

24 Aug

TML: Mary Murphy interview

A member of the Labour party since the age of 17 Mary Murphy has built up a reputation as fearsome political force, a reputation bolstered by her having served as councillor for Hulme since 1993.

Married and already with children before she discovered the women’s movement, and with it her own sexual identity, Mary moved to the city in 1966 with her three children in tow having left her then husband.  However, far from fleeing into an entirely new life she found solace in Manchester under the wing of her mother in law.

Soon after settling in to her new home city, Mary became heavily involved with the 1970s women’s liberation movement developing a passion for ensuring equality across the board of minority and oppressed groups.  Identifying herself as a Woman first, Irish second and a lesbian third, Mary’s admits that her political stance fighting all comers wherever she saw injustice and prejudice has occasionally led to her being criticised, by those with more narrow political targets, for not choosing her battles.

However, with over half a decade of politicking and direct action under her belt her associations fighting for causes that range from Greenham Common through to battling gun crime in Manchester today, reads like a history of the positive feminist influence on radical Britain and makes her stand out as an inspirational political figure whether considered within the realms of lesbian politics or politics in general.

Here’s the first part of Rachel’s interview with her where she talks about her move to Manchester, her path into activism and the dangers of in-fighting in women’s politics.

See all of the interviews here.


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