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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.


Timber Wave by Amanda Levete

2 Oct



“Inaugurated some days ago to London, this fleeting structure of drinks and of metal decorates l’entrée principal of the Victoria & Albert Museum.”

Stunning new public artwork conceived by l’architecte Amanda Levete in collaboration with the engineers d’ARUP

via Timber Wave by Amanda Levete | Muuuz – Webzine Architecture & Design.

The (changing) Condition of the Working Class

18 Jun

An architects illustration of the planned Cheetham's building

Phase 1 of the Chetham’s School of Music redevelopment and extension is finally getting underway in earnest on the site of Hunt’s Bank opposite Victoria Station in Manchester.  The cranes that are moving in mark the start of what promises to be a major transformation for the area around Cathedral Gardens which aims to open up the Medieval heart of Manchester, currently hidden away within the Chetham’s complex, to the general public providing a new concert venue for the city as well as 21st Century facilities for the school.  You can keep up to date with the major changes taking shape via their webcam positioned over the building site.

Many people don’t know that the library at Chet’s is open to the public already – you just need to visit on a weekday and ask to be let in at the gate.  I highly recommend a visit, not only for the incredibly preserved architecture and atmosphere, a real rarity in Manchester, but also to meet Dr Fergus Wild, Senior Librarian, knowledge bank of all things medieval Manchester and possesor of fantastic vocal chords.

The work starting reminded me that Andrew Brooks and I carried out an experimental photo shoot there about a year ago, which included talking to Dr Wild about the rich history of the library and its associations with the writing of the Communist Manifesto.  A little of which you can listen to here.

Battle of Branchange

9 Jun

Beautiful architecture mapping from Seeper carried out as part of the Branchage film festival last year on that island renowned for embracing cutting edge culture, Jersey.

Impressive that a place renowned for septuagenarian holidays can get it together to pull off public spectacle events like this. Hats off.


8 Jun

Sadly it looks like CandyFab has taken a back burner but that doesn’t mean the end of the road for sugar sculpting.

Brendan Jamison has sculpted the Tate Modern out of sugarcubes for this month’s London Festival of Architecture.  Perhaps the perfect medium for creating a replica of the iconic building, given that the sweet little lozenges made Henry Tate his fortune, I’m amazed its taken more than a decade for this to happen.

The City Speaks – The Fishbowl Debate

3 Jun

Fish hanging form a mobile

After a very productive weekend in Edinburgh I’ve been fascinated to find out a little more about this year’s Edinburgh Lectures.  I’m sad to have missed January’s talks built around the theme “The City Speaks”.  Some talks are available online but the quality isn’t that great:  David Sim – RSA Dialogues: People Centred Cities

However what really fascinated me was the format adopted:

The audience was invited to participate in a ‘fishbowl’ debate, where four people converse in a circle until one of them is replaced by another audience member. “This made people feel more involved in the debate and pushed them to respond in a more thoughtful way,”

Having run numerous Q&A sessions I’ be extremely interested to see this format in action and to see how chairing such a session could be effectively pulled off – not just in keeping the debate on some kind of navigable train of thought but also in persuading invited speakers to enter such an exposed arena.  May just have to track down organiser Ben Spencer for a chat.

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