Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Pictures for Schools talk, Manchester Metropolitan University, Wednesday March 16, 6.30pm

I will be doing a talk about my PhD research for the March meeting of the Friends of the Manchester Centre for Regional History.

Pictures for Schools: Bringing art to Manchester's post-war classrooms 

Pictures for Schools was a scheme founded in 1947, which aimed to get original works of art into ‘schools of every kind’ so children could grow up with art as part of their everyday environments. 

Between 1947 and 1969, annual Pictures for Schools exhibitions were held in London (with the exception of 1957, when a venue in London could not be found and the exhibition was instead held at Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery). Here, contemporary artworks by living British artists were displayed and sold at prices affordable to educational buyers. Contributors ranged from well-known names such as LS Lowry to students who were obscure at the time but later went on to make a name for themselves.

Local education authorities, education committees and museum services across the country made the annual trip from London to make purchases from the scheme, and extensive collections of artworks were built up in towns, cities and counties large and small for loan to schools. Several schools in Manchester benefited from the opportunity to buy work, and education committees in Lancashire, Rochdale and Manchester were among the regular buyers from Pictures for Schools. Another purchaser was Manchester Art Gallery’s Rutherston Loan Collection for educational institutions in the north of England.

However, over the decades schools have closed, changed name or merged, and local authorities have come under pressures such as boundary changes and financial constraints. Many of these collections have now disappeared with little or no acknowledgment that such a service once existed. Does Pictures for Schools have a legacy in Manchester today, and can these artworks still have any relevance in the twentieth-first-century classroom?

The talk will take place on Wednesday March 16, 6.30pm, in Room 307, 3rd floor, Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, Oxford Road, Manchester M15.

Free; all welcome

Facebook event

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Song for Daniel Fogarty

When I met Daniel Fogarty back in 2010 it was so exciting as I had never met anyone like him before. I was so inspired by his passion, his determination, his way of looking at the world, his way of thinking, his idealism, his pragmatism, his convictions, his independence.
With Dan, for the first time, I felt like I had found a genuine equal, a partnership that was intellectual and creative as much as it was sexual, someone I could just get on with and be myself around, without any games or messing around.
Being with Dan felt like a journey of discovery, finding new things together, sharing, exploring, learning, progressing. We complemented each other in our skills and approaches and outlooks and personalities. Dan gave me hope for the first time that it was possible for such a partnership to exist, for such a person to exist. He opened my eyes and introduced me to so many ideas and experiences, for which I will always be thankful.
When Dan applied to an MA in Rotterdam I knew I had to support him, and I knew it would need sacrifice. Ultimately, I knew that if I loved him I had to let him go and take this opportunity and go and grow and learn and develop, and have the time and space to figure out who he was as a person and an artist. Dan made a new life in Rotterdam, with a new set of relationships and friendships, and I knew that I wasn’t a part of that and couldn’t be. There wasn’t a place for me anymore. Dan didn’t need me, in the way he might once have done. I wish there could have been a place for me, that we could have embarked on the adventure together, but in the end I had to set him free.
I hope we can find a way to still have a relationship as friends based on mutual affection, respect, inspiration and love, as well as openness and honesty. We have too many shared connections and too much shared affinity and so much more to give each other. All I can do is be thankful for the happy moments we gave each other over the course of more than four years, of which there were so many, including:
Our first meeting, over homemade sloe gin, at a Modernist film screening; Dan's submissions to the Shrieking Violet, on Granada idents among other things; Walking along the Ashton Canal to Philips Park and using Dan's umbrella to lower branches to pick cherries; Getting up early and going Sunday morning swimming in Withington Baths; Dan sending me in search of a rare fossil in the sink of the ladies' toilets in the Bridgewater Hall;
Dan sharing his favourite music with me by giving me CDs, from Parenthetical Girls to Van Dyke Parks;
Jamming together on bass and guitar; Wandering the suburbs at night; Cycling around Trafford Park; Dan buying me a new bike saddle to make my bottom more comfortable; Cycling to Worsley to cross Barton aqueduct on a canal boat tour; Dan splashing along behind me at Hathersage lido in the rain; Exploring Bourneville and Birmingham together in the spring sunshine; Say Something talks at Islington Mill; Cooking banana bhajis together; Dan showing me around Sheffield; Our first ever visit to New Mills, and long walks along the canal to Hayfield and Lyme Park; Picnics and the invention of baked bean pie and peanut butter and apple sandwiches; Dan's determination to introduce me to ground rice pie and our long mission to find ground rice; Exploring the stones of Manchester’s buildings; Visiting Alnmouth with Dan's parents; Seeing photos of chubby baby Dan; Staying on a boat in Amsterdam and exploring the city together; Dan turning up to my pancake party with weird coconut chutney; Introducing Dan to my friends and peers; Visiting William Mitchell’s house in London; When Dan made me a skirt; When Dan tried my skirts on to figure out what size clothes to buy me; When Dan bought me some David Mellor 'Thrift' cutlery; When Dan made me bookcases and a spice rack from old floorboards and scrap wood; When we went for a walk in Didsbury and emerged with handfuls of wild garlic for risotto and the freezer; Taking a shared bath in Dan's parents' posh bath in New Mills, with a rose petal bath bomb; When Dan bought me secondhand books and drew pictures for me in the front;
Listening to Pulp and Bronski Beat together; Exploring Lyon in the freezing cold and having picnics by rivers; Playing charades at my parents’ on New Year’s Eve; Exploring Worsley, walking past Monton lighthouse, visiting Barton bridge and picking yellow plums for the freezer; Making chocolate apples together for bonfire night; The first picnic of the year at Port Sunlight; Dan's first exhibition at Bureau and working together on the text; ECLUB at Islington Mill; Dan printing extra copies of interesting and unusual photos for me at his photo-processing job; Dan printing me a bespoke tote bag with an archive photo of William Mitchell's giant Lee Valley Water Company mural; Potluck; Staying with Rebecca in Lancaster; Falafel with Phoebe at Safads; New year’s eve fireworks in the drizzle in New Mills; Wandering the William Turnbull sculptures at Chatsworth House, gawping at the most expensive farm shop we'd ever seen, and finally getting to meet the legendary object of Dan's obsessions, Matt Hand; Cycling up and down over the hills from New Mills to Alice’s birthday barbecue in Charlesworth; Showing Dan around Kent; Sitting sheltering from the rain and scoffing vegan Easter eggs at Sunny Sands beach in Folkestone; Playing I Spy on long train journeys; Cycling to Sharston books; House-hunting, flat viewing, bed-shopping and setting up home together; Watching copious amounts of Charlie Chaplin and Hitchcock, and Peep Show, Teachers, The Office, Black MirrorJonathan Creek, Queer as Folk and Him & Her; Watching every single episode of the Likely Lads we possibly could, then moving on to Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?; Sharing headphones for under-the-covers late-night listening to the Moth podcast; Watching Dan play bass with Sean’s band; Dan's shows, eg Cornerhouse idents, garden show; Going for Ethiopian food; Playing with Dan's family on the zip wire, and having a go on the exercise equipment on the park during Dan's last night in New Mills before leaving for Rotterdam; The pride I felt when Dan sent me his end of year report from Piet Zwart Institute; Visiting the beach at the Hague together, and Dan shielding my eyes from the sand with his baseball cap; Explaining (every few months) the difference between a dress and a skirt, and which was which;
Working with Dan (who’s dyslexic) to edit, articulate, clarify and tease out the meaning, insights and observations from the streams of words and sentences he wrote as texts, publications, applications and essays, and to interpret Dan’s own creative and resourceful system of spellings: grammer (grammar); chimley (chimney); hierarki (hierarchy); heared (heard); objen (aubergine); cutelry (cutlery); autominal (autumnal); confrance/refrance (conference/reference); vinil (vinyl); pome (poem); perents (parents); thisis (thesis); rediency (residency); Morine (Maureen); Caneel Parker (Cornelia Parker); canel (canal); tearm (term); backed (baked); mounthly (monthly); intresting (interesting); arcutecture (architecture); museam (museum), memour (memoir); impressinist (impressionist); fosstle (fossil); prooth (proof); learning northern lingo like trump (fart) and pack up (packed lunch).
Dan's valiant attempts to write/send me postcards, in his scatty handwriting, something that didn't come at all naturally, sometimes resulting in efforts that were esoteric and home-made.
I have been haunted by this song for several months, going around and around and around my head as I cycle the A6 and try to get to sleep. It translates all the sadness and frustration into something beautiful, something positive.
Making the music in my head reality is what I needed to do to move on, or at least a place to start from.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Northern Quarter Street art tour, Saturday 13 February (for the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art)

The Shrieking Violet ‘zine was founded in the summer of 2009 to show the fun that can be had in the city for free, and the beauty and creativity that surrounds us everyday. From buskers, gargoyles, grotesques and public art, to street names recalling Manchester’s historic links with science, the textile trade and industry, all you need to do is look (or listen) to what’s around. Let the Shrieking Violet be your guide and starting point for adventures in the city!

Next Saturday (Saturday 13 February), the Shrieking Violet will be leading a street art tour to celebrate 30 years since the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (formerly known as the Chinese Arts Centre) was established, and to coincide with an exhibition featuring artists from RareKind illustration agency, which opens on Friday 5 February.

The Shrieking Violet calls for an expanded definition of street art, to include not just what we might usually regard as street art, ie that which is covert, transient and wall-based, but to situate street art within a wider context of all art which is publicly visible on the streets of Manchester, from mosaics and architectural adornment to statues and sculptures. Street art is something which we have all seen, and about which most of us have an opinion. The tour will be informal, accessible, flexible and participatory, with participants invited to share, reflect on and challenge their own perceptions and experiences of street art and to disclose any particular favourites in the area. The tour will invite discussion on questions such as: Who gets to decide what is art, and who is an artist? How do works of art on the street influence perceptions of a place, both by the people who live/work there and externally? What is ‘beauty’, and who decides what’s beautiful? Does art need to be beautiful? Can a value be placed on street art?

The tour will visit two distinct areas of Manchester city centre – Chinatown and the Northern Quarter – as part of a broader narrative of change and evolution. Manchester has transformed from an industrial Victorian city to a modern city known for its entertainment, creativity and leisure/shopping opportunities, and this can be read through the art on its streets (or lack of it in certain places). Street art may have different motivations, from self-expression and ownership of spaces to decoration, celebration and commemoration of heritage, but all contribute to the identity, atmosphere and demographic of different areas and show how people have shaped Manchester over time.

This is also a tour of contrasts and comparisons, from public art which is official and council-endorsed, and commissioned from high-profile artists, to gallery-supported initiatives and local businesses promoting local artists, to corporate sponsorship of street art, and street art techniques which have been co-opted for advertising purposes, to that which is unsolicited and illegal.

Tickets cost £7. To book, click here.