Gateshead Open Studios 2018 – 27th October; a day to celebrate creativity in Gateshead.

I had the absolute pleasure about 8 months ago of being invited to Brighton Road Studios in Bensham, Gateshead. I was excited because it’s an artist studios inside a converted Church and somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for ages– behind the front door I found an independent creative studio space, lush facilities and full of local artists, creatives and SME creative businesses all doing great things – certainly somewhere I could see The Culture Vulture thriving and setting up camp. My meeting was with several of the artists to hear about what they are doing, their plans as a creative collective and fabulously, their plan to do Gateshead Open Studios.

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Gateshead Open Studios is a proudly Gateshead centric project and has been something that many artists, creatives and venues based in Gateshead have discussed and flirted with (including myself) so it was great to hear Brighton Road Studios wanting to lead on it. Fast forward to the present day and Gateshead Open Studios is an exciting impending reality – it’s happening in Gateshead!

On Saturday 27th October, the lush people of Gateshead will be able to discover what’s hidden away in 5 different but all very brilliant creative and historic hubs….

I caught up with James Oliver (artist name: William Fawkes) who is arguably the lead on this year’s Gateshead Open Studios organisation (however – there is a whole host of brilliant artists and creatives also making this happen). I wanted to catch up with James so my fellow Culture Vultures could hear what is in store for them on 27th October across Gateshead.

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Hi James Oliver/William Fawkes – I am over the moon to see how far you’ve taken Gateshead Open Studios – enabling it to be a reality in spite of many challenges. So let’s start with you and your work – tell me a bit about you and your practice?

I’ve always been an artist from a young age inspired & encouraged by my mum, and have painted my whole life. But it’s only been in the last couple of years, that I took the plunge to rent a studio, and start practicing more seriously. I previously worked professionally as a graphic designer, designing record sleeve artwork for clients including Blur, Sigur Rós, Trojan Records, EMI, and Universal music. I’ve also been a web designer and user experience researcher in recent times. All these skills have helped prep me for the world of marketing, events and experience design.

As a professional artist I chose to adopt the alter-ego William Fawkes, an ancestor from my family tree. My recent artwork is based on surreal storytelling, with a collection of dying British institutions with skeleton characters being an emerging body of work. I tend to create a master painting or drawing, and then have high quality framed prints available for sale.

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What is the inspiration behind Gateshead Open Studios? Why now?

Since I moved up north 3-4 years ago, I was immediately drawn to what was happening over in Ouseburn with their Open Studios’ events. As soon as I’d found a studio in my local neighbourhood Gateshead, I looked around and thought “why isn’t Gateshead doing Open Studios?”. My mother passed away in January this year, and because of this, I decided ‘Gateshead Open Studios needs to happen this year!’ I’ve been driven ever since to make it happen, and had some great encouragement & support from fellow peers, friends and family.

So when is it?

Saturday 27th October 2018, from 10am to 5pm across multiple Gateshead venues.

Which Gateshead venues are involved?

There are 5 venues across Gateshead opening their doors:

  1. NewBridge Project: Gateshead High Street.
  2. Saint Cuthbert’s Church, Bensham
  3. Bensham Grove Community Centre
  4. Brighton Road Studios, Bensham
  5. Saint Chad’s Church, Bensham.

We also have partner cafes nearby who have been really supportive and can provide refreshments including The Staiths Café (who have an exhibition available to view) and The Nest Café in Low Fell. There will also be friendly volunteers on the day to help direct people, give you tours and generally make you feel welcome.

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So what is in store for visitors – what can they expect to be able to see/do?

You will be able to explore unique creative environments and historic venues, some of which have never had a public open day like this. You will be able to meet practicing creative people, see their studio spaces and be inspired, and even take part in creative workshops and try making new things to take home. There will be art, music, conversation, refreshments and a friendly excitable community buzz on the day.

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Will people be able to buy things on the day?

Yes, the artists and makers will have unique items you can purchase, or you can even discuss a private commission. There will also be creative workshops & demos happening for free, and other courses in the near future people could book on to learn a new process.

There is something so brilliant about being invited into an artist studio – a behind the creative scenes if you will! Are you excited to have people come into your studio?

Yes I think it’s great, and I can’t wait for people to come have a rummage, ask me questions and hopefully be inspired! I’ll try to make sure it’s tidy before they arrive!

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Here is the mini sales pitch – tell my fellow Culture Vultures why is this an unmissable weekend for Gateshead?

It’s a chance to explore hidden historic venues right on your doorstep, meet the quirky creative inhabitants and see their personalities spilling out through their work!

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Why are events like this so important for artists and creatives?

Creative people are not always the best at promoting themselves, but this is a unique chance to get a glimpse into their world and see something you never imagined you’d see! I can promise you’ll come away inspired and with a greater respect for Gateshead local talent.

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Tell me about your studios in Gateshead and who is in there with you?

I’m based at Brighton Road Studios. We are housed inside a beautiful 3-storey converted church, which was designed by Christoph of Kiosk Architecture & Design, who is also still a tenant. Other tenants include Skunkwork Props who specialise in replicating Star Wars helmets such as Darth Vader. Kourosh Edalat is another painter & illustrator who is always busy with commissions. We have Serious Stamp Company run by Clare who makes personalised rubber ink stamps and seals for your personalised stationary needs. Little Silver Ring Co. is run by another Claire who practices as a silversmith but also dabbles in other things. Chris is another talented silversmith, who is also a teacher at Bensham Grove. Raw Leather Company is run by Phillippa and she makes beautiful leather bags, purses and other bespoke items. IG Media won’t be present on the day but operate as an animation & web design company. Bobzilla is a busy guy – he dabbles in painting, outdoor street art mural designs, concrete pot-making, and also a resident DJ. Finally Gaelle of Tamiah Designs imports Ivorian African textiles to make cloth-bound books, bags and many other unique items.

There’s 14 studios spaces all together, and currently a couple vacancies as I understand.

What will be going on in your studios specifically?

In my studio I’ll be showing people my work, talking though different pieces and explaining how I get inspiration. I’ll also have a large blank canvas set up on an easel and I’ll be encouraging anyone who wanders in to have a go painting a little of whatever they wish, and over the day hope to have a unique piece of work created which will be a great memento of the event! I’ll share the final outcome on social media.

I’ve also produced a limited set of framed art prints of my most popular work which will be on sale for those wishing to take home a unique piece of signed art / it could be the perfect time to grab an early Christmas gift for someone special.

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Other creatives in Brighton Road will be talking though their work, giving demos or running fun activites and also some will have a unique items to sell.

We also have special guests The Nest Cafe offering a pop-up Refreshments stall, and gentle background music provided by DJ friends of ours.

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I will be culture vulturing and doing some live social media on the day – do you have a suggested route for me?

There’s no particular order you have to do things, but if you’re travelling into Gateshead Metro station on the day, a logical route is to start with venue no.1 – NewBridge Project which is right outside. From there it’s 15mins walk or short bus ride into Bensham to reach venue no.2 – Saint Cuthbert’s Church. After that you’ve got venue no.3 minutes away – Bensham Grove Community Centre. From there venue no.4 – Brighton Road Studios is again only several minutes walk away, and finally venue no.5 – Saint Chad’s Church is just across on a parallel street.

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What is next for Gateshead Open Studios in 2019?

This year is a 1-day experiment to see what the appetite is like in Gateshead for discovering what’s inside a few quirky creative venues! If all goes well, we plan to seek funding next year to expand the event to potentially include further venues and cover a whole weekend. It may even split into a twice-yearly event if the appetite is there.

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I can’t wait for 27th October – it’s going to be a great day for Gateshead.  Really looking forward to some true Culture Vulturing at some Gateshead venues. You can follow my journey across Gateshead via The Culture Vulture and of course, keep an eye on the main event page for updates before the main event!

Until next time Culture Vultures and see you on the 27th October!

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Project: WORTH – Lady Kitt, defacing bank notes,gender equality, championing brilliant women & crowdfunding!

So this is a first for my blog…..I’m revisiting an artist I’ve interviewed before…Lady Kitt. When I interviewed her last time it was the very beginning of getting to know her after fangirling from a far. Since then…we’ve met lots of times and I’ve seen her work, one of her performances and fallen in love with her even more. Officially one of my favourite humans.

You can read my last blog post here – find out all about Lady Kitt, her practice and of course Nasty Women North East.

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Now for this post – I’m going Lady Kitt project specific; I’m talking about LK’s project WORTH. And I will let LK tell you in her own words about the project but this post feels timely to me. At the heart of project WORTH is the (rational) human ideal of gender equality. It’s about championing the women who have fought and raised the rest of us up enabling and empowering us politically, professionally, inspirationally and everything in between. It’s also about recognising the areas of work and sectors where women remain under-represented and highlights that we still have some work to do!

So I’ve been incredibly disheartened and surprised that in sharing on my social channels other projects, art and blog posts about gender equality and championing women that I’ve lost audience and received messages from individuals who clearly do not champion gender equality and feminism – and it has reminded me how essential projects like WORTH and how brave people like LK are for putting themselves out there…..

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LK is crowdfunding for project WORTH and it won’t happen with you! It really seriously won’t….we need you to donate. Before we move on to LK – I thought I’d express why I love this project and why I’m donating to it….

It recognises the wonderful humans that fought and enabled some of us to get the vote. I think sometimes we forget how big a deal it was for The Suffragettes to stand up against society and the patriarchy of the time and demand change, to be heard and ensured visibility. We are forever indebted to these women – they enabled us to strive towards the path where women can be anything and anyone they want to be….astronauts, business owners, politicians, playboy bunnies, Britney Spears….

It’s championing women in underrepresented sectors… it’s so important to recognise that there is still work that needs to be done and there are still some sectors where a woman is a lone voice in the room. And I’ve been that lone woman before….

Project WORTH is empowering women – by supporting this project – we are supporting and enabling others! You’re uniting women with a cause and common voice – encouraging them to discover and realise their worth within them….WORTH really speaks to my interests, my motivations as The Culture Vulture (to empower others) and of course, my heart.

So let’s hand over to Lady Kitt to find out more about the project.

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For those that didn’t read my last blog post….. tell me who you are and a bit about you?

Hiya, I’m Kitt. I live in Newcastle and LOVE the North East with a wild passion. I’m an artist, an activist, a Nasty Women, a drag king and a parent to two lush little people. My favourite colour is red and I’m the oldest person I know who likes emojis as much as I do.

You’ve been called “The International Superstar of feminism”…. How the bliddy hell did that feel

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It felt a bit like that ^^

It’s a pretty bold statement made by Callum and Alex the lovely folks behind Creative Debuts (CD) London. The local feminist art group that I’m part of, Nasty Women North East, collaborated on a project with CD earlier in the year and from that they invited us to be part of The Anti-Art Fair in London in October. The fair is a celebration of international creativity and a call for greater diversity in the arts. If you’re in London Oct 4th-7th get yourself along!! You can even get a lovely little (33%) Nasty discount by using the discount code NWFRIENDS.

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Nasty Women North East are showcasing a couple of our projects ‘the (small but) FIERCE mag’ – a magazine for children who want to change the world and the adults who support them and the Nasty Women International Art Prize 2018. I’m also one of the artists showing work in the Nasty Women section of the fair, curated by Elijah Wheat Showroom, New York..

Being labelled an International Super of Feminism is totally mega … generally I’m pretty confident about my abilities, you certainly couldn’t call me modest; but when I saw that – blush inducing for sure and anything like that label comes with sense of responsibility. So I feel like I’d better boss the shit out of this feminist ‘art-ing’ now someone’s said that. So LET’S DO IT!

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What’s been your experience as an identifying female in the work place and in the arts?

On an interpersonal level, for me, generally fine, often fantastic. But I have heard dreadful things from other women in the arts. One women I know missed out on a big commission because she had recently got married and the commissioners assumed that she was going to have children (which she wasn’t) and assumed that by having children she would no longer be able to take on work- rubbish!!

On a more general level- fucking dreadful. It’s been relatively well reported in national media in the last year or so, that there is a woeful lack of female artists in public collections. Not just lack of women but the general lack of diversity is mind bogglingly bad. Many institutions are addressing this, but it’s a slow old slog.

It’s not just changing the attitudes to collecting but also changing the way that existing collections shown, interpreted and cared for. With a few exceptions the lack of women in senior roles in museums, galleries, within funding bodies, educational institutions etc, really effects all this. Also, the prices women artists can expect for their work is considerable less than for male artists. There tends to be poor provision for parents in the Arts. Residencies, especially rarely offer provision / support for artist with caring responsibilities. I could go on and on and on…

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So today we are chatting about your project: WORTH…. Can you tell me about the project? What’s it about? What was the inspiration?

It started early last year! Our children have some great books celebrating amazing women in history- which are absolutely lush, however a lot of these women are dead or super-duper famous. So I thought I’d like to teach my children about women who I personally think are amazing – but aren’t necessarily as well known.  I was inspired by Caroline Criado-Perez’s campaign to have more women represented on Bank of England issue bank notes – so I’ve celebrated these women and created portraits – papercutting the faces of several local women like MP Chi Onwurah and drag artist Venus Di Milo onto various currency notes. I’ve also included some completely astonishing children who are already awesome campaigners and activists.

Bank Of England Unveils Jane Austen Ten Pound Note

Caroline Criado-Perez’s campaign led to Jane Austen appearing on the above £10 note

Finding out about all these people has been so inspiring- it makes me feel good about the world. It’s also, connected to the centenary of (some) women’s right to vote in the UK- it pulls together a lot of things I’m interested in. But, you know the more I think about it, the more I realise it’s a bit of love letter really to these women I admire and to my children. I want to show them everyone has the ability to make the world a better place and to do things that they believe in- age, gender, all sorts of other stuff might get in your way, but it doesn’t have to stop you.

Projects like this are essential to celebrate how far we’ve come and highlight areas that need to be worked on – you’re a creative change maker! Where do you think women are the most underrepresented?

In the UK it’s in STEM for sure. One of my WORTH portraits is of Prof Charlotte Roberts, Archaeology professor at Durham University; for me she is a great example of a women who has approached work in STEM and in academia in a really unusual and interesting way- she actually started her career as a nurse. If you have a chance – look her up I would really recommend it; she has done some great interviews and is really fun and engaging about her subject.

Over the last 10 years I done several of collaborations with scientists (many of the women) and have heard first-hand accounts of gender discrimination within STEM workplaces. This prompted me to start researching about women in STEM, which is quite depressing. According to Wise Campaign statistics, in the UK in 2017 only 23% of the STEM workforce identified as female. But there are some fantastic people and organisations working to change this. For anyone interested in this the Athena SWAN awards and charter is a great place to start.

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You have and will immortalise some amazing women by papercutting their portraits out of currency notes……but why use paper currency and paper cutting as the medium?

A loooong time ago- before I studied art, I used to make stencils for spray painted work. I made thousands of them! And then I started to look at the stencils and think “these are quite interesting object in themselves”. I didn’t really do anything with it for ages, until my sister commissioned me to create some artwork for an album by her then band (Bridie Jackson and the Arbour).

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Album cover

Initially the idea was to create a spray painted work, but as it developed into a paper cut and that was the first time I really made a finished work that was a paper cut. I love the simplicity of the process, I love that it’s pretty eco-friendly, I love that it’s so fragile…. The practice is largely considered to be a craft, it’s something that has a long history of being made in a domestic setting, often by women, from old newspapers etc – Beamish Museum has some great example of some of these for anyone who, like me, is a paper nerd.

It’s a pretty performative art form- As much of my practice is performance based that appeals to me hugely- Hans Christen Anderson used to tell stories and make paper cuts at the same time- by the end of the story he would present the listeners with a paper cut character from the tale! I just love it.

Cutting up money started with wanting to create a response to Caroline Criado-Perez’s campaign. I made the first piece in 2017, which is of Malala Yousifazi. I showed it at the 1st UK Nasty Women exhibition and it was really well received and then brought by a collector in Amsterdam. That experience just made me want to do more. Also, cutting up money is very fun- physically fun because it’s thin but strong and smooth which is great for very intricate paper cuts and it feels a tad anarchic!

I’d been doing the series for over a year before I realized that there is quite a community of money defacing artists round the world! I started following a few on Instagram and then the fantastic Bob Osborne (Rebel not Taken) approached me to be in a book of defaced banknote art and an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery; since then I’ve met loads of fellow money artists – it’s great!

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Elements of WORTH is featured in the book Cash is King – available in The Saatchi Gallery, London; can you tell me how this came about? It’s totally brilliant!

Via Instagram.

There are loads of shit things about Instagram- I could write a book about those; but there are also very good things. Being able to directly connect with people all over the world who share a very specific interest or a passion with you is one.

I used the hashtag #feministdefacedbanknoteart And that’s how it happened…

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You’re crowdfunding for this project…. Tell me why should people support the project and donate?

The feedback I’ve had from supporters of the project so far is that they are excited to be part of a project that reflects their political believes, supports a local artist and is celebratory. People have been extremely generous and some have told me what they would have used the money for if not for the project- which is really interesting (everything from designer socks, to gig tickets, packets of fags and a months’ worth of “posh” cleaning products!!). This project has already had many successes and looks set to have more- I think it’s fun for people to be able to say- “I helped make that project happen“. Which is absolutely true- despite having sold work from the series I have completely run out of money to move the project forward- it’s pretty expensive coz- you know I’m cutting up 50 quid notes … every time someone donates I get closer to creating the next work in the series, that’s vital for me and exciting for supporters.

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So now on to the mega important question; how do people donate to support project: WORTH?

Through my Just Giving page

If WORTH is successfully funded – what will it enable you to do?

It will enable me to make, exhibit and promote the whole series of 13 planned works. I will also run a workshop on how to create a successful gender equality project like Caroline Criado-Perez’s project.

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You’ve got loads of brilliant rewards if people support the crowdfunding campaign – can you tell me a bit about them?

Aww thank you- I’m glad you like them! I think it’s really important to offer something back to people who have supported the project. Any amount up to £25- I invite people pop into my studio (in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) and pick something from my portfolio of sketches, practice pieces and unfinished beauties; they tend to be A4. £25 will get you one of my $1 skull cuts, entitled “So many ways I love you”; each one is made by cutting between 30-80 love heart shapes from a $1dollar bill.

The pieces are backed with black card and accompanied by a small glass vial filled with the cut out hearts! I also keep making odd different dollar cuts like a zebra or a butterfly- keep an eye on my social if you want to see what I come up with next…..

£70 will get you a bespoke portrait (created by cutting hearts from a single sheet of papyrus) of a subject of your choice.

£100 a 2.5 hr paper cutting workshop at my house or studio for 2-6 people

£300 one of the Worth pieces once the exhibition is finished

Apart from the workshop, these are all super reduced prices for the work and are only available through the Just Giving campaign! I am also, open to suggestions so if there’s something someone wants and they think I might be able to do it- they should just get in touch!

Are you going to have a project launch party if the funding is successful?

YES!!! I love a party and I especially love a feminist art party. On Fri Nov 2nd 7-10 pm at the glorious PRAXIS Gallery in Commercial Union house in Newcastle I will be unveiling the completed series; there will be interactive art, music, performances, and FREE drinks. Everyone is welcome.

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What was the moment you realised your ‘WORTH’ as a woman? And also as an artist?

There are so many answers to this question- it’s a constant evolution. I’m generally pretty confident, but there are certainly been times where I’ve questioned myself especially when our children where very little. Not exactly my WORTH, but thought am I doing enough? Am I looking outwards enough or I’m I just getting a bit insular And nest-y?!

Getting involved in Nasty Women was part of the answer to those questions. I guess I was thinking- being a “good parent” isn’t just about looking out for the children’s immediate needs- it’s about looking at the world more widely and thinking what could do with changing- what battles have I had that I don’t want my children to have, or at least I don’t want them to have those battles feeling unsupported.

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WORTH celebrates some women getting the vote…. How do you feel about the Suffragette movement? I sometimes feel like there is another wave happening right now – people like me and you as the rebels pushing and championing…..

I think some of the utter drivel that we still have to put up with even now irrespective of the things we campaign for is terrible – And that’s now, in the 21st century, where we are supported by people all over the world, where there are feminist politicians, policy makers and police officers. We have so many rights and come from such a base of strength in many ways. And it’s STILL hard as fuck.

I just can’t even imagine how complex it must have been for people involved in the suffragette movement back in the 1900s. Having said all that, I’m still very uncomfortable with the acts of destruction and violence that some campaigners carried out. Also the Suffragettes were a women only organisation- not my sort of thing. I think things will be fairer and better by everyone having a stake in the change and through cooperation; not be excluding certain groups. But then there are also things about the Suffragists which I find complicated- it was largely a very middle class organisation, focussed on parliamentary activity which restricted it to people who lived near London / who could write / afford to send letters. I know I can’t possibly understand the circumstance of those women and how desperate they were for change, but I always want to try and find ways of creating change in peaceful and cooperative ways. Having said that I’m the one who’s chopping up 100s of pounds worth of perfectly legal, useful money to make a point, so what do I know…

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Do you a role model/inspiration?

Soo, so many- that’s what WORTH is all about!! This could be a loooong list, but some people who really inspire me at the moment: My amazing sister Bridie Jackson, Nasty Women North East co- founders Michaela Wetherell and Aly Smith, one of my WORTH subjects Francesca Di Giorgio, long term chum and male Nasty Woman David Wright and You.

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Ohhh being one of your inspirations…. Now that is a BIG compliment and you’re one of mine. How would you describe a modern day feminist in 2018?

Me! You! Anyone (any gender, age, background- no Limits) who believes in gender equality.

Project: WORTH in 2019 is….?

Aaaaahhhh exciting- sooo many plans and amazing opportunities. I can’t say much specific at the moment, but WORTH is going International.

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Well that sounds flipping exciting….. and sounds like I will be doing another Lady Kitt blog post in 2019!

So please donate to Project: WORTH – if any of the above has hit a cord and lit a fire in your belly – please donate. Only you can make this amazing project happen! You can donate HERE!

Very soon I will be doing some live social media from INSIDE Lady Kitt’s studio (8th October) – I will be going behind the scenes of Project: WORTH in action!

You can also find out more about and meet Lady Kitt by booking on to her Paper Cutting workshop in Gateshead on 11th October! It’s 12 per ticket, you’ll be using Project: WORTH as inspiration for your papercutting and you will also be able to donate to WORTH during the workshop.

And that’s all for now Culture Vultures!

p.s. DONATE!

Zara Worth – Online/Offline: Art, Academia & Instagram

Ok I admit it – I’ve recently lost my blogging mojo and it’s been a while since I’ve posted – my head has been full of projects and events…..well after some time out away – I’m back and I’ve lined up some cracking posts and some brilliant interviews with artists.

So first up is an interview with the wonderful Zara Worth. Zara has been an artist on my radar for a while – someone who has kept popping up in either my news feed or connected to various projects. So I was delighted when she emailed me about a year ago – introducing herself and her projects. It’s so lovely to have artists actually reach out and tell me about their work (So why not do the same!?)….

I became really interested in the fact she is a post graduate student – as someone who has always been in love with academia, research and what I’d like to call intellectual adventuring – I’m extremely hungry for knowledge and challenging it. I’ve always been interested in an artist/creative, something we assume is inherently practical actually engaging in PhD research. And there are lots of artists and performers out there doing just that – I really enjoy the process of reading their research/papers whilst simultaneously enjoying their pieces of work or performances. For me it adds often an additional socio-dynamic or element of political/self-expression.

Zara explores many themes in her work – but the ones I’m currently captivated by; living your life both off line and online and the effect that has on your mental health and self-identity. As an introvert who has made a living building a brand and identity online – I find it an interesting topic especially when I consider the impact of living my life as The Culture Vulture visibly and how that sits at odds with the fact I’m actually a very private person and one, that whilst I knows a lot of people – I only have a certain amount of really meaningful friendships. Secondly, how people perceive me after getting to know me online – their construction of who I am, my personality, how I will interact in “real” life – the fact via social media we build up snap shots of people via what their shareable content and Instagram feed. Which leads onto questions about mental health – especially in the North East where there have been several recent suicides of people many would consider “influencers” on social media and who presented a very happy, exciting and often successful life…..img-0796_orig

Screenshot of ‘Economics of the Kitchen (an A to Z)’ appearing in Instagram feed (Zara Worth 2018) [performance to video for Instagram]

Zara has recently ran a workshop with discussion at Vane in which she invited participants to explore social media and self-identity…. Whilst I couldn’t attend (booo to working every weekend over the Summer and missing some ace events!) – I heard some fantastic things and I’m delighted that she’s running another version as part of the Gateshead Live programme in October for young people and adults alike. Attendees will use collage as the medium to patch together social media identities – a bit like an Instagram feed. So whilst it’s an opportunity to explore the creation of social media themes, styles, visuals and making them as impactful and engaging as possible – it’s also an opportunity to reflect on how social media imagery prompts us to feel, trigger us to behave and influences our mind set.

You can find out more about the upcoming workshop by following the link

So I’ve told you why I’m super interested in Zara and her work …. But now it’s time to hear from Zara herself. So Culture Vultures…. Who is Zara Worth when she’s both online and offline?

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Zara Worth

Hi Zara – thank you for agreeing to be my blog subject! I first discovered your work when I was researching Northern artists about a year ago – so it’s so brilliant to finally connect – we have so many mutual creative interests. Can you tell my readers about your work?

Lovely to be discovered! My work at this moment feels to be a type of contemporary religious art; I’ve been reflecting a lot on what connects my current practice with the work I’ve made in the past and I’ve realised I am drawn towards belief systems and ideological communities.

In terms of how I make work, currently I’m exploring developing a practice which mirrors our current condition of living life simultaneously on- and off-line: so nearly all of the works I’ve been making since 2016 have an online element – usually on Instagram on the @zara_worth account – and also have an offline aspect – so drawing, or perhaps an object. I’ve also started using the same title for works with connected on- and off-line elements, to further conflate this relationship between them.

Instagram has been a key source of interest since 2014; and its prevalence as a theme within my work has led my practice to be described as ‘swipe-specific’: a term which I also really align with.

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‘The Artist’s Presence’ (Zara Worth – 2018) [Chairs and AR app] made with kind support from Ian Truelove and Field Design

Swipe-specific is something I really align with too – everything is so in the moment, instantly discovereable but equally immediately forgettable….

Everyone has a really interesting story of how they got involved in the arts….so tell me about your journey?

I suppose my journey is fairly typical; being an artist always felt inevitable, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to pursue it. One thing I always find interesting, particularly at this stage in my life, is how hard people find understanding that you identify as something – an artist – which isn’t necessarily your primary or only source of income. I used to think that I would be satisfied with just helping other people with their creative projects – working in film or for other artists – I very quickly realised that I was miserable if I wasn’t making my own work.

The origins of my interest in belief systems is perhaps more interesting than my story as an artist so far. Whilst puzzling over why I have these aesthetic preferences starting my PhD it dawned upon me the impact that my Granny’s faith had on me. At this point it is important to note that my Granny seemingly inexplicably became a devout follower of the Russian Orthodox Church. It’s also worth noting that my family is in no way Russian and to this day I have no idea why this was the particular strand of Christianity that she was drawn to.

Living in Congleton, Cheshire, funnily enough there wasn’t anywhere specifically Russian Orthodox to worship, so being pragmatic she bought a large shed from B&Q and started a Russian Orthodox church in her back garden, complete with papier-mâché onion dome (later replaced with a fiberglass one when the first one melted in the rain). So growing up, when I went to Granny’s house I was surrounded by religious icons, and I used to love trotting down to the back of the garden and lighting candles and incense in the church. She died when I was 17 and I never properly spoke to her about her faith, and I suppose a lot of my work is trying to make sense of its significance.

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‘QR Codes’ (Zara Worth/Vane – 2018) [QR codes on rice paper]

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‘Void Fill’ (Zara Worth/Vane 2018) [void fill strip curtain]

I have aspirations of one day returning into academia and education at some point – I’d certainly like to do a postgraduate in 2019 – something around people and behaviour and also a coaching qualification  – I know you’re doing your PhD…… how does that compliment or effect your arts practice?

Someone recently asked me if starting a PhD had caused me to hate my art practice and that completely horrified me. I’m just starting my third year of a part-time PhD (six years in total) and my experience so far has been brilliant; studying at Leeds Beckett University has already opened up so many doors and I’ve worked in collaboration with some really fantastic academics, so it has been a very productive time already. My practice is driven by ideas, so I’m not forcing an academic framework on my practice.

I would also say to anyone thinking about doing a PhD to try to make sure you work well with your Director of Studies and your Supervisor(s); I already knew my Director of Studies, Professor Simon Morris and really landed on my feet with my Supervisor, Dr Jill Gibbon, but I’m aware of other people at other institutions who do not have great relationships with theirs and it’s been hell for them.

I’ve really been enjoying studying part-time; I was a full-time Masters student when I was at Goldsmiths and the whole thing felt like a mad sprint and I don’t feel I really had time to get the most out of the experience. I feel very fortunate to have received a part-time studentship as it’s allowed me to pursue other experiences alongside study, which would have been inconceivable if I was a full-time student, plus it supports the development of a sustainable practice in the long run – as the reality is I am unlikely to have the luxury of practising art full-time in the immediate future.

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 ‘Quotations I, III, II’ (Zara Worth/Vane – 2018) [23.5 carat gold leaf on paper]

I agree with that – becoming sustainable in the creative and cultural sector is a strategic process – very similar to building a business. Back to your work – what mediums do you use?

The medium is the message. I like my work to be loaded, so the materials should be working ideologically as well as be visually interesting. As I’ve mentioned, my recent works have on- and off-line lives, the online aspects have been predominantly performance to video for Instagram, and Instagram collages; though recently I created a piece involving Augmented Reality.

As for the off-line aspects of the work, mediums include celery; void fill (packing peanuts); and 23.5 carat gold, all chosen for the significance that they carry.

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‘A drawing made by cutting up my body weight in celery’ (Zara Worth/Vane – 2016-17) [celery and kitchen knife on paper]

We are going into the latter part of the year – it’s insane how quickly this year has gone by. Consequently, this question seems crazily appropriate – what’s been your highlight of 2018 so far?

Opening my first solo-exhibition, ‘FEED’, at Vane, this August. The Directors at Vane, Chirs Yeats and Paul Stone, have been incredibly supportive and I’ve had such an amazing response from visitors and everyone who has participated in the events running alongside; it’s been quite overwhelming. In the same month I also installed Matty Bovan’s exhibition for the London Design Biennale – I was Project Manager and it has been brilliant to be a part of; quite a crazy summer.

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‘A drawing made by cutting up my body weight in celery’ (Zara Worth/Vane – 2016-17) [performance to video for Instagram]

Going forward into 2019 – what do you have planned?

I’m joining The Newbridge Project’s Collective Studio programme, which is a nine-month studio residency and development programme for emerging artists, so by 2019 I’ll be immersed in the programme.

I’m in the early stages of planning an exhibition with Carol Sommer looking particularly at the use of language on Instagram, and in early 2019, if not sooner, the issue of The Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, which I’ve been guest-editing, should be published! I’m also wanting to focus on moving my writing forward with my PhD, up until now, everything has been very practice-led; as a practice-led PhD should be, but I’m really looking forward to spending some time digging down into the work I’ve been making.

You seem to have connections with mental health with projects and are passionate about the project area (as am I!) – can you tell me a bit more?

I work part-time at Gateshead College and was fortunate enough to receive a Level 1 qualification in Mental Health Awareness through an ESF course provided by the College. It really drew my attention to the importance of caring for our mental health and I started drafting ideas for a mindfulness workshop with input from a friend who is a professional art therapist.

During the collage workshop, ‘DisCONTENTed Dining’, which I ran at Vane to coincide with my exhibition, we were making collages in reference to social media, and something which came up was how much pressure people feel under after looking at social media, but how calming it was just taking time to participate in a creative activity. I’ll be running a similar workshop very soon in Gateshead and in early 2019 will deliver ‘Still Life, Still Mind’: a mindfulness drawing workshop designed to encourage positive mental health using creative drawing exercises which participants can replicate at home. My research does make me concerned about the negative impact social media has on our mental health, so I hope that these activities and exhibitions offer some small ways to resist against that and also help us reflect on our own behaviours when we are online.

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Screenshot of ‘Economics of the Kitchen (an A to Z)’ appearing in Instagram feed (Zara Worth – 2018) [performance to video for Instagram]

Well thank you Zara and good luck with your Newbridge residency – excited to see how that pans out! Extremely excited to see more of Zara’s work and how the mental health and social media element further entertwine and develop.

I am beginning to work on the very beginnings of a mental health event for 2019 for freelancers, self-employed and creatives and I sense some real synergy here! If you’d like to meet Zara – as she mentioned, she’s running another social media workshop called “Who am I, when I’m online?” in Gateshead….. you’ll have the opportunity to explore Instagram as a channel, use collage techniques to consider how we present ourselves online and think/reflect on the difference between online and offline identities…. So come along and do something creative on 6th October and join what is sure to be some really interesting discussion!

Are you ready to get Curious?

So this Summer is all about celebrating the North, creativity, innovation and lushness in the region.  I’m really excited for a Summer full of culture vulturing.

Starting on the 1st July running until 8th July across Gateshead, Newcastle and Teeside is Curious Arts Festival run by one of my favourite humans (and rapidly becoming one of my best friends) Phil Douglas. It’s an explosion, exploration, celebration of LGBTQ through creative and cultural exhibitions, happenings, pop ups, events and performances. I am so excited for a week long of Curious queering the region! You can check out the full programme here – you can nab your tickets here. There are things for you, things for me, for young people, for families (well hello Rainbow rave with Chalk)….

My love for Curious (which is so much more than just a festival; they run ongoing projects through the year) is never ending – they are doing something so special and innovative in the region. It’s no surprise that Arts Council on a recent visit to the region, were blown away by Curious and their work.

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So as the Culture Vulture, I love Curious Festival because….. this is turning into a bit like a  fangirling blog post….

  1. The quality of cultural programming is just amazing – so many diverse cultural experiences and some celebratory party vibes. I’m really excited for the theatre performances this year.
  2. It provides a platform of creatives, artists, venues and performers in the region – that you wouldn’t necessarily see elsewhere. It really champions that firstly, creatives are just made to creative irrespective of anything else. Secondly, that LGBTQ culture is so much more than certain stereotypes.
  3. Part of the core philosophy of Curious Festival is the mantra “Life is for dressing up, not down”…. I take that as such an empowering phrase and ethos; encouraging self-expression and to be proud of your identity and differences. As someone whose wardrobe is full of self-expression – I love this core value.
  4. It’s supposed to challenge you – all that they ask is that you go in with an open mind. Through Curious (and I consider myself the most open minded person and educated in LGBTQ), I’ve learnt so much about the history, the culture, current issues in the wider community and society and the importance of self-identity. Curious doesn’t hide away from these topics – it celebrates them and explores them in creative ways.
  5. People can find a place….. in a world obsessed with labels around sexuality, gender and identity – within Curious and the Curious community labels are important to those who find them important to them personally and not important for those who don’t need them. I used to be so disengaged by labels and the celebration within society and pride festivals of particular labels and the fact, that if you didn’t feel that way – then you didn’t support the community. I’m really fluid in my sexuality – gender is irrelevant to me. Through Curious, I found a real self-acceptance of that.
  6. It’s a positive celebration – from the vibe, to the people, the events and the happenings…. It’s just a wonderful thing to be a part of.

So I’ve told you a bit about what Curious Festival means to me…. And I really hope you attend something across the festival – or if you’re a super fan like me, then you can attend something every day and evening. Now it’s time to hear from Phil Douglas from Curious to hear the real low down on 2018’s festival programme….

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Hi Phil, for my readers, tell me who you are?

Phil Douglas – Artistic Director and Producer of Curious Arts; it was also my idea so maybe founder? But they all sound a bit fancy.

We love a fancy title and you’ve earned it with your amazing work! So tell me about Curious?

Curious Arts is an arts organisation set up to explore and celebrate LGBTQ culture in the North East. Our flagship activity is an annual festival but we do projects and hold events and performances year round.

Let’s start at the beginning…. Where did Curious begin?

After a good 9 years working in arts and culture in local authorities, running LGBTQ bars and social events in Teesside…. I moved to Gateshead in 2015. I started looking for LGBTQ Arts activity in the North East from workshops, films, shows, exhibitions and I quickly found a real opportunity to help promote what was already happening – which actually wasn’t that much.  I then started to develop more opportunities for artists and audiences in the region.

Tell me about Curious Team?

We are a tiny, not for profit, based in Gateshead and are mad about celebrating and exploring LGBTQ Culture and The North East’s LGBTQ Culture. We bring in some nationally significant artists to the region for audiences to enjoy and experience but we are absolutely championing home grown talent too.

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Curious Festival is in the third year how has it grown year on year?

It has grown really quickly; we can barely keep up!  We have to thank Breeze Creatives and Baltic for giving our first festival a home and Dance City have been a constant champion too! From then to now we have some incredible long term partners such as ARC in Stockton and Northern Stage who recently appointed us as an associate company.. it’s really exciting stuff.

But on a serious note – one of the conditions of working with us is that you cannot be a tokenistic engagement. People are queer all year round, not just during pride season or Curious and we are pushing for representation of LGBTQ life in the Cultural offer of the region year round. So we have seen partner organisations get involved and stay involved.

I think that is such an important condition – so 2018….What are your aspirations for this year’s festival?

This year we just hope to survive ha! This is a huge festival and project for such a tiny team of volunteers and project funded team. Please hug one of them if you see them! Everyone is working above and beyond to realise the Curious 2018 programme.

We have so many different activities in so many different venues and no budget for Uber’s!  We have an exciting Autumn programme and already have ideas for next year too! It’s a lot but we are driven by passion and the support of those around us.

If I’m someone who hasn’t been to Curious Festival before – what can I expect?

A really vibrant, friendly feel, we have audiences who engage in the arts, the LGBTQ scene, the community sector, academics and students. Everyone is mixing in a shared space…. They are all curious folk.

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I’m ready to get curious….Ok make some recommendations…

  1. I want to do some mega dancing and throw some shapes – what do you suggest?

If you have little people then the Rainbow Rave with Chalk at Seven Stories on Saturday 7th July! If you don’t well steal a child! Joking! or if you can get a sitter then it’s the Vogue Ball on Saturday 7th July – you can Vogue the night away!

  1. I want to get involved in debate and hear some interesting discussion?

We have a young peoples’ talk on Sunday 1st July exploring gender, a talk about all things Drag in the region on Monday 2nd July and also the Slate is Curious Panel discussion on Tuesday 3rd July sounds pretty interesting!

  1. I want to dress up? Properly dress up, not down!

Head to Seven Stories for the dress up box all week – opportunity to play with their gender stereotype busting costume bag and celebrate your identity with some curious colourful crafts….. Or you can get married in the inflatable Church of Love in Baltic Square on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th July. There will be a wedding dress or two and suits for you to wear if you want to get married…..

  1. Theatre is my thing….I want to see and experience some amazing theatre?

Alphabetti is the answer with two specially commissioned shows – Iconography by Zoe Murtagh and Dietrich: Natural Duty by Peter Groom on Wednesday 4th – Thursday 5th July. We’ve also got a scratch night on Friday 6th July with some of the regions up and coming talent (including Culture Vulture faves Beth O’Doherty and Jon Lue Mckie) and of course, the unmissable Becoming Scheherazade on Saturday 7th July!

If you are in the Tees Valley check out our shows at ARC and Middlesbrough Theatre.

  1. I’ve got mini Culture Vultures to entertain– any suggestions?

Drag Story Time is a must on Sunday 8th July at Seven Stories – Northern Drag Artists Ben and Gladys will be sharing their favourite stories…. if that sells out there is the studio take over too on Saturday 7th July – you can bring your minis to make a piece of wearable art!

  1. What if I want to push the boundaries?

MUM at Alphabetti Theatre is the one – it’s all about the things unsaid in families…..beautiful and poignant.

  1. I really want to learn something new?

The Pop up Gallery / Festival hub is open for the whole festival from Monday 2nd July at 6pm (check website for times). Interesting artists with thought provoking work including Carla B Turner, gobscure, Ida4 and neon maker Stuart Langely with his HIV/Aids awareness light installation as part of the 36point7 tour.

  1. I want to explore gender norms?

We don’t love the word norm /normal.

Ok…badly phrased….I mean wider societal gender labels and everything in between….

The whole festival… get curious!

I’ve been to a few Curious events now and the vibe and community feel is extremely special – I feel a lush sense of belonging at your events, especially as someone who doesn’t identify with labels….. Curious is more than a festival – feels like a movement….. how would you describe the Curious vibe?

It’s a queer space and everyone is welcome, takes their space and has permission to be curious. Everyone is supportive and championing of each other and respects that people are sharing or dealing with sensitive and sometimes personal issues which arise in the themes of the work.

I’m head over heels with MuthaTucka…. How did you meet? Can I borrow their wardrobe? Can they give me lessons of how to walk in heels? Their appearance is a work of art…. I just love it. Lots of self-expression, visual and costume art all with a hint of tongue and cheek naughtiness…..

Mutha Tucka. They are a cracker! One of the growing number of creatives on the LGBTQ scene who have really embraced themselves as an artist. There are some incredibly talented costume, make up and performance artists on the “gay” scene but they are under championed or do not know their talent and some can be seen selling shots around the scene, which there is nothing wrong with, but they can be so much more too!

I met Mutha many years ago before they were Mutha, they ran their own alternative LGBTQ night and I went down to take photos and interview Mutha for a magazine I used to run – OutNorthEast.

Tell me about the Inflatable Church of Love – I got married to one of my besties at Bestival so really excited to do it again? I haven’t decided who/what I might marry….

Love is genderless and takes many forms… so get to Baltic Square and marry your mate, lover, dog, bike or a random stranger.

Curious is more than just the festival – so let’s think post festival – what’s next?

We have a really exciting programme in Autumn with three events we are hoping to announce in the coming weeks.  All the more reason to get on our mailing list and following our social.

Could a Curious and Culture Vulture creative mash up project be on the cards? (yes please!)

Sounds like a date! Let’s pop some time in to hatch a plan and blow the socks some folk. Thanks for being a Curious champion…

Well folks you heard it here first – there is a potential Culture Vulture and Curious Arts collab on the cards.

I’m so excited for this year’s Curious Festival – check out the programme and get looking and booking.

The Late Shows 2018 : The Culture Vulture essentials!

After recovering from the excitement of Eurovision, I’m now thinking about this coming weekend and The Late Shows. It’s another mega favourite weekend of mine and one of the ultimate culture vulturing weekends across Newcastle and Gateshead on 18th May 7pm-11pm and 19th May 6pm – 11pm.

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It’s a free late-night culture crawl taking over this weekend – an array of museums, galleries, studio collectives and landmark historical buildings open their doors to offer visitors one-off events, parties, sneaky peaks at new exhibitions or work, demonstrations, workshops, behind-the-scenes tours, performances and lots of lush artists and creatives to speak to.

There is something totally lush about being about to visit venues and spaces in the night time – whilst they treat you to a unique after dark experience. Every year, I get really excited and what’s not to love about a city wide creative and cultural celebration. Each year – people and venues do different things, so whilst you may go every year – you’ll have a brand new experience.

So I’m not one for telling you guys, my fellow Culture Vultures, where you should go to – as the venues and spaces involved this year are all equally as brilliant and part of what I love about Late Shows, is that YOU plan your own cultural adventure or as I often do, simply go with the flow on the night and just enjoy it!

I thought instead, I’d feature this blog post on the unmissable reasons why you MUST not miss Late Shows 2018…..

  1. There are several FIRST TIME venues taking part or venues in their brand new digs opening their doors and I’m all about being one of the first to see and do something– so for you it’s an opportunity to check out somewhere you haven’t been before and their spaces whilst experiencing something lush and creative. So who are the first time Late Shows 2018 venues:
  • The Nest – Low Fell, Gateshead (Sat Only) – A lush family venues full of fun times and good food – you can print the Angel of the North and also eat the Angel.
  • The Kiln – Low Fell, Gateshead (Sat Only) – A vibrant and interactive paint your own pottery studio – you can paint your own Angel mug.
  • The Newbridge Project: Gateshead (Sat Only) – Visual arts studios and gallery in it’s first year; Explore the Deep Adaptation exhibition and leave your own responses to questions, take part in kimchi making and take home your own starter seed capsule.
  • Alphabetti Theatre – Newcastle (Sat Only) – A performing arts venue open since Sept 17; venture from room to room as you stumble across a variety of bands, poetry and pop-up theatre.
  • Star and Shadow Cinema – Newcastle (Fri Only) – An alternative social, cultural, arts and community hub run by a collective of volunteers open again in its new space – drop in to celebrate their re-opening.

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The Nest by Pop Up Studio Low Fell – Print the Angel. #Angel20

  1. There is a really special one off from Curious Arts on Baltic Square, Gateshead on Saturday on – the launch of Curious Arts’ 36point7 – a HIV/AIDs light art awareness project. 36point7 aims to support the visibility of this global issue and the legacy of those lost and silenced during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980’s, Curious Arts is working with light artist Stuart Langley to reimagine the World AIDS day ribbon.

You will be able to chat to Curious Arts about the project and take in this lush large light installation which will be positioned inside Gateshead Millennium Bridge box.

In addition – Curious are offering free creative workshops so you have the opportunity to create your very own light art.

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Sneaky peeky of 36point7 from Curious Arts.

  1. Late Shows embodies a lot of what The Culture Vulture is all about…. It’s an opportunity to support, champion and visit Independent venues! I’m ALL about the independents and many of them across the weekend are hosting amazing events and parties – so get in the Late Shows vibe and enjoy! My top independent picks:
  • The Tyne Bar – Newcastle (Fri & Sat) – one of my favourite boozers anyway – but for the Late Shows they have a collaborative 90s throwback exhibition featuring work by second year Newcastle Fine Art students Charli Payne, Roberto de Abreu Preciosa, and Wesley Bray. I’m OBSESSED with the 90s – so I will be there on Friday for good time and 90s vibes.
  • Cobalt Studios – Newcastle (Fri) – A creative studio space and venue; I love what Kathryn and her team put on there and I’m itching to do a Culture Vulture event in the space. They got a mega Silent Disco party for you – three very diverse DJ’s & three parties in one with visual projections. My dancing shoes and twirling is at the ready.
  • The Staiths Café – Gateshead (Sat) – A lush independent café space… drop in for some communal singing with Beccy Owen’s Pop-Up Choirs who will later perform at the end of the workshop. Expect lush vibes.
  • Kommunity – Newcastle (Sat) – A bar/participatory social space that hosts dance, art house film screenings and much more…it’s run some of my favourite people in the world and it’s just a lush venue. And what a night they have planned for you from 9pm-middnight! Think STUDIO 54 and the last days of disco! The global growth of disco music and nightclub culture is going to be celebrated by your DJ for the evening Absolutely Fabulous Lady Annabella Marczewska! Dress to impress, exude energy and most importantly glamour!

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  1. Lots of Gateshead venues are celebrating The Angel of the North 20th Birthday this year within their Shows events! #Angel20
  • First up is the Nest in Low Fell Gateshead on Saturday – it’s a must for all you mini culture vultures (and grown-ups!). This year, they’ve brilliantly partnered up with another megababe local business – Pop Up Studio Low Fell. With Laura from pop up, you can bring an Angel of the North design on to fabric – make it as loud and proud as you want. She has also said for the grown-ups, you can totally go rogue and print whatever you want – including glittery swear words! With Lee and the Nest team, you’ll be able to make #Angel20 biscuits and literally eat the Angel. Mint!
  • Then there is the wonderful hidden gem on Low fell high street – The Kiln! On Saturday, you’ll have the opportunity to get proper creative and have a go at painting an Angel mug….they will provide expert guidance, lots of materials and of course, chat all about their wider offer!
  • Bensham Grove on Saturday in yep… Bensham Gateshead; is also doing lots of #Angel20 creative and crafty activities. You can create your very own Angel of the North sculpture for their garden and make your own angel in their make and take glass, pottery and textile workshops all whilst listening to live music.
  • The Shipley Art Gallery – On Saturday they are celebrating the Angel of the North’s 20th birthday and you’re invited! Join them to make your own Angel themed crafts, and get in the party spirit with live music, dance performances and a bar from Arch Sixteen’s Pam.

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The Kiln – Low Fell

  1. Be the first to see some of the AMAZING summer happenings and exhibitions – Late Shows 2018 acts as a bit of an exclusive preview – so enjoy!
  • The BALTIC (Sat) – This is a rare late-night opening view of their spring exhibitions. Visit Idea of North, a group show part of the city-wide Great Exhibition of the North. This exhibition celebrates northern imagination and identity through architecture, photography, music and design. It’s an exploration of northern imagination, unpicking and revealing different voices within the idea of a ‘northern’ identity.

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  • The Shipley Art Gallery (Sat) – Whilst they are hosting a fantastic #Angel20 party – Late Shows 2018 on Saturday also provides an opportunity to see the new Grayson Perry exhibition.

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Grayson Perry

  1. It’s not just about the venues and spaces – it’s about showcasing lots of amazing artists across the weekend; so if art is your bag – here are my recommendations!
  • The Biscuit Factory (Fri) – This is certainly my first stop on Friday and I can’t wait! They are launching the Open Contemporary Young Artist Award 2018; a mixed media exhibition featuring new artwork from over 20 emerging young artists. You will be the first to view the shortlist and cast your vote for our People’s Choice winner. Alongside the exhibition award-winning Streetwise Opera are performing live in the gallery AND you can enjoy The Factory Kitchen’s new urban roof top terrace with Ouseburn views, a pop-up bar and Mexican street food! (It looks amazing!).

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The Factory Kitchen rooftop garden

  • 36 Lime Street (Fri) – A top favourite artist space of mine! So many of my favourite people in there. Artists and makers from 36 Lime Street Studios open their doors after dark to give a glimpse of their working life and to have a natter. In the gallery Bethan Maddocks and Maria Sears present Paper Jungle, a growing, glowing paper-cut jungle that visitors can add to throughout Friday. Big fan of megababe Bethan – so excited to see what this looks like!
  • Jim Edwards (Fri) – Well he’s in my top 5 favourite artists of all time – and of course, I will do my usual trip to his studio and pay homage to Craig David Pub Cat. However, for Late Shows, I’ve heard he’s going to be working on and exhibiting some brand new pieces – I’ve already seen the Hadrian’s Wall one on social – so can’t wait to see it in person. But whispers tell me, there might be a Heaton focused one – and as Heaton is my second home, I’m excited!

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Jim Edwards

  • Commercial Union House (Sat) is just full of galleries, artist spaces, parties and workshops include Vane, B&D Studios, Breeze Creatives and others – so take your time and enjoy! But my recommendation for extra attention goes to of course, Ampersand Inventions! I love Ampersand and if I wasn’t working the full Gateshead Late Shows evening on Saturday – I’d be ALL over this…. They are presenting a ‘Homage to The Handyside Arcade: The New Breed’ – (Another great theme Jonpaul!) The Edwardian-built arcade on the city’s Percy Street was a spectacular glass-roofed construction housing a range of popular quirky shops and outlets, ‘Tyneside’s answer to Carnaby Street’. From the dust of legends, Ampersand Inventions are opening their front doors to showcase their amazing boutiques, shops and not forgetting their weird and wonky artists! Mixing heritage, culture, lifelong learning, innovation and enterprise! You have some Culture Vulture faves in there including Trendlistr, Melanie Kyles, Roberta Louise Green and others.

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Ampersand Inventions

Bliddy heck…what a Late Shows 2018 weekend! I’m excited to get Culture Vulturing and of course, if you see me – say hiyer! I will be live social media-ing, drinking gin (not when working obvs) and having a fantastic lush time.

 

 

Rosa Postlethwaite; getting Composed, GIFT 2018 and mega PUG parties.

This weekend is one of my favourite weekends of the year – it’s GIFT Festival. A weekend celebration of regional, National and International theatre right here in Gateshead. It’s a beautiful weekend – full of shows that will excite, make you re-think and question theatre, you’ll laugh so so much, fall in love with stories, feel captivated, you’ll feel awkward, and you’ll be on the best theatre high all weekend and the worst “cant every weekend be like GIFT” festival come down on the Monday.

Across the weekend you’ll experience workshops, discussion, theatre shows, performance, debate, networking and parties – it isn’t a GIFT festival without a lively GIFT end of festival party. GIFT is for the theatre loving and also the traditional theatre rejecting as it’s so much more than going to the theatre.

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GIFT 2018

My first experience of GIFT festival was in 2016 (yep late to the party on that one) – I used to be quite a traditional theatre goer – theatre to me was a “proper” play. But here I am, “pre-culture vulture” era and I’m in the Caedmon Hall watching GIFT two shows – one show was a re-interpretation of “Stand By Me” with the sound track set to Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” (80s obsession fulfilled as always) and then the second was a theatre show by Eggs Collective based on a hen party – with shots for the audience, amazing music, CRISPS and a great script. Well – I bliddy loved it. My love affair with GIFT was born….

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Eggs Collective

Last year again, I attended– GIFT 2017 and I saw many wonderful shows but my absolute highlight was PUG party. An eclectic mix of theatre shorts and scratches in a party atmosphere. Well I was the cat who had the cream – and there was bingo at one point. Loved it!

And like with any GIFT festival – you walk away with new relationships and friendships with people because you become part of a community. A never break able festival community.  And in 2017 – I met megababe Beth O’Doherty (You might remember I wrote a recent post on her) and one of my the wonderful human that is Rosa Rogers Postlethwaite; one of PUG.

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PUG : www.picturesbybish.com

Rosa is not only so so talented, ambitious and megababe supportive of other people’s work in the cultural sector – she’s also a fiercely strong character, an advocate, a positive role model and she’s one of the people, who I see in the sector rejecting a whole host of societal conventions and just out there being Rosa, following her path and speaking out for what she believes in….

And that’s what I love about the concept of PUG party – it’s not only the most electric party vibe for the audience, it’s also facilitating creative individualism and a forum to cheer other’s works, voices and be a part of something special.

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Le Fil #PUG4 : www.picturesbybish.com

With GIFT 2018 upon us, I thought I’d take the opportunity to interview Rosa, catch up about her happenings, her upcoming show Composed on Saturday at GIFT in Gateshead (I’m so excited to see it – join me!) and her current theatre residency journey in Gateshead.

Rosa Postlethwaite, Composed. Photo Rhona Foster

Rosa Postlethwaite – by Rhona Fosterpic

Well hello; right so let’s start at the beginning – tell me about your journey into performing arts?

It started with a lot of all singing all dancing shows in my bedroom including a particularly dramatic dance-with-chair to Robbie Williams, “Angels”.

I actually sang in a choir for a few years when I was a teenager, but very un-confidentially, now I sing (and do other stuff) very confidently at PUG with Hannah and Jamie. Which feels amazing.

Most of my performing arts activities happened at school. I then studied Drama at University in London and I became interested in performance from a lot of different angles.

I am interested in making, producing, framing, thinking and talking about and through performance.

Rosa Postlethwaite, Composed. Photo_ Rhona Foster(2)

Rosa Postlethwaite – by Rhona Fosterpic

It’s been so lovely to bump into you almost weekly in Gateshead during your current residency at Caedmon Hall – tell me about it?

I’m in the middle of a residency at Caedmon Hall supported by the North East Artist Development Network. I was matched with Caedmon Hall which is a Gateshead Council space and a mentor, Kate Craddock.

This residency is about collaborating with a lighting designer, Michael Morgan, a sound designer Jamie Cook and artist Nicola Singh to develop Composed. I haven’t worked with designers before on a show so it’s been brilliant to have the have the time, kitted out space and financial support to work through ideas and to hear their perspective on the show.

Rosa Postlethwaite, Composed. Photo_ Rhona Foster(1)

Rosa Postlethwaite – by Rhona Fosterpic

So Composed – your show in development; tell me more?

Composed is a show about theatre rituals, fantasy and institutional violence.

It follows a master of ceremonies through an evening of performance. Only showing the bits of hosting that might happen between acts (and not the “proper” performance). Like a thank you to the sponsors. Or an in-house announcement. Or a list of house rules.

Looking at the role of the MC has been a way of thinking about the relationship between a spokesperson and an institution. It’s about falling into a routine and unpicking behaviour that is seemingly safe.

Rosa Postlethwaite, Composed. Photo_ Dawn Felicia Knox

Rosa Postlethwaite – by Dawn Dawn Felicia Knox

Nail it down to three words….?

Funny, angry, stark.

Why are residencies like that important/important to you?

I mostly work site-specifically, so with this project, I needed to spend time in theatres to respond to the placeness of it as well as the idea of it. This residency was particularly important because it came with access to tech and money so I was able to learn about what was possible to do with lights and sound and experiment, instead of arriving on the day and making quick decisions.

You’re sharing the show at GIFT on the Saturday night – are you excited?

Yer! I’m really excited. I actually really enjoy performing Composed. I’m excited because I’ve shown lots of it in little bits but some parts are completely new and it will be the first time all these threads will come together.

What do you want audience to take away from it?

I hope they find some of the jokes funny and some of them VERY unfunny.

I met you last year at GIFT – so for those that don’t know – what’s GIFT all about?

GIFT programmes contemporary theatre and performance and presents it in different venues across Gateshead. The kinds of performances range in form so they might not necessarily happen in an auditorium over the course of an hour or two but some like my show Composed will. GIFT is a festival that invites people to see a lot of different approaches to making live art. And different kinds of experiences with people.

Most importantly, to me, GIFT programmes international artists.

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GIFT 2017

Have you been involved/performed as part of it before?

Yes, last year I co-hosted PUG Party at GIFT Festival with Hannah Walker and Jamie Cook.

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Kira Street at Pug Party – St Mary’s Heritage Centre- Bish

Where did PUG party idea come from?

PUG parties are like any other PUG night… in that it’s a variety show, hosted by us three. And there’s a disco afterwards. But the party means it’s a partnership with another organisation.

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Rosa and Hannah Pug#1: http://www.picturesbybish.com

I’m Culture Vulturing around GIFT for the whole festival – what are your “must see” recommendations?

Robust by CHACMA Performance

And

Situation with Doppelgänger by Julian Warner and Oliver Zahn/HAUPTAKTION

Though I will be going to everything. I think the line-up is mega this year!

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Patrick Ziza GIFT 2017 – Pug Party St Mary’s Heritage Centre – http://www.picturesbybish.com

What are the plans for Rosa across this year and the next?

I’m performing at Anatomy Cabaret’s Finest Cuts night at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh the week after GIFT and at Pulse Festival on 1st June.

I’ve been working as a dramaturg with Lizzie J Klotz on her project Fawn which is part of a triple bill that she’s doing at Dance City, 26th May. I’m very excited to see these three pieces together. It’s going to be a really incredible evening.

The next PUG (number 6!) will be 27th July and there’s an open call for anyone interested in performing (see www.pugnight.co.uk).

This year I’m producing a new show, Five Years written and performed by Neal Pike and directed by Matt Miller with Newcastle and Durham dates in Autumn 2018.

Well yahoo! I’m so excited for GIFT 2018 – tickets are still available for the whole festival. My Culture Vulture recommendation is of course, the WHOLE festival…. But if I had to narrow it down:

Friday

Quarantine presents Wallflower – Baltic

Wildflower After Party – Baltic

Saturday

Little GIFT Scratch – Caedmon Hall

Robust by CHACMA Performance – Baltic

Composed by Rosa Postlewaite – Caedmon Hall

The GREAT GIFT Scratch – Caedmon Hall

Sunday

And She by Bonnie and the Bonnettes

Someone Loves You Drive with Care – Baltic

Hurry up weekend – GIFT 2018, I’m coming at you!

Big love until next time Culture Vultures.

Megan Randall; Guerilla Clay, #getnorth2018 & making.

I was delighted to recently be invited to do some real time culture vulturing around Ouseburn Open Studios for their spring event. Just trumped by Eurovision, Open Studios is a calendar favourite of mine. I had a wonderful time with my pretend paparazzi for the day, professional photographer and lush megababe Marion Botella, who captured my every move as I visited The Biscuit Factory, 36 Lime Street Studios, Northern Print, Jim Edwards Studios and The Kiln.

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One of my favourite elements of Open Studios is the opportunity to chat to artists and find out more about their process, passion , pieces…..most of the time, the people behind the art are just (if not more) interesting as the art itself. For the Spring Open Studios, the Biscuit Factory did something extra special in celebration of International Women’s Day; they invited the likes (and absolutely megababe favourites) The Crafthood, All Round Creative Junkie, Trendlistr, Megan Randall and others to host pop ups. Championing Northern artists is what I’m all about so that gets me excited, but championing female artists, well that gets me jumping out of bed in the morning!

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Artist Megan Randall

I loved my Spring Open Studios experience and it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with all the pop up artists at The Biscuit Factory especially ceramic artist and maker Megan Randall. I’ve met Megan a few times – she’s been to Culture Vulture events (yay!), works as a freelance participatory artist for the Baltic, hosts amazing pop up sessions at The Thought Foundation in Gateshead, has an interesting practice – all alongside a commission for The Great Exhibition of the North. Her pop up at The Biscuit Factory invited participants to create small, white porcelain flowers which would be used as part of the #getnorth2018 wider project.

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Megan is a fantastically interesting artist and maker – her work and passion is multidimensional; it crosses many different art forms. I really loved Megan’s recent 2016 Guerilla Clay Project; a series of installations, interventions and workshops in Northumberland National Park to engage communities, residents and visitors. The project came from the idea of sharing clay artworks with the world in an anonymous way; making things and putting them in public spaces for strangers to appreciate.  ‘Guerilla’ anything interests me – putting something pop up, unexpected or starkly out of place in a space really interests me.

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I also really like Public Art for the reason of community shared ownership, the ability to view art accessibly without a threshold, stumble across it almost but still able to fully appreciate it. In an open public space – the art belongs to everyone and every individual thinks, feels or connects to it differently.

Megan says this about her work: “In the process of my work I relinquish control, instead of having a predetermined outcome of how the work will be received. I do not mind if the work is stolen, destroyed or rearranged just as long as it is treated with the same passion used to create it.” I find this really interesting – as many artists become so unbelievably attached to their work, almost like a part of them. And even I with my creative projects – I could not disconnect at the point of project implementation and delivery….

I took my Open Studios visit as the perfect opportunity to catch up with Megan and get to know her more….find out about her projects.

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Hiyer Megan, it’s been lovely to chat and catch up – can you tell me how you became involved in this Spring Open Studios?

Rachel Brown, Biscuit Factory Gallery manager, invited me to attend the event; I had discussed with her making some work as part of Great Exhibition of the North and she wanted to link that to open studios for visitors to contribute to the project and see me making.

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Ohhh so this Biscuit Factory commissioned project is for #getnorth2018 – that’s really exciting! So brilliant to see Northern artists benefitting and securing work from what is going to be an ace summer! Tell me more about the project?

I am making a large installation that will be made up of approximately 14000 magnetic Parian flowers. The flowers are made by a combination of mould making and hand building; they range in size from 2cm to 14cm in diameter and each flower will be completely unique.

During Spring Open Studios, I made with visitors several hundred flowers, all of which will form part of the huge installation, almost a wall of texture. Each flower will be individually for sale except a number (including those made at open studios) which will be given away to distribute on street signs and lamp posts through-out the city.

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More Guerilla art, I love it! So where can people see the final piece?

The work will be displayed in the biscuit factory during #getnorth2018.

I love the individualistic nature of each flower and the fact so many Northern folk & Biscuit Factory visitors will have contributed to the end piece. What are you hoping people will think when they view the large piece?

I want people who visit the gallery to be confronted with a wall of texture which is bigger than them and is formed of small delicate components so that it becomes a solid mass of texture. I like the idea of being overwhelmed by something which individually so small.

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I know this is a super hard question to answer but I’m going to ask it anyway! Tell me more and your practice?

My practice is a confusing one; I have two strands. The first is Megan Randall (@meg_makes) which is where I make installations using hundreds, sometimes thousands of components. The second is Cobalt and Lustre (@cobaltandlustre) where I make and sell designed ceramics homewares, jewellery and art.

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The two practices complement each other; I make the large scale installation pieces because I love playing with spaces, watching people’s interactions with ceramic objects and gifting places with unusual objects. In my own artistic practice I tend to selfishly make for myself, make work which tackles issues which are important to me. This selfish making develops skills, new designs and new ideas which feeds into work made for Cobalt and Lustre; a wonderful platform to talk to people, gauge reactions, and get into the meditative role of making.

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Tell me about your journey into the arts?

I got the clay bug at primary school when I worked with a visiting artist to carve a clay robot which is still attached to the outside of the school. This encounter means that now I love working as an artist facilitator and working with schools, collages, families and community groups. I think that art is getting pushed further out of school timetabling which means there is less time to mess and explore materials, which alienates kids like me who were a bit rubbish at English and maths.

I did an art foundation then came to Sunderland University where I studied glass and ceramics at degree level and then went on to explore ceramics as a PhD student.

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Favourite project of 2017?

My favourite project of 2017 was being commissioned by art mix at the Baltic to make a bed and ceramic quilt where I collected peoples’ hopes and dreams. It was part of an exhibition called ‘What Happens to a Dream Deferred’ and for me was all about making beds and laying in them. I received a huge response and had dreams ranging from, ‘I want a pet dinosaur’ to peoples’ hopes for marriage proposals and regrets of broken relationships. There is something about anonymity that frees up people to say what they really mean. It’s why toilet cubicle graffiti is so interesting!

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Love that you made a project out of beds….One of my favourite venues in Gateshead is the Thought Foundation – what do you do there?

As well as working with the Baltic and National Glass Centre, I also work with Thought Foundation in Birtley. I love the space as a venue as it is so welcoming and inclusive, I sell things in their shop which is beautifully curated and have exhibited in their gallery space. I have also started delivering some workshops from there. And, it also sells an amazing caramel apple cake!

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Tell me about your future projects?

In 2018/19 I made a promise to myself to make an artwork each week, which is going well. I’m currently making 365 clay knots, all based around a love hate relationship with clay with is beautiful and malleable one minute and cracks and breaks the next.

I have been working with lots of school groups and applying for funding to instigate a project with older people based around memories. I will be exhibiting work at the Biscuit Factory and Thought Foundation in June. I have made a new range of jewellery for Cobalt and Lustre and have other projects lined up with local creative companies.

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Well that sounds ace Megan – I’m so excited to see your Guerilla flowers across the city during Great Exhibition of the North and to see your piece at The Biscuit Factory.

Check out Megan’s work Culture Vultures – it’s truly wonderful!