What on earth is Sculpture 30 all about?

This week I caught up with Jennifer Douglas; local artist and Gateshead Culture Team member, to find out what Sculpture 30 festival is all about. I often talk about Sculpture 30 in my posts and it is a big feature in this season’s Gateshead Live, but what on earth is it all about!? Jen has been working for the past 8months devising the Sculpture 30 programme, securing the funding from The Arts Council and facilitating the outreach community aspects of the project. So who better to interview about the initiative so we can all find out a little more about it?

Hi Jen, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?


I work within Arts Development & Public Art to develop of creative projects – I help devise projects, fundraise, and support the delivery of a wide range of creative activities working with professional artists to engage and enthuse other about the arts.


Jen Douglas

Tell me a bit about Sculpture 30 festival?


Sculpture 30 Festival is a programme of activities inspired by and celebrating the 30th anniversary of Gateshead’s Family Sculpture Day and the start of the boroughs Public Art Programme in the 1980s. The festival was launched at Gateshead Family Sculpture Day in Saltwell Park on 27 September 2015 and will continue through to this years Family Sculpture Day in September. The programme includes public events, participatory workshops, school projects, art walks, exhibitions and commissions. The year-long programme is structured around a series of ‘Artists of the Month’ showcasing professional artists whose practice focuses on sculpture.

Sculpture 30 logo

What is the festival setting out to achieve? What’s its purpose?


The project aims to

  • promote the talents of artists based in the region who employ a range of sculptural techniques.
  • encourage and increase arts participation for individuals, communities and groups.
  • increase awareness of existing Public Art and sculpture that sited in the various areas of the borough by devising a diverse programme of walks and activities.
  • encourage pupils and schools to explore the Public Art in their locality and investigate the environment and context in which this has been created.
  • encourage new and existing visitors to the Gateshead Family Sculpture Day (2016) by offering a range of sculpture activities and events to explore prior to the event

Who is Sculpture 30 festival for?  


  1. In addition to the programme devised around the ‘Artist of the Month’ we will offer one-off workshops and family drop in activities to appeal to a wide audience and cater for different levels of ability. We will work with schools (special, primary and secondary) offering practical workshops relating to sculpture to encourage young people to explore the Public Art and Sculpture in their locality and consider the environmental and historical contexts for which it was made.
  2. Sculpture 30 Festival is for people of all ages. With such a range of artists involved in the project (who each employ a differing sculptural practice) there is something on offer for everyone. We aim to work with the public, families, adults, community groups and live at home groups through a variety of public sign up and drop in workshops and events. We will also work with library users and existing groups to develop interest from the previous library based project, Creative Makings.

What can attendees, of a Sculpture 30 related event expect?


Each workshop, walk or performance will offer a different type of experience. Should you join one of the forthcoming Public Art Walks you will have the opportunity to learn more about some of the sculptures located in the borough, find out how it was commissioned and how work is made for the Public domain. The walks are led by Public Art Curator Anna Pepperall who has vast experience of commissioning Public Art who offers fascinating insight about the many projects. During April, Sculptor Jo Hillier will be leading mini bus tours to visit some of the sculptures he has made and has located in the North East and the opportunity to have a look in his studio – which is always a treat. In a Nutshell will offer something completely different for attendees – a family friendly performance for younger children this will offer a magical storytelling experience that is sure to be captivating – I can’t wait to see it! Visual Artist Tanya Axford who created the set for the performance is also leading a Theatre Set Design workshop so this will be an opportunity to get hands-on and make a set of your own. If you want to try out stone carving for the first time then join Russ Coleman in May when he will be leading some beginners workshops in letter carving in stone. Or, if you want to meet and chat to an Artist then come along to The Gallery at Gateshead Central Library on Saturday 19 March 10am -12.30pm and meet Artist Ed Carter for an introduction to the work Scale exhibited in the Gallery and find out more about his interests in architecture, gender and scale in this informal open event.


Faith by Joseph Hillier

What Sculpture 30 event are you most excited about?


What excites me is the variety of ways in which Artists incorporate ‘Sculpture’ into their work and therefore the range of activities that we can showcase and create opportunities for others to learn about and have a go at. I think it is really exciting that we have a sculptural sound piece being presented, a magical theatrical performance, the opportunity to have a go at stone carving and have a look in an artist’s studio.


In a Nutshell

Sculpture 30 is funded and supported by The Arts Council; for those who don’t know who/what is the Arts Council?


Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. They invest money from government and the National Lottery in arts and culture across England. They support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections.

‘We believe that art and culture make life better, helps to build diverse communities and improves our quality of life. Great art and culture can inspire our education system, boost our economy and give our nation international standing’


Why do they support projects such as Sculpture 30?


We were successfully in gaining funding for Sculpture 30 from the Grants for the Arts programme – Grants for the arts is the Arts Council’s open access funding programme, and is designed to support a wide variety of arts-related activities. The Sculpture 30 Festival is an exciting and diverse project which celebrates the 30th anniversary of Gateshead’s Family Sculpture Day and the start of the boroughs Public Art Programme in the 1980s, engages and promotes the skills and expertise of professional artists in the region and has a varied and unique programme of participatory workshops.


Sculpture Day 2015

Why is sculpture important in Gateshead?


Gateshead Council first became involved with art in the environment in the early 1980s. By 1986 a Public Art Programme had been established, which has since gained national and international recognition, receiving a succession of prestigious awards. During the programmes history Gateshead Council has commissioned over 80 works of art ranging from artist-designed railings to one of the most well-known public artworks in Britain, the ‘Angel of The North’, by Antony Gormley.


The Angel by Antony Gormley

Public art has become an integral part of the development and regeneration of Gateshead, encouraging investment and creating a strong identity and a sense of pride throughout the region. Each artwork has been individually designed for its specific site, and most incorporate references to the local history and culture of Gateshead.

The Sculpture 30 Festival celebrates the many varied works of Public Art and sculpture located in Gateshead and highlights the work of a selection of artists from the region whose practice, in the broadest sense, incorporates ‘sculpture’.


Cone by Andy Goldsworthy

What is your favourite piece of sculpture in Gateshead and why?


Once Upon a Time by Richard Deacon is a favourite work of mine, I love that the title of the work sets a scene for a story to unfold yet the somewhat awkwardness of the work located on the surviving abutment of the demolished Redheugh Bridge.  More recently I was ‘wowed’ by Stephen Newby’s work for the 2015 Enchanted Parks – an incredible heart shaped glitter ball which threw a magical quality of light across the Rose Garden in Saltwell Park – it was stunning!


Once Upon a Time by  Richard Deacon

Well thank you Jen – it’s great to know in a little more in depth about Sculpture 30. Our new edition of Gateshead Live has just gone out and it is full to the brim with Sculpture 30 activities, so you can pick it up in Gateshead Libraries, cultural venues across Newcastle and Gateshead or drop me an email CBSArtsTeam@gateshead.gov.uk and I can send you a digital copy.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s