Jesterval North East Comedy Festival 2017; Summer with a side of hysterics.

So it’s that time of year, where I eagerly sit planning my Summer, wishing the Springtime away – I rarely take holidays or take time off, but yet I still manage to cram as much as possibly into the Summer time…. The light nights make everything seem possible and the realities of real life so far away……..always time for one more drink, one more song, one more festival and where going out on a Wednesday was laughable mid-December, suddenly becomes essential.

Whilst I’m busy planning my Summer and my diary is looking jam packed full of lushness – I’m also thinking of festivals; my perfect job would be one I could take 2months off and festival my heart out. I do try to attend at least one a year now either abroad or in the UK away from the North East and as many as possible in the region; this year I’m off to Festival of Thift, Lindisfarne Festival, Q Festival and of course, an annual fave not just for me and my friends, but also Mama Culture Vulture – Jesterval North East Comedy Festival!

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Jesterval has now become so entwined in my Summer holiday planning mostly down to the fact I was absolutely furious a few years ago when I booked a holiday over half the festival. It was so devastating and serious, that I was tempted to cancel….. hehe. But now, in my Summer planning, the question is always first – “right, so when is Jesterval?” – making sure it has prime position and such an oversight never occurs again.

I attend as many of the Jesterval days and nights as possible and I love it for so many reasons; obviously I get to see lush comedy in a brilliant atmosphere from some of comedies bigger hitters before they head off on tour or to the fringe. I also, get to discover some hidden gems, up and comers and lots of people I get to tick off my comedy list who I’d always wanted to see. All of this within an amazing programme, which I love; walking into the Jesterval tent discovering someone brilliant.

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I love the Jesterval community vibe too – you see lots of regular festival goers and there is something so brilliant and uniting, over a beer or G&T, from absolutely laughing your socks off, eye liner crying down our faces, with a laughter stitch causing such pain that I’m a million percent sure I will have a six pack the next day – so much so, I’d go and have been many times, to nights on my own, laughing like a cracker on my own, feeling part of the Jesterval furniture. I also have friends who do the comedy rounds at The Stand and others and it’s great to see them get the opportunity to perform on my door step…… and of course, I’m sure it’s great for them, to have a proud friend wailing, jeering and cheering from the back…friends are the worst hecklers – especially after a gin or two.

But my biggest love for Jesterval, is the fact that it is unrivalled as a festival with such a brilliant programme; I can and do attend things with my really diverse friendship groups, people from work, Mama Horts, people who haven’t really been to comedy gigs before, comedy regulars and my friends with families of little tinkers. This is why I go so much….. so much to do and see – may as well camp on site.

Those eagle eyed of you will have noticed that Jesterval tickets have gone on sale and that this year, it is part of the bigger Q Festival event on Baltic Quays, 14th July – 6th August in a lush Spiegel tent.  Well, I thought it was the right time to catch up with Jesterval programmer Della and get this year’s low down….and find out, who I should be seeing……

Hi Della, Jesterval is back for 2017, I’m buzzin’ obviously as always…..for those who haven’t been before or unsure what Jesterval is, can you explain what it’s all about?

It is a festival of comedy with jesters and val….; hehe not really it’s an amalgamation of jester and festival. And it’s about to go off on the Gateshead quayside, over 45 comedy shows in one space.  Bringing together some of the best UK and International Comedy performers.

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Gosh……I was excited to meet this Val for a second…. That might be my 2017 Jesterval heckle “where’s bliddy Val, I came to see Val?!!!” So how did the idea for Jesterval start – why did you launch a comedy festival here in the North East?

There has been a comedy festival in the north east for a number of years we inherited it 7 years ago. Previously all the shows were hosted in different venues around Gateshead and Newcastle, we wanted to centralise it and make a single fun destination where people could hang out and enjoy a festival atmosphere. We run up here because I am a local lass and therefore save a fortune on travel and why would you want to go anywhere else!?

My favourite memory of Jesterval so far, was a Sara Pascoe show a few years back – on one side of the front row we had a step Dad desperately trying to bond with a teenage step son and a very middle class first meeting of future in laws on the other side…… I’m not sure if I laughed more at Sara’s show or the social awkwardness of these two groups refusing to laugh or look each other in the eye during each rudey joke….it was brilliant! Do you have any fond memories or favourite shows from years gone by?

Too many fond memories too many great shows always enjoy Ed Byrne who has been an ardent supporter of the festival, Luisa Omielan who never fails to smash it and also Lee Kyles’ various shows are always a riotous unpredictable laugh fest!

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Ed Byrne having a Jesterval bev in 2015

You’re announcing the programme bit by bit (sneaky!) – what and who can people expect this year for 2017?

They can literally expect something for everyone, we have the master of one liner’s Gary Delaney, Surrealist Paul Foot, too many comedy award winners to mention, but here are a few Sara Pascoe, Phil Nichol, Brendon Burns, Zoe Lyons, Glenn Wool, Mick Ferry and the list goes on…..

What are you most excited about for 2017?

We are always excited by the idea that people will come along and take a punt on an act that they have no knowledge of but trust our booking instincts; for example last year we hosted Scott Gibson with his show that then went to the Edinburgh festival and won the best newcomer award. He is back again on the 20th of July which like all nights has a stunning line up, with solo shows from Scott, Mike Gunn and Matt Reed.  We are also super pleased to welcome Tom Binns back fresh from filming his new BBC Comedy Series Hospital People.

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Jesterval is known for championing new comedians and comedians experimenting with new material before heading up to Edin – who or which show is your one to watch for this year?

Desiree Burch is relatively new to the UK circuit and most definitely one to watch out for. Because we select the shows for Jesterval we believe that every one of them is as good as the next, but just different.

Right onto the important stuff…..Jesterval is for all kinds of people and I usually go multiple times, can you suggest some shows this year for me…..

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  • For me and my best mate Kate – we like crime dramas, anything ridiculous, lots of gin and crisps, nothing too cheesy or preachy.

I would suggest salt and vinegar crisps as they are definitely not too cheesy. Go and see Lee Kyle and his show “The Best Comedy He Can Do Without Swearing” and Paul Foot’s ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Piglet’.

  • For me and my Mum – Mama Horts LOVES Sara Pascoe, humour taking the mick out of real life things, women stuff etc.

Well as you will know Sara Pascoe is back, so thats a no brainer and as I know your mum loves Hal Cruttenden as do I, then that is Mama Horts sorted.

  • For me, my friend Carla and her little boy Beck – he’s two, likes puddle stamping, bright colours, food (me too) and going up and down stairs?

The Gunge show or Yukfest sounds like it would be perfect for Beck and of course the big kid in you and Carla.

  • For me and my friend Laura with her family- all under ten and a grown up husband…..?

There are so many fantastic family shows and the best part is that they are fun for adults too, believe me, I have seen them.   The Kagools are hilarious and we have even added some circus comedy into the Jesterval family programme this year with “Arr We There Yet“ and “Arthurs Odyssey”. Families will be spoilt for choice.

  • For me and my friend Lucy – we want to check out the undiscovered, someone new?

Sophie Willan is back this year with her Edinburgh preview show ‘Wild’; Sophie is most definitely one to watch out for.  Johnny Pelham and George Zac are also ones for the undiscovered list.

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Right, so the all-important question now – where can I get my tickets for shows? Are they on sale now?

Tickets are on sale now and you can buy them from our website

Jesterval is part of a bigger festival this year, on Baltic Square Gateshead called Q Festival……..can you tell your loyal audience (like me) who go every single year, a little bit more about what to expect?

We are absolutely thrilled to be collaborating with Gateshead Council on Q Festival, the programme is so varied and is such an awesome addition to Jesterval Comedy.  Some of the events you can expect are a Gin festival brought to you by local guys Steampunk Gin, gerrin!, Immersive Cinema from the absolutely talented Screenage Kicks, craft sessions galore, an 80’s party (get your leg warmers ready), a baby rave with Chalk, yes that’s right a blooming rave for the bairns and much more.  I am so excited for this festival and can’t wait to see the people of the North east down on Baltic Square from July 14th to 6th August.

Thanks Della……

Well that sounds proper lush……..and I’m properly excited now and need to get tickets for everything immediately…..for those that love Jesterval as much as I do, get your tickets before shows start selling out and for everyone else, go go go and cherry pick some shows and embrace the Jesterval Comedy Fest vibe.

(All Pictures are used with permission from Jesterval and courtesy of picturesbybish, a fantastically talent photographer!)

 

Well hello there Digital Makings…nice to meet you!

Have you heard of Digital Makings yet? No….well you’re certainly going to. Digital is EVERYWHERE now; it is simply infusing and permeating into every possible area of Arts and Culture. There is no escape.

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For those, like myself, who feel a little bit uncomfortable as soon as someone says “digital”, Digital Makings is going to be a learning curve and hugely exciting and for those who embrace digital and we first adopters well, you’re going to love it!

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Digital Makings is a collaborative Arts Council funded project between Gateshead Council Culture Team and Gateshead Libraries. It’s an on-going year-long programme of participatory digital arts activities, full of opportunities for workshop attendees, school groups, library users/borrowers, community groups, artists and even the digital industry to experiment, explore and learn.

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Gateshead Central Library (above, with Storm Troopers…)

There is lots coming up for all ages and abilities – including talks, residencies and lots of events to enthuse about all things digital. There are two key strands running through the project; the first strand sets to expose and explore creative digital mediums so expect everything from animation, to film making, to stop motion, to Quinn Draw, to photography, to music, to image manipulation.

Examples of Quinn Draw by some Young People

The second strand focuses on engaging with participants, library users, communities, artists etc through quite traditional arts, library and cultural activity and focus on digital opportunities and how digital means can be brought in to enhance not only the activity but also trigger learning.

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That’s what I mean when I say Digital Makings makes me feel a bit uncomfortable; the activity involved is going to be different and exciting, not necessarily using artist mediums or equipment that I regularly use and I’m going to feel outside of my comfort zone – which of course, I love!

The Digital Makings project has just announced its two main residencies; we are delighted to have local artists Ben Freeth and Karen Underhill on board. We also have a mini residency by Sheryl Jenkins. With all three artists, a Digital Makings programme of activity is continuously evolving (I promise you, it’s mint!). Such activity will be taking place across Gateshead and Gateshead Libraries, so keep an eye out for that.

Similar to Sculpture 30, I will be writing a feature on each artist – but I’m going to let them get a little settled into their new Digital Makings roles before interrogating them. However, I can reveal that their work and engagement will culminate in a final exhibition towards the end of the project. And after reading their proposals and plans, I’m really looking forward to it. We’re in for a treat!

For this current season, we’ve been working with digital artists and We EngAGE to run workshops, we had a Digital Arts Zone at eDay5 and we’ve got Shipley Lates: Digital Makings coming up on 26th November.

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If you fancy a night out with a difference, then Shipley Lates is for you – there will be a bar, digital arts, crafting in the beautiful surroundings of The Shipley, lovely company (Gateshead Culture Team will be there and we are a cracking bunch) and, did I mention there is a bar? So why not come join us with a troop, have a G&T and get all digital. That’s my plan for the evening anyway!

So, as I mentioned Digital Makings is a collaboration between Gateshead Culture Team and Gateshead Libraries. We’ve been working closely with Jacqui Thompson, who is the Community Learning Officer for the Libraries and creates and develops a wide range of ICT courses, code club and has an enviable digital network. If you want to get in touch with someone in the Digital sector, Jacqui is the one in the know!

I caught up with Jacqui to find out about her involvement in Digital Makings and beyond!

Hi Jacqui, can you tell me a bit about your role at Gateshead Libraries and within the Digital community across the North East?

I am most proud of being the originator of eDay; this year was our 5th event! eDay is a celebration of exciting new media and digital technology. Local makers and companies come together for the event to encourage members of the public to fully engage with changes in tech and art.

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Developing eDay from the idea stage to reality has allowed me to form a wide range of successful working relationships with local and regional businesses as well as third sector organisations. Further extending this aspect of my work I champion Coder DojoNE here in Gateshead Libraries and this has given me the opportunity to work and connect with the fantastic expert volunteers who give up their time to support young coders and makers.

Can you tell me a bit about your involvement with Digital Makings?

I was involved in part of the bid writing suggesting possible partnerships and events. Once I found out the Arts Council bid had been successful, I was then able to add new activity and workshops to the likes of eDay and Coder Dojo as well as launching a new weekly code club.

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In addition, I’ve also had input to the programming of activity, whilst supporting upcoming events such as Shipley Lates: Digital Makings and Culture Camps.

Who is the Digital Makings project and activity for?

Looking at the fantastic programme that has been pulled together so far, there really is something for all ages and abilities to get involved with. It is for people who have not really engaged with Digital before, to people who are already really engaged and proficient. Moreover, there is a family aspect, so more and more, we see children with higher tech capabilities than their parents – so creative activities within Digital Makings, will enable families to collaborate, create and learn together.

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We are really lucky to have the project and programme of activity in the region and at the same times as SnowDogs!

Why has “Digital” become increasingly important?

Well there’s no getting away from the growth of digital in our everyday life and so digital has been added to the creative and cultural mix as a way to further engage people and to help them get hands on with new tech and understand its wide range of uses as well as to make better use out of the devices they already may own.

One of the highlights of Digital Makings so far has been eDay5…can you tell me a little bit about the day?

WOW eDay5 was a great day! 350 people plus attended and got hands on with tech and digital – everything from VR, to Makerspace, to Minecraft, to 3D printing.  From participants comments on social media and our evaluation forms, a great time was had by everyone and fingers crossed for eDay6.

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We also had a Digital Arts stand this year; we had digital artist John Quinn running animation sessions and green screen movie sessions alongside Hannah from the Shipley Art Gallery introducing Quinn Art using iPads. Both of these activities proved to be highlights of the day as did the Amateur radio group.

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Well thank you Jacqui! With Digital Makings now firmly underway and set to continue until September 2017, I hope I’ve wet your appetite for it. Over the coming months, you’ll get to know the Digital Makings artists in residence and I will be shortly sharing some of activity programmed.

Current book-able Digital Makings activity can be found HERE!

Sculpture Day 2016: Game ON!

It is very nearly Sculpture Day…..it is THIS Sunday, starting at 11am in Saltwell Park, Gateshead.

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So how are going to approach this year’s theme Games? Even if you’ve been before but especially if you haven’t, I want to make sure that you get the most out of the day and build something fantastic!

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I love this year’s theme Games; it is so open to interpretation! But I’m going to give you some ideas to get you started thinking – You could build;

  • Something from the Olympic games
  • A level from a retro game – eg: Sonic.
  • Your favourite Pokemon character.
  • Take an idea from a Computer game; e.g. Mario Cart, Grand Theft Auto or the Simms.
  • Something board game inspired e.g. Monopoly, Scrabble, Connect four, Hungry Hippos, Guess who or a 90s favourite of mine; Dream Phone!
  • App games – Candy Crush, Subway Surfer…
  • Card games – poker inspired or exploding kittens.
  • School games – e.g. something Sports day related, What’s the time Mr Wolf, Red Rover or Tag.
  • A 3D reimagining of your current favourite Virtual Reality game.
  • Fair games – e.g. Hook a Duck.
  • Other games such as bowling, bowls, Pool, Snooker…..

I could go on, the list is simply endless and I can’t wait to see what you guys get building this year!

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I thought I’d ask the experts for a bit of advice that may help you get building….. I spoke to Karen Rann- A Sculpture Day sculptor, Anna Pepperall – Gateshead Public Art Curator, Adam Taylor –Sculpture Day addict and event’s manager and Jen Douglas – Gateshead based artist and sculptor. I gathered their hints, tips and insights to give you a helping hand to get started…..

What are your top tips for Sculpture day 2016?

Adam: Make it a family/group activity, everyone chipping in ideas, agreeing on a plan, choosing wood, and then building.

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Anna: Wear Warm clothes, and thick shoes/boots; bring lots of food, and your own hammers!

Jen: Either ‘ go with the flow’ and wait till you arrive to think about the Sculpture Day theme or, have a think about the theme beforehand, brainstorm ideas that you can bring along to work on with your family or group of friends you come with so you have starting points for what to make.

Right – so we’ve got lots of wood, they’ve got their tools – what is the best way to get started?

Adam: It’s always good to have a good plan, and think about how the various bits of wood are going to be nailed together.

Anna: Talk to Staff on the Info desk, look at a storyboard for inspirational ideas , ask an artist, or join a group already working on something.

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Karen: Think about framework, creating a good ‘bone structure’ it’s fun to save adding all the little details till the end.

Jen: If you get stuck for ideas there are Sculptors on hand to give you inspiration and get you started. Think through which of these ideas will work in 3D using wood and nails…. Some things might work better than others.

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Is it best to plan your sculpture before you start or just “go with the flow”?

Anna:  Either- some people prefer to come with an idea but often it’s good to look around and get inspiration, or from the Artists/Storyboard.

Jen: It’s sometimes useful to think about making the sculpture from the base up – work as a team/family to decided who works on which section of the sculpture so everyone has a job! With lots of different types of wood different lengths/thicknesses etc. might suit different sections to your sculpture so a plan may be useful.

Karen: Depends how you like to work it could be you spot an enticing bit of timber at that gets the imagination going, don’t forget to look at the school’s work for inspiration.

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For the Sculpture Day veterans or newbies out there, who attend year on year what would your advice be on approaching this year’s theme “Games”?

Adam: Plan something original!

Jen:  When you’ve decided what you want to make gather together some pieces of wood and lay them out on the floor so that you can start to ‘map out’ your sculpture and see how each piece might join together to form your 3D masterpiece. You can always tweak and add more pieces of wood to make the work more elaborate.

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It’s as much fun to just tinker away with the wood and create something quite unique and un-related to the theme – that is fine too Sculpture Day is a fantastic experience to have and everyone who comes along has fun!

Karen:  Don’t always go with the first idea, it may be a tricky one to transform into 3d, there’s so many types of games and a little time spent playing with ideas might lead to something really novel and fun to make.

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Well it’s over to you Culture Vultures; I’ll see you in the Grove, in Saltwell Park on Sunday from 11am.

Game on!

Jane Gower – Sculpture 30 Artist of the Month August

Well Summer is drawing to the end…..and it seems fitting that we spent most of August’s Sculpture 30 activity outside with the sculptor version of Ray Mears.

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As an artist, a business person, a career person, a stay at home saint or any other type of busy bee, do you take the opportunity to get outside and appreciate the outdoors. Now I mean, REALLY appreciate – look around you, taking in the smells, the shapes of natural objects, the light…….

If you look closely enough, beauty and sculpture can be found and created in almost anything. Taking time out to do this is not only imperative for your mindfulness and inner wellbeing, it is also crucial part of the creative process; allowing yourself to think, reflect, reimagine and to get lost in the world around you, that you may see every day, but not take in.

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That’s what we focused on during August with our Sculpture 30 Artist of the Month Jane Gower. We got outside with different groups; adults, children, artists and creatives a like and we got using the natural world and materials around us to make beautiful sculptural pieces that both created meaning in the present and complemented the landscape.

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I spent an afternoon with Jane during a family Land Art workshop in Thornley Woods…..it was a fantastic afternoon spent making our names from natural resources around us and picking special objects during our trail.

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Whilst on our object hunt, we often stopped to talk about why we’d picked certain objects, why they visually seemed special to us and the beautiful colours, shapes and textures. It was fascinating to share perceptions and discover emotional attachments to inanimate objects.

Jane had also scattered on our route, several pieces of her land art that she had created making the afternoon feel like a mini sculpture trail of natural discovery.

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We used our materials to recreate the Gruffalo’s foot-steps – a series of footsteps with natural materials, to reimagine what he might like to eat and we ended our session making him a den.

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I had a fantastic afternoon – I found it grounding in the sense it reminded me of the creative possibilities that exist all around us every day and how these possibilities are constantly changing and evolving with nature. Moreover, this type of sculpture making is very accessible to everyone and something individuals, teams, groups and families can do as a collective.

After the session, I caught up with Jane Gower, our artist of the Month for August, to probe a little deeper into her practice, to find out what it is about the outdoors she loves so much and what exactly, ephemeral art is……?

Hi Jane, Tell me a little about yourself?

I love walking, especially with friends and family and ravelling around and camping in my converted transit van; also getting totally lost in creating a piece of work when I forget time, to eat and other people. I also love collaborating with other artists on projects.

Meeting new people is endlessly fascinating especially if I’m researching for a commission and find out about a whole different way of life.

I did a degree in Textiles and an M.A in Fine Art. My jobs from a previous life include; Stage-Management in London West End Theatres, running my own knitted textile business, clothing designer/production manager for a Fair Trade company, Art Foundation Course Lecturer and Community artist.

I have two children who have flown the nest.

Tell me about your practice?

I have been described as an eccentric art-scientist, experimenting with different materials: melting, shredding and generally deconstructing, then re-constructing the remains into some other form. This approach employed man-made materials. I’ve transferred this questioning recently, into testing the physical qualities of natural elements out in a rural environment. In doing so I’ve dropped the need for tools and equipment, finding the necessaries in a ‘make-do-Ray-Mears’ approach and adapting whatever’s lying around or re-thinking the process. This is very liberating. It involves trusting a spontaneous response to the natural environment and going with it.

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I also describe my practice as socially-engaged; involving participants in the creative process, using a range of media and techniques that is relevant for both the participants and to the installation site. The constant thread that runs through all my work is the intricacies of communication in the cultural realm: the disparity that lies between intention and interpretation.

Social engagement has decreased in recent times as I’ve been exploring this new direction in my practice.

Past commissions and residencies include; The Great North Run, The Sage Gateshead, Newcastle Riverside Sculpture Trail, The Tall Ships Race, Pallion, Cleadon and Gateshead PCT NHS Health Centres, among others.

Where can people go to see more of your work?

In terms of the Land Art work nothing can be seen in actuality as it’s so temporary but I’m on Instagram as jane_gower. I try and make one Land art piece a day, photograph it and upload onto the app every day.

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There are two large-scale, permanent, sculptural installations in the Trinity Square Health Centre at West Street, Gateshead. One is inside the surgery and one outside in the car park. Both were participatory pieces based around the question: ‘What makes you better?’. They are both permanent. Fabricated from printed and engraved clear or mirror acrylic they are different from resources I am currently using.

Voice recordings are often incorporated into my sculptural installations as I like to make evident the work process in the final piece and they bring animation.

I’ve just completed a sound piece: ‘Coastal Viewpoints’ in collaboration with Nicola Balfour for Durham Heritage Coast. We’ve been audio recording people out and about on the coastal path between Seaham and Horden. Their responses to the question: ‘What’s your view of this coastline?’ are being edited into QR points on the information boards along the path. People can hear some of the recordings on the FB page; ‘Coastal Viewpoints’.

What are your ties to the North East?

There are several factors:

I ran away from a London-life 28 years ago, for a job as clothing designer/production manager for the fair-trade company Traidcraft in Gateshead, and never went back.

I live on the border of three very different county boundaries; Northumberland, Durham and Gateshead. The diversity in terms of landscape, communities and culture is so varied and engaging, that it constantly inspires me.

I feel the North East has been one of the few areas in England that has valued artists’ contribution to its regeneration. Even though there has been a noticeable dearth of available arts funding recently, it still feels there’s potential to make a living as a free-lance artist here.

The North East has been good to me. Both my children were born here, so the area feels like part of our DNA.

For those who don’t know, what is “Ephemeral Land Art”?

Land Art refers to an art movement that began in the 60’s in which landscape and art is inextricably linked. It’s about experiencing natural spaces and responding to them using indigenous materials to create art and placing it in the natural environment. The ‘Ephemeral’ derives from a Greek word meaning lasting only one day. This encapsulates the temporary period that the artworks are expected to exist. Due to the raw materials being used and the spaces they are created in, out in the natural environment, they will start to deteriorate immediately. Open to the elements, to animal and human activity, the artworks only exists at the moment of creation. Documenting that moment through photography is the only way to keep the piece alive and give it longevity.

Why is getting outside important for creatives?

Getting outside whatever the weather for anyone, regardless of whether they are an artist or not, is very grounding. Even in an urban environment, I think to feel the elements and to be in natural light helps get things into perspective. Being outdoors invigorates and you are dealing immediately with the here-and-now basics of life.

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Having to find a way of working with the idiosyncrasies of a variety of natural forms, out in an uncontrollable environment, has its own particular challenges and rewards for creative people.

Can you tell me a little bit about your involvement with the Gateshead homeschoolers?

I was asked to work with a homeschooling group and their carers based in Gateshead. We spent 2 ½ days in Thornley Woods exploring the landscape, looking at all the resources available and using different techniques to make land art, prints and photographs. Sometimes everyone worked individually and sometimes as a team. We did lots of playing and walking, and discussing the natural environment   and our response to it. They were for me some very uplifting and informative days with an enthusiastic group of learners.

What is your favourite piece of Sculpture in the North East/the world?

One that always resonates with me is Cornelia Parkers’   Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) A garden shed she had blown up by the British Army and suspended the fragments as if suspending the explosion process in time.

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Well thank you Jane, another fantastic Sculpture 30 artist of the Month.

As we draw ever closer to the end of Sculpture 30 Festival, I have to say I now view Sculpture in a whole new way. It is very accessible and incredibly diverse in art form, materials used, nature, inspiration…..I am also surprised to discover through-out the year, how “sculpture” is not really the isolated art form, I thought it was. It in fact infuses, permeates and influences Art and creative practices in a huge way….

Taking from Jane and I think we all can Culture Vultures; get outside more and really look at the natural world around you for it is full of undiscovered creative possibilities!

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Great North Snowdogs…..5 weeks to go!

It’s not long until The Great North Snow Dogs launches across the North East (19th September – so just over a month away!) and lots of Big and Small Snowdogs pop up across the region in cultural venues, landmarks and local hidden gems.

Each Big Snowdog has been design by a professional artist; the North East and of course, Gateshead on the Gateshead Trail are set to come alive with colour from the fantastic designs!

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Last week we caught up with Corinne Lewis-Ward; a brilliant Gateshead based artist and the business brains behind Powder Butterfly.

Corinne has been a long-time champion of Arts in Gateshead (and of course – Arts regionally, Nationally and Internationally). She has also been selected as an artist as part of The Great North Snow Dogs project working on two Big Snow Dogs.

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We wanted to catch up with her and find out more about her work, her practice and of course, more about Snowdogs!

Hi Corinne, can you tell me a bit about your practice?

Just like many creatives, I work in a variety of ways! I have my own creative practice as an artist but I also have my own design company which is called Powder Butterfly.

With my design company I am interested in representing well-loved landmarks from different locations in the UK. I currently have a Newcastle/Gateshead collection, a York collection and a London collection.

One Snow Dog design was inspired by my Newcastle/Gateshead collection. I have lived in the North east for 18 years and all of the landmarks hold a special place in my heart.

How did you hear about The Great North Snowdogs project?

I heard about The Great North Snowdogs at the North Design Centre in Gateshead. It was a really exciting event where we got to meet people from Wild In Art, St Oswalds and some of the sponsors and other creatives. There was a buzz about The Great North Snowdog project and I could tell that it would be wonderful to play a small part in it.

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Why did you decide/want to get involved?

I wanted to get involved because St Oswalds is an amazing organisation that carries out wonderful work throughout the North East, and being part of the raising money and awareness for their cause and activity was something that I really wanted to be part of.

I also love The Snowman and the Snow Dog animation, I enjoyed watching it with my kids and I could see how much fun this project was going to be with The Snowdog as the sculpture.

This project also took me out of my comfort zone to a certain degree as painting is not something that I do every day. Increasingly I work with digital media, but I was really keen to have the chance to use my art school experience to create something completely unique.

What was the process behind submitting your designs for your Dog and getting the green light?

The process was pretty simple really; I had to come up with a design in a two dimensional format and submit it as part of my application. I knew that I wanted to use the basis of my design from my Newcastle/Gateshead collection so I had a fair idea of how the artwork should look.

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I had to wait a few weeks before finding out if I had been successful. I knew that there would be selection process where sponsors would get to see the designs and then choose their favourite.

How did you feel when you found out, you’d been selected not once, but TWICE!?

I was really thrilled to find out that my Newcastle/Gateshead design had been selected from my original application. When I was working on it I was asked to carry out a VIP Snowdog commission which was amazing. Having two Snow Dogs on the sculpture trail is really wonderful and it is such an honour to be selected to carry out a VIP commission.

What were the inspirations behind your Snowdog designs? (only say as much as you can!)

Newcastle/Gateshead landmarks were the inspiration for my first design. All I can say about the VIP commission is that the design is based upon a well-loved British children’s author and illustrator.

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As you can imagine we all want to keep the sculpture trail a surprise for people so I wouldn’t want to reveal any spoilers.

Can you reveal any secrets regarding your Dogs, locations, names, sponsors?

The name of the Newcastle/Gateshead design is Tyne Tail Jack you can follow him on twitter @TyneTailJack . The lovely Sponsors are called The North Group and they have been operating in the North East for 150 years. The location of the dog will be on the Newcastle side of the Quayside.

As far as my VIP commission is concerned I am not able to reveal much at all about this lovely pup. But as soon as I do I will let you know what I can.

How does it feel as a Gateshead based Artist, to be featured within such a high profile North East campaign?

I am so proud to be part of this project. Although I am originally from London, I have lived in the North East for 18 years and I love it up here.

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I am so passionate about Gateshead and the amazing creative community that we have here. To be part of such a high profile campaign is wonderful and I am really excited to see how the local community and visitors to the region respond to the amazing work that artists from the local area and all over the country have created.

Each dog has its own very unique character and there are so many brilliant designs that have also been created by local schools and community groups as well.

Have you seen any other Snowdogs yet?

Yes I have seen some fabulous Snowdogs. I have been working in the studio in Newcastle that is provided for artists to work on the dogs and I am so excited that I have been lucky enough to meet some amazingly talented artists in the process.

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The studio is also the place where all completed dogs come to before the sculpture trail. So all of the school and community art dogs and the sculpture trail dogs end up there, so I am looking forward to seeing many more over the coming weeks.

Why are projects like this so important to the North East cultural agenda?

Events like this raise awareness of what is going on up here creatively and raise awareness of the great work St Oswalds does for people in the region.

It will also bring people from outside of the region to the area which will help introduce new audiences to the North East and help stimulate the local economy. With my design I have tried to help foster links between industry, the corporate world and the arts. I think the project model that Wild In Art have created really demonstrates how seemingly disparate bodies can work together to achieve great things creatively.

Do you intend to complete the wider Great North Snowdogs Public Art Trail and (of course!) the Gateshead Trail?

I can’t wait to attend the sculpture trail with my friends and family. It is going to be amazing to see how many pictures of the Snowdogs we can collect before they go to auction at the end of the year. It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to document the event and see how many we can take pictures of. I am also excited to see where they all end up being located.

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After Gateshead Sculpture 30 Festival, Playground at Baltic and now Snowdogs, there seems to have been a bit of a shift towards more accessible, interactive sculpture and outdoor Art! We really love this as it gets people outdoors, exploring alongside engaging with Art and Sculpture! What do you think about this?

Any kind of project or campaign that makes art more accessible to a wider audience is something that I love to be part of. With my creative practice as an artist, I attempt to bring art and science together which could be seen as two entirely unrelated subjects. But I have found that audiences are really interested and engaged in this sort of work especially if you make the work engaging and accessible.

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The Great North Snow Dogs project is one of those special events that will get people exploring, engaging and sharing their experience through social media. I think I have also heard rumours of an app being created for the event so I am keen to see what that will be like. It’s going to be a wonderful and exciting event and I am so thrilled to be a small part of it.

How brilliant and thank you Corinne! So Culture Vultures – as of the 19th September, you have ten weeks, so find, discover and snap a selfie (or a snowfie, as we are calling them) with the Snowdogs across the region and of course Gateshead.

In the meantime; Tweet a “hello” to Corinne’s Snowdog @TyneTailJack, visit Snowdogs webpage to keep yourself up to date on all things Snowdog related including any app information. You can also catch them on @GreatNorthSnowdogs on Facebook and @great_snowdogs on Twitter.

We can’t waitttttt for Snowdogs!

Gilbert Ward July Sculpture 30 Artist of the Month.

Another Month over and another Sculpture 30 Artist of the Month; for July we have been lucky enough to have Gilbert Ward as our artist in residence in Saltwell Park!

Gilbert in action

Gilbert is a local favourite sculptor with strong ties to Gateshead Riverside, Cheeseburn, Northumberland and he has recently completed a residency in Alnwick Gardens. Those of you, who keenly attend Anna Pepperall’s Public Art Walks may have even met Gilbert during an interpreted Riverside Walk, as he talked through his inspirations and practice when creating Foliate Forms’.

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Foliate Forms’ by Gilbert Ward (2010), Gateshead Riverside Park

Every Tuesday in July, 10am-3pm Gilbert pitched up next to the Rose Garden, in Saltwell Park and offered passers by the opportunity to see and experience Sculpture in Action. As it is in the midst of the Summer holidays, Gilbert was not in shortage of people in the Park eager and curious, to find out what he was doing!

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Through-out his time in Saltwell Park, Gilbert was working on a new piece called “The Kiss” made out of Doddington Stone; the piece really blossomed and developed across the month with many Park goers returning to see how the work was progressing.

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Some Park goers simply relaxed and took in his practice interested in the process, the form and the image but many, including myself, wanted to get more hands on and actually have a bit of a go whilst visiting the Park, a place many visitors describe as “the lungs of Gateshead”.

Speaking about sculpture Gilbert commented “I am a sculptor and a sculptor’s work is his statement. Sculpture cannot lie; it is an idea, material, form and structure, brought together in an object, which occupies a particular space with its presence.”

Gilbert was born proudly in 1935, in Yorkshire and like any typical Yorkshire man; he’s a big fan of his Yorkshire brew! He lives, works and of course sculpts in amongst the beautiful landscape of Northumberland.

Gilbert Ward has been commissioned to develop many sculptures across the North East of England. Gilberts work in stone and wood stems from a fascination with formal geometry and structures found within nature. Often carving on site or with communities Gilbert works to develop a sculptural response to a landscape.

One such piece is positioned in Saltwell Park – Foliate Carving. It’s a beautiful peace and there is something about it, something natural and connected the growing wonderland around it that feels so right and as if it truly belongs.

Foliate Carving – Gilbert Ward (2006)

“When I am working for a fixed site, I try to make the piece (usually in stone) fit the place, and fitting into its landscape. One hopes that those who pause upon finding the sculpture will come to an understanding of its meaning, and of it becoming a living part of their landscape.”

Gilbert has many more pieces across the North East and viewing them is a perfect opportunity to get outdoors and exploring this Summer. Another beautiful piece is situated up at Bowes and Tanfield Railway Paths……

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Standing Stone by Gilbert Ward.

Gilbert also has installed 2 collections of small sculptural works at Cheeseburn which he has been developing over the last 10 years: ‘Bakers Dozen’ (hornbeam) and ‘The Fall’ (ash).

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Cheeseburn – Gilbert Ward

Sited in the old potting shed at Cheeseburn these works explore the potential of natural forms for growth and evolution.

“I live in the hope that others will get the same amount of pleasure seeing the work, as I did in preparing and making it.”

Well with another month over in our Sculpture 30 celebrations, that means two things…… 1. We are nearing closer to the end of the year-long festival! Boo! But 2. We’re one month closer to the next Gateshead Family Sculpture Day, which this year is on 25th September, as always in Saltwell Park, in the Grove. We can’t wait!

Yeyyyy…….with less than two months to go, Gateshead’s 31st Sculpture day count down is officially on!

Colin Rose – Sculpture 30 Artist of the Month: June

 Colin Rose has been one of my favourite Sculpture 30 artists so far; he’s very down to earth and a hands on creative, which to me makes the often intangible creative process into something quite real and tangible. He also tells fantastic stories that go along with his Art and the positioning of each piece, which I could happily listen to all day.

Those of you, who pop into the Gallery at Gateshead Central library, may have caught his recent exhibition; charcoal earth paper.

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This body of work was inspired by his use of earth, charcoal and time in Australia. The pieces forced on every objects of little beautiful, that he has captured within rich drawings, making them so intrinsically beautiful and interesting to look at.

I spoke to several people who viewed his exhibition and the general thematic questions arose “who is Colin Rose?” and “where can I see more of his work?”. Such questions are surely a good sign……so this blog post is about just that; I’m going to tell you who he is and the local pieces you can go and view!

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Colin Rose is born and bred in the North East; like myself is a Northumbria University Graduate and is passionate not only about the “doing” side of Art but also the teaching side having held a variety of positions at local Universities. His work transcends different artistic mediums and materials; from rope work, to metal, to drawing, to toy trucks, to engineering feats of sculpture…..

I joined him on his recent Sculpture Tour on Saturday 18th June to view and find out more about his Public sculpture works in the region….

Our first stop was Window; local Gateshead folk will recognise the piece from the Bensham area on Rawling Road.

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Window (1986)

Window was commissioned as part of a regeneration project in the area and interestingly, irrespective of its size and dominance, very much blends into the urban architecture of the area. To me, at least someone born in 1985, it has always been there and I can’t imagine the space beforehand.

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Colin talked through the process of erecting such a piece; his love for Sculpture doesn’t just focus on the planning and making part, but also the “how on earth are we going to move this piece and get it into position???”. Apparently such problem solving trials have involved driving several cars into the ground……

Window is very much inspired by sound and form and for me, even just knowing the name “window” automatically shaped my view of what it represented; a window into Bensham and Gateshead. Colin purported his preference of hearing other people’s take on the sculpture and what “thing” they think it is before expressing his inspiration.

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And of course, he is quite right….. we all put individual meaning onto things, that can be radically changed once the artist states what it is. That’s another reason I like Colin, his love of listening to others and his “realness” about his art. I tend to find people try to see meaning in Art, sometimes beyond meaning that is actually there and full of metaphor….. sometimes a box can in fact just be a box and still be as brilliant.

The next piece we viewed was Swirl, which is on the Gateshead Quays, just behind Baltic. Swirl is another beautiful metal piece of sculpture that just perfectly “fits” with the surroundings. So much so, I assumed that Colin must have known about the wider developments of the area when he was commissioned to do it, but in fact he was unaware and responding to the surroundings pre-2010. It has a very strong sense of belonging.

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Swirl (2010)

What I love about Swirl, is that it is a piece that has become a part of people’s daily lives; my office was close by at the Northern Design Centre (there are lots of offices in Baltic Square) and people like myself often take time out of the office environment to each lunch there or even host a meeting by Swirl. Skaters skate around it and on it, students from Gateshead College sometimes sit doing their work next to it, it has become a prime wedding picture location for those having their party at the Baltic and it is a visitor hot spot on the Gateshead Quays. Swirl is the definition of accessible sculpture….

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In addition, I love that Swirl has been named by so many people; becoming a representation of what they visually see it as; the vortex, water down a plug hole, leaning tower, metal thing, stairs, like a slinky, stack of silver coins (my name!)…..maybe you have your own name for it too.

Interestingly it’s made using the same method as the statue of liberty with a central copper core that keeps it upright and balanced. The engineering feat of this piece is not a mistake, as Colin a sculptor who describes himself as “going against the grain”, decided against pursuing a career as an engineer and swapped into Fine Art, something that was quite controversial at the time. However, his experience as an engineer is very dominant in pieces such as Swirl, as his design is enabled through industrial, hands on experience.

The third piece we visited was Rolling Moon, in Riverside Park on Gateshead Quays; this sculpture is another feat of structural engineering. It was commissioned for Glasgow Garden Festival before finding its home in Gateshead.

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Rolling Moon (1989)

The piece represents the tide pulling back and forth the moon; when you look up at the piece it is difficult to understand how on earth the “moon” stays on us there.

Moreover, I think the piece has especially symbolic significance to the area; not only does it show the regeneration of the Riverside area which was in decline for some time but also the period pre-Angel, where Gateshead was beginning to position itself culturally and making great steps towards the vibrant Gateshead we know today.

The final piece on our tour was Wriggle in Saltwell Park. I live along the top of the Park and walk through it most days to get to and from work and I can honestly say, I’ve never noticed this piece; a true hidden gem.

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Wriggle (2006)

It sits down towards the stream area on the rocky area of once of the waterfalls and is inspired by the river and sound waves. It sits perfectly within its natural surroundings and the fact, it rusts a bright reddish colour, creates a colourful contrast on the green foliage.

If like me, your appetite to see more Colin Rose pieces remains, you can visit Cheeseburn during one of their open weekends as he has three pieces sited across the grounds.

So back to the present….I will be lurking (a favourite hobby of mine) with Sculpture 30 Artist of the Month: July, Gilbert Ward this coming Tuesday….come and say hiyerrr! Hopefully the sun will shine!

Over and out…

Gilbert in action