Spring has finally reached us and with it comes all the natural changes. I went to watch the first match in the local cricket season on Saturday, sun shining and so many people to catch up with after a long hibernation. Good news arrived from the Enterprise and Research department as well. I had put forward an application for a small amount of money to coordinate and promote an arts event in Barnsley, and it has been accepted, the money is on its way.
Last year I started to consider how to promote a new creative festival in my town. There is an annual All Barnsley Diversity Festival that takes place during Autumn, but I wanted to catch the final pieces of work from students before their transitions to new courses or careers, put these alongside work of established artists and celebrate all these achievements in the warmth and sunshine of a typical Barnsley summer. To start from scratch with this project, pulling all the strands together, would be a full-time job but various groups of creative artists are already organised and collaborating and with a little more co-ordination, a series of individual exhibitions can become a festival.
The Barnsley Music Hub is up and running and the next part of the creative jigsaw is to provide the Arts with a similar forum to be able to promote many exhibitions and events. There are already some great practical ideas and networks happening in the town; Arts in Action, Made Barnsley, the galleries at The Cooper and CIVIC host inspiring exhibitions but many activities for aspiring artists as well. Experience Barnsley, the museum and discovery centre in the heart of the town, will be opening in June. My idea is to coordinate the many individual events into a celebration of work with the Barnsley Art Walk during this Summer.
The idea for the walk came to me during a touring holiday in northern France. All the galleries in one of the small towns we passed through had got together and promoted three evenings of openings (with champagne and petits fours of course) to achieve more exposure for their artists but also to make a mini festival. The galleries were all situated quite close together which made access and promenading on a warm evening even more of an attraction to visitors.
Barnsley could work in a similar way because the centre of the town is compact, all the galleries and studios where the end of year shows, open exhibitions and arts projects showcase work are close together. Barnsley, as a location for an art walk, is ideal. Accessibility from public transport at the recently built transport interchange as well as the proximity of the M1 make getting to the town straight forward. The difficulty with the Borough of Barnsley is how to include all the artistic communities from the more rural parts in a celebratory festival.
The practical problem of reaching all communities needed a little more thought and I included the provision for an Art Bus in the funding bid, a service that will collect people from various areas in the Borough and allow them to travel to where the events are taking place (and of course take them back again).
The money is there to promote the first event, how this establishes itself as part of the cultural calendar is an important part of the legacy of the bid. If participation brings benefits then I hope many of the artists and arts groups will coordinate rather than compete in the future. It is difficult for individuals to break through in any of the creative arts but a collective approach may reap rewards for many and this is my ambition for the project.
More details of the funding scheme I applied for can be found at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/whatwedo/kes/society/entrepreneur/ and if you are considering or have started a social enterprise, please visit the UnLtd site http://unltd.org.uk for help, advice and possible financial assistance.