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B LANCHE PEASE A Practitioner-Led Arts Offer

from Chronotopia by Simon Norfolk at DMG Gallery 2006

Darlington Media Group supported by Darlington for Culture June 2011

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B LANCHE PEASE A Practitioner-Led Arts Offer A Contribution to the Darlington Arts Enquiry Process June 2011

Summary ‣Darlington Media Group (DMG), with the support of Darlington for Culture (DfC), is exploring options for a practitioner-led, self-managed element of Darlington’s arts offer ‣the proposed model is based on the traditions of such structures - high sweat equity, low running costs, a peppercorn rent in exchange for a programme of work ‣to update this model, we propose to renovate to high ecological standards to further reduce running costs ‣for the model to work, it requires three key elements: i.

local authority support (peppercorn rent, reasonable length of lease),

ii.

successful capital financing, and

iii.

wider support amongst the arts and wider community.

We are therefore seeking a practitioner-led element to the final submission of the Arts Enquiry Group.

Practitioner-Led: Structure, Finance, Delivery DMG has operated out of Blanche Pease for nearly 30 years. It was constituted as an Unincorporated Association in 1983, and is currently converting to a not-for-profit multi-stakeholder cooperative. Its principles remain the same. An executive committee is elected annually by some 60 members to run the organisation. Membership consists of local media artists, local users of DMG’s facilities, and representatives of local organisations who also make use of the workshop. Wider public accountability is afforded through the grants process. Project grants require staged reports, whilst our annual voluntary sector grant requires quarterly reporting and financials, and in the recent past a Service Level Agreement was developed that embraced much of our arts offer. Coordination of our work and technical support for users is carried out by two freelance artists on specific time-limited programmes. They staff the workshop from Tuesday to Friday, and are supplemented by volunteers who staff the workshop on Saturdays.

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The £36,000 programme is funded by a mix of volunteer labour, project funding, earnings, subsidy from commercial work, and a community grant from the local authority which currently stands at just over £15,000. Historically, it has paid a peppercorn rent to the local authority for the use of the premises, heating, water and lighting. This currently stands at around £45 per month. In exchange for this level of subsidy, the town receives the following programme: •

5 days a week of open access to a wide range of practitioner-supported arts activities, resulting in 26,848 annual visits 1

an education programme of workshops and courses in the visual and media arts

an ongoing programme of international and local photography exhibitions

a film production unit that enables community participation whilst working to broadcast standards2.

support for local media artists in their production

from Cummins by Richard Grassick at DMG Gallery 2006

The nature of DMG’s engagement, and its relatively low cost, has yet to be fully analysed. But it is worth considering one recent example, Beauty and the Bike. Produced in 2008 and 2009 over a period of 15 months in Darlington and in the German city of Bremen, it resulted in direct participation in both the issues involved and the creative processes by over 40 people3. The film, book and exhibition have been shown around the world to audiences in excess of 100,000. Youtube alone has recorded over 80,000 viewings, and organisations continue to re-

1 based on figures for Jan to March 2011 of 6,712 recorded visits 2

See Appendix 1 for a DMG filmography

3 See Appendix 2 for a full list of credits

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quest permission to organise public screenings, from Perth, Australia to Vancouver, Canada. An ecological project, Beauty and the Bike also involved the setting up of a bike hire facility which continues to function today from Blanche Pease. The total cost of producing the 55 minute broadcast-standard documentary, a 72 page photographic book designed and printed to extremely high standards, a 32 image exhibition, and an ongoing bike pool was £54,000. This was funded by a range of grants and awards (£35,000), some local, some regional, some national and some international, DMG’s own earnings and member contributions (£2,000), DMG members working voluntarily (£10,000), partnership working (£1,000) and DVD/book sales (£7,000). Anyone aware of documentary production costs will realise that such a budget is a reasonable figure for a 55 minute film alone. The fact that the process drew together so many local people, including local practitioners (a local composer who works from the Arts Centre composed the original score, and seven musicians worked with him on the recordings), shows how a creative process can work when rooted in the local arts scene. It is the sense of “ownership” engendered by its practitioner and user led structure that delivers significant contributions in volunteer time by skilled artists and technicians. The exhibition programme is another good example, run on an annual budget of a few hundred pounds, but involving an estimated £7,6804 worth of creative and technical contributed labour, from curation to printing to mount-cutting to framing and hanging. The exhibition programme has varied according to budget. Successful project financing in 2008 and 2009, for example, delivered high-prestige exhibitions that attracted significant media attention and high footfall5. But the core of the work is always carried out by local photographers. And with a wide range of international connections, we are also able to source original photographic works directly from photographers. It must be emphasised that this kind of practitioner-led model is an alternative to the officercommission model that is central to a top-down planning approach. Both have their merits in various circumstances. But if the Arts Enquiry process is genuinely interested in exploring different ways of delivering the arts whilst making financial savings, the practitioner-led model must surely be considered.

The Need for Integration Darlington Media Group’s programme is a typical example of how the patchwork of arts provision has been operating in the town. The courses programme is currently integrated into the local authority’s courses structure, but the exhibition programme is not. Workshops are organised at times independently, at times in collaboration with Arts Centre staff. The film production unit works independently of the wider arts offer, but has produced a growing list of short and full length films in conjunction with youth groups, the Open Arts Studio, local community 4 figure calculated for financial year 2010/11 based on our standard pay rate of £10 per hour 5

see Appendix 3 for a list of exhibitions

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groups, and indeed other council departments. It would appear that, to date, there is no significant sense of film production in Darlington’s arts vision. Our participation in the arts enquiry process is therefore predicated on the desire to see our work, and the work of similar arts organisations and individual artists, embraced by our collective vision of the future. It is perhaps early days, but as one arts organisation that has consciously delivered an arts programme in Darlington Arts Centre, we are seriously concerned that existing artistic pluralism might not be adopted as a starting point for discussions about governance. Top-down models are already appearing in the “Spaces and Places” consultants’ report, with local artists and arts organisations being allocated a sub-contracting position. This is hardly partnership. But we believe that the desire is there on the part of members of the arts enquiry group to plot a constructive way forward. It is therefore with this spirit of partnership in mind that we forward this proposal for a practitioner-led element of the arts offer. We envisage Darlington for Culture’s role to be one of ensuring such integration at the level of programming, marketing and arts policy development. A test of this role, and of the integration of our work in the Arts Centre programme, will take place in the Autumn of 2011, when council provision is supplemented by Darlington for Culture-coordinated programme content. Iran: Sisters in Chanel and Chador’ by Newsha Tavakolian at DMG Gallery 2008

Details DMG is offering to lead, over a period of some 6 months, ideally with some practical council support, the development of a feasibility study for a practitioner-led management of Blanche Pease as a centre for professional, enthusiast and community production of media and wider

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visual arts. The study will build on existing work to formalise a series of definable outputs that will be fed into the wider Arts Offer: ‣in conjunction with local artists, a programme of workshops and courses in visual and media arts ‣a practitioner-curated programme of local, national and international photography exhibitions ‣in conjunction with the open arts studio, a programme of regular open access days ‣innovative media production projects that encourage collaboration amongst local filmmakers, writers, musicians, performers and visual artists It cannot be overstated that many of these outputs already exist. But the fractured nature of arts provision in the town - and the Arts Centre - has mitigated against cooperation and integration of our collective work into a comprehensive vision of the Darlington Arts Offer. These problems could continue to beset the Arts Enquiry process if space is not now provided for alternative delivery models. A key challenge will be to establish a creative interface between a practitioner-led element, elements delivered by other forms of social enterprise, and any residual council-run elements. Darlington for Culture’s role in this proposal will therefore be to concentrate on the qualitative development and integration of the Blanche Pease output into the wider arts offer. Thus, for example, through a process of discussion and mutual respect, the photography exhibition’s programming policy will be developed to work within the wider visual arts policy of the Arts Centre.

from Money Well Spent by Phil Dixon at DMG Gallery 2008

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To realise this ambition, the Blanche Pease building will require extensive refurbishment and development. The aim at all times will be to maximise up front capital input in order to minimise long-term revenue costs. To achieve this, the project will include a series of innovative green elements: ‣the installation of solar panels/wind turbine on the building’s south-facing roof ‣replacement of existing windows with heat-absorbing units on the south side, and heatretaining on the north ‣high levels of wall, window and roof insulation ‣heat exchange technology ‣rainwater harvesting for toilets ‣good provision for cycling, including a cycle hire and cargo bike scheme ‣use of ecological and reclaimed building materials Since Blanche Pease was first threatened with demolition by QE 6th Form’s plans in 2009, local groups have been consistently supportive of the idea of renovating existing buildings rather than demolishing and replacing. We want to draw on this backing for a renewal of Blanche Pease, and enthuse local people into participating in an ambitious ecological development, driven by their own sense of ownership.

from Lost World by Georg Krause at DMG Gallery 2009

Can Darlington deliver such an ambitious project? We believe there is nothing to lose in giving the project a try. Due to its structurally divided nature, local artists and community activists have developed a certain cynicism about their role in the arts offer over the years. But the curBlanche Pease - A Practitioner-Led Arts Offer 7


Beauty and the bike

n, girls stop cycling when they become rlands and Denmark loves their bicycles? en in the German city of Bremen and the examples of this contrast. When the girls rstanding about what needs to be done nfrastructure, Stupid“. But who listens to

Beauty and the bike

Beatrix Wupperman & Richard Grassick

from Beauty and the Bike by Sabine Bungert at DMG Gallery 2009

ändern Europas vom Fahrrad ab, während nicht davon lassen können? Dieses Buch der englischen Stadt Darlington; Städte, ädchen haben sich gegenseitig besucht m das Fahrradfahren attraktiv zu machen. upid“. Doch hört ihnen jemand zu? Und

Beatrix Wupperman & Richard Grassick

rent review process is an important attempt at addressing the underlying problems that have caused this. A genuine offer of the Blanche Pease annexe for a practitioner-led initiative will give strong credibility to the plan in the eyes of local artists. If sufficient grass roots support can be harnessed, funding opportunities identified, and a viable development plan put in place

by the end of 2011, DMG is offering to lead on the redevelopment of the building, and with the help of other artists and groups consolidate and refine the arts offer that will result. However, a Plan B will be required. If the plan fails to win sufficient support, we will all have to accept that we have given it our best shot, and the various artists and arts groups will need to find a home within an alternative strategy. DMG’s building requirements are very much rooted in the production of art, whether the exhibitions cited above, the enabling of community access such as with the Open Arts Studio, educational work, or new video and photography production. Such requirements are increasingly shared with other artists and arts organisations in the workshop spaces of Blanche Pease. Meanwhile, the fabric of the Blanche Pease building has been allowed to deteriorate through years of neglect. This is not a chance history, but rather a reflection of the lack of practitionerBlanche Pease - A Practitioner-Led Arts Offer 8


led content in the various development plans and capital grant applications that have been pursued throughout these years. “New arts governance arrangements must promote fairness and inclusion; work effectively across a$ arts sectors and communities; represent the experience and voice of individuals; be bespoke to Darlington; and encourage co$aboration”. 6 “The enabling role should support the organisations with co-ordinated publicity; venue information; facilities support and equipment library; connections between organisations; and a co-ordinating link to the Arts Council”7. The current process offers an opportunity to finally address this issue. DMG’s relationship with the local authority has indeed been an enabling one. The council established a principle in the 1980’s that DMG pay a peppercorn rent in return for a substantial programme of arts activity. This enables an arts organisation like ourselves to concentrate better on what we do best - art. It is still a favoured relationship between local authorities and small arts organisations in many parts of Europe today. We believe this experience should be built on, as a way of developing discreet practitioner-led arts offers in a building that is currently suffering from years of neglect. DMG is keen to explore the possibility of raising the finance needed for a redevelopment of Blanche Pease, on the basis of a long-term peppercorn-rent agreement for the whole building. This, after all, is classic Big Society territory. Blanche Pease has already seen many new art works created by local people. But it is vital that this role is now better identified and recognised. As part of a broader plan for the arts in Darlington, it could give us a surprising and exciting contribution to the arts mix.

Darlington Media Group Executive Ctte. June 2011.

6 Draft Arts Vision Enquiry Group 4 7

Draft Arts Vision Enquiry Group 4

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Appendix 1 - DMG Filmography Little Stories (mixed pro and amateur crew) Kendra Tea Dance Tower Road Big Lunch Janine Jim

Documentaries (pro crew) R.A.I.D. in Lesotho (Darlington Youth Aids Project) Putting It About (Darlington Youth Aids Project) International Day (series - 3 films so far) Cycling to Mulheim Output Beauty and the Bike Open Arts Studio What Happened Next? Husqvarna (in production) On the Road with Beauty and the Bike (in production)

Courses (student crew) You

Open Arts Studio (mixed pro and amateur crew) Tea Break Blanche Pease Reflections Aliens

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Appendix 2 - Beauty and the Bike credits PRODUCTION TEAM Stephen Baird Barbara Born Reinhard Büsching Sabine Bungert Thomas Dahm Paul Dillon Phil Dixon Ellin Bridie Grassick Richard Grassick Ria Pietzner Beatrix Wupperman INTERVIEWEES Dave Lyonette Reinhard Loske Mike McTimoney Tim Stahl PRODUCTION ASSISTANCE Samantha Donkin Ricarda Hamacher Sam Wood SESSION MUSICIANS Richard Emmerson - Saxophone Shaun Eland - Trumpet Terry O'Hearne - Trombone Neville Kirby - Accordion Diana Wilkes - Violin Steve Bone - Flute & Clarinet Dan Shield - Piano Syd Collumbine - Guitars Blanche Pease - A Practitioner-Led Arts Offer 11


OPENING TITLES SEQUENCE MUSIC "Gliding" by Alex Plowright

PRODUCTION PARTNERS Darlington Cycling Campaign Heinrich Böll Stiftung Bremen Medienwerkstatt Kulturzentrum Schlachthof Bremen Local Motion Gewitterziegen e.V. Dokument@r Bremerhaven DARLINGTON BOROUGH COUNCIL'S TRANSPORT TEAM Nick Butler Sue Dobson Greg McDougall Louise Neale Owen Wilson DARLINGTON CYCLING CAMPAIGN SENATOR FÜR UMWELT, BAU, VERKEHR UND EUROPA ALL THE GIRLS' PARENTS FOR THEIR SUPPORT AND HOSPITALITY and Gary Arnold Ruken Aytas Ellen Best Hartmut Böhme Wolfgang Golasowski Dieter Mazur John Orchard Marianne Papke Michael Glotz-Richter Peter Rüdel Ian Vickers Blanche Pease - A Practitioner-Led Arts Offer 12


Darlington Youth Service Gymnasium Obervieland Bremen Hummersknott School, Darlington Marchday Queen Elizabeth 6th Form College, Darlington Polam Hall School, Darlington COMPOSER Syd Collumbine STILLS PHOTOGRAPHERS Sabine Bungert Phil Dixon PRODUCED & DIRECTED Richard Grassick Beatrix Wupperman

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Appendix 3 - DMG Gallery exhibitions 2005 Appleby Fair by Dave Thomas (Darlington) Growing Green by Richard Glynn (Darlington) The GP’s Patch by Dr. John Clarke (Crook) Grohner Düne‘by Andreas Bohnhoff (Bremen, Germany)

2006 Chronotopia by Simon Norfolk (London) In Vino Veritas by Lucy Carolan (Darlington) Cummins by Richard Grassick (Darlington) Stormin‘ the Castle by Richard Glynn (Darlington) Echoes by Northern Echo Photographers (Darlington)

2007 Magic Party Place by CJ Clarke (London) Big Snap 2007 - Open Photo Exhibition (Darlington) Darlington Carnival 25th Anniversary (Darlington) Burma – What Human Rights?’ by Dean Chapman (Newcastle) Photogenus - Local Photographers Collective (Darlington)

2008 Big Snap 2008 – Hidden Gems (Darlington) Making the Weight by Paul Alexander Knox (Gateshead) Lost Industrial Teesside Communities by Derek Smith (London) Corrina and Anna by Sabine Bungert (Essen, Germany) Iran: Sisters in Chanel and Chador by Newsha Tavakolian (Tehran, Iran) Money Well Spent by Phil Dixon (Darlington)

2009 Blanche Pease - A Practitioner-Led Arts Offer 14


Big Snap 2009 – Faces and Places (Darlington) Ramshackles by Dave Thomas (Darlington) Lost World by Georg Krause (Berlin, Germany) Photogenus II – Exploration of the Pinhole (Darlington) Beauty and the Bike by Sabine Bungert and Phil Dixon (Darlington/Essen, Germany)

2010 Moments in Time by Mark Snowdon (Darlington) DMG Members’ Exhibition 2010 (Darlington) Post Industrial by Richard Grassick (Darlington) Echo Photographers’ Exhibition (Darlington) Training Land by Jill Cole (Teesdale) Marsden Bay by Paul Gibson (North Yorkshire)

2011 Fresh Perspectives by Geoff Bradshaw, Bob McAvoy Geoff Pemberton and Richard Collier (Darlington) Masham Cattle Auction Mart by Henry Brown (Northallerton) DMG Members’ Exhibition 2011 - 25 local photographers exhibit their work (Darlington)

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Blanche Pease - Practitioner-Led Arts  

A proposal from Darlington Media Group for a practitioner-led arts offer in the Blanche Pease annexe of Darlington Arts Centre

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