VA 2017-18 Annual Review

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Annual Review 2017-18


Venture Arts is a leading supported visual arts studio based in the heart of Manchester.

Our vision is of a world in which people with learning disabilities are empowered, celebrated, included and valued in the arts, culture and society.

Our mission is to be national leaders in the visual arts, engaging and supporting people with learning disabilities to be recognised in art and culture. We will shape a new cultural landscape where people with learning disabilities reach their potential as artists, workers, curators, critics, audiences, participants and advocates.

Our values: • We approach all our activities and services from a participantled perspective • We provide a supportive, safe and empowering working environment • We deliver artistic excellence, integrity and creative risk-taking • We respect the diversity of cultures, creativity and understanding within and between individuals and communities. This review covers the period from January 2017 to end of March 2018. Front Cover: Kathy Wilmott, Skeleton Bones 2017.

Michael Beard, Blackpool 2017 2

Contents 4



Director’s report

Studio projects

Young people’s programmes



Cultural inclusion and outreach

Artist development

Exhibitions and events




Case Study: Amber Okpa-Stother


Organisational development and funding




Summarised accounts

Business Plan

Our people



Photo: Joel Chester-Fildes

Director’s report 2017-18 heralded big changes for Venture Arts as we scaled up our staff team and artist development programme, and started to gain increasing influence on a regional and national stage. 4

The following month we delivered ‘Creative Minds North’ – a symposium entirely led by learning disabled artists from across the North. It drew in arts organisations nationwide, sowed the seeds for new partnerships and gained phenomenal feedback. In Dec 2017 we became a registered charity, offering up new avenues for development. During this period we delivered an exciting, diverse exhibition of our Young People’s Art Club and schools work, Art Jam at the Lowry. We also staged an excellent showcase of work by Venture Arts and friends at the Manchester Contemporary, co-curated by VA artist James Desser.


In June 2017 we were thrilled to learn that we would be joining Arts Council England’s National Portfolio in recognition for the quality of our work, people, ambition and artistic endeavour.

Here we sold an entire body of work by Ahmed Mohammed, demonstrating that the work of Venture Arts artists can sit equally and rightfully alongside artists represented by the most radical, critically engaged UK galleries. This period also saw a hugely successful solo show in Glasgow by Leslie Thompson, a photography exhibition at VA by Amy Ellison, and VA’s Dominic Bennett taking part in HOME Manchester’s Project X and exhibiting in their nationally acclaimed young emerging artists’ show ‘This is Human’. And one of our young artists, Justin Lees, won an award for his quirky and informative animation for Manchester Youth Service.

In 2017-18 we took our Heritage Lottery funded ‘Cultural Enrichment Programme’ to new heights, forming an exciting new partnership with HOME Manchester, and several of our participants took on long-term volunteer roles in other partner venues. Others were employed on our Schools Projects, and did a wonderful job of sharing their skills with local school children. We’re very proud of all the hard work our staff, participants and volunteers have put in, and the fabulous work they’ve made over this time. We hope you’ll enjoy reading this Annual Review and seeing some of the fantastic things our people have achieved. 6

Studio Projects


Danielle Dalton, Robocop Colouring Book 2017


We continued to run our extensive range of visual arts projects from our fullyequipped studio throughout the year, supporting learning disabled people ages 8-80+ to build their talents, skills and confidence. Our people explored many new ideas, creating distinctive and accomplished work with expert guidance from our professional artist team and our fabulous volunteers. Beautiful works have been produced in diverse media from pen drawings to porcelain sculpture, and mono-printing to experimental video art.’ 9

Maureen Callaghan, Untitled 2017 / Horace Lindezey, Mr Bronson 2018

Andrew Johnstone, Going for Gold 2017 10

Page 11: Robert Dixon, (L-R) New York; Church; A lot of Colours and Shapes 2017 Page 12 (Top): Terry Williams, What I’ve Just Drawn 2017 Page 12 (Bottom): William Hall, Magic 2018 11


We run our projects 6 days a week, 49 weeks of the year. Each day we facilitate around 5 artist-led sessions with groups of 5-6 people, which in addition to our outreach work adds up to a massive 1600+ sessions a year!

Textile Picnic Project, 2017. (T-B) Violet Emsley, Robert Dixon, Christine Blackburn 13

Beth Edwards, from multimedia project 2017

Young people’s programmes 14






We continued to provide two very popular sessions per week for under 18s, at our Children in Needfunded Young People’s Art Club. Alongside this we ran ‘Inbetweeners Club’, for 18s-25s. Our young people created imaginative and eclectic work in a rotating programme of artforms over 12-week projects.

On 17th June our young people took part in the annual Manchester Day Parade. This year’s theme was ‘Abracadabra’, and our people made magical fox masks – inspired by Japanese folklore and designed by VA participant James Desser. We worked with local theatre company Walk the Plank, who helped us devise some fabulous dance routines for the parade. We supported four young people to achieve Trinity Arts Award Bronze, and one to achieve Arts Award Silver, helping them to further their artistic potential and ambition. And one of our Young People’s Art Club members, Justin, achieved phenomenal personal success by winning a ‘Youth Buzz’ award for an animation he created whilst at YPAC. You can see Justin’s animation, created for Information, Advice and Support (IAS) Manchester in the News section of our website. Page 15 (A-D) Neelam Ahmed, photography project; David Parker Conway, multimedia project; Harry Williamson and Luke Smith, animation projects. All 2017.


Photo: Emma Bosworth


Venture Arts on TV We were thrilled to be invited onto BBC Children in Need’s live appeal night in November 2017, filmed at the Museum of Science and Industry. A group of artists from our Children in Needfunded Young People's Art Club were invited to attend the fundraising event after helping to create some of the snapshot images for the title sequences on the night. Three of our young participants featured in the broadcast alongside artistic manager Katherine Long and administrator Emma Bosworth. They were interviewed on the show, and talked about how much Venture Arts means to them: One of our participants, Hannah, said “It’s something you can rely on, like family”. 18

Cultural inclusion and outreach 19

Create to Educate is our programme of art workshops for school pupils, funded during 201718 by Manchester City Council’s Equalities Fund. Our artists are paid to work as ‘artist mentors’, co-delivering arts workshop in schools and community settings, alongside VA tutors. As well as providing fantastic creative experiences, the sessions allow children to get to know learning disabled people, furthering their respect and understanding. We also work with children in SEND schools with learning disabilities themselves: for this group it can be really aspirational to see learning disabled adults as role models,

In 2017-18 we delivered eight Create to Educate projects, with Wilbraham Primary, Oswald Road Primary, Rolls Crescent Primary, Barlow Hall Primary, Northenden Community School, St John Vianney School, Trinity House Community Centre and Hulme High Street Library. Our artist mentors Malik, Amber, Liam, Bilal, Amy, David and Deborah inspired and supported children on exciting 10-week projects to create ceramic cars, stitched self-portraits, ‘totem pole head’ pots, printed tote bags and more. We became an Artsmark Partner in early 2018 too, meaning we became an Artsmark Partner in early 2018 too, joining Arts Council England’s endorsed network of arts and cultural organisations that can support education settings to embed arts and culture across the curriculum. 20

Our Cultural Enrichment Programme went from strength to strength in 201718, with generous support from Heritage Lottery Fund. On this programme we offer 16-week volunteer placements to learning disabled people in cultural venues, supported by our Cultural Enrichment Officer, Rhiannon Davies. Sixteen of our people undertook placements, where they learned about heritage, gained valuable work experience and had the chance to explore behind the scenes at Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Museum, Royal Exchange Theatre, People’s History Museum, HOME and Manchester International Festival. 21

Participants on the Cultural Enrichment Programme. Photos: Rhiannon Davies 22

They also delivered some fantastic tours to colleagues, friends, family and members of the public - on topics ranging from 60 million yearold fossils at Manchester Museum, to political badges and banners at the People’s History Museum. We’re delighted to say, the project was so successful that five of our people were offered long term volunteer roles at their host organisation: Liam and Jess at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Amber and Liam at HOME, and Deborah is now a permanent object handling volunteer at Manchester Museum. 23

Children at Chatterbox Club. Photo: Katherine Long

During this period we delivered several outreach projects in Manchester: A printmaking project at Hall Lane Resource Centre in Baguley, and two ceramics projects at The Shaw Centre, Cheetham Hill and Ross Place, Ardwick. We also worked with Leonard Cheshire Disability’s ‘Can Do’ initiative - a skills development programme for young people aged 16 to 35 with additional needs - to run a printmaking project with Brentwood School. All of these took place over several weeks, giving participants the chance to refine their skills and produce some great work. We also continued to work with the South Manchester Down’s Syndrome Support Group to co deliver our monthly Chatterbox Club for under 18s with Down’s Syndrome and their families, providing craft activities that respond to a different theme each month. 24

Artist development We are fortunate to work with some fantastically talented artists at Venture Arts, who we support to develop their artistic careers. We do this through additional one-to-one tuition, and giving them the space and resources they need to explore their ideas and produce new independent work. We also provide additional opportunities for artistic collaborations and residencies, exhibiting and selling work. In 2017 we took on a new space in Stretford Town Hall as a studio for several of our artists to work outside of our studio projects. However the location wasn’t ideal, due to the distance from the main studio. In December 2017, we stopped working from Stretford Hall and were delighted to find a new space at a far more 25

convenient spot – number 53 Old Birley Street, just a few doors down from Venture Arts! And thus in January 2018, ‘Studio 53’ was born. Artists working at Stretford Hall/Studio 53 have included Leslie Thompson, Dominic Bennett, Jennie Franklin and Luca Agathogli. Additionally, many artists that attend our daily studio programme have made great strides in developing their independent practice, producing exceptional work. This has led to new opportunities for our artists, such as commissions, high profile exhibitions like the Manchester Contemporary, and a forthcoming solo show in the case of Jennie Franklin.

Luca Agathogli, Castle 2017

Luca Agathogli, Bridge 2018


Horace Lindezey, details from Wedding Book 2018

Jennie Franklin, Pooh Bear 2018 27

Exhibitions and events


The Look of Love 2013, © Helen Musselwhite

Papercraft project for Arts Award, Poppy Maguire 2017

Papercraft project for Arts Award, Chelsea Williams 2017

Helen Musselwhite at Venture Arts

Helen Musselwhite visits Venture Arts In March 2017 we were delighted to welcome North West-based paper artist Helen Musselwhite to our studio. Participants in our 3D projects had been studying Helens’ astonishingly intricate scenes from cut and folded paper - and we were delighted when she accepted our invitation to visit our studio. She showed us two of her beautiful 29

paper works, and demonstrated several ofher paper cutting techniques, giving people a chance to try their hand at them. Our 3D workshops and Arts Award groups have since made some excellent paper creations in response to Helen’s art, and we’re looking forward to her coming back in early 2019 to see the work she’s inspired!

Hey Clay 2017 On Saturday 8th April 2017 we ran an Easter egg cup–making workshop with Crafts Council UK’s Hey Clay! Initiative - a national celebration of clay through free pottery sessions across the UK. This was led by VA ceramics tutors and co-facilitated by some of our talented ceramicist participants.


Psychedelic Braincells at the Whitworth. Photo: Annie Feng 2016

Psychedelic Braincells support Daniel Wakeford Psychedelic Braincells is an experimental noise band formed at ‘OutsiderXchanges’, Venture Arts’ pioneering collaborative art project of 2016. ‘Bringing together ideas, practices and expressions via noise, improvisation, sound making and performance’, this supergroup comprises Venture Arts artists Horace Lindezey, David James and Leslie Thompson plus artist31

collaborators Rosanne Robertson, Sophie Megan Lee, Matt Girling and Juliet Davis. On 13th May 2017 the Braincells played at Islington Mill supporting Daniel Wakeford, a singer songwriter with autism who gained a cult following after appearing on Channel 4’s The Undateables. Psychedelic Braincells

played a blinding set with all the explosive sonic experimentation of their first appearance the previous year. And alongside this at Islington Mill, Venture Arts staged an exhibition of the work of Venture arts artists Leslie Thompson, Justin Lees, Lou Nicole, Luca Agathogli, Andrew Johnstone, Jennie Franklin, James Desser and Barry Finan plus VA volunteer Grace Igoe.

On Thursday 15th June, Venture Arts, in partnership with Carousel (Brighton) led the ‘Creative Minds North’ conference at HOME Manchester. This crossartform event was devised and delivered exclusively by learning disabled artists from organisations across the North. It explored the themes of “How is great art created? What does the term professional mean? How should the work of learning disabled artists be talked about? And how can we help the wider arts world to commission the work?” Giants of the learning disability arts world appeared at the conference, including singer songwriter Jez Colbourne, Call the Midwife actor Sarah Gordy, and George Williams, the first learning disabled dancer to make it into the prestigious National Youth Dance Company. Several VA participants had roles as workshop facilitators, artists and ushers. It was an enormously successful day, with delegates inspired to challenge their assumptions and make radical change to the way their own organisations operate with learning disabled artists and audiences.

Creative Minds North

VA’s own Leslie Thompson was employed to live-illustrate the event, prompting Bella Todd from Disability Arts Online to write; “Every conference should have a resident artist: Especially if it’s Leslie Thompson. A visual artist with a learning disability and a gift for figurative observational line-drawings à la Grayson Perry, Thompson captured the comings, goings and conversations of the day from a vantage point in the foyer.”


Leslie Thompson at work

The conference drew over 200 attendees from arts organisations all over the North of England. Arts Council England featured Creative Minds North as a case study on their website in a feature entitled ‘Learning disabled artists lead conference encouraging inclusion and visibility’: 33

“It is fantastic to see how a number of NPOs and nonNPOs from across the north came together to develop and deliver the Creative minds conference in partnership with Venture Arts. The event demonstrated a really strong approach to learning disabled led practice and platformed some really high quality artists from across the North.” –Ann FletcherWilliams, Relationship Manager, Diversity, Arts Council England 34

RADICAL CRAFT: Alternative Ways of Making The Radical Craft exhibition, by Craftspace and Outside In, continued at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Cumbria and then made its way to the Barony Centre, West Kilbride from April-June 2017. Three of our artists: Horace Lindezey, Andrew Johnstone and Barry Finan had work featured in this major touring exhibition, described as ‘a forward thinking and unconventional showcase’ focusing on artists who ‘work with themes of craft and face barriers to the art world’. Earlier venues included Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Pallant House Gallery in Chichester.


Eminent artist Alice Kettle, one of the selectors for the open UK call for artists says the exhibition “communicates the dynamic of living and making, of using transformative potential of craft to enter other visionary worlds… craft becomes a process of resistance and method of adaptation.”

Pop Party, Manifest In July 2017 we held an exhibition in association with Manifest Arts, a group that “promotes and celebrates arts and artists in Mancheste and North West of the UK through events, podcasts and a festival.”

Many of our VA artists are influenced by celebrities and pop culture of the 70s and 80s, so on this theme we staged ‘Pop Party’, showcasing work with a retro twist by Leslie Thompson, Horace Lindezey, Lou Nicole, Barry Finan, John Groake, James Desser, Jennie Franklin. 36





Leslie Thompson: The Superstar Artist Drawer Images: A: Tarzan, Leslie Thomson 2017 B & C: Pages from Leslie Thomson’s sketchbooks, 2017 Leslie Thompson has been attending Venture Arts for over 20 years. He’s an extremely prolific draughtsman, drawing every day to produce reams of illustrations both observational and from memory. 38

In August 2017 Leslie Thompson was invited to exhibit at Project Ability, Glasgow – the first ever high-profile solo show for a Venture Arts artist. The show featured a retrospective of the characterful drawings that Leslie has been making over his many years at Venture Arts. Also featured were embroideries and sculptures themed around “nostalgic memories of home life and childhood, films and popular culture”. Leslie’s talent has earned him a number of commissions, both ‘live drawing’ (documenting events and conferences as they happen) and more permanent, site-specific illustrations of people and places. Atul Bansal, partner at leading Manchester design company The Sheila Bird Group, purchased several pieces of Leslie’s at The Manchester Contemporary 2016 and has become a great supporter of our organisation, sponsoring Leslie to receive extra tuition and professional development. He commissioned a mural at his North Manchester HQ, and in March 2017 Leslie completed a fantastic illustration of Atul and colleagues. The work has evolved since then, with Leslie adding two more members of staff to the mural. 39

Another high point for Leslie was his stunning Space Astronaut, an illustration inspired by retro movie posters depicting a female astronaut. This was produced as a limited edition digital A3 print, signed by Leslie, to celebrate International Women’s Day in March 2018. The picture gained a great response from social media, including plaudits on Instagram from US astronaut Abigail Harrison, who hopes to be the first person to set foot on Mars.


World Autism Awareness Week

In April-May 2017 we celebrated Autism Awareness Week 2017 with an in-house exhibition showcasing work by seven VA artists. The show, in our studio gallery, featured an clectic range of styles and media. For each day of #WAAW2017 we profiled a different artist online. VA Volunteer Grace Igoe also exhibited new ceramic sculptures especially for this exhibition.

“My work looks amazing and I like the colours and the way it stands out like boom! I’m very proud of my art work and the project I’ve been working on. I can’t wait to show you more in the future.” - Lou Nicole, exhibiting artist. 41

“It fascinates me how no autistic is the same yet we all have autistic traits. I want to introduce the public to these traits and allow them to experience and understand visually, manually and emotionally through interacting with my work, the life of an autistic.” - Grace Igoe, exhibiting ceramicist and Venture Arts volunteer.

Grace Igoe, Autism from the Inside Out 2017

Top Lou Nicole, Cindy-Boo 2017 Bottom: Jennie Franklin, Pop Pop Pop Pop 2017


VA’s Jennie Franklin with work at YSP

Yorkshire Sculpture Park In summer 2017 we took a group of our artists over to Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the leading international centre for modern and contemporary sculpture. Set in the beautiful 500-acre, 18th-century Bretton Hall estate in West Yorkshire, YSP is home to major works by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, and Andy Goldsworthy amongst others. A particular highlight was the series of monumental and awe-inspiring sculptures by acclaimed British sculptor Tony Cragg. This trip was kindly paid for by VA artist Jennie Franklin’s parents – many thanks to them for a most inspirational day out! 43

Hulme is Where the Art is In July 2017 we worked with local partner organisations Z-Arts and Hulme Community Garden Centre for our annual community festival, with stalls, music, games and activities. This year’s theme was Dragonflies, and our tutors, assisted by VA participant artists, led a series of drop-in workshops to create mixed-media dragonflies to be part of a ‘Dragonfly Parade’. VA participants, families and members of the community enjoyed performances, music and drama activities led by Z-Arts in Hulme Park.

Venture Arts stall and dragonfly workshop at Hulme is Where the Art is

We also worked with our neighbour Clay Studios to run three workshops with One Manchester housing association residents and local groups. Residents learned how to make beautiful ceramic dragonflies, which were fired and glazed and later displayed around the festival. Two of our VA participants were on hand to demonstrate their expert clay techniques. 44

Dominic Bennett: This is Human

Image: David Fawcett

Project X was an initiative by HOME Manchester in which eleven young creatives worked in residence at the multi-arts venue over a year, culminating in a large scale exhibition and events programme. In 2016 VA participant Dominic Bennett was chosen to be part of ‘Project X’ – the only learning disabled member of the group.


In August 2017 Project X staged ‘This Is Human’, a takeover of HOME’s galleries, cinemas and theatres which was met with critical acclaim in the national art press. Dominic collaborated with artist Pat Farrell and VA staff to create an arcade game for the exhibition, which featured the voices of several of his friends at VA. ‘Weasel Nation’, in which players battled to save HOME from being overthrown by dastardly woodland creatures, was situated in the venue’s foyer for visitors to play. Dom also produced digital marketing content and a trailer video for This Is Human, and worked as a camera operator.

Art Jam at The Lowry

In October 2017 we staged our annual young people’s exhibition at The Lowry, Salford Quays. ‘Art Jam’ was a selection of works across different media, showing varied interpretations of the world around us. It showcased work produced at our Young People’s Art Club, along with children from six local schools who

had taken part in our Schools Projects during the previous year. The exhibition, held in the Lowry’s Circle Bar, was initially meant to run until Jan 2018, but due to popular demand was kept on until March 2018. The Lowry estimated that approx. 15,000 people saw the exhibition during that time!

You can also check out VA artist Liam’s brilliant short film about the highlights of the show that he made for his Silver Arts Award at; artjamhighlights. Thanks to creative media graduate and volunteer, Abz from Project X who helped him create it.


Venture Arts Presents


October 2017 also saw our second exhibition at The Manchester Contemporary art fair, an ‘incubator of artistic talent’ and a showcase of ‘critically engaged’ contemporary artists and galleries. This year we employed VA participant James Desser to co-curate the show alongside art writer and curator Tom Emery. They selected work from VA plus two other UK leaders in learning disability visual art, Actionspace (London) and Project Ability (Glasgow). We sold two pieces to collectors: a print by Project Ability’s Cameron Morgan, and Untitled Triptych – a series of monochrome abstract drawings on handmade paper by VA’s own Ahmed Mohammed. Other exhibiting artists were Barry Finan, Luca Agathogli, Jennie Franklin, David James, Robert Dixon (all Venture Arts), and Andrew Omoding (Actionspace).

Robert Dixon Fruit Pies 2017

Ahmed Mohammed, from Untitled Triptych 2017 48

Ceramics by VA artists inspired by Peter Hodgson. Photo: Kate Royle 49

Grizedale Arts trip In Nov 2017, we went to Grizedale Arts in the awe-inspiring surroundings of the Lake District’s Coniston Valley. Grizedale is an arts organisation like no other. Its visiting and resident artists are able to immerse themselves in the daily activities of the surrounding farmland, to develop ideas and work “beyond the established structures of the contemporary art world”. On show at Grizedale was ‘Making, A life’ by Cumbrian ‘outsider’ artist Peter Hodgson. Hodgson, who grew up on a remote Lake District farm without electricity or running water, has spent his life crafting tools and artworks across diverse media like leather, glass, ceramic and textile, often containing witty observations of nature and animals. The exhibition later toured to Castlefield Gallery, where our artists were invited to take part in a workshop by Manchesterbased designer and ceramicist Joe Hartley. Venture Arts artists produced a series of ceramics inspired by Hodgson’s animal-horn spoons and forks.


Christmas events On Friday 1st December we held our Christmas fair, open to the public with stalls selling artwork and gifts, plus live music, raffle, and activities for all the family. Later in the month we held our annual VA Christmas party at Chorlton Irish Club, with hotpot, games and disco. We were treated to some fantastic karaoke renditions from VA participants, as well as some great dancing. (Top to bottom) Card designs by; Amy Ellison, Jess Taylor and Robert Dixon. 51

Horace Lindezey, Kylie and Jason’s Wedding Cake 2017


HEY CLLAY! PRRIVATE VIEW In March 2018 we hosted PRRIVATE VIEW, an in-house exhibition of our ceramicists’ work, as part of the Crafts Council’s annual ‘Hey Clay’ celebration of ceramics. The work on show combined pop culture references with imagined happenings to illuminate the pleasures, desires and minutia of everyday life. It featured a wedding-themed collection by Horace Lindezey, with a ceramic 3-tier cake and a series in which he painstakingly recreates the wedding outfits of soap’s most famous couples, using a process of dipping fabric in porcelain. It also included text-based ceramics by Barry Finan, who writes prodigiously as a method of freely expressing himself, often stating his wants and needs from life. His piece DEARR CHHRISSTINNE is an engraved letter to a television producer, about his deeply held desire to be an actor. And JUMPING ON THE TELLY features the mould of a 1950s television with his characteristic writing style exploring an imagined and surreal scenario. 53

“I’ve been interested in weddings for a long time – it’s when men marry their wives. I like Coronation Street, EastEnders, Neighbours and Emmerdale Farm weddings; and The Avengers when there was a wedding on train. I want people to think that my work is good and I feel good about the work that I have made.” - Horace Lindezey “I took a mould of a 1950’s television using clay. I then wrote directly into the clay. I am interested in getting a paid acting job and making lots of money so the text is about doing script writing and acting in a film. I like writing, I’ve been writing for 40 years and writing on clay is new. I want people to think that my work is all right when they see it.” – Barry Finan

Barry Finan, Jumping on Television 2017

Also on show was a selection of our artists’ work celebrating favourite cakes and tantalising desserts, and a collaborative piece, Ceramic Relics, created in partnership with artist Joe Hartley at Castlefield Gallery. In this piece, domestic objects like spoons, knives and forks were made in terracotta and presented as the findings of an archaeological dig.

Ceramic ice cream sundaes: (L) Danielle Dalton; (R) Sally Hirst

To coincide with the exhibition we hosted a series of free live art drop in events such as ‘Make a Breakfast Bowl’ workshops. 54

Amy Ellison – Portrait Project A second exhibition at Venture Arts during MarchApril 2018 was VA artist Amy Ellison’s Portrait Project, for which she created striking and beautiful photographic portraits of children with Downs Syndrome. Top: Annie May in a Photography Studio Bottom: Maysa in an Art Gallery 2018 55

Footy Club

The sessions promote teamwork, coordination skills, spatial awareness, and are a great way to keep fit. The club has also been a chance for participants, parents and carers to come together and socialise outside the studio. Everyone is welcome to play, no matter their skills or experience – it’s fantastic fun for all.

2017 saw the start of our weekly football club at Manchester Leisure Sports Development Centre, led by VA tutor and qualified coach Martin Livesey. Each week, around 10 of our artists take part in 5-a-side matches alongside VA staff and volunteers, and are cheered on by family and friends. Before each game the group complete pre-match drills and fun warmups such as dodgeball.


Case study: Amber Okpa-Stother Amber Okpa-Stother is fast becoming an excellent spokesperson and advocate for learning disabled people in the arts and education. She began her journey at Venture Arts when she joined our Young People’s Art Club in 2010, through which she gained a Bronze Arts Award. Amber is a brilliant artist but as she has grown up, she is becoming an inspirational leader. Shortly after she was 18 she started to pass on her art skills to young people on our ‘Create to Educate’ programme, working with primary school children. She has a gift for communicating with people of all ages and backgrounds. During one of her schools projects, in response to some negative reactions from pupils, she took it upon herself to devise an assembly to teach children about learning disability, promoting understanding and acceptance. 57

On her journey with us she has achieved great things and we can’t wait to see what she does next. Now aged 23, Amber has a real sense of justice and fairness and is committed to enabling people with learning disabilities and/or autism to be better included in our culture.

She delivered a dynamic and informative workshop at the Creative Minds North conference at HOME Manchester in 2017, in which she helped conference attendees to see and recognise the barriers that exist for disabled people in galleries. The reception and feedback

she gained from this was exceptional. She has also undertaken volunteer work placements in Museums and galleries and co-wrote a recent article about this with Guardian writer Saba Salman in ‘The Social Issue’ where she said:

“People with autism can do things like other people that don’t have autism in society. Society should be more accepting of people and not assume people can’t do things …Even though I’ve got autism I try and do things that people without autism think that people can’t do like drive, I’ve passed my driving test that was a big achievement for me because I’ve always loved cars. People with autism can do things like other people that don’t have autism in society. We need to celebrate difference and make sure that people recognise what great things people with disabilities can do.” 58

Amber is chair of VA’s learning disabled steering group who give the organisation artistic direction; she has also joined Axisweb - the national arts initiative on their advisory panel. And she is a Young Associate at Curious Minds, the Arts Council Bridge organisation for arts in education in the North West.

Amber facilitating a workshop at Creative Minds North


As a result of her experience on schools projects she was offered a job in a local primary school, where she worked until recently. She also supports a young disabled person as their PA. And, we’re thrilled to say that (as of Oct 2018) Amber is now Venture Arts’ own Public Engagement Assistant, working two days a week on our reception to be the first point of contact for visitors, and representing VA at events, and networking opportunities. Given the dire statistics about barriers to employment for learning disabled people – with only 6% in paid work – this is a phenomenal achievement, and we couldn’t be more proud.

Outputs Over Jan-Dec 2017, Venture Arts delivered: In-house workshops (26 adults’, 6 young people’s sessions per week)


Outreach sessions in schools and community settings


Supported placements in museums and galleries (individual sessions)



The following people benefited directly from our work:


Learning disabled people


LD adults in our in-house workshops


LD adults at outreach programmes


LD 8-25s at our Young People’s Art Club


LD under-25s receiving Arts Award qualifications


School children taking part in our schools projects (with and without learning disabilities)


LD people taking part in work experience placements


LD people being paid to work in schools and community settings


LD people exhibiting their work in Manchester and/or nationally


Volunteers at Venture Arts


Visitors to VA conferences


Visitors to VA exhibitions and events




Organisational development and funding 64

These allowed us to employ our Business Development and Fundraising Officer, Aziza Mills, who started with VA in January 2017. Aziza’s role involves completing those all-important funding applications and finding other ways to attract financial support so that VA can grow and serve more people in Manchester and beyond.

Throughout these 15 months we’ve been working hard behind the scenes – planning, fundraising, and laying the foundations to establish Venture Arts as a leading influential force in learning disability visual arts. We continued to work with Arts Council’s Elevate fund, and the Cabinet Office Local Sustainability Fund.


Thanks to ACE and the Cabinet Office we were also able employ a Programme Coordinator, Lydia Burke, in September 2017 who has been a vital cog in the smooth running of all our programmes. As two members of staff went on maternity leave during 2017-18 Lydia has also provided vital cover for volunteer coordination and key aspects of VA’s operations. With Elevate funding we were also able to create a new role of Comms and Marketing Officer, for which Kate Royle, VA tutor and formerly Social Media Coordinator, applied successfully in March 2018. This all important new role will enable us to drive forward our marketing plans like never before. These two invaluable development grants meant that the organisation was primed and ready to enter into ACE’s National Portfolio. We were delighted in June to receive the news that our Arts Council NPO bid was successful, with funding starting in April 2018. The four years of secured funding from 2018–2022 was awarded in recognition of our growing reputation as a pioneering visual arts organisation, using innovation, collaboration and exchange to place learning disabled artists at the centre of contemporary arts practice and push the parameters of visual arts.

We’re thrilled to be part of ACE’s portfolio: it’ll enable us to step up our artistic ambition and reputation as a key player in Manchester’s art world – and increasingly beyond. We also finalised our 5-year Business Plan, which shows the real scope and scale of what we hope to achieve with our artists over the next 4 years as an NPO, and further into the future. We also received a major 3-year core grant from Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, a socially engaged and influential funder who has provided a really personal level of care and attention to us – we can tell they want us to succeed in our ambitions as much as we do! During this period we were also lucky enough to gain two multi-year grants from Manchester City Council. We remain a ‘Cultural Partner’ of the City (through their Cultural Partnership grants) and we have also been funded via a new strand, the ‘Voluntary and Community Sector Fund’, to go towards artists’ salaries and volunteer costs. We received the second year of a HLF grant to run our highly regarded Cultural Enrichment Programme. We’re very grateful

to Ravensdale Trust - who continue to award us a generous grant each year – as well as Baily Thomas Charitable Foundation and the Manchester Guardian Society Charitable Trust, from whom we received oneoff grants. We’re also very lucky to have support from Manchester businessman Atul Bansal, who sponsors VA artists Leslie Thompson for extra tuition, helping him to develop his portfolio and his artistic career.

We got ourselves a fresh new website in 2017, where we have been sharing all our news and presenting our artists’ work and our programmes with a much more professional look and feel. Many of our artists now have their own pages on here with examples of their work that you can browse at www. We also welcomed a number of other new staff in 201718: art tutors Jacenta Bevington, Merida Richards and Louisa Hammond (maternity cover) and new administrator and receptionist Alison Yates. 66

Fundraising initiatives

Venture Arts’ Barry Finan creating ceramic work 67

Kiln crowdfunder

In early 2017 we encountered a big problem: our kiln, relied on for many years to fire our artists’ many wonderful ceramic pieces, blasted its last blast, and shuddered to a halt. Our ceramics tutor Caroline Tattersall quickly calculated that a new kiln, powerful enough for our needs, would cost a whopping £4,200. How to raise this in a short space of time? And thus, VA’s first ever Crowdfunder was launched, and within two months, had far exceeded its target! Many factors combined to make this a success: firstly, a huge amount of legwork by Caroline along with

Student fundraiser

Artistic Manager Katherine Long. Secondly, an astonishing level of productivity by our ceramic artists who created hundreds of ceramic birdfeeders, brooches, planters and key rings as rewards for our backers. Thirdly, the persistence and dedication of all VA staff, and lastly the incredible generosity of around 200 supporters. Together we raised not just the £4,200 needed for our brand new, state of the art kiln – but an additional £5,000. This extra money has gone towards employing our first learning disabled member of staff, who joins us in October 2018.

A big thanks to six fantastic MMU Events Management students who raised a whopping £675 for us in March 2018. They undertook a number of fundraising activities culminating in ‘Get Tiki with it’ at the Zombie Shack, Oxford Road. This Hawaiian and tropical themed club night included games, competitions and Venture Arts ceramics on sale. 68

Summarised accounts 2017-18 Please note that these accounts cover 15 months (1st January 2017-31st March 2018) rather than the usual 12. This is because Venture Arts changed its reporting period to a financial rather than calendar year. 69










Small Grants



Studio Income



Other Income






Total Income








Charitable activities






Net income/ (expenditure) for the year



Total funds brought forward



Total funds carried forward



Fixed Assets



Current Assets Debtors



Cash at bank



Total Current Assets






Net Assets



Restricted income funds



Unrestricted income funds





£244,711 72

Business plan 2018-22

A generous development grant from Arts Council England Elevate fund in 2016-17 allowed us to create a detailed business plan. It helped us pinpoint all our aims and ambitions, and formed the basis of our bid to become an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation. Here’s a summary of what we aim to achieve with our artists, audiences, and the arts/cultural sector from 2018-2022. 73

Aim 1: Leadership

Lead as a visual arts organisation with learning disabled artists

Aim 2: Artist Development

Venture Arts will develop as a Centre of Excellence in the UK, in the field of learning disability visual arts, and become internationally recognised for high-quality work, within the arts sector. Venture Arts supports learning disabled artists to selfadvocate for their practice, and their work, within their community, in the arts and in wider society.

Develop artist careers and practice Venture Arts will identify emerging or undiscovered talent, nurture and support artists to reach their full potential and provide opportunities for artists to grow and develop.

Aim 3: Artist Community

Work together with other arts-based organisations to develop a network of artistic activity

Aim 4: Great Art

Venture Arts will work closely with partners, other organisations and projects, to bring together a collective of artistic influence.

Showcase and celebrate the personal development of artists and support the production of new, challenging visual art Venture Arts will champion contemporary visual arts and learning disabled artists through the delivery of studio shows and solo shows, and take part in collaborative exhibitions and other external events in order to showcase the work of learning disabled artists. We will develop new projects, new partnerships and provide support to artists, to encourage the production of new and challenging visual art. We will create environments for learning disabled artists to flourish and make high-quality work. 74

Aim 5: Children and Young People

Work with young people to build opportunity in contemporary visual arts and the work of learning disabled artists

Aim 6: Participation and Audience Development

Extend the reach of our arts programmes and deliver more social value and enable learning disabled people, and artists, to participate more fully in culture, employment, and society Venture Arts will develop and extend its reach, and influence, across Greater Manchester to engage with new artists, partners and audiences. We will provide opportunities for learning disabled people to work within the creative sector and in education, and be active and visible within arts and culture. 75

Venture Arts will work with 8-25 year olds with and without disability, within and outside educational settings to spark creativity, celebrate diversity and provide clear cultural pathways. We will work to ACE Goals Arts Award and Artsmark where possible.

Our people


Our board We’re ever grateful to our trustees, each of whom offers us their time and expertise on a voluntary basis.


• Howard Rifkin

Independent Arts Consultant (Chair)

• Vanda Hagan

Head of Finance at Manchester International Festival (Treasurer)

• Stephen Evans

Former Business Owner (Secretary)

• Kim Gowland

Head of Marketing at Manchester Museum of Science and Industry

• Deborah Riding

Programme Manager: Children and Young People at Tate Liverpool

• Denise Price

Former Commissioning Manager for Learning Disability at Manchester City Council

• Michelle Haller

Inspector at Care Quality Commission

• Emma Shubrook

Solicitor at DWF LLP

Our learning disabilityled steering group Our steering group meet monthly to ensure that our beneficiaries have a real and authentic voice in how we run the organisation. They discuss issues of importance to VA and share their thoughts and ideas for how we can do things better. They report to the management team and board of trustees.

• Amber Okpa-Stother

Photographer, filmmaker and textile artist, artist mentor, learning disability advocate

• Dominic Bennett

Multi-disciplinary artist and activist, cultural volunteer

• Amy Ellison

Photographer, illustrator and textile artist, artist mentor in schools

• Liam Ashworth

Textile artist, artist mentor in schools

• Bilal Khan

Ceramic and textile artist

• Josh Nesbitt



Our management and operational staff


• Amanda Sutton


• Katherine Long

Artistic Manager

• Jack Hale

Finance Manager

• Aziza Mills

Business Development Officer

• Lydia Burke

Projects Co-ordinator

• Emma Bosworth

Administrator (until Dec 2017)

• Alison Yates

Administrator (from Jan 2018)

• Rhiannon Davies

Cultural Engagement Worker

• Kate Royle

Comms and Marketing Officer

• Laura Nathan

Volunteer Co-ordinator

Our artistic team

• Katherine Long


• Laura Nathan

3D and Textiles

• Kate Royle


• Martin Livesey

Photography and film

• Caroline Tattersall


• James Pollitt

Animation, Illustration and Printmaking

• Sarah Crosby


• Jacenta Bevinton


• Merida Richards


• Louisa Hammond



Our volunteers Our volunteer scheme continued to be very popular with around 70 volunteers working with us in 2017-18.

We’re extremely grateful to all our hard working and committed volunteers, without whom we wouldn’t be able to provide the excellent and person-centred service that we do. We were also delighted to be able to offer work placements for eight 15-16 year olds for their school work placements. And we welcomed an MA Social Care student to the organisation from February-September 2018.

PhD In partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University we recruited a PhD student in 2017, Anne Marie Atkinson. From 2018 she’ll be undertaking research, both into our work, and more broadly around the place of learning disabled visual artists within contemporary visual arts.


Our in-house participating artists:

Karen Brown Joe Jeans Jess Taylor Mustafa Suliman Aroob Abid Michael Beard Fred Collins Emma Keating Adam Crichton Kathy Wilmott Terry Williams Jennie Franklin Michael Gleave Shamiso Gumbo Amber Daniel Inwood Chloe Bell Okpa-Stother Elsie Kilbane Amy Ellison Justin Lees Hannah Jan Chelsea Williams Johnson Thomas Beth Edwards David Parker Darren Gallagher Ahmed Mohammed Conway John Groake Matthew Bell Osei Samms Alcott Stephen Kovacs Quinza Ashraf Rahima Imitaz Harry Williamson Maureen Callaghan Anas Aldeeb Yassin Suliman Jean Potts Ben Goring Andrew Hylton Teddy Flood Malik Jama Leslie Thompson Justin Lees Liam Ashworth Beth Kirkbright Joe Mills Anthony Whitfield Bilal Khan James Desser Judith Crossley Sally Hirst David James Neelam Ahmed Salah Suliman Caryn Edgerton Emma Horton Dominic Bennett Danielle Dalton Robert Dixon Violet Emsley Joe Sharples Poppy Maguire Barry Finan Shiloh Downer Rose Helen Gass Florence Haskins Dexter Binnie Richard Holder Luke Smith Zane Binnie Joshua Nesbitt Deborah Makinde George Parker Baykai Haidarah Lou Nicole Conway Jasmine Maclaren William Hall Horace Lindezey Wilson Josh Brown Robert Dixon Moore Ben Amy Bell Sarah Lee Joshua Shaw Neveah Willis Darren Bates William Griffin Becky Hislop Stephen Thomas Luca Agathogli Christine Blackburn 82

Our supporters • Manchester City Council • Arts Council England A big thank you to all • Esmée Fairbairn Foundation the individuals, trusts, • Cabinet Office foundations and other • BBC Children in Need organisations that • Heritage Lottery Fund supported us in 2017-18. These were: • Ravensdale Trust • The Sheila Bird Group • One Manchester Housing Association • Baily Thomas Charitable Foundation • Manchester Guardian Society Charitable Trust

…. And the numerous generous individuals that donated to our Crowdfunder and other fundraising initiatives. Thanks too to our marvellous patron, Michelle Ackerley, for

“The work that Venture Arts do is invaluable & I feel incredibly proud to be their patron. They are able to create and develop a real sense of community, positivity and confidence through their work. Long may it continue”

Photo: Elisabeth Hoff 83

- Text by Aziza Mills - Design by Naomi Davies - All photographs by Martin Livesey unless otherwise stated


43 Old Birley Street, Hulme, Manchester M15 5RF T.0161 232 1223. Venture Arts is a Registered Charity, number 1176385Â and a Company Limited by Guarantee, number 10823617.