On the ins and outs of organising the Show Us Your Art Festival in Middlesbrough

Martin ForsterIn a guest post former BBC journalist, film-maker and director of WorldSight Media, Martin Forster talks about the ins and outs of organising the second Show Us Your Art Festival in Middlesbrough.

At the end of Show Us Your Art 2012, we stood for a moment, a pause in the final clearing up of bits from the carpet of the We Are Open space in the Cleveland Centre.

Half an hour ago, it had been an art gallery, now its walls carried only the echoed sounds of sculptor Kev Twidale trying to fit the last of his tools into his car (thanks for the help Kev – same again this year, please).

The event had happened, lots of art had been shown, performers had performed, people had come and we had done it all on a zero budget.
But it had been a lot of work, a fair amount of heartache and more ‘phone calls to sort out unexpected crises at strange hours of the night than any of us could possibly have forseen.

The curator, Emily Petyt looked around, her drill hanging loosely in her hand, “Well I won’t be doing THAT again in a hurry.”

Ifs and Ands
In the weeks that followed, we all took a break from each other, as we tried to catch up with our day jobs, but the messages kept coming in, “Thanks, really enjoyed it. Will you be doing it again?”

There was no getting away from that question.

The next time we sat down together, we naturally began to post-mortem the event. “If we ever did it again, we’d have to make it longer”, “If we ever did it again, we’d definitely need a budget”.

Before we knew it “If we ever did it again” had turned into “If we do it again”, then to “Next time”.

Within a couple of months of Show Us Your Art 2012, I was sat with Emily in café mima, discussing Show Us Your Art 2013 with Judith Croft, Middlesbrough Council’s head of events.

Emily was willing to curate again this year, Middlesbrough Council was going to swing us free use of the Town Hall Crypt for a week, and when mima’s Visual Arts Network accepted our bid for a small budget, there was no getting away from the fact that Show Us Your Art 2013 was up and running.

And this time we can afford to pay for some stuff.

The truth be told, I know absolutely nothing about art; I run a media company and, as such, do the website, PR and marketing.

The project relies entirely on its curator, Emily Petyt to sort out the art. My contribution tends to be along the lines of, “What? Three paintings, three nails. Boom, boom, boom, done. Right?”

There’s a look I’m used to getting from artists when I say things like that or, “Can we not just balance it on a table?” It’s like I’ve just drop-kicked a kitten.

It was only when I saw the exhibitions for Show us Your Art 2012, where someone who knows their stuff had really put some thought into the order, location and hanging of each artwork that I started to get what this was all about.

Of course, I still reckon paintings would look ok hanging from the rafters in the Town Hall Crypt, but Emily rolled here eyes to the ceiling again, so I’m guessing not.

Think fast
I was taken off guard by a simple question, while we were talking to the management at Debenhams about using one of their windows for a week and filling it with art (this is still a maybe, there are some tricky insurance clauses to get around first. I’ll keep you posted).

The management were very keen to help if they could and the question was really simple, but for a second it threw me. “So why are you so passionate about this art festival?”

I had to think. In all honesty, having grown up on Teesside and worked most of my career as a journalist here, I have covered so many stories of big hopes and disappointments that, in recent years I’ve noticed a small, but definite pessimistic streak starting to creep into our local psyche. “If it’s happening here, it’ll probably be rubbish.”

When we did Show Us Your Art 2012, we came across the exact opposite. We met people with drive, optimism and loads of energy.

Just some of the awesome people that made Show Us Your Art 2012 so great, we decided to go through it all again.

As a Teessider, especially now that times are particularly tough, when you come across that, you can’t just walk away from it. It’s too important and too powerful. So we’re doing it again. Go to ShowUsYourArt.com and send us your work before the end of May.

I know nothing about art, but I know some people who do.

Useful links

Show Us Your Art 2013 Poster

Show Us your Art

Worldsight Media

Martin Forster & Worldsight Media on Twitter


Have You Signed Up For The Riverside Run?


Experience an Olympic style finish to the Riverside Run alongside a Teesside Olympic athlete this Sunday at the Riverside Stadium. A host of former Boro footballers, a comedian that likes to get up close and personal and a whole load of Teessiders will be taking part in the Middlesbrough College sponsored 5k and 2k Riverside Run. It is not too late to join their number.

Johanna Jackson has competed in two Olympics, two World Championships and won gold at the last Commonwealth Games and is now looking forward to the Middlesbrough College Riverside Run. The 5k event will include former Boro stars Bernie Slaven, Mark Proctor and Neil Maddison, together with Teesside-born comedian Patrick Monahan who will be hugging his way around the course.

That course takes in some iconic Teesside landmarks, the Transporter Bridge, Middlesbrough dock and the Temenos sculpture before ending with a big Olympic style lap inside the Riverside Stadium. You even get a chance to step onto as well as around the hallowed turf of the Boro’s ground and take in the atmosphere of a hundreds of cheering family and friends in the back straight stand.

The Middlesbrough College-sponsored Riverside Run, incorporating the 5k and 2k, takes place on the morning of this Sunday, June 2, starting and finishing at the Riverside Stadium. Entry for the 5k is £10 or £8 for affiliated runners, while it’s just £5 for the 2k fun run. 5k entrants must be 13 or over on the day of the race.

The SABIC Tees Pride 10k Road Race and 3k fun run are being held on Sunday, September 8. Entry for the 10k is £16 or £14 for affiliated runners, with the 3k fun run priced £7. 10k entrants must be 15 or over on the day of the race


The North East as an International Gateway: Digital Connectivity

The Institute for Public Policy Research – IPPR is currently researching the strengths and weaknesses of the North East of England as an international gateway, and the potential to enhance its connectivity in the global marketplace.

On May 14th they held a session at Boho One to focus on digital connectivity in the north east.

They shared some interesting stats on the economic benefit of electronic connectivity, did you know The internet contributes £100b or 7.2% to the UK economy – although indirect economic benefits mean its true impact is both wider and deeper and forecasts indicate this is likely to grow by 10% each year to 2015, by which time it will make up 10% of the nation’s economy. It is also a key export sector.

Digital connectivity can improve access to markets, improve productivity, encourage greater innovation activity, facilitate new business starts, drive inward investment, facilitate growth of key sectors, help SMEs to grow and help in flexible working – that’s a lot!

But 25% of north east businesses do not use the internet compared with 19% nationally.

In Middlesbrough our connection speeds are well above the national average and among the highest in the north east!

Digital Connectivity - Average Sync Speeds

Uptake of Superfast broadband could be higher. We have the capacity.

Digital Connectivity - Superfast Broadband Availability

Some of the reasons digital connectivity is important to the north east that IPPR highlighted in their presentation from research

It’s of huge general importance to businesses – as such it’s a key infrastructure asset. It can level the playing field for small businesses – particularly sole traders and also facilitates the operations of multinational companies.

It is an asset that should be considered alongside workforce skills, roads and rail, airport and port. They have two additional events other modes of connectivity – one on internal connectivity through road and rail and another on international connectivity looking at trade overseas.

Remaining 2 events

Internal Connectivity Thursday 23 May, 15:30 – 17:30, Vermont Hotel, central Newcastle This event will look in detail at how internal connectivity within the North East and its neighbouring regions supports international trade, with particular emphasis on road and rail.

International Connectivity Thursday 6 June, 11:00 – 13:00, Vermont Hotel, central Newcastle This event will explore how the North East trades overseas, with a particular emphasis on the role of ports and airports Each event will bring together key players from business, academia, transport providers and local and national government to discuss and debate the emerging findings from the research and to consider key priorities. To book your place at all or any of these events, please email north@ippr.org, letting us know which ones you would like to attend.


Land, Sea and Sky at the Transporter

The revamped Transporter Bridge Visitor Centre was reopened with a n enlightening exhibition of artwork inspired by Teesside’s heritage and landscape. Subtitled ‘A Celebration of industry and the natural environment at the Tees Transporter Bridge’ there are some fascinating pieces of work inspired by Teesside’s life blood, the industry and the the river that spawned it and us.

It is the first of a number of new exhibitions developed as part of the £2.6m Heritage Lottery Fund supported activities at the famous landmark, marking an exciting new start for the centre.

Also on show at the opening was a first glimpse of the new winding house where a covered viewing area and imaginative lighting allow you to better understand the Victorian engineering responsible for the operation of Teesside’s iconic bridge.

A-Level students from Trinity Catholic College in Middlesbrough used the Bridge and other landmarks as inspiration for their Land, Sea and Sky Exhibition, which runs until the end of the month at the Transporter Bridge Visitor Centre.

Teenagers studying fine art, photography and textiles have worked on paintings and sculptures based on industry, coastlines and the countryside. College tutors encouraged the youngsters to look at their local area in a different light and share the results with a wider audience through their artwork.

Trinity Catholic College Art Teacher Rebecca Glover said: “We wanted students to get out there and see the beauty in things we often take for granted. The Transporter is the area’s prominent landmark and students visited the Bridge and other areas when carrying out research for their project.

“They are proud of the local area and the varied paintings and sculptures featured in Land, Sea and Sky reflect that.”

Inspired by artists including LS Lowry and MC Escher, the exhibition includes various depictions of the Bridge. Other celebrated locations including the South Gare, Acklam’s Avenue of Trees and the shores of the River Tees.

Student Elizabeth McLaughlin, 17, said: “It was great to work on a project about the local area and everyone is looking forward to the exhibition. I think it has helped us all to stop and think about the landscape and buildings we have on our doorstep.”

A special catalogue is available at the Transporter Bridge Visitor Centre at a price of £2, featuring the work of the students, a brief history of the Transporter Bridge, and a foreword from Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon.

I can tell you that many of the pieces of artwork were sold at the exhibition launch and many more have also been bagged since. With prices ranging from £20 to £100 the sales reflect the quality of the work and is all part of the real learning experience for the Trinity College students.

Tracy Hyman and myself interviewed one of the students, Amy Sewell standing in front of her brooding building painting, Smog of the Streets. It was actually snapped up while we were talking.

Amy Sewell

Q: What is your inspiration behind the painting?

Amy: My inspiration is mostly about the deep, dark colours, the greys etc from the industry and things like that, the blues resemble the Transporter. It is not anything of the Transporter but it was in fact an old building, an old corner shop in Linthorpe, “the village” area, where there are still come cobbled streets, there are some corner shops that do look a little bit like this. It is obviously nothing like that now but what it used to be like before it was modernised. The colours are from the industry because industry was such a big part of Teesside and the north.

Q: And it is like 3D.

Amy: Yes it stands out. It has got bits of plaster in and it has got wood and there are bits of metal but it is mainly plaster crafted in with screws and anything like that really. It is a bit of a mess to start off with but when it gets to the end product it gets there in the end.

Amy Sewell – Smog of the Streets.

Many of the paintings use £D effects to stand out from the walls like the girders of the Transporter that loom over the exhibition outside. There are some truly striking depictions of Teesside steel, grit and industry but also some really sunny, optimistic works that speak of a place with a present and future as well as past.

The exhibition is showing until the end of the month at the Transporter Visitor Centre, Middlesbrough which is free and has car parking on the doorstep as well as unrivalled views of the bridge itself.

Photos – Tracy Hyman

Transporter Exhibition


Sumday (One May) Festival –

The Kids Are Solid Gold Festival at the Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough. Sunday 5th May

There were not one but two music festivals in Middlesbrough to mark Bank Holiday weekend. While Festy raged and blazed for two days at Spensley’s Emporium, Sumday (One May) kicked off more sedately in the Westgarth Social Club with the softly spoken tones of Teesside indie-folk group General Sherman. This intimate two room festival was brought to us by the good guys from The Kids Are Solid Gold. It showcased several exciting new acts whilst bringing back two old favourites from north of the border in Washington Irving and Woodenbox. It was no surprise that they would both collude and collide for a rousing finale.

It was great to see so many people to enjoy the subtlety and clever song craft of General Sherman. Upstairs and The Port Authority put real passion and drive into their songs. Sparks flew as the three piece with the anchor on the amp brought some nautical noise, energy and rhythm to the festival.

Fake Major travelled down from a festival in Inverness to play only their second gig ever as a four-piece. Their melodic folky pop songs centre on the rich Scottish vocal harmonies of Richard Ferguson and David McGinty. You can catch Fake Major again June 8th at Cattle and Cane’s single launch at Preston Park Museum (matinee tickets still available).

Upstairs and Sunday silence was shattered by the psychedelic pop exuberance of Dead Sea Arcade. All the way from Sydney, Australia, the guitarist excused his singer mistaking us for Liverpool from their jet-lag. Sugar-coated vocals floated over the grinding guitars in songs that fizzed and purred. A sparkling set.

Back downstairs again and Richard Walters was first act booked for this festival, no pressure there, he joked. His gentle, tender folk falsetto delivered often hard-hitting lyrics. Standing in front of the microphone he played a fully un-amplified finale that silenced the crowd and brought unrestrained applause.

Back to the noisy room and the stylish looking and sounding Charlie Bowyer and the Voyeurs pumped out high octane indie pop. The men in bobs played material that slid disgracefully from Suedesque indie-glam to Velvet and Sonic Youth style psychedelia. Another outstanding performance.

Washington Irving entered the acoustic stage to a cheers of approval and left it to a roar of triumph. Their uplifting folky frenzy is infectious. “Do you want to get busy,” shouted the singer and the whole room was suddenly a whirl of dancing, stomping, chanting energy. The lead man was soon charging off stage and careering through the crowd. We kept the party buzz going with the fantastic uplifting Woodenbox who rounded off the whole festival with a feelgood finale frenzy of latin horns and Scottish and western flavoured folk melodrama. What a superb climax. That was Sumday.

Photos – Tracy Hyman


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