Arts Council England awards £750,000 towards ‘City Club’

Gareth Jones and Nils Norman: City Club - sketch for a Playscape,

Gareth Jones and Nils Norman: City Club: design for a playscape

Arts Council England has announced that MK Gallery is one of three successful applicants to the latest round of its Ambition for Excellence programme, and is to receive £750,000 for the ambitious ‘City Club’ project.

City Club is the exciting new programme of arts and culture led by MK Gallery and devised with artists Gareth Jones and Nils Norman.  The programme will bring arts organisations, artists and communities from across Milton Keynes together, to help celebrate Milton Keynes’ 50th anniversary and the launch of the expanded MK Gallery in 2017.

City Club aims to refresh the area around MK Gallery, MK Theatre and the approach to Campbell Park in the city centre, creating welcoming spaces that everyone can enjoy.  Inspiration will be taken from the iconic original designs for Milton Keynes and focus on three types of public space: the piazza, playground and garden.

City Club will include new public art commissions, a programme of live events led by The Stables, digital projects led by  Bletchley Park and partners, and numerous talks, workshops and engagement programmes. These city-wide activities will provide important talent development opportunities for local artists, unite many of the city’s arts organisations in their delivery, and involve extensive and diverse communities.

City Club is designed to strengthen the network of arts organisations across Milton Keynes in order to increase the profile and impact of cultural activities in the city and to prepare a Milton Keynes bid for European Capital of Culture 2023.  Ambition for Excellence funds the first phase of City Club. Audiences and partners engaged through this phase will enjoy future use of world class art facilities via MK Gallery’s £11 million renovation and expansion.

Anthony Spira, Director, MK Gallery, said: “We are thrilled that Arts Council England is continuing to support the arts in Milton Keynes. It is a huge honour to be part of the Ambition for Excellence Portfolio, alongside many prestigious national organisations. This award will enable the gallery to partner with organisations across the city to deliver exciting projects for larger and more diverse audiences, in time for the city’s 50th anniversary. This project will also complement MK Gallery’s ambitous expansion plans, so that culture can become, once again, central to the city’s identity.”

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “MK Gallery’s ‘City Club’ is an exciting new project and we are delighted to be able to support it through our Ambition for Excellence fund. It will see artists and communities from across Milton Keynes work together to recognise an important milestone in the city’s history through a programme of new artworks, events and residencies. But more than that, it will also reconfirm the important role that arts and culture has had in developing Milton Keynes as a unique place and a great place for people to live, work and visit.”

Milton Keynes Council are also important investors in the City Club programme. Councillor Pete Marland, Leader of MK Council commented: “We are delighted that Arts Council England is supporting the City Club programme.  Working in partnership with talented local artists, grassroots organisations, schools, disability groups and others, MK Gallery is leading on exciting cultural developments that will have a great impact on the cultural heart and soul of our city during our MK50 celebrations.”

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The City Club Programme

Contributing to the MK50 celebrations in 2017 being led by Milton Keynes Council, City Club will manifest as multiple projects and city-wide activities across four main strands:

  • Public art and infrastructure – landscaping in the vicinity of MK Gallery, to enhance the east end of Midsummer Boulevard, including a ‘playscape’, a piazza and a garden
  • Engagement – a learning and community programme exploring the three themes of gardens, piazzas and playscapes, to result in films, publications and display, and ‘City Lab’ talks, events and artists’ professional development
  • Animation and Celebration – to include Live Art commission led by The Stables, digital commissions led by Bletchley Park, a mobile public art commission led by Milton Keynes Arts Centre, and an Underpass commission, led by On the Verge with The Parks Trust
  • Documentation and Contextualisation – a film and book by Stuart Whipps and and a symposium led by Inheritance Projects

A ‘Citylab’ will be formed – a mini-faculty of local artists, architects, musicians and writers –  to brainstorm and animate the project as it develops.  Freee Artist Collective and renowned American artist Vito Acconci will work with the Milton Keynes Arts Centre to create a large-scale mobile sculpture called ‘Citizen Ship’, which will travel throughout the city visiting residential estates, schools and playgrounds.   Project Art Works will continue working with MK Gallery on programmes involving people with severe and complex needs.  Artist Stuart Whipps will produce a film and book documenting the project, while curator Claire Louise Staunton, in association with the Open University, will organise a seminar and conference around art’s role in building communities in New Towns across the world. Playing Out delivered by artists Townley & Bradby, and Meet Back Here will help forge strong relationships with the Gallery’s neighbouring estates of Fishermead, Springfield, Downs Barn and Conniburrow. These activities will form part of a larger engagement programme connecting MK’s diverse communities through consultation, exploration and participation.

City Club is funded by Arts Council England and MK Gallery, with support from Milton Keynes Council.

Ambition for Excellence
Ambition for excellence Arts Council England’s £35.2 million funding programme for stimulating and supporting ambition, talent and excellence across the arts sector in England.  It aims to expand arts infrastructure (especially outside London) and contribute to the development of strong cultural places.   MK Gallery is among three organisations to receive funding in the fourth round of the Ambition for Excellence programme, which will see the Arts Council invest nearly £2.1million to support ambition and talent across England. For more information about Ambition for Excellence see HERE

For Arts Council England’s national news announcement today on the Ambition for Excellence recipients see HERE.