New commission will celebrate the sounds of Milton Keynes in its 50th anniversary year

Caroline Devine

Composer and sound artist Caroline Devine has been selected to create a large-scale and ambitious new artwork which will celebrate the sounds of the unique city of Milton Keynes in its 50th anniversary year. The project is part of City Club and will be led by Bletchley Park working in partnership with Milton Keynes’ arts and heritage organisations, the Open University and MK Gallery.

The artwork will explore the heritage of Milton Keynes and the way in which sound relates to people, memory, time and place. Describing her plans to develop the work, Devine states: ‘I am starting a sonic investigation of Milton Keynes that will include sounds, signals and voices from the city. I’ll be listening, researching archives, making field recordings and interviews and presenting this work both in the form of a multi-channel sound installation and online’. The resulting piece is set to be installed in centre:mk in October 2017.

Iain Standen, Chief Executive Officer of the Bletchley Park Trust said “Bletchley Park is an important element of the heritage of Milton Keynes and we are proud to be playing a part in the 50th birthday celebrations. As Bletchley Park is a birthplace of the digital age, it is very fitting for us to lead the digital strand of the City Club project, and we look forward to Caroline Devine’s innovative work delivering a bridge between the past and the future, and an exciting experience for everyone to enjoy”.

Kevin Duffy, Centre Director at centre:mk says: “centre:mk has a long, proud history of supporting the arts in Milton Keynes and we are delighted to host this exciting soundscape by Caroline Devine. Our iconic building is the perfect venue for interesting and unusual art installations, and they never fail to surprise and delight our guests”.

Devine’s site-specific sound installations provide playful and unexpected encounters with sound outside of a conventional gallery setting. She has twice been nominated for a BASCA British Composer Award for work based in Milton Keynes: in 2014 for On Air, a large scale outdoor sound installation for The Open University campus in Walton Hall; and in 2013 for 5 Minute Oscillations of the Sun, outdoor multi-channel sound installation in the Dome, Theatre District.

The commission forms an integral part of City Club, a city wide programme of new art, performances, family activities, commissions, happenings, events and talks inspired by the original cultural plans for Milton Keynes which will enable thousands of people throughout Milton Keynes to explore, enjoy and be inspired by their surroundings. Led by MK Gallery and delivered in partnership with the city’s arts and heritage organisations, the project takes its name from the unrealised national leisure complex proposed for the city by Milton Keynes Development Corporation in the 1970s.

An interview between Caroline Devine and Iain Standen of Bletchley Park can be found in issue one of the City Club newspaper which is available for download HERE.

MK Gallery    Arts Council England    MK Council      MK50

The Open University     Ernest Cook Trust     The University of Northampton

Last chance to see Andy Holden’s new installation

Photo: Andy Holden

Photo: Andy Holden

It’s the final weekend to see a new installation by Bedford based artist Andy Holden, commissioned by MK Gallery, within the MK50 anniversary exhibition, A New City Comes to Life.

The artwork, which is currently on display in Middleton Hall, the centre:mk, is based on a series of staged photographs of young couples kissing against iconic public sculptures in Milton Keynes. These photographs are hung on large-scale cut-outs of the sculptures, creating a mini sculpture park, which the artist imagines as a stage set for more activities and interaction.

Some of the most well-loved public artworks in Milton Keynes are featured in the installation. Elisabeth Frink’s Horse, Essence by Wendy Taylor and The Space Between by Eilis O’Connell sit alongside replicas of three classic works by Bernard Schottlander. Andy Holden’s interpretation of these MK landmarks is part of the body of work, MI!MS (Maximum Irony! Maximum Sincerity), a manifesto for art practice that Andy and a group of four friends developed when they were in their teens. A film and paintings from MI!MS, can be seen in MK Gallery’s Project Space until 28 January.

Describing why he chose Milton Keynes as the backdrop for his romantic photographs, Holden states: “It intuitively made sense to me. It came from a photo I’d taken of a couple kissing on the base of a public sculpture when I was travelling in Germany eight or nine years ago. It was complete chance, but looked staged. I wanted to re-create this and Milton Keynes’ strange abstract sculptures, lurking in corners I’d discovered whilst roaming around, were always at the back of my mind. It was certainly in tune with how Milton Keynes had seemed to me as a teenager.”

The installation also marks the beginning of City Club. During 2017, MK Gallery will bring together artists and arts organisations from across Milton Keynes to celebrate our unique city’s 50th anniversary through a programme of new art, performances, family activities, commissions, happenings, events and talks inspired by the original cultural plans for Milton Keynes. The project will enable thousands of people throughout Milton Keynes to explore, enjoy and be inspired by their surroundings. Visitors to the Middleton Hall exhibition can find out more about the programme and Andy Holden’s artwork by picking up issue one of the City Club newspaper, alternatively download a copy HERE.

A New City Comes to Life runs until 23 January 2017. Entry is free.

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Photo: Andy Holden

Photo: Andy Holden

City Club Partners Meeting

Following the recent exciting news of Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence (AfE) Award, we were delighted host a first meeting of our City Club programme partners last night, attracting good numbers despite the wet and windy weather! 

The meeting gave partners the chance to hear about their respective organisations and activities via short informal presentations.  In welcoming partners, Director Anthony Spira described the broad scope and ambition of the City Club  project which already includes some 56 partners.  Whilst the £750,000 enabling grant from the AfE is fantastic, Anthony noted that there is still a further £300,000 to raise in order to deliver the full project vision. Everyone was thanked for participating, especially programme strand lead partners Bletchley Park, The Stables, On the Verge and Milton Keynes Arts Centre. The proposal to meet again in three months’ time to hear how early ideas for the various project strands are progressing was agreed by partners.

Those who contributed short presentations last night were: Anthony Spira, Director, MK Gallery; Cllr Liz Gifford, (who will Chair the City Club Steering Group); Lucy Bedford, Arts Development Officer, MK Council; Monica Ferguson, CEO, The Stables; Iain Standen, CEO, Bletchley Park; Claire Sapsford and Thomas Eke, Milton Keynes Arts Centre; Dr Andy Hewitt, Freee (artist collective); Simon Wright, Curator of Public Programmes, MK Gallery; Myriam Metcalfe, On the Verge; Yaw Asiyama (Milton Keynes artist); Victoria Mayes, Head of Learning, MK Gallery and Claire Louise Staunton, Inheritance Projects & Research Curator, MK Gallery. There was also a short video contribution from Project Art Works, Hastings. 

There will be opportunities for other partners to present their projects and ideas at future meetings.

A City Club Creative Producer post is currently being advertised.  The deadline for applications is 21 March 2016.  For full details visit our website HERE

 

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.

City Club Presentation available online

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A packed audience of almost a hundred people enjoyed Gareth Jones and Nils Norman’s City Club presentation here on 10 December, and now we’re pleased to be able to share it with you via this LINK.

Gareth and Nils have spent recent months brainstorming options for developing a sequence of public spaces between Milton Keynes Theatre, MK Gallery, Campbell Park and Midsummer Boulevard – including ideas for  landscaping, enhanced signage and a new ‘playscape’ – that would create a dynamic, welcoming environment to be enjoyed, used and animated by visitors and residents alike.

In their presentation, Gareth and Nils referenced the Milton Keynes Development Corporation’s unrealised plans for a national leisure complex in the 1970s and how it had inspired their thinking, research and ideas.   Imagery alternated between a mix of Milton Keynes Development Corporation archival materials, cultural images typifying decades from the 1960s to the present, and Gareth and Nils’ sketches and models.  The audience enjoyed slides ranging from a photo of an MK playground designed by Archigram (sadly demolished), to the cover of a David Bowie album, a Biba design for a baked bean can, and the extraordinary exterior of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.

Gareth and Nils shared different ways that MK has responded to the last six decades, touched on the influence of modernism and post-modernism on the public realm, and how they’ve developed their own “what if…” series of sketches, models and drawings for a series of spaces that everyone can enjoy.

The artists referred to their respect for the Central Milton Keynes grid plan, and the original city infrastructure, including key elements of paving, porte cocheres, distinctive benches, and globed street lamps. They flagged that many of these features are missing in the Theatre District and said they’d love to reintroduce some of them, suitably developed for the 21st century.  Through their City Club proposal they wish to offer people an exciting  “index of possibilities” or conceptual framework to reanimate and bring back to life the original utopian vision for Milton Keynes.

The evening finished with an enthusiastic Q&A session, including participation from some of our arts and heritage community and local councillors.  Gareth and Nils confirmed that, should funding become available, the City Club would enter an extensive period of consultation with groups and individuals, and start to address some of the scheme’s specifics and practicalities.

For a flavour of the presentation, we share this short slide show, which includes views of the talk and of the research sketches and models that the artists displayed for the audience in the next room. And finally, there is a happy picture of the Deputy Mayor of Milton Keynes, Cllr Stephen Coventry and the Deputy Mayoress Leanne Lacy, who’d just been saying how much that they’d enjoyed the talk and how they looked forward to keeping up with the City Club’s progress.

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Gareth Jones and Nils Norman have received support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

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