Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Hidden Crime, Hidden Cuts?

It's not the Arts but it's the product of six weeks of blood, sweat and public transport.

Crime of Passion.
Hidden Crime.
Behind Closed doors.

Domestic Violence has long been given names that relegate it beyond the hands of Government. But since last October and the Spending Review, the Coalition have paid attention to the sector, only to cut back services. But with two women a week being murdered by their husband, partner or ex boy-friend - can the Government really afford these cuts?

Domestic Violence: Hidden Crime, Hidden Cuts? (mp3)

Sunday, 7 August 2011


A little titbit from my MA Project. These t-shirts were hung up at the launch of DVPO's at Greater Manchester Police last month, they're part of the Positive YOU campaign run by Salford Domestic Abuse Service. Almost beautiful declarations of freedom. 

Saturday, 6 August 2011

A Preoccupation With Romance

Everybody likes a bit of romance. 

Unfortunately there's not much of it around. Let's take a week (this week) in my life as an example, a MARRIED man with two CHILDREN asks me out for a drink and then when I say no, asks to be friends. Yes friends. And then a former 'beau' turns out to be an even bigger idiot than first thought. 

But my pathetic specimen of a love life isn't the point of my post. The real and more important point is, if you're after some romance in your life, and you're off to the Edinburgh Fringe this month I urge you to look up Close Knit Theatre and their gorgeous love story, A Preoccupation With Romance. Conceived during, rehearsed at and inspired by life at Sheffield University. 

Written by Welsh playwright Beth Grant the play seems uncomfortably familiar as it unfolds. It's a story we've all played a part in, one of unrequited love which in this case retains Shakespearian names but is solidly set in the modern day. 

Girl likes boy. 
Boy likes girl. 
Girl tells him. 
Boy gets scared and stupidly turns her down.

But as we know, it doesn't end there. This short but beautiful morsel of a play follows a constantly shifting, lust and lie filled relationship between two people who desperately just want to be together. The couple, played by Sonia Jalaly and Paul Hilliar tease and taunt one another throughout, a routine somewhat lifted by the traces of physical theatre that the script allows. As in most good love stories, friends play a part with actors Kelly Jackson and Nick Birchill offering comfort and cruelty in turn. They are joined by a chattering chorus who offer insight and reassurance throughout in case you can't quite get to grips with the ever changing state of play. 

As mentioned above, the script plays with language of the past but there are sharp bursts from the present which catch you by surprise. It is apparent from the well thought out set, costumes and characterisation that director Sean Linnen crafted the performance to make the most out of Grant's words and witticisms. Each character is distinct, helped by the script but secured by the talented cast. 

It might be the company's debut, but the play isn't self-conscious like you might expect from a first timer. Their preview performance was confident, assured and simply stunning. If their twitter feeds are anything to go by, I think their secret might be a few cheeky shots of gin. But who are we to judge when they're selling tickets like they have been? 

Follow them www. 
and go and see them

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Yorkshire Sculpture Park: The YSP's USP.

I’ll be honest; I’ve never really got sculpture. Slap a dead shark, a toy tank or a chair on a canvas and I can appreciate it. Applaud even in most cases, but sculpture? I think it’s probably all hours spent trawling round European palaces and museums as a child. Seen one bust of Caesar, seen them all. Even old Venus de Milo wasn’t really my bag; there are far better things to look at in the Louvre. But the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield might just have changed my mind.

Set in the grounds of the 18th Century Bretton Estate, the park was once the designer playground of the Darcy’s and Lizzie’s of Wakefield. But now, the 500 acres of rolling hills and woodland are home to the works of a very specific class of artistic aristocracy. Over 250,000 people come to see this unique and ever-changing exhibition of sculpture every year.

Pulling into the park, my mind instantly shifted from the picnic in the boot to the scene in front of me. What looked, on first glance, like a huge, spindly white birdcage, big enough to hold an elephant stood out starkly against the green landscape. On later inspection it turned out to be a Jaume Plensa metalwork masterpiece. Not a birdcage but a couple constructed out of a large interlocking alphabet, bringing a new meaning to the humble notion of the love letter.

The park is where nature meets humanity. Where the two are usually at odds, either being ignored or ruined by the other, here they mingle happily like two effervescent party guests. The combination of modern art and ancient land is startling but comfortable. It’s all a little bit Pride and Prej meets the Tate Modern, as if you’re part of an elaborate, living exhibition. As you wander amongst the foliage, works by Henry Moore, Andy Goldsworthy and Martin Creed all peek from between trees. Moore’s work is as always, astounding; large globules of bronze rise above the hillocks and just beg to be touched and rubbed. Andy Goldsworthy is a bit trickier; old tree trunks are suspended in stone-wall pens and his intriguingly named Outclosure is a frustrating but brilliant construction which does exactly what it says on the tin.

But it’s Sophie Ryder’s hare-women that have converted me from sculpt-urgh to sculpture-nerd. Sitting in the walled garden of the estate and peering into the two hundred year old glass camellia house were two great rabbit heads perched on human torsos. The first, constructed from thousands of metres of metal wire, sits proudly, breasts pushed forward and its face calm and collected. I didn’t notice the perky boobs and manicured hands till I’d walked around it a few times, but once I had I wanted to scoop the giggling children away from its feet. I still can’t decide whether this Ryder piece is beautiful or grotesque, mythical or laughable but it is certainly worth a photograph.

However, the second spoke to me in a different way, reminding me of my own work using different textures and found objects. It is, again either a rabbit or a woman, depending on which end you look at first. The huge bronze creature may tower above its viewer, but it’s worth getting on your hands and knees to look carefully at its flesh. Embedded in the bronze are the imprints of tiny toy cars, mermaids and perfectly formed hands which could belong to a neo-classical goddess. Where the shoulder joint should be is a huge mechanical cog and along the shins are thick metal sinews suggesting the hidden athleticism of the human body.

There is so much more to say about the park and there always will be as the exhibits are constantly changing. It’s a free day out, but it shouldn’t be, so ignore the 5km walk that’s involved and get yourself there. Buy an ice cream and feel at one with Art and nature all at the same time, something that is rarely possible.  

or follow them on Twitter @YSPsculpture 

Monday, 30 May 2011

Castle Market: Should it Stay or Should it Go?

Black and White Images courtesy of Harry Ainscough.

Music: The Letter by Joe Cocker 1970

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Impact of Arts Sector Cuts

Following up from my interview with Libby Brodie from Theatre Uncut, I also spoke to the Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres, a young director and Helen Parrott from the Arts Council Yorkshire about what impact cuts to the Arts will have on regional theatre.


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Sony World Photography Awards 2011

1/8 Helmand 10/7, Balazs Gardi, Hungary (2011)

 To see some of the other photographs from the shortlist have a look on The Guardian website.