Chester Contemporary is a new visual arts event curated by artist Ryan Gander. For the Contemporary, international and Chester-based artists, emerging talent, and the city’s people have been invited to make and show work for Chester’s unique places and spaces, inspired by the theme ‘Centred on the Periphery’.
I’ve been working on the schools programme as part of this new festival with Mickle Trafford Village Primary School creating ‘The City Unfolds’
Chester’s city centre is characterised by its secret passageways, hidden staircases, buildings on multiple levels and interesting places to be discovered. Year 5 pupils from Mickle Trafford Village School have shared some of their favourite places and studied the architecture of the city with artist Claire Weetman to create artist-book sculptures combining paper folding techniques, printing and poetry.
Inspired by both Claire’s artist-book practice and Unfurled, a University of Chester exhibition at the Grosvenor Museum (which ran until 2 July), the class have explored how to use the text, images and storytelling that can be found in books. They’ve combined these book-making elements to create their own sculptural artwork that reminds us of places in the city, including Chester Cathedral, the Rows, the Walls, dance and musical performances, the sound of food being served at the new market, and their top tips for the best pancakes in Chester! Their work can be seen in the display case outside Waterstones on Eastgate Row.
Thanks to the staff and pupils of Mickle Trafford Village School, Mickle Trafford, Cheshire.
Since they opened back up in March 2021 it’s been great to get back working in schools. ‘Here’ is one of those projects, delivered by Cultured St Helens. It uses new technology to create a portrait of St Helens, exploring the history, geography, social make-up and diversity of the town. Artists and performers (of which I’m one) have worked with schools to create artworks which Impossible Arts will bring together for a final outdoor augmented reality exhibition in October 2021.
I’ve been working with Rivington Primary, Mill Green school and Blackbrook St Mary’s Primary as part of the project, combining performative actions with drawing and print techniques as we look at the past and present of St Helens. What has also been great during these projects (and has happened a lot more in the last 12 months) is the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in the delivery of the work.
With Rivington Primary I’ve worked with Mako Create, who took charge of green screen filming, and Altru Drama, who led a creative writing session, as we created a work about the traces and echoes of Victoria Park. What will happen when children from today bump into King George V and Queen Mary during their 1913 visit? Will they ever get unstuck from the climbing frame? Their drawings, words and actions form a video work that will be part of the AR trail around St Helens in November.
The sessions at Mill Green school have been a chance to work with artist Dave Bixter who combines his drawing practice with music and technology. We’ve looked at the skylines of St Helens, layering drawings, shapes, movement, print and sound to create and audio-visual work that will sit against the real skyline of St Helens.
Blackbrook St Mary’s have done most of their work with Henry Iddon and Jess Wheeler, connecting to their cross-school project about the conservation of rainforest habitats. I was invited in to run a print session with year 1 where we used stencilled screen-printed slogans devised by the pupils to print onto T-shirts. The children made studies of leaves in their sketchbooks and created rubber stamps out of them to make each of their t-shirts an individual representation of the rainforest.
You’ll be able to see more of these works once they’re out on the Augmented Reality trail in the Autumn.