Friday, 31 March 2017

Jez Riley French talks about his collaborative sound work created for the Humber Bridge in the year that Hull is the UK City of Culture 2017

"The vast Humber Bridge is the focus of a new artwork for Hull UK City of Culture 2017. Norwegian musician Jan Bang and Hull-based sound recordist Jez Riley French discuss The Height of the Reeds, an interactive soundtrack they have created for Opera North, to be listened to on headphones as you cross the length of the 2,200m bridge."

Head on over to the Humber Bridge, put on a set of our headphones and disappear into a sound adventure, walking the epic span of the Bridge, with a world of sound in your ears.

Music by Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen, guitarist Eivind Aarset and electronic wizard Jan Bang gives way to the vast sound of the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North; threaded through with the deep music of the Bridge itself, captured by Hull based sound artist Jez riley French. Poetry is read by Maureen Lipman, Barrie Rutter, and 7-year-old Katie Smith from Hull, with musical arrangement by Aleksander Waaktar.

Evoking both the long history of sea travel from Hull, and the Bridge as a powerful symbol of home, The Height of the Reeds is an unforgettable experience in sound."

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Welcome to my new studio at Carliol House

In October 2016, The NewBridge Project were given the upsetting news that Norham House, the birthplace and home of The NewBridge Project for the past 7 years, is going to be demolished and were given 6 months notice. The NewBridge staff worked incredibly hard to secure replacement premises to house the artists studios and programme.

A deal was made with our current Landlord, Motcombe Estates, to use one of their other premises, Carliol House. Located round the corner from our existing premises, Carliol House was the headquarters offices of the North Eastern Electricity Supply Company. It was built in 1924-8. The company was established as the Newcastle upon Tyne Electric Supply Company in 1889. The North Eastern Electric Supply Company was responsible for the supply of electricity to a large amount of North East England until the nationalisation of the British electricity industry with the Electricity Act 1947. A two year lease was signed to occupy the basement and first floor of the building, providing around 1,400 m2 of studio space, making and workshops facilities, and exhibition space to artists.

Over the past month studio holders have been moving out of Norham House and Dean and Joe from TILT have been building the new studios. They have made remarkable progress.


I have the van booked to move my stuff in on Saturday, but before then I want to give the walls a few coats of paint.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Sir Nicholas Serota speaks on Front Row prior to delivering his inaugural speech as the Chair of Arts Council England

As Sir Nicholas Serota delivered his inaugural speech as the new Chair of Arts Council England, the former director of the Tate art galleries spoke to Front Row about his vision for his new role, and to what extent he intends to change the focus of the London-based institution.

Some key points from the speech include:

The Arts and Culture are lagging behind organisations and industries such as the Banks when it comes to diversity within those who in positions of leadership

The pressure on Local Authority funding is the biggest challenge to the Arts

There is a need for the Arts Council to take the Arts to communities and places that currently do not encounter art

The Arts Council are investing in the future as well as the present

There is a need to provide opportunities and encourage young people to engage in the arts

The Arts Council needs to support the organisations that are making the arts inclusive

To listen to Sir Nicholas Serota talk to John Wilson on Front Row visit

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Introducing David Dupuis

Social anthropologist, David Dupuis contacted me about my research having read my blog post via Hearing the Voice.

David is a Visiting Fellow at the Department of Anthropology of the University of Durham, funded by the Fyssen Foundation. In collaboration with the Hearing the Voice team, he is working on the experience of auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH), occurring in shamanic contexts, especially during the ayahuasca rituals and retreat times in the jungle.

David's doctoral dissertation focused on ritual innovations, modes of transmission of religious knowledge and the topic of therapeutic effectiveness in Takiwasi. During his PhD, David spent eighteen months in Takiwasi, a therapeutic community located in the Upper Peruvian Amazon. This therapeutical team includes medical doctors, psychologists and traditional healers using some mestizo shamanism practices. Medicinal plants – including the hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca – are used in rituals along with psychotherapy and speech groups. The rituals mix elements of Amazonian shamanism, Catholicism and the New Age.

David aims to advance his work in order to elaborate a cross cultural and comparative model of the arousal, socialization and control of AVH in various social contexts. His goal is to shed light on how cultural repertoires affect the nature and intensity of AVH, illustrating how culture affects our mental experiences. He is consequently planning to conduct further ethnographic fieldworks in order to collect new data with a view to better understand what he calls the socialization of AVH.

It was fascinating to hear about his experiences and the effect that the plants can have on people and their auditory verbal hallucinations. I am curious to find out more about the rituals, and the effects that the ayahuasca can have. The implications for the use of this plant are considerable.

David and I discussed how our research interests relate and began talking about potential collaborative ideas. I am looking forward to working with David and seeing how our ideas develop.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Sound of your own voice may help you understand your emotions - New Scientist

By Katharine Sharpe

Like the sound of your own voice? You may be more emotionally in tune than the rest of us. This is the upshot of a study that suggests people use their voice to help them understand their own emotions.

You’d be forgiven for assuming that feelings come first, followed by their outward expression, but in the past few years it has become clear that it’s more of a two-way street. Our bodies play an active role in shaping our thoughts and emotions. For example, you may think that you smile because you are happy, but the physical sensation of smiling can create happy feelings. Now it seems our voice has similar powers.

A team led by Jean-Julien Aucouturier at the CNRS, the French national centre for scientific research, created a computer programme that allowed them to electronically manipulate the emotional content of people’s voices. They asked 109 participants to read a short story about buying bread, and then used the programme to modify each voice to sound either happy, sad or fearful.

When they listened to the altered recording, most people did not realise their voices had been altered in any way. “Everyone else around could tell their voice had been changed to happy or sad, but they couldn’t. They believed that how they were hearing it was really how they’d said it,” says Aucouturier.
Vocal emotions

Not only were the volunteers unaware of how they sounded, when asked how they felt 85 per cent gave answers that aligned with how their voices had been modified. Skin conductance tests confirmed that they did indeed feel this way.

“It is really a striking result that participants ended up updating their emotional state in response to whether their own voices were made to sound happy, sad or anxious,” says Aucouturier.

It makes sense to process the emotional expression in others’ voices, he says. “If you’re angry, I need to know about it because I could be in danger, but there does not seem to be any point in becoming afraid of the sound of a voice when you know it is your own. You could call it a bug in the system, like an auto-immune reaction.”

A more likely explanation, says Aucouturier, is that the volunteers used their voice to provide information about themselves: I sound happy so I probably am. “This is a completely novel finding – think about what you may infer about yourself the next time you have a sore throat and start sounding like Darth Vader.”

Therapy boost

“We infer our own emotions in much the same way as we infer them for other people,” says psychologist Simone Schnall from the University of Cambridge. “This study suggests that even subtle changes in vocal expression carry subjective meaning in the context of emotion regulation.”

It’s unclear how big a part voice plays in our emotional awareness since facial muscles, heart rate, breathing, all play a part in how we feel, says Aucouturier. “How all of these interact, and what prevails in case of conflicting evidence is still largely unknown. But voice is such a powerful and ubiquitous medium in daily expression of emotion that it’s bound to play an important role.”

Mark Huckvale at University College London treats people with schizophrenia via an avatar. He says that the technique could be applied in mental health therapy. “Feeding back the client’s voice sounding more cheerful could possibly boost the benefit of therapy.” It could help build the client’s self-confidence, he says.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Storytelling: how reading aloud is back in fashion

Following my blog post yesterday about Jenny Richard's lecture, 'Voices and books: a new history of reading', I came across this article in The Observer, published in 2013.

At a weekly book club, Elizabeth Day has found that even in an age of social networking, the direct, oral tradition can still reach out to a new audience

"The last time someone told Thomas Yeomans a story, he was a child. Last week he wandered into a storytelling session for adults without quite knowing what lay in store. "For me, reading has become more formal over the years; it's something I do on my own," explained Yeomans, a 26-year-old artist. "So I swept into this at the last minute, not knowing what to expect."

Yeomans happened to find himself in one of the weekly storytelling sessions that I have been running over the past month in an art gallery in central London. When I developed the idea with gallerist Simon Oldfield, the premise was simple: we both felt that the tradition of reading aloud and sharing stories with each other was something that had been lost in modern times. In an era of social networking and electronic gadgetry, when friendships are conducted via computer screen and culture is increasingly savoured in isolation through a pair of noise-reducing headphones, we have neglected the pleasures of direct experience.

Many of us used to be told stories as children. But as we grow older, we seem to lose the knack. Yet there is undoubtedly an appetite for it: revenue from downloaded audiobooks has risen by 32.7% since last year, while The Reader Organisation, a charity that aims to engage people through the shared reading of great literature, now has 350 weekly shared reading groups across the country.

"What happens with shared reading is that people experience a very intense thing together, but everybody has their own personal, private, inner response to it," says Jane Davis, founder of The Reader Organisation. "A lot of people don't understand how poor literacy is in our country. For many, reading aloud gives you access to things you would simply never read otherwise."

Like Davis, it struck me that, while there had been a welcome resurgence of book groups and literary festivals over the past decade, there was little chance for adults to engage in group reading without some sort of self-improving literary discussion at the end of it, or a nagging sense that one should really be buying the author's newest work as part of an unspoken commercial transaction. Which is how I came to be reading Anne Enright's short story, Here's To Love, in the week before Christmas when Yeomans wandered through the door. "What I liked about it was that this was an informal setting and a gentle, welcoming environment where my defences were down," Yeomans said after the session. "It really pulled at my heart strings. I felt like a defenceless child again."

Helen Ervin, a 38-year-old marketing executive from New York, agreed: "There's an intimacy that happens when you get a whole bunch of people together… There was a moment in today's story where I thought I might cry. There's an emotion brought to the surface when you're reading aloud because it's being performed."

Another attendee said he had come because "the idea of reading is hard work to me. I'm dyslexic, so I prefer to listen to radio plays and things like that. I was completely sucked in today. It was really engaging."

For Doris Julian, 70, the experience "took me right back to being a child and being read to in the library. I like to listen to le Carré audiobooks and things like that, but there's nothing better than the real version. It's very descriptive and I love it. I can't think of a nicer way to spend an afternoon."

By this time I'd been running the storytelling sessions for a month and had been bowled over by the response. More and more people came in each week to listen to short stories by authors as diverse as Dorothy Whipple and Jon McGregor in a room hung with striking works of contemporary art. Local businesses were keen to get involved: Majestic gave us free wine to serve and a rug company, Bazaar Velvet, loaned us a beautiful Anatolian carpet for everyone to sit on, engendering a real community feel and invoking the true childhood spirit of Jackanory.

A handful of regulars came to every session. It seemed to tap into something – a kind of long-forgotten tradition that we still felt in our bones. Reading aloud has a noble history. Before the invention of the movable-type printing press in the 1430s, oral storytelling was a means of cementing community bonds and passing folk narratives on to the next generation. In medieval times, storytellers were honoured members of royal courts. From 1500 storytelling continued to be popular in an era of widespread illiteracy, when books were still too expensive for the common man.

"Often a neighbour would have a Bible and would read aloud from it," says Jennifer Richards, a professor of early modern literature and culture at Newcastle University. "Or there would be rhetorical training for boys at grammar school, [but] the appeal of reading aloud is not about education; it's about being social, part of a community."

In the 18th and 19th centuries, reading aloud continued to be a form of entertainment. "People didn't have recorded music or films or television, so books had to be everything; they needed to be dramatic, entertaining, comic and sentimental," explains Dr Abigail Williams, a lecturer in English at Oxford University. "One of the things about reading aloud is that you have to do it in small bits. You can't just do it for hours on end, so that brings out qualities in the text you might otherwise miss. People become the characters in a way they don't if you are reading flatly for yourself. You get more of the comedy and the dialogue works differently because it becomes the spoken voice, rather than a transcription of the spoken voice."

But none of this can entirely convey the intensity and intimacy of the experience. I was surprised by how many people who came to the storytelling sessions were visibly moved by the experience – I would glance up from the text and see someone's eyes gleaming, on the brink of tears. Others would look away, lost in their own private universe. One man came up to me afterwards and admitted that he thought a character in one of the stories was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – a condition that he too had been diagnosed with.

It is a sensation familiar to Davis, who runs reading groups for a cross-section of society – from young doctors without the time to read, to prisoners or groups of pensioners in economically deprived areas. "These little private bombs go off in your head, something strikes a chord [because] with the shared reading experience you are not an observer or discusser; you're going through the experience with everyone else," she says.

"There are a lot of people out there whose connection to the world is through TV and things like I'm A Celebrity. Lots of people don't have a chance to have a serious, intellectual, meaningful experience, and that's what humans are for. We need that… A book provides a wonderful anonymity for personal feelings and responses."

The Reader Organisation has case studies on its website that pay testament to the power of shared reading. A woman in her 60s from Birkenhead is quoted as saying: "For many years I have had a lot of pain in my body, but when I am in the group the reading and sharing of stories helps me to focus my mind away from the physical pain and forget about it for a couple of hours... It kind of lifts you out of the pain."

A survey by the same charity of 214 people who had attended storytelling groups found that 96% enjoyed meeting people they wouldn't normally meet, while 80% left feeling "more positive" about life.

I can't speak for all those who came to our sessions, but I certainly left feeling more positive about lots of things – about the power of literature to engage, the special kind of intimacy gained from a communal experience and the ability to communicate with so many different people without any kind of ulterior motive.

We weren't trying to sell anything. We weren't pretending to improve anyone's mind. All we wanted to do was to share a story. And in the end, it was not just about reading out loud, but also about reading ourselves."

Friday, 24 March 2017

Voices and books: a new history of reading - a public lecture by Jennifer Richards

Voices and books: a new history of reading

Jennifer Richards, Joseph Cowen Professor of English Literature at Newcastle University delivered last night's public lecture, exploring the importance of the physical voice – breath and tone – to reading.

She explained how the recovery of the lost reading voices of the past, as well as the art of listening, can help us to re-imagine the books of the future.

It is not uncommon to regard reading as a silent action, and although it is often represented as being so, silent reading is a relatively recent practice. There is a history of books being heard as well as seen. Jenny Richards began her lecture by exploring how the printing process contributed to the rise of silent reading.

"Writing moves words to a world of visual space"

Print organises information e.g. contents, chapters, index to make information easier to access.

The format of the book, and indeed the format of a text, shapes the way that it is read.

In The Gutenberg Galaxy, Marshall McLuchan states 'the reading of print puts the reader in the role of movie projector'.

But Richard argues that the physical voice adds meaning to text, and brings the words off the page. She concluded the lecture with a brief introduction to the work she is doing with Professor Michael Rossington (English Literature), Professor Magnus Williamson (Music), and Professor Paul Watson of the Digital Institute at Newcastle University.

"This project is titled Animating Texts at Newcastle University (AtNU). Over three years we will be exploring how the digital can complement rather than replace the print edition, exploring different ways of understanding, explaining, and experiencing text as mobile, variable, adaptable, performable, while also helping us to re-imagine the reading experience."

In terms of my own work, it emphasised the importance of choosing a style and a means of visually presenting my text in a fashion that will guide the reader in how to read it.

I couldn't help but think of the work of Samuel Beckett, particularly the text 'Not I' which i find nearly impenetrable when presented visually, but, when performed, is one of the most powerful pieces of monologue that I have experienced.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Hew Locke artist talk

This week's visiting lecturer at Newcastle University was Hew Locke. Born in Edinburgh, Locke spent the majority of his youth in Guyana before returning to the UK to embark on an MA in sculpture at the Royal College of Art.
"Locke explores the languages of colonial and post-colonial power, how different cultures fashion their identities through visual symbols of authority, and how these representations are altered by the passage of time. These explorations have led Locke to a wide range of subject matters, imagery and media, assembling sources across time and space in his deeply layered artworks.

More recently, Locke has explored ships as images, objects and also physical sites for artistic interventions, discovering in the ship a potent symbolism as an instrument of control in warfare, trade and culture. 

He has also initiated a series of altered share certificates, now-obsolete documents referring to this same violent, turbulent history of colonial trade, ownership and power, as well as subtly referencing the contemporary art world’s participation in commodity culture.

Across his work, Locke’s ability to fuse existing material and historic sources with his own political or cultural concerns, whether via visual juxtapositions or through the re-working of a pre-existing object or photograph, leads to witty and innovative amalgamations of history and modernity. This layering of time is accompanied by a unique merging of influences from the artist’s native Guyana and London, where Locke now lives and works, leading to richly textured, visually vibrant pieces that stand on a crossroad of histories, cultures and media."

It was a joy to hear Locke speak so openly about life as an artist. He recognises that, at times, he has taken on a project because he needed to pay the bills, rather than it being something that interests him artistically. 

When asked why he makes art, Locke replied, "because if I didn't, I would be ill." 

Monday, 20 March 2017

Conversation with Anjeline de Dios

Following a recent blog post about my research into voice hearing, a number of researchers and voice hearers have contacted me. One of these is Anjeline de Dios, a geographer and maker of music in/from the Philippines. This morning (UK time) we began our first Skype conversation, and what followed was an incredible 2 hours of sharing and developing ideas.

I'll attempt to provide a summary of some of the topics of conversation we covered.

Anjeline provided a brief introduction to the cultural context in the Philippines. With over 80% of the population being Catholic, singing is very popular. People are not scared to sing in public and choirs exist in institutions such as churches and schools, but also at work.

Anjeline's PhD centered around Filipino music practitioners who are entertainers on cruise ships. She spoke about how they are a kind of their own, viewed as unauthentic as they cover existing songs, and do not have a sense of affinity with other musicians.

What are the performers listening to?
What are they listening for?
What songs do they sing for different people?

We then discussed Anjeline's experience of singing and vocal meditation. She set out with the aim of bringing herself to the point of tears, and was trying to find out what she sounded like; embodying the music.

Does singing in a group change the emotional level that one can reach when singing alone?

Group singing and singing for an audience introduces room for self doubt, vanity and self inhibition. There is a threat that one will not sing as they would when they are alone, but group singing and singing for an audience allows for inter-subjectual listening, meaning that the singer is in conversation with others and can find out what other people hear.

We acknowledged the human tendency to take on board the bad things we hear more than the complements we receive, and how this is a survival tactic.

I spoke about my difficulty at focusing on one conversation at once when in a situation with lots of conversations happening, and how I am most able to concentrate on my inner voice when I am walking. Anjeline recognised that I am responsive to external stimuli, and spoke of the modern trend to multi-task.

Our conversation moved onto the inner critic: the internal voice that tries to infiltrate one's thoughts with negativity. You are not good enough, your actions are not good enough, the inner critic attempts to prevent you from doing things and be less confident. We recognise that the inner critic is frustrating and it takes a lot of effort to challenge the thoughts, but that there is some purpose to the inner critic. It drives us to better ourselves.

I introduced my experience of the presence of a creative critic in addition to an inner critic. Whereas the inner critic tends to focus on the person as a whole, the creative critic is critical of what I am creating artistically. It tries to prevent me from continuing pursuing ideas and belittles what I do.

I spoke about my recent experience of contacting my inner child, and the development of an ability to identify with my different selves, accept the different selves and work with the different selves in a way to make my mental health as positive and stable as possible. This has taken years, and is still very much in the process of developing. It is a skill that can be learned and practiced.

We ended with a discussion about the relationship between creative individuals, an inner critic and a creative critic in relation to experience, in particular education.

Is the creative critic a development of the inner critic?
Do creative people turn to creativity as a way of dealing with their inner critics?
Are creative people more able to tune into their inner critics because of their creative education?
What does this mean for education in the creative fields?

I am really excited about continuing these discussions with Anjeline, and collaborating in some form or other.

To find out more about Anjeline's music and research, please visit her website

Another mug wrapped

Wrapped ready for transporting

As NewBridge studioholders steadily move out of our studios on NewBridge Street West and transfer everything to our new temporary home at Carliol House, Holly and I have been gathering mugs from people wanting to participate in our 'Raise A Mug for NewBridge' event.

We are wrapping each of the mugs in wrapping paper that we have made, transporting them to Carliol House, and will then reunite the artists with their mugs at a Carliol House Studio warming gathering. We will fill our mugs with a cup of tea (or alternative beverage) and raise our mugs to the next phase of NewBridge history.

This weekend we are busy wrapping the mugs that we have already gathered. We've got plenty more wrapping paper, so plenty more NewBridge Studio holders can can involved. Just leave your mug (with a label with your name) at the NewBridge office, on the tea trolley in the bookshop or give them directly to Helen and Holly.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

An invitation to voice-hearers, researchers and clinicians

I am embarking on a new body of work investigating auditory hallucinations. This stems from an increasing awareness of the different types of voices I experience; inner speech, helpful inner voices, plus the destructive and commanding kind that challenge me on a daily basis.
Through engagement with other voice hearers, academics, researchers, psychologists and clinicians, and by working with Mental Health organisations including Launchpad and MOSS, I seek to investigate the experience of hearing voices (in the broadest sense). My research will take a number of formats including individual interviews, group discussions and creative writing workshops. 
I have a number of confirmed outputs, including a reading group, an evening of spoken word performances and an exhibition. I will conceive, create and curate a high- quality immersive audio-visual panoramic installation that represents the typical, atypical, constructive & destructive experience of hearing voices. It is hoped that this will raise awareness, encourage dialogue & promote a holistic understanding of the phenomenon. After the exhibition I aim to produce a publication which will extend the body of work and be a legacy for the project. More information about these will be shared in due course.  
If you have any experience of voice hearing (directly or indirectly), would like to be involved,  or request further information, please contact me by email.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Launch of the Tyneside Sounds Society at Shipley Art Gallery

I attended the launch of the Tyneside Sounds Society at the Shipley Art Gallery. Michael McHugh has set up this group to establish if there is an interest in forming a network of individuals in Tyneside dedicated to Phonography, Field Recording and the aural environment of Tyneside and North East.

The network will have an emphasis on exploring both the current environment of Tyneside (also North East in general) and also its heritage (or ‘lost’ sounds).

The objective of group is to establish a grass roots network of individuals irrespective of age, gender, knowledge or experience who have an interest in this area and want to share knowledge, promote/organise events or activities and contribute recordings.

The evening included an introduction to the Tyneside Sounds Society by Michael McHugh, a presentation by John Kannenberg about The Museum of Portable Sound, and a performance by Mariam Rezaei.

John Kannenberg is a multimedia artist, curator, writer, researcher and composer. He investigates the sonic geography of museums and archives, the psychology of collection, the processes of making and observing art, and the human experience of time.

His work has included exhibitions for radio, online and physical venues including the Herskovits Library of African Studies in Chicago, the ZKM Medienmuseum, the Biennale of Electronic Arts in Perth, London's ResonanceFM art radio station, the Version Festival in Chicago, as well as a display of ancient Egyptian soundmaking objects for the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Ann Arbor.

John established The Museum of Portable Sound in 2015 when he visited London from the United States and discovered that his iphone did not function as a mobile phone in the United Kingdom. That is when he decided to turn his iphone into The Museum of Portable Sound. John aims to bring the culture of sound to the world, one listener at a time. He uses his iphone to record a vast array of sounds, which are then catalogued in the museum. As the museum's strapline states It's not an app, it's an experience. Rather than make the sounds available to download online, the museum only exists on John's mobile phone and visits have to be booked in advance on an individual basis (though group bookings can now be taken due to the museum acquiring headphone spilters). The museum has a guide book that can be downloaded as pdf and also, in keeping with the need for museums to generate income, a gift shop.

The launch of Tyneside Sounds Society coincided with the centenary of the Shipley Art Gallery. To mark this occasion, Mariam Rezaei was invited to perform using a gramophone recording of a speech made by King George V the from Tyne & Wear Museum Archives collections. The speech was delivered in the Shipley Art Gallery on 10th October 1928, part of a ceremonial address to mark the opening of the Tyne Bridge. The speech was recorded by Columbia Records and also includes an address of welcome by W. Swinburne, Town Clerk of Gateshead. It was subsequently published by Columbia as a souvenir of the event. The record was originally part of the collection of Gateshead's Local & Industrial Museum or Saltwell Park Museum.

Mariam used the original gramophone record and a digitisation of the recording to improvise, with turntables, a live cut-up of the speech to create - a form of erasure or sonicblackout as a reinterpretation of the 80 year old recording.

It was an interesting evening, and I'm keen to get involved and explore the museum's collection of sound recordings.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Ash to Art - an exhibition of new work to raise money for The Mackintosh Campus Appeal

"In May 2014 the world-famous Mackintosh Building, at the heart of The Glasgow School of Art’s Garnethill campus, suffered a fire that caused significant damage to the west wing including the loss of the celebrated Mackintosh Library.
The GSA Development Trust subsequently launched The Mackintosh Campus Appeal to raise £32m to help the institution recover from the consequences of the fire, and to deliver an authentic and sympathetic restoration of the Mackintosh Building, including returning the library its original 1910 design. To date the campaign has raised £18.5 million.

25 leading international artists, including Simon Starling, Sir Antony Gormley, Grayson Perry, Cornelia Parker, Jenny Saville, David Shrigley and Douglas Gordon have used materials including charred timbers, debris, books and furniture, retrieved from The Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh library after the fire to create original works of art to help raise money for restoration of the Mackintosh Building. Each artist was sent a piece of debris specifically chosen for them with a note telling them what it was, where it was from and explaining the concept. The brief was left open for each artist to interpret what they received and create their own new piece of art.
In an auction titled Ash to Art, created by J. Walter Thompson London in collaboration with The Glasgow School of Art Development Trust, the new art works will be displayed at Christie’s in London King Street in a special exhibition between 3rd and 7th March 2017, then auctioned during the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale on 8th March 2017. The proceeds will be donated to The Mackintosh Campus Appeal."

Monday, 6 March 2017

Moving on Up, Moving on Out comes to a close

Yesterday marked the end of an era, with the closing of the final exhibition to be held in the NewBridge Project Space.

It was the last time that Holly and I were working in the project space making wrapping paper for our 'Raise A Mug for NewBridge' artwork.

Here are some photos of the wrapping paper we produced yesterday.

This will be used to wrap mugs given to us by studio holders to transport to the new building. Once we have moved into the new building we are going to host a studio warming get-together at which studioholders will be reunited with their mug. We will have a drink to toast to the new phase in The NewBridge Project's history.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Why a Newcastle city centre building colonised by artists will soon be empty again

Norham House, round the corner from the Odeon on Pilgrim Street, has been home to a thriving creative community


3rd March 2017

Artists who brought new life to one of Newcastle city centre’s giant former office blocks are packing up and moving.

Their final exhibition – called Moving On Up, Moving On Out – finishes on Saturday and that will be the end of Norham House as a cultural venue.

The building on New Bridge Street, opposite Newcastle City Library, is on the East Pilgrim Street site which the city council has earmarked for major regeneration.

Eventually it will be demolished like the old Odeon, on nearby Pilgrim Street, which was on the same site.

But it has brought into question the value of having clusters of mostly young artists and creative people in the centre of a university city which has long prided itself on its culture and vibrancy.

It was in 2010 that a pair of young fine art graduates were handed the keys to empty Norham House as part of a scheme to keep the city centre alive during the recession when a lot of development projects got put on hold.

Previously its five storeys had been occupied by lawyers and accountants. Now the artists invited others to join them, paying a peppercorn rent.

Norham House became better known as The NewBridge Project with a street level gallery and bookshop and a warren of studios, workshops and exhibition spaces.

It has run a programme of exhibitions, talks and other events and has been a popular destination during the annual Late Shows in Newcastle and Gateshead.

Charlotte Gregory, who studied fine art at Newcastle University, became director of The NewBridge Project in 2014.

She said the artists had been given six months’ notice to leave the building back in October.

“Norham House includes the bookshop and gallery and there’s also the Maker Space next door and the Alphabetti Theatre underneath,” she said.

“Then there are the 80 studios we have upstairs along with workshops, a dark room, a film lab and also a rehearsal space and project spaces.

“Nearly 100 people regularly work here but if you think of our public bookshop, gallery and events, there are a lot more people that benefit from these spaces.”

Charlotte said the eventual move had always been anticipated but that didn’t make it easier.

“I think it’s quite difficult for a lot of people because we’ve been here for nearly seven years now.

“It forms a big part of people’s lives because it’s not just a work space, it’s about a sense of community and being surrounded by a network of your peers.

“A lot of development work happens here and there are opportunities for commissions and exhibitions.

“It has sparked a lot of things for people, enabling them to continue their creative careers and remain in the city.

“A lot of our studio holders studied at Newcastle and Northumbria universities, and even at Sunderland, and have said they would have moved away if it hadn’t been for things like NewBridge because it’s affordable and there’s an openness.

“There’s a grassroots feel with the sense that anybody can get involved.

“So there was initially a lot of sadness and a sense of loss. But there has also been a sense of camaraderie. It has brought people closer together and there has even been a sense of excitement about creating the next space.”

It’s not the end for the NewBridge artists who have been given the chance to relocate to Carliol House, a Grade II-listed building in the same ownership on the corner of Market Street and Pilgrim Street.

“The landlords have been quite accommodating, allowing us to have that six months, and the council have been very supportive in helping with the relocation,” Charlotte said.

“For this building we’re signing a two-year lease. It’s slightly smaller so I think we’re going to have to use it in a slightly different way.

“But we have also been looking for a more secure space which would be sustainable for the longer term.”

Charlotte said places like NewBridge were “incredibly important” for cities such as Newcastle which boasted big cultural venues.

“If you have places like Baltic and Northern Stage you want young creative people to stay in the region and places like NewBridge allow a really experimental approach.”

Charlotte said The NewBridge Project had worked closely with Newcastle University and had commissioned a study by academic Dr Martyn Hudson, looking at the social and economic impact of its work.

This was launched at Norham House this week with high profile speakers supporting the idea of creative hubs in the city centre.

Sarah Munro, director of Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, said places like NewBridge were “absolutely critical” to Baltic and an important constituent of the region’s cultural scene.

They ensured a community of artists with a “high quality practice” and a culture of experimentation.

Artists and smaller arts organisations she likened to bees. “They’re really tiny but you take them out of a system and it collapses.”

Hans Möller, innovation director of the North East LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership), said “creative people doing creative things” were important economically and socially.

“Creative/digital is one of the sectors we’re focusing on because you can get access to funding for it,” he said.

“We need to be better at supporting start-ups in the digital sector.”

John Tomaney, professor of urban and regional planning at University College London but based in the North East, suggested the value of places like NewBridge shouldn’t be measured purely in economic terms.

“The biggest problem facing Newcastle and the North East is a problem of civic disenchantment which was best expressed in Brexit,” he argued.

“In terms of the impact and value of NewBridge, rather than its economic value we should be asking, ‘What does it contribute to the city and region as a decent place to live for the majority of people?’

“It’s a massive, massive question but worthy of discussion.”

Earlier Tom Warburton, director of investment and development at Newcastle City Council, said: “They have really worked hard, the artists there.

“They have been on low rents but they have created quite a creative fulcrum so, from the council’s point of view, we’ll continue to liaise with them to keep the vibe going.”

But the council, while it doesn’t own the buildings, is keen to see the redevelopment of East Pilgrim Street which it regards as one of the most strategically important in the north of England.

It, of course, will benefit from the business rates paid by the eventual occupants of the Northam House area which has been earmarked for retail development.

Norham House, like other buildings on the East Pilgrim Street site, is managed by Motcomb Estates on behalf of Taras Properties, a company owned by David and Simon Reuben, billionaire property developers.

A spokesman for Motcomb Estates’ agents in Newcastle, GVA, said no date had been announced for the demolition of any of the buildings but the work would be phased.

Meanwhile the artists keep ducking and diving, adding colour and variety to urban life.

For more about The Newbridge Project go to

Friday, 3 March 2017

Slide Night at The NewBridge Project

Tess Denman Cleaver | Aaron Guy | Kate Liston | Rene McBrearty | Thomas Whittle

Slide Night #6 took the formal shape of a traditional slide talk, this one structure acting as a gimcrack portmanteau, within which functioned a series of diverse and disconnected narratives, tangents and dead ends.


Washing feet,

Green screen props,

An attempt to get to Moscow in the name of football...

Slide Night was a live event featuring artists including past and present studio members.

Slide Night is an ongoing project by past studio member Thomas Whittle.

Moving on Up, Moving on Out – Research Launch Event

Dr Martyn Hudson has been researching the social and economic benefits of The NewBridge Project. The retention of artists within the creative economy of the North East and looking at measures of value that accrue to the City of Newcastle specifically, have been part of the research. Particularly exciting have been the ways in which the artists have responded to themes of social justice and inclusion within the city and measurable ways in which the transformative power of arts and design work can be perceived.

Martyn was joined by guests:

Hans Moller, former Chief Executive of Sweden’s Ideon Science Park & Director of Innovation at North East LEP;

Julie Sanders, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Newcastle University;

Sarah Munro, Director of Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art and

John Tomaney, Professor at University College London (UCL).

They shared insights into the impact of arts and culture and creative hubs on cities and responded directly to some of the conclusions of the research.

It was also a great chance to see a slideshow of photos taken by Kuba Ryniewicz of NewBridge studio holders.

The NewBridge Project was established in 2010, as part of a meanwhile project based from Norham House, a 27,000 ft2 office block, within the East Pilgrim Street area of Newcastle, marked for redevelopment and eventual demolition. For nearly 7 years it has been home to a vibrant community of artists, supporting hundreds of artists through; provision of studio & workspace, artist training & development programmes and a pioneering artist-led programme of exhibitions, commissions and events. In April, we bid farewell to our current building after 7 years, and are moving on to pastures new.

Moving on up, Moving on out, is a month long exhibition and programme of events, celebrating The NewBridge Project and the people who make it what it is.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

'A lot can happen in fifteen minutes' is now available at The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh

My text, 'A lot can happen in fifteen minutes', published in collaboration with UnstapledPress is now available at The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. 

We are wanting to increase the number of stockists selling the publication, so let us know if you have any recommendations, suggestions or if you would like to stock the publication, please do let us know.

If you can't get to a stockist, don't worry, they are available to purchase online from here: