AIRSHIP DREAMS: ESCAPING GRAVITY
This was an immersive artwork and community-curated exhibition exploring the spectacle and utopianism of UK airship heritage. It was on display at The Higgins, Bedford until 28th November 2021
Airship Dreams: Escaping Gravitv was commissioned by Bedford Creative Arts in partnership with The Higgins Bedford and the Airship Heritage Trust exploring Bedford's identity as the historical centre of the UK's airship industry, past and present. Lead artist, Mike Stubbs, worked over a three-year period getting to know the community and the history that inspired the proiect.
The outcome was a new immersive artwork created collaboratively with a team of artists in a computer games engine. Unreal, that invited the viewer on a spectacular journey like floating through space. The artwork was on display at The Higgins' William Harpur Gallery until 28th November 2021 and was exhibited alongside an exciting new community-sourced display of airship artefacts, stories, inspiration and memorabilia donated by airship enthusiasts from the local community and around the world. The community display will be in place until 20th March 2022.
The project was funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, Bedford College, Harpur Trust, Bedford Borough Council and Airship Heritage Trust.
TAKE PART QUEEN'S PARK
How can we build our connection to the place in which we live? What brings a community together?
Take Part Queen’s Park is an art project both inspired by and created with the community of Queen’s Park in Bedford, alongside artists. Through engaging residents of all ages with the creative arts and exploring Queen’s Park’s cultural diversity, the project seeks to combat isolation and strengthen residents’ sense of place and community.
Residents and community groups worked with artist Caroline Wendling who gathered stories and experiences of Queen’s Park. This then led to the creation of an exhibition in the Higgins Bedford. The Exhibition celebrated the vibrancy of Queen’s Park using film, embroidery, and clay.
Queen’s Park residents have also been working with Artists Andy Holden and Mira Calix through a series of workshops to design and create a mural. The mural explores themes of communication, community, and unity, which came out of experiences during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
CANART FOR BALL CORPORATION
Global beverage packaging company, Ball Corporation, produces aluminium drinks cans and has
premises in Luton.
Ball wanted to promote the message that aluminium is infinitely recyclable and invited BCA to produce a new artwork using cans for their Luton HQ. They wanted a piece of work that would promote sustainability and brighten the workplace for staff.
BCA commissioned artist Larry Jackaman, who had developed a specialist embossing technique using aluminium drinks cans to create a new artwork to be installed in their reception area. Larry cut leaf shapes out of aluminium cans and then engaged over 150 members of the public to emboss them with designs from nature.
Leading visual artist Arabel Lebrusan explores our complex relationships with knives and their variety of roles in this display. Informed by years of research after Arabel received three crates of confiscated knives and weapons from Bedfordshire Police in 2013, this display explores whether the meaning of an object can be re-established and transformed to evoke different emotions.
The display features seven new works in a variety of mediums, including photography, sculpture, jewellery, drawings and audio, delving into the commonly held perception of knives from specialised tools in everyday jobs to status symbols and deadly weapons, and transforming their meanings.
Drawing from a selection of over 40 historic examples of blades from The Higgins Bedford's collections, the display is accompanied by Tales of Blunt Blades, a publication of short stories.
Members of the public and amateur writers were invited to pen new histories and narratives for the culturally significant objects, giving a voice to individuals in the community with a story to tell, as well as encouraging them to consider the varied roles of knives.
ARCHIPELAGO – A FILM ABOUT QUEEN'S PARK
Archipelago, a film about Queen’s Park, takes us on a poetic journey through the neighbourhood. It explores the lifes of seven residents and tells a story about the a sense of belonging in our local community. The film’s title, the collective noun for a group of distinct but nearby islands, speaks to the ways in which Queen’s Park – as evidenced in the film – is itself the result of simultaneous senses of belonging, and the cultural traditions and multiplicity of assumptions that underpin these senses of belonging.
Caroline Wendling is a resident artist who has been working in Queen’s Park since 2020 to explore the culture, talents and memories of residents and present their stories through new works of art. Through an extensive series of public walks and workshops in schools, in the allotments, with community groups and in Presentation House, a film and artworks of clay and embroidery have been created that represent and showcase the talent of residents and shares their unique stories of Queen’s Park for all of Bedford to enjoy
AUTOHOODENING:THE RISE OF CAPTAIN SWING
In time for the holidays Captain Swing returns from past worker uprisings in a consciousness-raising custom for the age of A.I. Capitalism. A folk opera, based on worker testimonies and interviews with union organisers, written and produced collectively by Post Workers Theatre and Infinite Opera.
Captain Swing, the fictional face of worker dissent in the great English agricultural uprising of 1830, is resurrected to confront the horrors of working as a seasonal associate in an Amazon fulfilment centre. Will Swing help the workers to overcome Alexis the evil scanner, a symbol of Amazon’s regime of technological discipline?
As part of the wider Autohoodening project begun in 2019, this is a collaborative response to a midwinter custom dating back over 200 years. Hoodening was originally performed by farm labourers in East Kent who paraded with a horse effigy in a carnivalesque satire of their working reality during the fallow season of winter.
Autohoodening reimagines this custom for the age of automation, updating its design, delivery and social commentary and asks how might the singing, dancing and physical humour parody and draw attention to the
3D illusion art piece, titled The Vault, has captured the public's imagination on Bedford High Street.
Located opposite Nando's and adjacent to the high street bridge, the artwork was produced by international artist Julian Beever, in collaboration with Blank Walls.
The Vault depicts a local urban myth that a hidden treasure - a bank vault - is still buried underneath the site. The artwork included past Bedford high street workers and shoppers who used the bank in their daily life.
The charity Bedford Creative Arts (BCA) commissioned the work on behalf of the High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) cultural consortium.
The overall HSHAZ programme is led by Bedford Borough Council and funded by Historic England (£1.76m) and Bedford BID, as well as supported by SEMLEP and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
DUMP IT ON PARLIAMENT REVISITED
In 2015 the Dump It On Parliament Revisited project was commissioned and hosted by Bedfordshire libraries and produced by Bedford Creative Arts. This culminated in a live event at Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre featuring alternative bands, whose styles span from hip-hop to hardcore, from indie to dub, from psychedelia to full-on punk. This was an opportunity not just to bring the noise to the traditionally quiet spaces of Bedfordshire's libraries but to act as a reminder of the area's local cultural heritage.
Steve Spon of UK Decay, still active musically, helped curate the event and appeared onstage with Roshi Nasehi to lead the audience in singing along the Bob Dylan-esque acoustic anthem "Break Down The Walls". It was an evening in which punkish euphoria and anger mingled, along with the strange thrill of previously disconnected young people joining forces for the first time. The beginning of something new, perhaps.
TOMORROWS GREAT PAGEANT
This was a socially charged participatory project initiated by Post Workers Theatre and supported by Ray Filar, Emma Frankland and Claudia Jeffries. Together, over a period of three months they worked with members of the community to write and produce a new play that addresses issues around suffrage and gender for the 21st century. The project launched during LGBTQ+ month at The Place, Bedford and seeks to give voice to new and emerging ideas on positions of gender.
Post Workers Theatre was inspired by the suffrage play A Pageant of Great Women written, produced and directed by the dramatist and actor Cicely Hamilton in 1909. It was a popular allegorical work of political agitation, which featured the embodiment of 'Justice', 'Woman' and
'Prejudice'. The play served, in part, to recover knowledge of great women of the past, with a cast of forty five historic women, and to promote a feminist perspective on emancipation. The play became internationally renowned within the women's movement and proved successful on wider populist stages, touring for three years between 1910-1913
THEATRE TÉMOIN’S ‘ASMA – ROUTES BEDFORD’
In July 2018, we were commissioned by Bedford Creative Arts, Music In Detention, and The Higgins Museum Bedford, with support from The Harper Trust, to work with migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and other groups in Bedford to run a series of workshops that lead to the creation of a new puppet.
Over the course of 4 months, we worked closely with our commissioners in Bedford to devise a series of workshops to be delivered to locals, and from these developed the character for a new audio piece and puppet for a character called Asma, who was showcased at Bedford’s Bedpop Fun Palaces in October 2018. Asma will now become a part of ‘Routes’ and will be one of the four characters in the story.
Routes – Bedford was run by Hannah Tookey and Michelle Madsen with puppetry design and build by Peter Morton and with workshop and design support by Olivia Altaras and Robyn Olivia.
GROWING UP ITALIAN IN BEDFORD
This film Growing Up Italian in Bedford has created in partnership with Dr Selena Daly of University College London and with grant funding allocated from the High Street Heritage Action Zone Cultural Programme in association with Historic England. Thanks to Memoria for their additional funding toward the project and documentation of the stories captured by the reminiscence workshop Growing Up Italian held on the 23rd September 2023.