Blog Post

ARTiculation: Look, Think, Speak; Using Art to build confidence

I’ve been talking with the team of the Roche Court Educational Trust at the New Art Centre, Roche Court recently. I knew of the education work taking place at Roche Court through a colleague but had never visited. What a wonderful and extraordinary place it is!

The New Art Centre was founded in 1958 by the impressive Madeleine Bessborough in Sloane Street, London. She moved her commercial contemporary art gallery out of London to create a spectacular showcase in Roche Court in Wiltshire in 1994. This beautiful house is said to have been originally built for Lord Nelson to retire to. Lord Nelson, as we know, never lived to enjoy his retirement with Emma Hamilton, but the house and grounds are certainly worthy of the nation’s most well-known naval hero. Bessborough has created a beautiful commercial gallery and sculpture park where works can be appreciated in situ both indoors and out.

As you approach the house you are greeted by a selection of stand out sculptures along the drive. My favourites were three of Peter Randall-Page’s monumental pieces: Fructus, Corpus, Phyllotaxus.

I love his simple organic shapes that are so tactile and powerful. The house sits at the top of a dry valley which provides a beautiful setting to show off the art works on display. The fields around the house are home to beautiful russet coloured cattle.

Having a few minutes to spare I was able to explore the grounds where the art works were carefully placed to show them off at their best. I particularly loved the slightly sinister Silent Howler II by Laura Ford; Silent Howler I was there on my first visit but had already been snapped up by the time of my second visit! I loved Ford’s whimsical Dancing Clog Girls too.

Contemporary spaces have been added designed by architect Stephen Marshall. The Artist House, which is modelled on Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge provides space for activities and an ideal gallery space for more domestic scale works and acts as a counterbalance to those on display in the Sculpture Garden.

However, the reason for my visit was to find out more about the ARTiculation competition which was first held in 2006. In essence this is a public speaking competition for students aged 16 – 19 year old using art and architecture as the subject of each 10 minute presentation. It is now a national and international programme with events even taking place in Ireland and in Italy in partnership with the British Council.

I’d urge you to take a look at the ARTiculate website. The testimonies of the young people who have participated in the project speak for themselves as to the benefits of this programme, which is so much more than just talking about art. The great and good of the Art world have been competition adjudicators and this is the one of the strengths of the programme. The link between the Educational Trust started by Madeleine Bessborough and her New Art Centre provides a direct line to contemporary artists like Laura Ford and Director’s of the UK’s foremost museums and art galleries such as Tate Britain, the Ashmolean, the Fitzwilliam and journalists and critics such as Will Gompertz of the BBC.

Looking, Thinking, Speaking

The programme has taken off and developed over the last 13 years. More than 4,000 students a year engage with the scheme. Strong partnerships have developed with over 50 organisations across the sector. It now features the Discover ARTiculation Challenge which is aimed at GCSE students and helps young people to develop the skills necessary to take part in the ARTiculation Prize . This is delivered in conjunction with the University of Leeds.

The Trust is also developing an ARTiculation Network including Ambassadors, Allies and Advocates to help support the alumni of the programme and to enable the programme to be delivered sustainably to more areas and young people across the country.

The Trust are planning to do some work on evaluating and being able to define the benefits more clearly so as to be able to convince busy teachers that it is worth being part of the programme and to unlock much needed funds.

I would urge any secondary school teacher to take a look at this wonderful programme and see how they can use it to develop life skills for their students. Art is a wonderful rich and diverse subject but at its heart ARTiculation is about developing the “soft” skills of young people so that they can progress into the adult world and the world of work with confidence, having developed skills in critical thinking and being able to express themselves articulately.

ARTiculation is changing the future of British art criticism for the best.
Antony Gormley

Roche Court is available to visit every day please see their website for details

Blog Post

Museum Freelance Conference 2019

I first came across the Museum Freelance Network around a year ago when I heard about their conference last year which was held at the London Canal Museum. As a relative newcomer to freelancing it was great to be with other freelancers facing the same problems that I was: work flow, insufficient budgets and juggling work-life balance. More experienced freelancers generously shared information and tips with newbies like myself. It was a great event both practical and inspiring.

Since then I have been following the inspirational duo who head up the MF Network Marge Ainsley and Christina Lister on Twitter and through their e-newsletter. I recently attended their How to set up, survive and thrive as a freelancer in the cultural sector, a one day training course which was full of information that Marge and Christina wished that they had known when they first started out. They have another one coming up in June and I heartily recommend it if you are thinking about freelancing or have just started.

I’ve always believed that networking events like this year’s Conference in Manchester at the Manchester Art Gallery are essential to support professional development. They can reinvigorate and remind you of what you love about the sector, confirm or challenge your ideas, refresh your practice and introduce you to new ideas and best practice by other organisations or colleagues.

The fringe event at the People’s History Museum provided an opportunity to discover how this institution is changing its role as a campaigning museum rather than a museum of campaigns with a myriad of stories about people who challenged society from early trade unions, anti-slavery, equal pay, votes for women and the Chartists. There were lots of artefacts on display telling the stories of the many brave individuals who, in some cases, sacrificed their lives or suffered hardship to provide the freedoms that we often take for granted.

The displays provided plenty of topics for discussion about museum practice as well as finding out about the work of the conference delegates with the conversation continuing afterwards over drinks and dinner.

The Conference proper consisted of a range of speakers, not all directly related to museum freelancing. They were all very generous in sharing their experiences honestly with us including how their personal lives had impacted on their work. A strong theme was well-being and self-care with a powerful listening exercise from Simon Seligman and the personal stories of Jim Richardson and Claire Turner where life events forced a complete re-evaluation of the way that they worked. The first and last speakers, Alistair Hudson of Manchester Art Gallery and Esme Ward of Manchester Museum both spoke about how the purpose of museums are beginning to change and perhaps even return to their original (mostly) Victorian, public spirited and philanthropic foundations. Museums should be ‘useful’, loved and be places of care and compassion not just places that dole out ‘learning’ from the great and the good. They should be ‘constituent’ museums that are part of the civic network. There was a generous spirit in the room and lots of networking chatter.

Not forgetting Caroline Newns, Amina Lone and Laura Weldon. All of whom gave inspirational and informative presentations.

There was lots to learn and share. There is power in joining together. The Network seeks to work with organisations such as the Museums Association and AIM to ensure that Museums and freelancers can work together to achieve the best outcomes for all.

See you next year?

Jim Richardson