Last Thursday afternoon I headed to Ancoats to promote the Student Social Art Party at Whitworth on Unity 92.8 FM. Once we’d gotten over the mouthful of a name, and got into the flow of describing the evening’s event I realised we were putting out a really rather decent offer; music, dance, science, poetry, a huge collection of art, absolutely free. I felt like I was flogging a perfectly healthy horse.
The event was a co-promotion between Whitworth Young Contemporaries and the Student Producers; part of a scheme allowing students, especially students in non-arts courses, to program events at the gallery.
Making (I believe) their return to the Whitworth, opening DJs The Music Curators were eclectic, spinning a complete range of great music, which in my eyes (ears too I suppose) was a cracking start to the eve. Next up, spinning urban music, grime & American electronica, DJ Ruddy brought a different vibe. Having shared the stage with DJ Ruddy at his first ever gig (WYC Summer Party, June 2015) it was definitely a big look seeing on going support for Circuit artists.
Throughout the night we also had workshops going on. Digital Knitting with Sam Meech, crossed contemporary and 80’s technology to allow people to create graphics and run them out of a sowing machine, alongside a Circuit lantern workshop with Artist in Residence Helen Newman. Helen’s workshop revolved around creating battery powered lights, which would then be placed in boxes with designs cut out of them, so the escaping light would throw the shape of the cuts. Both were very well received by a range of people, however Sam’s, which was right by the front entrance to the gallery, was a lot busier than Helen’s, which was tucked away somewhat. On reflection, I don’t think it was because one workshop was inherently better than the other, but more a valuable lesson in the geography of an event; it’s so so so important in organising these things to think about the real-time movement of people.
Now I didn’t personally catch the University of Salford dance students, who did sporadic promenade performances across the gallery. However I did see a similar project at the Whitworth about a month ago as part of the Stride project, which was absolutely beautiful; I’m a definite advocate to seeing more performances of this kind in galleries, which open up creative spaces in ways they may never have been before, and also allow a whole different offer for potential visitors.
Then I read a few poems. Audience were luvleh.
What, for me, was contender for the highlight of the event was the space dome; an inflatable room you could only enter by crawling along a tunnel, in which the stars were cast above the roof by a device much like Helen’s lightboxes, and we were taken on an astrological tour by our highly knowledgeable host. This was a great intervention because it brought a roomful of people onto an intimate, childish level, to learn about something we can all relate to. Special kudos has to go to the child who vocalised what we were all thinking about Saggitarius:
‘That doesn’t look like a sheep’.
After crawling out of the cosmic dome, I headed downstairs to see headliners Haiku Salut. I wasn’t familiar with this lot before the show (I believe the impetus to book them came from the Student Producers) but they certainly dropped an impression. A hardy 3 piece, forever switching between an enormous array of instruments, sliding in and out of contrasting time signatures, causing ripples of sound to sprawl across each other. Nice.
The culmination of the night was Whitworth on Fire, a Circuit supported group of circus practitioners and fire dancers, who brought the entire congregation outside to share the gymnastic, pyrotechnic display they’d been working on. It was a nice end on a wet night, though came off ever so slightly unfulfilling as there was no closing announcement to bring the evening to an official end. Not in any way WoF’s fault, but again, a lesson to learn about the general direction on an event.
Looking ahead to W.Y.C.s Circuit festival next June, it feels good seeing the progression of our own artists like DJ Ruddy and Whitworth on Fire, as well as a growing familiarity with higher profile music acts as we get better and better an hosting these events. Summer’s gonna be a madness.