It’s been a gruelling couple of days (bringing to an end a run of six days with only one night at home!). I was chairing a panel* whose task (simply!) was to select the winner of the Artist Taking the Lead commission for the East (www.artisttakingthelead.com)
(UK Centre for Carnival Arts, Luton – where the interviews took place)
After five presentations and five further hours of deliberations we eventually came to a decision – but as my tweets (twitter name – Matthew Linley) suggested it was really, really hard, Nail biting in fact. At one point I had three projects running neck and neck. And now hours later – and on the train home – I’m still shaking. Needless to say I can’t say any more now – our recommendation is now sent for ratification to an ACE project board and then the announcement is made on the 22 October.
(a shepherds hut – part of the Hut Living presention)
Over the two days we’d heard and seen five very different projects. There really are some exciting artists and ideas emerging from artists either in – or interested in – the East. It was clear that many of the projects (Hutliving, Hop Skip Jump, On Landguard Point, Artists Taking the Lead on Reversing the decline of the honeybee and Eastern Invocation**) had been on a real creative journey during the six week research and development time, funded by an initial £5,000 investment The presentations too gave us a tantalising glimpse of what was possible – we explored a traditional shepherds hut, ate food at a dining table, witnessed a world premiere and heard a full brass band give us a rendiition of It Must Be Love by Madness. Above all though we were simply blown away by the passion, conviction and honesty of the applicants.
(the Royston Brass Band perform as part of the On Landguard Point presentation)
There can of course be only one winner. I do truly think – that though close – we have selected a project which has the ‘wow’ factor I was certainly looking for. I think it will showcase the East – both to itself and to the world – it will encourage us all to take part and as an audience member I look forward to the moment I sit back and go ‘wow…THAT was amazing’.
And for the other four – several of the applicants told us how much it had meant to them to be shortlisted and to spend the time developing up their big idea. Whilst they may not be going forward right now I’d like to think this is merely a pause, a hiatus – and that we will see all of these projects realised in various forms over the next few years. They certainly deserve to be!
Any commission is risky. And the stakes are so much higher when the fee available is a cool .5 million. But if our panel is anything to go by the UK will celebrate the arrival and build up to the Olympics with a series of groundbreaking creative projects. The Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Games may have blown the world away (at a cost of £300 million dollars)– but potentially we will have 12 projects that will do just that whilst leaving a real legacy for the artists involved, the region itself and the projects audiences and participants. What Artist Taking the Lead is going to allow our selected commission to do in the East is to realise a truly big idea in full and without compromise.
Its so exciting I’m still shaking!
* The panel is Rachael Drury (ACE representative),Steph Hogger (LOCOG representative), Matthew Linley (chair), Anthony Roberts,Simon Woolham & Jason Yarde. With the support of Caroline Lawson (ACE).
** the shortlisted projects are by Nancy J Clemance, Vicki Weitz and LACE, Pacitti Company, Wysing Arts centre and Cheryl Frances Hoad. For more info see the artists taking the lead web site.