negotiating accrington

27 October, 2006

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Accrington Town Centre Today I was invited to ‘infiltrate’ the Accrington Live Project for the second time.  This brief is unusual in live-project terms because it emerged out of the project work that Studio 5 (co-ordinated by Carolyn Butterworth) carried out in 2005-6, which involved interactive/conceptual art based surveys and the display fo their ongoing projects in public space in the town and proposals that considered public space.  The work that last years students (I being one of them) completed was exhibited in a shop, council offices and a terrace in an Accrington housing regeneration area.  Claire Joyce of Mid-Pennine Arts (who had been involved in the studio through Carolyn) pushed this publicity and momentum forward with a view to linking it to Mid-Pennine’s initiatives.  The links that were formed and the interest that was generated led to the Council becoming attracted to the Sheffield live-projects.

This live-project aims to meet a brief set by Elevate East Lancashire (which is a government body in charge of te regeneration of the area – thanks Richard!), which was informed by the radical nature of the proposals for Accrington that the studio produced.  In this Live Project the group have developed their research through a market stall and events set up in Accrington Town Centre and also through a series of contacts with local businesses, shops, residents, arts and community groups; some of which had sprung from the previous year’s studio project and some that had been developed through visiting the town and contacting stakeholders directly. The market stall was chosen as it was considered to be an important situation in the town as it was a focal point, with historic importance and most importantly, without thresholds; their active research became very public. They have made fantastic connections in many different forms, some of which I mentioned in my previous blog about what live projects are trying to achieve. 

What I found particularly interesting about today’s meeting was the questioning of what their role was as a live project (in relation to what role the profession would have with the same brief), what they could acheive in six weeks and what their skills were, both as an individula and collectively.  Their negotiation seemed to end in an understanding that they could not solve problems as they did not necessarily have the time period of knowledge of highways engineering etc to do so, but they had made relationships within the town and got a bery personal/relational view of the activity and desires within the area; this could be filtered to become an ambitious and quite radical approach to public space.  However, they acknowledged the temptation to revert to more traditional forms of masterplanning where they dealt with issues of where to place the bus station etc.  This seemed to be due to the form of representation they were initially using (large scale maps etc) and from some conversations with people that focused on pragmatic concerns.  It is their intention to produce a booklet of ideas for the town, which is currently being developed out of their ‘alternative surveys’ and public interventions and further research into public space.

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