East Midlands Heritage Awards 2017

This year I helped organise the third annual East Midlands Heritage Awards. My remit was to jazz it up a bit and so came up with the theme of ‘Celebrating Creativity’. Rather than have the usual formulaic ceremony, we invited three poets (Lauren Terry, Hannah Cooper-Smithson, Aly Stoneman) a photographer (Chantelle Greenslade) and a filmmaker (Richard Weare) to interpret the winning entries. This had two functions: It gave the winning organisations something tangible to use in their promotion while allowing our ‘creatives’ to perform their work in front of an audience who regularly commission artists.

The second innovation was the idea of a ‘confessional booth’ whereby we recorded Vox Pops from the attendees. These were then collated together to create a short film. The heritage sector runs largely on guts, good will, and bundles of enthusiasm in the face of adversity. We wanted to catch what it’s like working in the sector – the good, the bad, and the ugly – so that we, and others, can identify support needs. For example, one recurring problem for organisations is that due to budget constraints they don’t have enough staff. Nottingham Trent University has a placement programme through the ‘Humanities at Work’ module whereby they can provide placement students from across disciplines to fill a variety of roles.

I’d originally had the idea of a confessional booth for a literature festival, whereby guests could confess what trash literature they had been reading and I’d absolve their sins by suggesting a more demanding title. But like many things, I never got around to it. The Heritage Awards was the perfect opportunity to put this into practice.

For the last decade or so I’ve been working on literary heritage projects which have included mapping out Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (The Sillitoe Trail) a literary graphic novel (Dawn of the Unread) and I’m currently putting together a project called DH Lawrence: A Digital Pilgrimage set to be launched in 2019 to mark one hundred years since Lawrence’s self-imposed exile. I know how difficult it is to get funding and support and I understand the pressures and dedication required to curate and produce such projects, so I have nothing but admiration for the people in this sector. So to have 150 heritage professionals in one room to celebrate their various projects was an absolute privilege. I hope the ‘Celebrating Creativity’ theme helped them in some way.

The event was also an opportunity to work a bit more closely with Neville Stankley, my colleague at NTU. He’s done an incredible job for the heritage sector and so there’s a lot that I can learn from him. The other core members of our small team were Marc Lupson and Alice Turnbull. Here’s looking forward to next year…

The winning entries were:

Totally Voluntary – Nottingham Industrial Museum

Volunteer Empowerment – Heritage Lincolnshire

Engaging Children and Young People – Erewash Museum

Heart of the Community – Green’s Windmill Trust

Innovation – Chain Bridge Forge

The Wendy Golland Award for Quality Research – Hallaton in the Great War Research Group

Judges Special Award – Nottingham City Museums and Galleries


Tongue Fu: Night of Festivals Touring

tonguefuMarket Square, Nottingham has seen many rebellions and protests over the years. From the Cheese Riots of 1764 to the framebreakers of 1811 and more recently, the encampment by the Occupy Movement. Tonight it is home to a celebration of ‘freedom through artistic expression’ as part of Night of Festivals Touring.

The event is put on by ArtReach and Writing East Midlands and will feature Chris Redmond and the Tongu Fu team. I first came across Tongue Fu on The Space, their work with Kate Tempest is easily my favourite of all the commissions. Artists instruct a band on what type of music, tempo and rhythm they want playing and then perform their poetry over the top. It’s an impromptu performance that generally works well every time. The Jazz Poetry at Bar Deux works on a similar principle, though Tongue Fu are more flexible in that they can create any type of genre.

Representing Nottingham is Aly Stoneman, Poetry Editor at Leftlion Magazine. Winner of Nottingham Poetry Society’s Performance Poetry Competition 2011 and a commissioned poet for WEM’s Lyric Lounge. Recently Aly has appeared at Ledbury Poetry Festival, Nottingham Festival of Words and Copenhagen International Poetry Festival. Her debut chapbook Lost Lands was published by Crystal Clear Creators in 2012 and explores the relationship between humans, myth and landscape. I should also confess that she is ‘er indoors, but emotional biases aside, I think her poetry is mesmerising so I’m really looking forward to it.

Sureshot aka Michael Brome is a poet, rapper and music-loving lyricist based in the East Midlands. He was a contributing artist to the ‘Freedom Showcase’ spoken word show for the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade, and later this year will feature as part of WEM’s Lyric Lounge , at the Off The Shelf Festival, and in a spoken word project exploring Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream Speech. Sureshot does these amazing recitals and is a big lover of jazz. I unsuccessfully tried to create a jazz evening with him and septuagenarian John Harvey (who has a jazz loving detective in his Resnick novels) a while ago. I though the contrast would work really well. But never say never…

If you’re thinking of attending, don’t worry if it starts to rain. The event takes place in a cosy inflatable nook called The Dome.

Night of Festivals, Old Market Sq, Nottingham, Friday 13 September, 7.30pm (in the Performance Dome) 7.30-9pm. Tickets £5. The Dome has limited capacity so please book ahead through nightoffestivals@artreach.biz or 0116 261 6882