The Big Draw Festival 2021: Make the Change was another roaring success for Big Draw Organisers across the globe, bringing people - young and old - back to the drawing board for another year! Now that most of our Festival organisers are kicking their feet up and reflecting over their events' successes, we wanted to catch up with a few of our Sponsor Partners to hear all about what they got up to...
During October, Inspire Libraries invited every primary school in Bassetlaw and the people of Nottinghamshire to draw and add to a mass portrait of the county and celebrate in a few words the place where they are. Working with international artist Hetain Patel, they explored ideas of place and belonging with the community, using the story of The Mayflower as a starting point. Their event this year was linked to Hetain Patel’s Mayflower inspired project LANDING, which came to be with the help of young people from Bassetlaw and is all about our relationship to place and belonging, wherever we land.
We were very excited to catch up with Kate Stoddart from LAND/ING to find out more about the project and their collaboration with Inspire.
Interview: Matilda Barratt in conversation with Kate Stoddart.
Hi Kate! Thanks so much for chatting with us today. Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your background?
Sure! I have always worked with artists, because although I am not one myself, I understand what it takes to be one; my mother was an artist and my dad was in business and marketing - they were both big influences in my work. I started out working on an Open Studios event, and then in museums and art galleries, and since 2007, have been freelance and working in historic houses and landscapes, communities and villages. I help artists to make the most of their projects. I also work with organisations and communities to help make art projects happen. I'm based in the region and work all over with great freelance colleagues and collaborators. What is amazing about artists is that they make you see the world in a different way. I am sometimes called a curator or creative producer; I also do some mentoring and teaching. I've just moved to the countryside and I'm loving having a big garden – thinking and planning it is a creative project in itself.
Hetain Patel Artist of LANDING Courtesy Sky Arts
Could you tell our readers about the LAND/NG project? What is it all about?
LAND/NG began life as an art project to commemorate the anniversary of Mayflower – in 2020, it was 400 years since the pilgrims and settlers left England for Massachusetts and were met by the Wampanoag people. When I started on this project, I did not know that half the boat’s passengers came from the area of Bassetlaw.
There is a story I have to tell before I can tell you about the project…
It was important to us that the project made local connections – so we worked with a group of young people in Bassetlaw (Inspire Learning students looking to make the next step in their lives towards education or employment) We asked them if they would like to be part of the project in helping us find the right artist for this unusual challenge - the artwork would have to reflect and resonate with the communities here. So, to help equip the group for the task they came with us on an art and Mayflower history crash course – we went to places like Tate Modern, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the London Underground and Derby Market Hall to see art in unusual places. We also took a boat on the river Wivern following the pilgrims first escape from Boston.
Alongside this we discussed and met with different artists to see how they might approach making an artwork for and with Bassetlaw. The artist who got the most votes was Hetain Patel who won our hearts and minds hands down with his incredible idea of making a film, small in length but epic in feel, with a local cast taking part in a performance.
We made a film of this first phase of the project that you can view on our blog here.
Since we started the project a lot has happened – and 2020 threw up new ideas of marking this history. Hetain will be devising dance and movement for the film with local dance groups SANDdance and Reverse Flow and young people connected to New Art Exchange, Nottingham where Hetain has a one person exhibition. And we are also doing a call out for local people to join in with and learn the dance to perform to camera – workshops will start in January, and we will shoot the film in March 2022. We are hoping that the Premiere will take place in May 2022 and following that, we hope there will be more community events to follow. If you want a screening and a performance in your community, we can come to you, whether you are a residential home, a village hall, or school or a community group!
Again, you can see our blog for all the info.
LANDING Journeys with Inspire Learning, Tate Modern (2019)
And what is your role within the project?
I was approached by our main funders Arts Council to develop this project. Now, I am part of the team, with the artist, Jo Wheeler, photographer and engagement specialist Hetain Patel and Producer Mark Bushnell, and Jodie Thompson, co-ordinator. My role is keeping an overview, looking for opportunities to make the project go further and build more connections. I have really enjoyed getting to know the area, exploring places like Worksop Priory, where we hope to shoot the film. It’s been amazing to grow the project and make some fantastic partners, like Inspire.
Inspire: Culture, Learning & Libraries have been Sponsor Partners of The Big Draw Festival for some years now! This year, Inspire’s Big Draw events were done in collaboration with LAND/ING - could you tell our readers a little more about this partnership?
The Big Draw is such a great charity – it goes way beyond the act of drawing – it brings people together, and this year we wanted to join in and with our partners, so we thought about our common themes. LAND/NG is about arriving at a place and what you find. We wanted to make the link between place and people – hence our title, FACES, PLACES. There has been a great response to the call out to draw yourself and ‘your place’ on a circular card, and assembled in their hundreds, they become a virtual community! Showing alongside is the story of how LAND/NG began.
The exhibition has been touring the county libraries since September 2021 – you can find out more here.
LANDING The Big Draw FACES PLACES Exhibition at Worksop Library Nottinghamshire
This year’s Big Draw Festival theme is ‘Make the Change’, looking towards a more balanced and sustainable way of living. What are your thoughts on this theme, and how does it resonate with you and your work?
For me, personally, it’s about things that I can control which make a change and every year to think again. This year: one holiday by air, taking the train as much as possible, car sharing, helping to set up a car club of electric vehicles in my town, making use of ‘soft plastic’ recycling scheme run by a local supermarket. For my work, all the above and I echo something Hetain said, that it's more important to work with people who are kind – and to live like this too.
Finally, if you look ahead to the end of LAND/NG and FACES, PLACES what do you hope it will leave behind?
We are already working on a legacy project which will allow a further rippling out of the project via community screenings and performances. This will happen after the Premiere and YouTube launches. Cast members will be supported to identify local community venues and with digital resources, ‘host’ evenings in their own communities. In this way, the project, after being launched globally, returns to its local routes, completing the cycle.
But your question also asks how the project might leave a deeper impression… I hope that all those who took part, feel that they were part and parcel of an extraordinary creative process, unlike any other; one that is rooted in the locality, and has a worldwide resonance. Whatever people get out of it - being in a film, dressing up, performing or thinking about the messages of the film - of hope, journeys, a sense of place and coming together - we would hope that it is a positive and memorable experience. We would love it to be a foundation for future projects, involving fantastic international artists, working closely with communities with incredible partners. We would also love the film to become part of a museum collection, so it can be viewed in lots of different contexts and preserved for future generations. Let’s see!
Thank you, Kate!