Year of the Artist Residency. Jan - June 2001

Within the residency we explored the possibility of collaborating with a government body by working with Congleton Borough Council Planning Department to integrate art with urban development schemes across the Borough.

Temporary paintworks. Throughout the residency we became increasingly concerned with issues relating to communication and consultation processes; perceiving an urgent need to increase direct public awarenesss and involvement in redevelopment schemes in their own locality. Sidestepping conventional public awareness-raising processes, and avoiding obscure technical jargon, we orchestrated a more intimate public consultation exercise that delivered its message to the public directly and without unnecessary bureaucracy or political bias.

The aim of the 'Activate' project was to enable Planning Officers within Development Control, Local Planning and Conservation & Design to establish a culture where the inclusion of the arts becomes an integral part of the planning and development of the Borough. The Council secured two conservation-area based regeneration initiatives from English Heritage, Heritage Economic Regeneration Schemes (HERS). It is intended that these schemes will help to regenerate the market town centres of Sandbach and Middlewich.

There are a number of other potential opportunities and developments throughout the Borough.

Between January and June 2001 Andrew Hewitt and Melanie Jordan were artists in residence at Congleton Borough Council, as part of a Year of the Artist funded project entitled 'Activate'. In their collaborative practice Hewitt and Jordan are concerned with the political and social aspects of placing work within public or communal spaces. They consider that art can be a catalyst for social dialogue; a way of communicating directly with a community.

The 'Activate' residency was an opportunity for Hewitt and Jordan to apply their approach within a public institution. Their research consisted of observing the process and methods used in planning by meeting with the council officers to discuss the planning issues for the Borough. They familiarised themselves with the many regeneration and redevelopment schemes across the Borough and suggested ways in which art projects could be integrated within them. For most of the officers and the artists it was the first time they had collaborated in this way, this exchange of views was central to the success of the project. The residency has initiated a strategy of introducing art, craft or design at an early stage within the planning process.

Finally the artists made a temporary work, Go-Betweens which examined the consultation process that is essential within a regeneration scheme. They also 'opened up' the Literary Institute, Sandbach where they held an exhibition to advocate public and community art.

In order to document their experience they produced a broadsheet entitled 'Here'. 'Here' includes contributions from arts officers, writers, public art consultants and the team of planners at Congleton Borough Council. It was intended that 'Here' would be a useful reference for groups or individuals involved in the planning of community or public art projects within regeneration programmes.

Artists Andrew Hewitt and Melanie Jordan, in conversation with Ian Banks, Public Art & Architecture Officer at North West Arts Board (download pdf, 60kb)

© 2005 Hewitt & Jordan