BORN in the former Nunsthorpe Maternity Hospital and raised in Grimsby, talented international artist Annabel McCourt is delighted and proud to be working on a major project in the heart of the town.
Annabel is one of two artists selected to bring community culture and art to life in a re-modelled St James’ Square. The other is Scarborough-based artist and designer Adrian Riley – a familiar face to regulars at Top Town Market where he was ‘Eavesdropper in Residence’ as part of the ongoing ‘Art in The Market’ initiative earlier this year.
Together they will look to use peoples’ stories with the town’s community to shape their ideas for artwork, which will potentially encompass all aspects of the Square’s development.
A steering group that included civic, heritage and community leaders, a Grimsby Minster representative and Our Big Picture directors selected Annabel and Adrian from more than 50 who applied. They will start their work straight away – going into the community both online and in person, inviting people to get involved and leading workshops with local community groups and creative organisations.
“The physical works that you will see are only half of our job, we need to relate what we are doing with the community. We want people to take real ownership of the space, that is extremely important to us,” said both Annabel and Adrian.
Annabel, a former BBC broadcaster whose award-winning creative company Cut Ltd is based in Barton-upon-Humber, has worked in the Minster previously and is bursting with ideas and ambition for a Square and a town she has a real passion for.
With an extensive background in journalism and community arts leadership, Annabel has spent the last three years working as a professional artist presenting major commissions for Hull City of Culture, Lincoln’s Usher Gallery and Scarborough Art Gallery.
“For the public, my aim is to up the ambition of what is possible, to raise the bar and show what can be achieved. Everyone has a story to tell and every story is valid – I want those stories from the community to be reflected in the work I do,” she said.
During his work in residence at Top Town Market, Adrian spent a lot of time observing the sights and sounds – chatting to local people about his work and opening a few eyes to what art can be.
“Sometimes there is a confined definition of what art is, but it’s not just a water-colour hanging on a wall. There are many forms of art that people will see as unusual and interesting,” explained Adrian, who recalled his chat in the market with a retired Grimsby printer. The man was fascinated as Adrian was using old printer’s blocks in his work, having never considered their use in such a creative arena.
“It’s good to challenge perceptions of what creativity and art is and show people that they too can get involved,” said Adrian.
As reported, as part of the Heritage Action Zone, the Square is undergoing a £1.5m overhaul to create a family-friendly space with new furniture, planting, lighting and CCTV. Managed by North East Lincolnshire Council’s regeneration partner ENGIE, this main funding was secured by the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (Humber LEP) as part of the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.
Further monies from the Cultural Development Fund, (CDF), which is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and administered by Arts Council England was awarded to introduce creativity into the Square. Grimsby-based Our Big Picture was commissioned to lead on both the St James’ work and the engagement activity as part of regeneration underway at Garth Lane and has pulled both projects under its new Our Haven umbrella brand.
For more on Our Haven go to www.ourbigpicture.co.uk/projects/our-haven, Facebook @OurHavenGrimsby #ourhavengrimsby, or @ourbigpicture. You can also email [email protected] or visit Art in the Market at Top Town Market.
Picture credit: Tony Bartholomew