GRAYSON PERRY’S TAPESTRIES ON SHOW IN SUNDERLAND

AN exhibition of work from one of the UK’s favourite artists is on show in Sunderland.

Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Gardens is hosting Turner prize winner Grayson Perry’s The Essex House Tapestries: the Life of Julie Cope until Sunday, November 4.

The exhibition consists of two large-scale, striking tapestries shown alongside a graphic installation and specially commissioned audio recording of The Ballad of Julie Cope, a 3000-word narrative written and read by Perry that illuminates Julie’s hopes and fears as she journeys through life. The artworks represent, in Perry’s words, ‘the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life’.

The tapestries were made for the Channel 4 programme Grayson Perry’s Dream House and later acquired by the Craft Council, supported by Art Fund with contributions from The Wolfson Foundation and private donors.

Julie Cope is a fictional character created by Perry – an Essex everywoman inspired by those he grew up with and whose story he has told through the two tapestries and extended ballad presented in the exhibition. The tapestries illustrate the key events in the heroine’s journey from her birth during the Canvey Island floods of 1953 to her untimely death in a tragic accident on a Colchester street.

Rich in cultural and architectural details, the artworks contain a social history of Essex and modern Britain. Perry created the rich visual story on a computer and then worked with a digital mediator and tapestry weavers to translate the 1970s colour palette of his original digital drawings into a woven textile.

Jo Cunningham, Exhibitions, Collections and Archives Manager at Sunderland Museum, said: “The exhibition is already proving popular and we’re delighted to be hosting work of such national significance.

“When Perry’s Vanity of Small Differences tour began here in 2013, it was hugely successful – attracting more than 123,000 visitors, the most we’ve ever had to an exhibition.

“He appears to have an affinity for the city, and in turn, Wearsiders seem to love his work.”

Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Culture and Communities, said: “Grayson Perry’s last exhibition in the city went down a storm with people in Sunderland and I think there’ll be a lot of interest in this one too. He has such a wonderful way of telling stories in a way that’s really easy to relate to.”

Perry visited the city for his Channel 4 programme All in the Best Possible Taste and based the subject matter for his first two tapestries The Adoration of the Cage Fighters and The Agony in the Car Park on the places and characters he found here.

EXPERIENCE THE ART OF RANGOLI

AN internationally-respected artist will celebrate 30 years of working in communities around the world with an exhibition in Sunderland.

Ugandan-born textile artist Ranbir Kaur will mark three decades of working in the rangoli tradition with an exhibition starting on Saturday, October 13 at Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Gardens. The exhibition, Life in Colour, will run until Sunday, January 6, 2019.

Rangoli is a traditional Indian art form used to decorate the ground in front of houses and places of worship to attract the Hindu Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi. It is usually made for festivals and special celebrations. Ranbir has taken this traditional art and adapted her approach according to the space she works in. As well as using traditional materials and patterns, she creates stunning contemporary designs using materials not usually associated with this art.

Although she has exhibited her work extensively in museums and galleries across the UK, this retrospective exhibition is the first time that Ranbir’s life as an artist has been celebrated. The exhibition brings together a wide range of textile pieces made using traditional techniques from embroidery, filigree, and mirror work to story banners and doll-making, all inspired by her South Asian heritage.

The central focus of Life in Colour will be an impressive site-specific rangoli, created with coloured sand, marbles, mirrors and buttons, especially for this retrospective exhibition.

Ranbir is in the Guinness Book of Record for creating the largest rangoli and the first ever floating rangoli on the water with British Water Ways and Craft Space. She also received the ‘Jewel of India’ award in recognition of her outstanding achievements and contribution in keeping Indian culture alive in the UK.

Throughout her career, Ranbir has shared her passion for colour, texture and design, creating an impressive portfolio of projects. She has worked with diverse communities across the UK and, through the design and installation of site-specific rangolis, in many countries across the globe, from Europe to Australia.

Ranbir said: “This exhibition has been two years in the making and I am so pleased to be finally showing my work here in the North East, especially at the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. This retrospective presents pieces that haven’t been seen by the public before. It brings together the breadth of my work I have produced over the years and every piece has a little history, a story to tell.  I hope that through this exhibition the public would get a glimpse into my world – my world of colours and patterns.”

Abid Hussain, Director of Diversity at Arts Council of England, said: “Over a career spanning 30 years Ranbir Kaur has made an incredible contribution to the arts and cultural life of England. Her work has served as an inspiration to so many people across the country including myself.

“Her generosity of spirit and body of work is testimony to Ranbir the artist but also Ranbir the mother, mentor and community enabler whose work has crossed cultural and religious divides to inspire so many people who would otherwise not have engaged with arts and culture.”

Prior to the exhibition’s opening, Ranbir will host a series of free Art of Rangoli workshops to introduce the art form to Sunderland families. The first will take place at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens on Saturday, October 13 (11am – 12.30pm and then 1.3pm – 3pm).

The Cultural Spring will also host a free workshop at the CHANCE centre, 2 Rickaby Street in the city’s East End on Saturday, October 20 (11am – 3pm). To book places at this workshop, log on to the workshops section of the Cultural Spring’s website … www.theculturalspring.org.uk or ring 0191 427 8197.

Further workshops will be held at the Museum between November 5 and November 8. Go to www.seeitdoitsunderland.co.uk/sunderland-museum-winter-gardens for details.

This exhibition has been made possible with generous support from Arts Council England National Lottery Funds, Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Gardens and Friends of Sunderland Museum.

The Cultural Spring is an Arts Council England (ACE) funded project, which aims to increase participation in the arts both in Sunderland and South Tyneside.

The Cultural Spring’s four partners are the University of Sunderland; the Customs House, South Shields, Sunderland’s Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust and Sangini, a women’s organisation. The project works with five wards in Sunderland and five in South Tyneside.

CROWDFUNDING BID TO RECORD MUSIC FROM TALL SHIPS HIGHLIGHT

THE enchanting music that accompanied a dramatic highlight of the Tall Ships visit to Sunderland could be recorded for posterity if a crowdfunding bid is successful.

Heg and the Wolf Chorus provided the perfect soundscape for Cirque Bijou’s tight rope walk from the south bank of the Wear to the Wearmouth Bridge on the Friday night of the Tall Ships Races visit.

The music was composed by Bristol-based Heg Brignall and performed by a 50-strong choir of Sunderland singers led by local musician Catherine Stevens.

Now a crowdfunding bid has been launched to record the music from the performance, which was called Portolan.

“We thoroughly enjoyed performing Portolan at the Tall Ships in Sunderland, and it was a really special evening for me as my family, who are originally from Seaham and Sunderland, came home to support me, the chorus and the choir,” said Heg.

“There was some interest from people wanting to buy the music, so we thought we’d see if we could crowdfund the £3,000 we’d need for musicians, studio time and the CD presses,” she added.

Heg’s songs and music were performed by a choir on the Wearmouth Bridge as Chris Bullzini and Johanne Humblet from Cirque Bijou climbed 100ft along a 700ft long high wire suspended across the river in a spectacular finish to the third day of the Tall Ships Races.

Thousands packed the river bank to watch the spectacle.

“It was an amazing night and we were proud to be part of it,” said Heg.

If sufficient money is raised, Heg and the Wolf Chorus would record six tracks on to an EP. Her group incorporates singer Julu (correct) Irvine, double bass player Joe Kelly and fiddle player Aaron Catlow. They tour three times a year and were invited to play a key role in Portolan after a Cirque Bijou director heard them play at a Bristol festival.

“Our music always has a storytelling element to it, and he thought we’d be right for Portolan. Music for the show was inspired by the seascape of the Sunderland coast,” Heg explained.

Helen Green, Head of Performance at Sunderland Culture, who delivered more than 200 cultural events over the four-day visit of the Tall Ships, said: “Heg and the Wolf Chorus’s beautiful, evocative and haunting music contributed massively to the enjoyment of Portolan and I’m sure many of the thousands of people lucky enough to have seen the show will be interested in a copy of the CD.

“I very much hope Heg raises the £3,000 needed to record the EP.”

If you would like to make a contribution to the crowdfunding campaign or would like to reserve a copy of the CD, go to https://igg.me/at/portolanep/x/7741295.

WEARSIDE ENJOYS THE WONDERLOOPERS

CROWDS of people yesterday (Sunday, September 16) enjoyed playing special instruments created to help celebrate the opening of the region’s newest bridge.

Artist Di Mainstone created Wonderloopers from leftover materials from Sunderland’s Northern Spire and 14 of her creations were the centrepiece for a celebratory event commissioned by Sunderland Culture and delivered in partnership with Sunderland City Council, the Cultural Spring and Creative Fuse North East.

A thousand ticket-holders were each allocated 50-minutes to ‘play’ the bridge through the Wonderloopers which mixed kaleidoscopic mirrors, motion sensors and a soundscape composed by musicians Architects of Rosslyn. The free tickets for yesterday’s event had been snapped up within hours of being made available.

The Wonderloopers were created from cast-off pieces of the plastic used to encase the Northern Spire’s huge steel cables. They were designed and produced at the University of Sunderland’s FabLab, inspired by two hackathons attended by musicians, engineers and technologists to help Di explore different ways to play the bridge and create instruments from the casing cut-offs.

Corinne Kilvington, Producer for the event on behalf of Sunderland Culture, said: “We had some great feedback from the hundreds of visitors. The Wonderloopers gave them a unique experience and an opportunity to explore the bridge from a different perspective – visually from the images created from the kaleidoscopic effect of the instrument’s mirrors, and audibly through the brilliant soundscape created by Architects of Rosslyn and the interviews recorded by Di.

“The day felt very chilled, with people having plenty of time and space to enjoy each one of the 14 installations. It was great to see so many families enjoy the event together.”

Rebecca Ball, Creative Director of Sunderland Culture, added: “We’ve been genuinely delighted with the response we’ve had from people of all ages who have engaged with the Wonderloopers.  Each of the Wonderloopers had their own personality and people were discussing and comparing the stories and dreams they’d heard through each of the portals.

“People came from all over the north east and from further afield to explore Wonderloopers – one visitor had come from New York, and said they’d loved the experience.”

Sunderland student Ellie Clark, 19, was among the crowds of visitors: “I loved it. It was something a bit different and I enjoyed stopping at each of the Wonderloopers and hearing the stories and music. It was a great way to explore the bridge.”

Wonderloopers was commissioned by Sunderland Culture as part of a Great Place project to work with communities on both sides of the Wear to celebrate the opening of the new crossing. Sunderland Culture secured funding last year for the Great Place Scheme, a joint fund from Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund to put arts, culture and heritage at the heart of communities.

The Northern Spire, which opened to traffic on August 29, was closed from 11pm on Saturday to midnight last night.

LAST CHANCE TO BE A WONDERLOOPER VOLUNTEER

Time is running out for you to get involved in a special event to celebrate the north east’s newest bridge.

This Sunday (September 16) unique musical instruments created from leftover materials from Sunderland’s Northern Spire will be used in an event to celebrate the bridge’s opening. The instruments – called ‘Wonderloopers’ – are the invention of artist Di Mainstone, who was commissioned to work with communities on both sides of the Wear on the IN-SPIRE project, which will celebrate the crossing.

Fourteen of the instruments will be installed on the bridge for visitors to play and interact with. The Wonderloopers will invite people to ‘play’ the bridge in a unique way, using kaleidoscopic mirrors, motion sensors and soundscapes composed by musicians Architects of Rosslyn.

Tickets for the event were snapped up within hours of being made available, but there is still a chance for you to be involved as a ‘Portal Keeper.’

Corinne Kilvington, Producer for the event on behalf of Sunderland Culture, said: “We need 30 friendly and approachable volunteers to be Portal Keepers for the day. As a Portal Keeper, you will look after each portal or Wonderlooper, helping members of the public adjust the heights of the portal and ending each session with a short simple movement and performance element.

“We would love to have volunteers from communities within close proximity to Northern Spire, however, anyone can take part. No experience is needed, but volunteers must be over 16 years old. Wonderloopers will give people the opportunity to ‘play’ the bridge between 10am and 7pm on Sunday.

“We have a training session for volunteers between 6pm and 8pm on Friday (September 14) at Fablab in Hope Street xChange in Sunderland city centre.

“We’ve had a good reponse to our call-out for volunteers, but there are still a few slots available,” Corinne added.

Please contact [email protected] for more information and to express an interest.

Wonderloopers is a ticket-only event and Northern Spire will be closed to traffic from 11pm on Saturday (15th) to midnight on Sunday.

Di has already ‘played’ New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, Omaha’s Bob Kerrey Bridge and Bristol’s Suspension Bridge, among others. However, the plastic casing around the Northern Spire’s steel cables dampened the sounds from her ‘Human Harp’ instrument used to pluck or twang bridges’ steel cables.

So instead, Di has created the Wonderloopers out of cut-offs from the plastic casings.

“The Wonderloopers will channel, mix and meld the dreams, hopes and visions of Sunderland’s people via the city’s newest futuristic beacon – the Northern Spire. Once the visitor is inside the Wonderlooper they will see the bridge fragmenting and hear Mandy’s soundscapes, created from interviews with members of the community,” explained Di.

The instruments have been manufactured at FabLab Sunderland, supported by Creative Fuse North East.

Di hosted two hackathon events at FabLab which were attended by musicians, engineers and technologists to help her explore different ways to play the bridge and create instruments from the pipe cut-offs. These experiments led to the Wonderloopers.

The IN-SPIRE project has been commissioned as part of Sunderland Culture’s Great Place project and is being delivered in partnership with Sunderland City Council, the Cultural Spring and Creative Fuse North East.

The Northern Spire opened to traffic on August 28.

COUNTDOWN TO WONDERLOOPER!

The magical musical instruments created to help celebrate the opening of the north east’s newest bridge will be played for the first time this Sunday (September 16).

Wonderloopers have been created from leftover materials from Sunderland’s Northern Spire and are the invention of artist Di Mainstone, who was commissioned to work with communities on both sides of the Wear on the IN-SPIRE project, which will celebrate the opening of the new crossing.

Fourteen of the instruments will be installed on the bridge for visitors to interact with. The Wonderloopers will invite people to ‘play’ the bridge in a unique way, using kaleidoscopic mirrors, motion sensors and soundscapes composed by musicians Architects of Rosslyn.

The instruments have been manufactured by FabLab Sunderland out of cast-off plastic casings that cover the bridge’s huge steel cables.

Di hosted two hackathon events at FabLab which were attended by musicians, engineers and technologists to help her explore different ways to play the bridge and create instruments from the casing cut-offs.

Corinne Kilvington, Producer for the event on behalf of Sunderland Culture, said: “For one day only our Wonderlooper event will give people a unique perspective of Northern Spire. People will be able to wander the bridge appreciating its scale and beauty and experiencing it as they’ll never be able to do so again.

“Wonderloopers are sonic kaleidoscopes, musical portals that allow the wind racing down the Wear to play the cables of the Northern Spire and at the same time release the stories and dreams of communities from both sides of the bridge.”

A thousand tickets for the event were snapped up within hours of being made available, but there is still a chance for you to be involved as a ‘Portal Keeper.’ Volunteers are needed to look after each portal from 10am to 7pm on Sunday – no experience is necessary and training will be given. If you’re interested, contact [email protected] for more information.

Wonderlooper is a ticket-only event and Northern Spire will be closed to traffic from 11pm on Saturday (15th) to midnight on Sunday. City Council Leader Coun Graeme Miller will give a welcome speech at 9am on Sunday before pre-booked members of the public will get their chance to explore the bridge and the Wonderloopers.

Ticket holders are asked to arrive 15 minutes before their allotted time.

Di has already ‘played’ New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, Omaha’s Bob Kerrey Bridge and Bristol’s Suspension Bridge, among others. However, the plastic casing around the Northern Spire’s steel cables dampened the sounds from her ‘Human Harp’ instrument used to pluck or twang bridges’ steel cables. So instead, Di created the Wonderloopers out of cut-offs from the plastic casings.

“The Wonderloopers will channel, mix and meld the dreams, hopes and visions of Sunderland’s people via the city’s newest futuristic beacon – the Northern Spire. Once the visitor is inside the Wonderlooper they will see the bridge fragmenting and hear magical soundscapes, created from interviews with members of the community,” explained Di.

For more information on Wonderloopers, go to www.playthebridge.org.uk

The IN-SPIRE project has been commissioned as part of Sunderland Culture’s Great Place project and is being delivered in partnership with Sunderland City Council, the Cultural Spring and Creative Fuse North East.

The Northern Spire opened to traffic on August 28.