Back in February we held an event with our partners Trust New Art at the National Trust to share some of the experiences, research and results of five Short Residency Awards given to New Art West Midlands alumni artists Larissa Shaw, Lindy Brett, Aileen Doherty, Theo Ellison and Grace A. Williams. An aim of the event was to highlight the value in artists working within heritage contexts, looking at the ways in which artistic practice crossing into new spaces might yield new and sometimes unlikely research possibilities. The artists involved were selected through an open call to all alumni of the New Art West Midlands exhibitions and were asked to make a proposal for research for a particular property following a networking event. It was important that no outcome was expected of the participating artists – rather, this was an opportunity for research, conversation and reflection. These residencies took place from May to October 2018, for a period of five days, each with varying degrees of engagement with staff, collections, audiences, architecture and landscape.

Kate Stoddart, an Independent Curator working with National Trust, and our key contact throughout the project, emphasised concerns for supporting artistic professional development that she shares with New Art West Midlands, especially in the years immediately following graduation. Such residency projects not only provide key opportunities for artists but also allow properties to have access to new voices and views that enrich their own research and their offer to audiences. The project brought together shared ideas  of supporting  continued professional development for the region’s artists – not just at graduate level, but also in the critical years that follow. It was also about introducing and contributing creative intelligence, encouraging new ways of thinking and working at heritage sites which will make for interesting projects and attract new audiences.

Held at Birmingham City University’s Conservatoire and chaired by Professor Catherine Baker, Associate Professor Interdisciplinary Practice at Birmingham School of Art, we heard presentations from the residency artists and staff at each of the National Trust properties involved in the East and West Midlands: The Firs, Ilam Park, Attingham Park, Coughton Court and Mr Straw’s House. These properties were selected via a call for expressions of interest. Kate noted that three of the properties had never before worked with contemporary artists.

Catherine Baker explored in her opening presentation definitions of research in terms of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) (questions, aims, context and contribution) and creative practice as research in and of itself. Many definitions place a dichotomy between creative practice and research and they remain unclear. Collaborative and interdisciplinary relationships have value for both parties but are not necessarily harmonious. In fact, conflict, disruption and provocation might be more valuable than a settled and comfortable research relationship. For Catherine, research is reliant upon vulnerability, not knowing and even failure. Artists are best used not instrumentally but as partners. In this way, it is new insight, rather than new outcome, that is gained.

Artist Larissa Shaw gave her presentation with Rachel Sharpe, Creative Partnerships Manager at The Firs in Worcestershire, the birthplace of composer Sir Edward Elgar and the place where his ‘genius’ was born. Larissa began by discussing the importance of chance and of the Worcestershire landscape to Elgar’s composition work which offered a starting point for her residency. Her time at The Firs afforded her some distance from her practice and allowed her research to grow and develop into something that might become a physical work in the future. Larissa responded to the residency context by engaging in conversation with volunteers who are ‘home-grown’ Elgar experts. Speaking about her practice with non-arts specialists left her feeling a little vulnerable but support and parameters for working from Rachel enabled a freedom and confidence in her project. Larissa has an orchestral background and the project provided a critical link between that and her artwork. Rachel and Larissa are looking to develop an Arts Council funding application that draws on the “Aeolian harp” – an instrument played by the wind – and they are excited to reflect on the possibilities and conversations ahead.

The Firs

Lindy Brett’s residency was spent at Ilam Park in Derbyshire, supported by Projects Offer, Paul Mortimer. She used medium-format photography, video and sound technologies in the landscape, dividing her days across several weeks to explore ideas of the picturesque and the self-conscious landscape. Lindy conducted oral research with volunteers and staff on their favourite views and aspects of the very large site which dovetailed with Paul’s key concern about what Ilam should be in the twenty-first century, and a renewed importance of this landscape which has inspired artists since the eighteenth century. Some of Lindy’s ideas included camera traps set off by the feet of visitors, frames placed within the landscape and recreating vanished aspects of the site. Both felt that the short nature of the residency (five days) did not account for the induction to the site that was necessary given its scale nor the time it took to explore it. Lindy feels that the experience has given her confidence and opened up new ideas.

Ilam park

Attingham Park near Shrewsbury hosted artist Aileen Doherty. Saraid Jones, Research and Interpretation Officer, started the presentation with an audio described tour of the site, and noted that she was really excited to be out of her comfort zone showcasing Attingham Park in a new way. Aileen’s practice is characterised by natural forms and natural sciences. This was her first residency and she admitted she had no idea how to approach it initially. Aileen split her five days in two parts in July, and tried to get to grips with the scale and the collections of the site where nature is frequently brought inside. In addition to tours, Aileen was able to stay on site and experience it outside visitor hours which was a valuable experience. The split sections allowed reflection on the first part of her experience, and the second half was spent making photographs and drawings of surfaces and textures very close-up. Archival research afforded further insight. Aileen felt that she achieved what her proposal outlined but that the reality of the residency challenged her thinking. Saraid’s team felt relaxed about the non-outcome driven nature of the residency – she found Aileen’s fresh eyes in thinking about details really useful and tried to give her freedom to explore. Aileen was pleased to have support, and to have open-ended and in-depth conversations with staff and volunteers. There are possibilities afoot for future collaboration via a potential outside artwork.

Attingham Park

Emma Dwan O’Reilly explained that Warwickshire’s Coughton Court is a nationally important house (it played a key role in the Gunpowder Plot) owned by a Catholic family who still live on site. Theo Ellison spent his residency on site. Theo found the scale of the house was overwhelming and felt a self-imposed pressure to shoe-horn previous work into this context. Not being able to touch or move any of the collection objects was a source of frustration so he resolved to work with these restrictions of preservation and conservation. He recruited a 3D-scanning company to laser scan rooms and objects within the house and presented some of the ghostly films and stills made using this technology to us. Theo felt his pieces were most successful when they lacked human presence. He found the collision of not being able to do what he wanted to do on site was a fruitful experience that has enabled new ideas and works. He is keen to show some of these works at Coughton Court and elsewhere in the future, and explained that the technology allows the mapped spaces to be endlessly revisited and discussed. Emma noted a big change in Theo’s work from their initial conversations. She was delighted by the work he made and was excited to share this with colleagues. The works produced have clear potential to feedback into the site.

Bedroom Table Scan, Theo Ellison

Grace A Williams spent her residency at Mr Straw’s House in Nottinghamshire, a relatively small and humble former home to the Straw family of grocers, where she particularly explored the role Florence Straw (wife of Mr Straw) played in its history. This line of research fit with her existing interests in the ‘vanishing’ of women and domestic space. Grace found that the staff on site were very helpful and that she was given freedom. The space is full of objects that appear untouched – it is one of the largest collections in the National Trust – which she found a little intimidating. Grace recorded the space within and outside visitor hours through photography positioned at 4ft – the height of Florence – and while she was there she met a visitor who had known her. Grace found that five days was insufficient and she put pressure on herself to make work. In conversations with Abigail Rose, Membership and Visitor Welcome Assistant, conservation, presentation and preservation were discussed. In one tour of the house with a male volunteer guide, Grace found him comically dismissive of Florence – claiming that Florence spent the family money on wallpaper. She found this made her laugh but she was also angry about the comment and will endeavour to feed this back to the site.

Florence Straw, NT Mr Straws House, Film Still, Grace A Williams, 2018.

At the end of the event, we also heard from Emalee Beddoes-Davis, Curator Modern and Contemporary Art, Birmingham Museums Trust; Hetain Patel, Artist and Eira Szadurski, National Trust Creative Producer – Outdoors, who contributed their valuable views to the afternoon’s discussions. The group began by discussing the value artists bring to such sites. Emalee reinforced the fact that this is focussed upon the artist’s subjectivity, thinking, experiences and honesty which moves the site away from a purely institutional voice. An artist has the ability to highlight artifice in this context. Hetain noted that such projects provide artists with new perspectives and time to think outside their usual frame of reference. The group discussed the length of these particular residencies, concluding that neither the artist’s practice nor their thinking, stop after five days – that that is a starting point. This, of course, raises a question of remuneration, Hetain affirming the point that an artist does not underwork on a residency because their reputation is at stake. The group also discussed the issue of presenting research that is unresolved and the uncomfortable nature of this in relation to outcomes and the honest expectation of a non-outcome driven project. For Eira, the value of the residencies lies within the permission given to the artists to ask awkward questions, make criticisms and have opinions. Two-way dialogue, outlined parameters and expectations are all key to making such projects effective.

Rachel Sharpe, from The Firs admitted that she was afraid of the non-outcome prospect at the outset of Larissa’s project but has come to see the importance of this. The Firs, for instance, have arrived at a new understanding of this value which has positive future outcomes for their way of working. She stated “You provided us with a very important platform to have a very different conversation about the site.” Catherine summed up by concluding that it is exactly this knowledge and this experience that is the outcome.


Anneka French


Back in February we held an event with our partners Trust New Art at the National Trust to share some of the experiences, research and results of five Short Residency Awards given to New Art West Midlands alumni artists Larissa Shaw, Lindy Brett, Aileen Doherty, Theo Ellison and Grace A. Williams.


Project Assistant brief
National Trust & partners
People’s Landscapes Art Commissions, Peak District, Derbyshire –  an arts trail and arts presence at Edale Country Day – admin & co-ordinator support


Job & Person Specification: 

You will be responsible for the final details of planning, co-ordinating and delivery an arts presence at a Country day event on 9th June 2019 and assisting of the delivery of an art trail opening 5/6 July 2019.

Role: Project assistant
Responsible to: Creative Producer Kate Stoddart, Creative Producer, People’s Landscapes Art Commission and Katherine Clark, National Trust
Fee: Fee & travel £7000  (30 days @ £200, plus £1000 expenses)
Contract:  Fixed 4 months
Place of work: Own work place & hot desk provided at National Trust bases in the Peak District, some travel involved – must be able to reach Edale area
Dates: Start end April – end July 2019

Context of role:

In 2019, the National Trust is asking people to look beyond the ‘green and pleasant’ and explore the radical cultural heritage of places and landscapes where people made their own history. From the site of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass in Derbyshire to former colliery sites along the Durham coastline, the Tolpuddle Tree and Quarry Bank Mill/Dunham Massey, the National Trust cares for a number of landscapes where people gathered to make their voices heard to effect social change.
People’s Landscapes art commissions & public programme is one of the main strands of this ambitious, multi-site project in 2019, responding to histories of protest at four sites cared for by National Trust. The aims of this are for new and existing audiences to build deeper connections with National Trust landscapes, a stronger profile of the social histories of these places and a wider understanding that National Trust landscapes are ‘for everyone’.

People involved:

The National Trust High Peak team are working with Creative Producers and artist Jeremy Deller as Collaborator & Artistic Advisor, to develop an overall vision for the Commissioning Programme so that there is a shared vision to the activity at each of the sites. Jeremy Deller has been working on the Kinder project since September 2018, to understand the history, the landscapes and the conservation strategies, and has begun creative conversations around future themes and proposals. He has introduced Jarvis Cocker who has developed two components of the commission: an arts trail and presence at Edale Country Day.

Role Outline:

Admin, Communication & co-ordination relating to the commission. Building up database of contacts/emails for all involved in project. Liaising with all involved in event & confirming booking details Keeping Creative Producer, National Trust & event organisers informed & updated Attend meetings and feed in/feedback  important info. Hands on support up to and on the day (9th June) supporting the team.
Knowledge, Skills & experience required:

Relevant experience in the arts/event management & working with artists Some previous project support and administration Ability to supervise volunteers and student placements Knowledge of budgets, finance and co-ordination of projects, record keeping Strong written and verbal communication skills, including some public presentation Ability to work as part of a team and to deadlines IT literate, including Word, Power Point and Excel familiar

To apply:

please send a covering letter (no longer than two pages), detailing your suitability and interest in the position. Please include a recent CV, including the names and contact details of two referees, one of whom should be your current or most recent employer. Please send your application in PDF format via email to  with the heading: Project assistant
Key information:

Closing date for applications is 18 April 2019 Selection will be on the basis of applications and Skype interviews on 24 & 25 April  All candidates shortlisted for interview will be contacted by email. If you have not heard from us by 23 April please assume that your application has not been successful.

Further information:

The Kinder Story Kinder Scout is the site of the Mass Trespass of 1932.  Like other contemporary protests in the Peak District, people came together from the surrounding polluted cities, where they sought respite and freedom on the moors from low paid and demanding jobs. It is a nationally recognised history which many believe forged the way for open public access to the countryside and the creation of the UK’s National Parks, the Peak District National Park being the first one, created in 1951.

The Kinder Mass Trespass won us all the right to roam across this beautiful landscape. As part of a long term conservation management plan, we work with the reality that Kinder is a fragile place where peat soil, vegetation and wildlife are all becoming established. Some sites are ironically, being ‘loved to death.’ For this project we are looking for ways to encourage new audiences and younger people to come out from the cities again and discover what the countryside can offer.

Overall objectives of the Kinder project:

– Engage urban audiences and understand their response to Octavia Hill’s quote ‘The need for quiet…’
– Pass on the mantel of the trespass story to a younger generation for future safekeeping and sharing relevance to contemporary audiences – keeping our cultural heritage alive – involving them in our advisory group and developing volunteering opportunities for them.
– Raising awareness of the High Peak Moors Vision – a landscape scale restoration project which enhances wildlife, air and water quality and is relevant to climate change.

Overall aims of the Kinder project – artist commission and the engagement activity:

– to engage with large numbers via an arts project and digitally with the landscape, using the Kinder story as a starting point
– to work with young people, involving them with the arts project
– to create experiences so young people and audiences become aware of the landscape and are motivated to enjoy, respect and protect it
– to reach young people from Sheffield but also those already more engaged with the countryside, e.g. Young Farmers, Duke of Edinburgh students and Youth Rangers
– to collaborate and maybe co-produce with urban and local partners and tenants
– to involve volunteers in supporting an ambitious project
– to ensure the project has a long lasting legacy of the community’s respectful enjoyment of the landscape and their involvement in caring for it


Edale Parish Council, Peak District National Park, Moors for the Future, Sheffield Ramblers, British Mountaineering Council, Eastern Moors Partnership (Youth Rangers), High Peak & Hope Valley Community Rail Partnership (links with schools), Sheffield Environmental Movement (links to Black Men Walking group), Outdoors City Sheffield (link to Asian young women’s group) & more local partnerships.
Further information about the role, contact Kate Stoddart

Vacancy with our partners at the National Trust for a Project Assistant to work on People’s Landscapes Art Commissions, Peak District, Derbyshire