Blog

December 20, 2018

Looking back, looking forwards

As 2018 draws to a close, Counterpoints Arts Co-directors Áine O’Brien and Almir Koldzic reflect on the year that’s passed, and what’s to come:

We send you this end-of-year greeting against decidedly turbulent times!

In the midst of this, we want to reflect on what was a very busy year in 2018 and to briefly share our ambitious plans for 2019. It is hard to anticipate what 2019 might bring given the political disarray and the current contentious climate. What we can possibly predict is that with increasing levels of political instability and volatility, pressure will be placed on communities everywhere and on vital, local services. Much of our 2019 programme acknowledges the importance of growing local solidarity through creative, cross-sector collaborations, cultivating new ways of thinking about ‘working together’ and engaging with ‘displacement and migration’.

What we’ve done…

Highlights in 2018 include collaborating with Cuban artist Tania Bruguera alongside the Tate Neighbours group in the context of the Turbine Hall Hyundai Commission at Tate Modern – capped in December by a magnificent local-global intervention by the Tate Neighbours group protesting against the implementation of the Decree 349 in Cuba, which would severely restrict artistic freedom of expression.

We launched our ‘Pop Culture and Social Change’ strand at Dartington Hall – a retreat lasting over two days shaped by workshops and lively conversations between people across all sectors, including a site-specific residency in partnership with the folks at Dartington and performances and screenings in the wondrous Great Hall.

Delivering the 20th edition of Refugee Week Festival was quite a landmark event in 2018, creating inroads into mainstream venues and reaching bigger audiences than ever before. It was a break-through moment and we plan to take things to the next scale in 2019 with not one but two Refugee Week Conferences – in London and Coventry showcasing a focus on young and emerging leaders.

Our Who Are We? programme at Tate Exchange also delivered an ambitious week of installations, performances and conversations with local, national and international artists and organisations. The 5th Floor of Tate Exchange was bursting with energy as artists, cultural activists, academics, students and audiences got stuck in around themes of art, migration and the ‘production of democracy’.

As always it’s the value accrued through partnership building and the unique quality of collaborations, which made 2018 such a rich, tightly packed year. We worked with a network of extraordinary artists – many of whom embody, everyday, the experiences of displacement and migration. We broke new ground in a series of place-based commissions across the UK, and this work has helped us define our next three-year strategic goals.

With our partner, CREATE, we ran a dynamic summer school in the Republic of Ireland (in fact, near the much talked about ‘border’) focusing on ‘Cultural Diversity and the Artist in the Community’ with a collection of emerging and established artists, educators and cultural activists. Mixing participatory practice with radical pedagogy, this new curriculum looks to continue as a yearly staple from here on in.

Counterpoints Arts has a brand new website thanks to the gifted designers at BCMH and web developer, Adam Jakubowicz. We love it, do have a browse and see for yourself!

We also took time to diversify our Board who have quietly and steadily supported us from the get-go; plus we’ve built a brilliant core team – ‘the best one on the planet’ described by one of our (apparently unbiased) colleagues!

More to come…

As we go forward into 2019, we have some equally creative and change-making plans for action, despite or actually in the face of the political uncertainties.

We aim to deliver the next edition of national Refugee Week with the theme of ‘You, me and those who came before’ – mainstreaming the experiences of displacement and migration and tapping into the intimate memories of families, neighbourhoods and localities. We will work with a range of old and new partners on an exciting public arts programme, including the V&A, Southbank Centre, Trafalgar Square, KOKO, British Museum and a freshly formed collaboration with the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) in Glasgow.

Our Tate Exchange Programme will continue to ask the perennial and perhaps ever more provocative question of ‘Who Are We?’ – with emphasis in 2019 on artists’ rights and freedom of expression alongside a whole host of installations, gatherings and interventions around the politics of education, cooperative commissioning and equal access.

The Platforma Festival will travel to Kent – initiating cross-sector partnerships, live performance, stand-up comedy and lots of shared learning, trading of skills, ideas and knowhow. We plan to develop a range of signature commissions in 2019 stretching into 2022, inaugurated at Platforma, re-imagining social change infrastructures in four UK regions (Kent, Dorset/Devon, Yorkshire and Newcastle).

And we look forward to growing our Pop Culture networks via new ventures with partners from the sports, gaming and fashion industries; this is novel terrain for us and we hope you’ll travel alongside.

Needless to say we could do none of the above without the relentless energy of the artists in our network, who are as committed as we are to developing new partnerships and collaborations across silos and sectors, so that, together, we can change how we see and engage with the histories, stories and lived experiences of displacement and migration.

A special thanks to our funders, supporters and audiences – as ever, we are immensely grateful for your trust and constant commitment to Counterpoints Arts.

We look forward to working with you all on delivering the next phase of challenging but urgent work in 2019.

Áine O’Brien and Almir Koldzic

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