Now the people behind the scheme originally launched as a Doncaster year of culture is talking to other high profile organisations about taking a role in a major programme to develop Donaster’s cultural life in 2020.
The BBC, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate, and the Design Museum are all in talks with organisers of Doncaster Creates – the two-year project which the year of culture plan has now become.
Juliet Farrar, the executive director for Doncaster Creates, running the scheme along with creative producer Mike Stubbs, says the talks have been encouraging. She says there are also talks with many other organisations which she cannot yet mention.
Juliet and Mike took up their posts with Doncaster Creates at the start of the year, with the plan of creating the Doncaster Year of Culture 2020.
They have re-branded the plan as Doncaster Creates, and hope to effectively use the scheme as a springboard for culture across the borough, rather than just a year of events.
Juliet said: “The talks we have had with the BBC, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate, and the Design Museum have been encouraging.
“We want to create some really exciting moments in 2020. What we think is important is taking audiences forward together.
“We would like to see things that people just come across during their everyday life, that have resonance, and are deep rooted and unique to Doncaster, that will bring people together.
“We’ve looked at lots of things that have been successful, whether that be in Hull when it was city of culture, or Barcelona. What is important is that it’s something that is local and unique.
“It is important to celebrate great arts and culture across the whole of the town.
“We think it should be community led, and also have some star attractions. Why shouldn’t Doncaster be seen as a place where you see the best national and international work, and where people have space to create their work work at their own level as part of the programme?”
She said there was also a lot of interest in how art and culture could help with social challenges like unemployment, skills, and social isolation, as well as its value as art and culture.
She said work was ongoing on a whole host of projects, and an important element of the work would be changing perceptions of Doncaster in the context of art and culture. She pointed out that the borough had created some of the most iconic designs in the world, such as the famous Mallard steam locomotive, one of a class of engines built at the town’s railway works in Hexthorpe.
“We are seeing 2020 as a launchpad,” she said. “It’s important to profile some great things that are happening here so that people expect the best arts and culture in Doncaster. If we called it year of culture that would imply it finished after 2020. We want to keep the culture going after that. It is a broad church of innovation and creativity, and design.
“Our key strapline is ‘people led regeneration through arts, creativity and heritage.”
Juliet and Mike have spent time speaking to people from Doncaster’s arts and culture organisations and communities to ask who they can support them and and bring them
Juliet’s previous work has seen her set up a community arts motivation project in Birmingham.
She went on to work in Middlesbrough as the town’s head of culture and tourism. During her time in the post, the town opened the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, counted Doncaster-born celebrity Jeremy Clarkson among its exhibitors, as he, James May and Richard Hammond took part in an exhibition there as part of an episode of Top Gear.
She also saw the creation of a scheme called the Python Gallery, where the ground floor of an office block was converted into an art gallery – an example of what she sees as putting art in a place where people see it in their everyday lives.
She said: “What I would like to see is some of the principles of this – the business, private individuals and the arts community all coming together to create projects that allow great art to flourish, and meeting other challenges in the process. It is about changing people’s perceptions of place and giving new skills, and giving them the chance to experience creativity in their everyday life in unexpected places.”
Juliet has already seen examples of this in Doncaster.
For instance, a recent project saw local artists, as well as pupils from the XP school at Doncaster Carr, creating art that has been used as ‘wraps’, covers put across the front of empty shops in the town centre to make the buildings look more attractive. Pictures of local arts events have also been used.
Funded by Doncaster Council’s Town Centre Improvement Fund, it is hoped that the shop window wraps will not only contribute to making the town centre vibrant but will also make people smile, pause to take pride in local skills, recall being part of an event and think about enjoying something creative.
Chinwe Russell, one of the artists involved said: “The arts sector is on the rise in Doncaster with so many forward thinking arts organisations. I see a future where art is integral to public life, a vibrant place where creativity is the norm and part of every day living.”
If you are an artist or part of a creative event in the town and would like to be featured in any future similar projects, or have ideas for developing the arts in the borough, contact Doncaster Creates by emailing [email protected]