318 balloons, 25 canisters of helium, 50 colourful blazers, 15 technical crew, a ½ eaten pizza and 100s of cable ties. As I write this blog, these are the things surrounding me in my new home for the week; a portacabin parked up on the MediaCityUK Piazza. By the time you read this, our production week will be long gone and we will be in recovery mode, but for now I am in the midst of delivery.
I manage the outdoor arts programme at The Quays, brought together by the Quays Partnership and very aptly named ‘Quays Culture’. From 14th-18th July we had the artwork ‘Mini Burble’ from international artist collective Umbrellium lighting up the sky with it’s glow of 318 LED balloons. Along with a 120 strong choir, 50 strong dance troupe, and digital workshops, Mini Burble was the centre piece for our Summer Quays Festival. The structure is interactive via an app and twitter hashtag, meaning that audiences could control the colours of the balloons. As is a recurring theme within the Quays Culture programme, the audience can take some ownership for how they animate the space. We want to engage with all visitors to the area and encourage those who may never before have experienced large-scale digital artworks to play with how they can change the landscape. By allowing this interaction, people can’t resist having a go.
In short, myself and the team work across The Quays area, animating the public spaces and highlighting The Quays as a culturally and creatively rich environment for current and future artists. We have 2 peaks per year, 1 in the summer and 1 in the winter (right through the festive period). My role is to manage the permanent team here as well as freelance staff, liaise with the visiting artists, communicate with the Quays Partnership, manage budgets and contracting, complete funding reports, and most recently produce any dance performances/artworks we commission. My days are very varied, which keeps me on my toes and means I never stop learning. Each project is around 12 months in the making and so I spend a lot of time liaising with artists and landowners to make the visions for the programme a reality. When an event is upon us, my role is very much on the ground, managing the team on site, taking responsibility for any concerns (whether safety, artistic or logistic), as well as being a representative for the programme. I also visit digital festivals across Europe every so often to keep in touch with newly commissioned and presented work and hopefully catch a piece which would work well at The Quays. Coming to Quays Culture 2 years ago from a strong dance background, this role has allowed me to engage with a multimedia programme and deepen my knowledge across various different art forms.
Quays Culture are very fortunate to be housed by The Lowry and we are made to feel very welcome as part of this amazing, friendly, creative organisation. Whether I’m skulking around the IT desks (I’m not very tech-savy!), enquiring about use of a meeting space, or consulting with the Commercial Director about power and security on the Plaza, everyone is incredibly helpful and happy to help.
Remember, next time you’re around The Quays and spot an art installation or performance, that will be Quays Culture!