I attended Incidental Futures: Artist Placement Study Day and Incidental Assembly on the weekend of 13/14 September 2019. The two day even held at South London Gallery marked the culmination of the Incidental Futures programme. Find more information about this and Incidental Unit (IU) in general, here:


Artist Placement Study Day

The study day consisted of presentations relating to Artist Placement Group (APG) history delivered by members of the IU along with formal and informal descriptions of recent or current projects/experiences relating to APG methods. I was fortunate enough to wangle a 10 minute presentation slot to introduce the Return to Ritherdon project to an inquisitive audience including of Barbara Steveni, the co-founder and director of APG and its preceding iterations since 1966. Barbara very sadly passed away recently, which has created a pioneer-shaped-hole in the lives of all that admire her gusto, perseverance and wisdom. I am so honoured to have meet her briefly and discussed the RTR project. I will continue to find inspiration in her words and actions, in relation to this project and beyond.

Incidental Assembly

On Saturday 14 September, a curated assembly convened contemporary practices inspired Artist Placement Group. Activated by their artist practitioners, each instance will highlight the long-term impact of the Artist Placement Group on cultural production across the UK. (description taken from Incidental Futures text)

Artists: Michele Allen, Johann Arens, Charles Danby and Rob Smith, Corinna Dean, KALEIDOWORKS, Nicola Ellis, Simon Farid, Rob Flint, Amanda Loomes and Laura Purseglove.

My offering for the Incidental Assembly was: Assemble something

‘Assemble something’ involves inviting members of the IU and gallery visitors to assemble various Ritherdon products, following the in-house factory assembly instructions. Each assembly job will have a standard factory ‘job sheet’, stating any necessary components to fetch from the ‘stores’ area –  also set up in the gallery – and listing a time-frame in which the assembly should be completed. Products can be broken down and re-assembled multiple times according to demand.

If consent is given, some assemblies will be filmed. The Ritherdon Assembly would like to watch the footage to review how the plans –  which are usually given to new staff- are used

Parts to be assembled into complete products will be packed on a pallet for transportation, as per factory protocol.

More evaluation and measuring of processes/environments is a stated aim for the Ritherdon business over the coming year. This proposed activity will help implement this by creating a situation in which the assembly team reflect on their building processes and knowledge, by helping to prepare for an off-site assembly activity.

Ultimately the activity is a celebration of the knowledgeable assembly team’s role in the factory, along with an opportunity for those attending the Incidental Assembly to follow assembly guides and experience a process which usually takes place behind factory walls.


I am often on the Ritherdon site during a periods of maintenance. Maintenance is taking place all the time, however there is a reasonably regular spot on Friday afternoons when the bigger jobs get done after the factory closes for production.

One Friday afternoon I was fortunate enough to witness a job that takes very rarely, which is the replacement of insulation on the large powder-coating stove. The image above was taken from inside the oven- the heat was turned off at this point!- and documented the first time light had entered the stove space in what I am told is probably 25 years. Many thanks to Arron for letting me photograph him on the job.

These incidental encounters are just that- only really possible to encounter by simply being present in the right place at the right time. This requires allowing myself some time to simply walk around and witness operations without too much prior intent. I have come to realise that this almost seems an unnatural thing to do and I have to talk myself off the ledge of feeling like I am wasting time. Maybe this is due to the efficient nature of the factory environment, the responsibility and inherent motivation to get the most value out of public money funding the project, or simply a habit of always working towards some specific end. These feelings/habits tell me I should always have my hands on something in order to be ‘being productive’, however I am beginning to understand that in more ways than one, simply being present is the exactly the right thing to do. It allows for the soaking in of individual incidental occurrences but also a kind of stepping back from the mass of individual movements to witness the manufacturing system as a whole. How processes lead to one and other and departmental actions overlap or compliment each other.



The manufacturing environment is so incredibly overstimulating – even for someone like me who has been visiting the Ritherdon factory since February 2018(Art in Manufacturing placement). A method of stepping back yet somehow still being among it all is crucial to not being blindsided. I also think this point further reinforces the idea of undertaking the project over a two year period. a shorter timeline would have in fact done the complexity of the manufacturing environment a disservice, and my brain would have been completely dripping out of my ears.




The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund acquires work by Nicola Ellis
Posted on www.castlefieldgallery.co.uk on 23 October 2019


Nicola Ellis’ Dead powder series: Yellow, 2019 was selected by The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund from hundreds of exhibiting artists at the 2019 The Manchester Contemporary art fair for acquisition into the public collection of Manchester Art Gallery.

Donors to The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund include Christian Anderton, James & Katie Eden, Pablo Flack, Mark Garner, Mark Hawthorn, Thom Hetherington & Sophie Helm, Alison Loveday, Jeremy & Jane Roberts, Howard Ratcliffe, Andy Spinoza, Martyn Torevell, and David Waddington.

Nicola Ellis (b.1987, St Helens, UK) is currently undertaking an Arts Council England funded project Return to Ritherdon which is built around a two-year residency at Ritherdon & Co Ltd, a manufacturer of steel enclosures based in Darwen, Lancashire which the work Dead powder series: Yellow, 2019 has come out of.

Helen Wewiora, Director, Castlefield Gallery said “Nicola Ellis is also currently showing work at Castlefield Gallery as part of No Particular Place to Go? 35 years of sculpture at Castlefield Gallery and is a member of Castlefield Gallery Associates, our development scheme for artists, writers and independent curators working in contemporary art, and comes ahead of our Castlefield Gallery solo presentation of Nicola Ellis work in the summer of 2020. Her solo exhibition at the gallery will be the culmination of her project Return to Ritherdon.

“At Castlefield Gallery we take a sharp focus on artist development – supporting artists to progress their practice and careers. The timeliness of our engagement with a particular artist or group is key, the gallery often working with artists over extended periods. Nicola Ellis is one such artist and we have been overjoyed to see the evolution of her work in the last decade.

“Nicola Ellis’ practice is ambitious, thoughtful, and demonstrates a great skill in her command of materials. Whilst living and working in the region, Ellis’ work can hold its own in an international context as was evident from the brilliance of her site-specific commission, Pole Jam (2018), Castlefiled Gallery supported her to develop for DOX Centre, Prague last year.  

“It is therefore not surprising that this year the curators of Manchester Art Gallery, supported by The Manchester Contemporary Art Fund, have selected Ellis’ work to enter collection at Manchester Art Gallery.

“It is vital to see women artists’ work entering our UK collections, with their under-representation in public collections needing a re-balance. Moreover, it is important for our regional and national collections to be representative of art being made now in the UK, and in particular the regions. Castlefield Gallery is committed to supporting contemporary art, especially that being made by women artists in the regions, to enter our public collections, as demonstrated by our commissioning to collect partnerships.

“We are especially pleased by the Manchester Art Gallery Curator’s selection this coming just ahead of our Castlefield Gallery solo presentation of Nicola Ellis work in the summer of 2020. Her solo exhibition at the gallery will be the culmination of her project ‘Return to Ritherdon’ built around a two-year residency at Ritherdon & Co Ltd, a manufacturer of metal enclosures based in Darwen, Lancashire UK.”




As heavy industry has declined in the North, our understanding of areas with a strong industrial heritage and identity are often distorted through a fog of political discourse and ideology. How can the arts contribute to the debate?

Artists from across the North of England, have burrowed beneath the surface to uncover a social reality and lived experience, creating art that is not just heard but felt – art that both reflects and challenges.

The exhibition will feature contemporary artists alongside the extraordinary work of Theodore Major; a painter who reflected the social & visual impact of heavy industry in Wigan. By juxtaposing Major’s beautiful but dystopian industrial landscapes alongside contemporary works of art, a reciprocal narrative of resilience and resistance emerges.

Exhibiting artists are

Bobby Benjamin, Emma Bennett, Tony Charles, Gordon Dalton, Nicola Ellis, Mary Griffiths, Faye Hadfield, Hannah Leighton-Boyce, Theodore Major, Katie McGuire, Annie O’Donnell, Craig Oldham, Helen Pailing, Aaron Pearce, Connor Shields, Jo Stanness and Kraig Wilson.

The exhibition is the second stage of a touring project that began at Platform A, Middlesbrough and has been curated with Mark Parham.



Artists’ Brunch, Talk & Performance: Major Conversations
November 9th 2019

An informal brunch and ‘in conversation’ with Major Conversations artists Nicola Ellis, Mary Griffiths and Hannah Leighton Boyce.

Following this, there will be a special performance of new work made in response to the exhibition by poet Louise Fazackerley and local writers.



No Particular Place to Go? 35 years of sculpture at Castlefield Gallery

Hilary Jack, Turquoise Bag in a Tree


Nicola Ellis, Dead powder series/ Missing bits, 2019. Mild steel and dead powder. Photo courtesy Jules Lister


Charles Hewlings, Neighbours


Jill Randall, In the upside down land, 2018. Photo David Bennet


Stephen Lewis, Starstick,


Laura White, Pierced, Pierced, Pierced Form (Dalston)

No Particular Place to Go? 35 years of sculpture at Castlefield Gallery
6 September 2019 — 27 October 2019Artists: James Ackerley, Sir Anthony Caro, Nicola Ellis, Ana Genovés, Lee Grandjean, Charles Hewlings, Hilary Jack, Stephanie James, Stephen Lewis, Jeff Lowe, Michael Lyons, Henry Moore, Jill Randall, Veronica Ryan, Laura White.

Established by artists in 1984, 2019 marks thirty-five years for Castlefield Gallery. The organisation actively supports artistic production and artist career development, providing artists with timely exposure whilst sharing their work with the public. Castlefield Gallery is often described as a home for artists.

Curated in collaboration with art historian Dr Clare O’Dowd and artist / curator John Plowman of Beacon Bureau, No Particular Place to Go? is informed by extensive research into Castlefield Gallery’s archives and exhibition history, exploring this history through the lens of sculpture

No Particular Place to Go? highlights the gallery’s rich history of engagement with British sculpture and the role it has had, and still has as a place for the ‘sculptural zeitgeist’. Pieces in the exhibition will date back to the gallery’s inaugural programme which included a solo presentation of work by Sir Anthony Caro (Castlefield Gallery’s ‘Artist Patron’ until he passed in 2013). Caro’s Table Pieces were a focus for the 1984 exhibition, the show running alongside a major presentation of larger Table Pieces alongside other works at The Whitworth, the museum and art gallery subsequently purchasing Table Piece XCVlll (1970) for their collection.

A few years later in 1987 Castlefield Gallery mounted a Henry Moore solo, the first exhibition of his work at a publicly-funded gallery following his death in 1986. The exhibition featured Moore’s smaller works, including five bronze maquettes. No Particular Place to Go? in particular foregrounds sculpture’s relationship to the studio / gallery / archive, as a way to reflect upon the ‘homelessness’ of the medium, the term ‘homelessness’ in relation to sculpture first used by Rainer Maria Rilke in his famous account of Rodin, initially given as a lecture and later published in 1910. Rilke described the sculptures he saw as he walked through Rodin’s studio as isolated, self-contained things, cut off from the world: ‘His works could not wait; they had to be made. He long foresaw their homelessness.’

The artists invited to take part in No Particular Place to Go? have all exhibited at Castlefield Gallery during the last thirty-five years, with the curators inviting them to return to a place that once acted as a temporary ‘home’ for their work. To this end No Particular Place to Go? welcomes Table Piece XCVIII back to Castlefield Gallery, on loan from The Whitworth. Much smaller and more intimate than Caro’s welded floor sculptures, his Table Pieces are indicative of the intimacy of the studio, as the ‘place’ where the Table Pieces were made. The exhibition takes Caro’s Table Pieces as a starting point, focusing on smaller objects, those made in the artists’ studio as an exploration of an idea, material, form, process, or simply a sculpture that could be at home on a table.

Sculptor Michael Lyons (1943-2019) wrote the catalogue essay for the Caro Table Sculptures exhibition at Castlefield Gallery, and his account of Caro’s working methods forms an important part of the thinking behind No Particular Place to Go? Lyons also exhibited at Castlefield Gallery in 1984, his work informing many future generations of sculptors, Lyons teaching at what was then Manchester Polytechnic’s Department of Fine Art from 1974 until he retired as Head of Sculpture in 1993. His much loved and monumental sculpture Phalanx (1977) has been a central feature in the grounds of The Whitworth since being purchased by the gallery in 1980 and remains on display in Whitworth Park today.

The intimacy of Caro’s Table Pieces is echoed in Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure-Bowl (1960), also on loan for the exhibition from The Whitworth, a small bronze that not only reflects on Moore’s working methods but is indicative of the five bronze maquettes by Moore shown at Castlefield Gallery in 1987.

Outside of the Caro and Moore loans, each artist participating in No Particular Place to Go? will exhibit a sculpture from the time of their original exhibition together with a more recent work, the show reflecting on the creative processes of the participating artists from when they first exhibited with Castlefield Gallery, to the present day.

For No Particular Place to Go? sculptor Charles Hewlings has been commissioned to work with Manchester-based sculptor James Ackerley. Together they will develop and exhibit a site-specific sculptural structure, one designed to house and display the other exhibiting artists’ works. Hewlings and Ackerley’s commission will extend across and throughout the gallery spaces, integrating with and challenging Castlefield Gallery’s distinctive interior architecture, giving the exhibiting sculptures a ‘particular place to go’.

Curated and produced by  Beacon bureau and Dr Clare O’Dowd


Link to exhibition guide:



Link to No Particular Place to Go publication:



Link to Exhibition review in Creative Tourist



The Making of No Particular Place to Go? – 35 years of sculpture at Castlefield Gallery
11 September 2019 / 6:30-8pm

Presented by Sculpture Production Award 2019, Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre (London)

Join Lucy Tomlins, Director of Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre in conversation with Castlefield Gallery Curator Matthew Pendergast and No Particular Place to Go? – 35 years of sculpture at Castlefield Gallery guest Curators Dr Clare O’Dowd and John Plowman, alongside exhibiting artist Nicola Ellis .

Built around Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre’s commitment to making the making visible, this informal discussion event will reveal what goes into the making of both artworks and exhibitions, both conceptually and materially, taking No Particular Place to Go? – 35 years of sculpture at Castlefield Gallery as a starting point for conversation. The event will explore links between current sculptural practice and the legacies of the more established artists in the exhibition.