Saabat Gallery
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Friday, March 23, 2018
83 Normanby Road South Bank Redcar and Cleveland
North East England
Transitions17 at Saabat Gallery

Transitions17 Artists In Residence at Saabat Gallery working for the community of South Bank Redcar and Cleveland.

South Bank in Redcar and Cleveland has been ‘greened’ in architectural terms. A failed regeneration has left weeping wounds that are yet to scab over and will take longer still to heal. The loss of 30% of the population depletes the tax revenues for the area, the land values are rock bottom, the impacts on local business sees the high street in a peeling disarray and young people are left to find their own strategies for personal development in a place barren of visible opportunities. The despair of these young people afraid to follow the pathways of those before experiencing the plight and angst of their peers. Poor mental health, substance miss use and petty crime leave the local councillors clutching at opportunities equal to loose change dropped for a beggar.



This is a place that attracts more half way houses, drug rehabilitation centres or drying out housing units with services support, it will be your best friend if you could bring just one job to the area. It is a place where the councillors want to work with the community but too easily they forget this has to be on the communities terms and not on their own agenda, so making in roads will take time and there is no quick fix. The community is still in shock from the actions of 2008/9, where regeneration promised the development of quality social housing and affordable private homes to transform the outlook of the area and failed to deliver. Since then and to compound this misfortune the steel works closed in 2015 with the loss of thousands of jobs, many of those people lived in and around South Bank.



With all this doom and gloom lets remember there are many people in this community with optimism, pride and compassion. They have won medals year after year for South Bank In Bloom, they have done many things with less and less resources, and they have a vision for what they want to see in their area.

Since August 2014 I have been working voluntarily to support the development of Saabat Gallery and part of this work is to think around strategies to support the community in finding another way, their way. I have a model that I hope will become a tool kit for the community to engage in their own strategies towards re-designing their spaces and valuing their position in that change. In 2016 I started Health and Arts South Bank by mentoring Ann Curry to become the project manager, and raising some initial funds; prior to this I had run the first peer led mental health group in the area, Phoenix Art Group, started by Tees Valley Arts in 2000 and voluntarily delivered and co-ordinated by me from 2002 to 2016. Using the wealth of skills and knowledge that I have acquired on this journey, Health and Arts South Bank is now constituted and has been running with a healthy out look for nearly two years, raising their own funds and securing commissions from the local Railway Adoption Group.




In 2016 I closed Phoenix Art Group and the steering group transferred the assets to Tees Valley Arts, Health and Arts South Bank and to Teesside Print Group. This allowed me to run Teesside International Print Prize 17, the first print prize in the Tees Valley, working with some young people in the area I was able to place them along side international printmakers in the same exhibition and bring people from around the world to Saabat Gallery in South Bank Redcar and Cleveland.Transitions17 an arts programme that is supported by Arts Council England National Lottery Funds through Grants for the Arts. This is a year long programme of four artists in residence opportunities two from the national arena and two artists who are local and recently graduated. The aim being the community is developing within the delivery and within the participation, national artists mentoring and sharing their practice with the local artist. Then all of the artists are working for the community supporting dialogues that will bring them closer together and hopefully they will start to engage in their own interests and share their own views and maybe start their own groups or meetings.

Transitions17 can then support them to overcome the structural and formal regulatory stuff that they may not have come across before. South Bank has a Community Led Housing Group; Transitions17 has been supporting the work of this group by suggesting and developing events and community engagement opportunities that draw upon creative approaches to delivery and support. As part of this we are looking toward actions that do not encourage expectation but draw upon the individuals outlook and aspirations. Helen Stratford Artist and Architect has delivered serval pieces including ‘Twelve Uses for Twelve Empty Streets’, ‘Pie, Charts, History and Conversations’ and in the local supermarket ‘Organisational Diagrams for Everyday Life’.



These events have been designed and developed to offer the community a way into telling their story or sharing an interest they have, from a flow chart ‘The Making of a Community’ image above, where Lyn opened up the history of her grandma making pies for the community with the salvation army. Lyn then shared that memory in a living history by making pies for the attendees of the event ‘Twelve Uses for Twelve Empty Streets’ and telling the story to her captive audience. The support of Abboud, a Syrian refugee who has skills in editing, he has the task of recording the events through photography and now video, adding his view and understanding of what is important whilst engaging with a broader community and qualifying his new language skills through negotiation and permissions to use the images.



Helen Stratford will be ending her residency in March the week 21st-26th, one of the events here will be to open the discussion around ‘Architects; Sleight of Hand, Magic and the Sermon’. We have identified one of the local vicars has a skill of using magic in his sermons, we have found some early footage of Paul Daniels delivering magic tricks in the town he was born South Bank Redcar and Cleveland. Helen will bring to this her interest in the trickery of Architecture and Stephen Pritchard will show a short about ‘Art Washing and the Gentrification of Place’. Abboud will a show his work on film to a new audience and share his ideas of how his skills could benefit the community and their aspirations, bringing back around this idea of skills sharing towards a supportive community.


Big Kids a local arts company of two people new to the arts will be exhibiting the work they have been doing with the local primary school. The theme for these young people has been the different types of community. This draws me to the work of Foucault and ‘The politics and space’ and ‘Politics of social space’ Lefebvre where there is a heightened idea of how we are excluded or we exclude ourselves. I hope they have taken a lighter approach and organised how they see where communities are different in school, at home and in the clubs and societies they are members of. Where they can fit in and make those communities stronger and better for themselves.


This is kind of where my work is based and focused. The key to my work is to develop a space where people feel safe enough to share ideas and empowered enough to act on their own convictions.