Fancy exploring the old Marks & Spencer building in Warrington town centre to see what has become of it since it shut its doors? Or have you been intrigued by the transformation of The Parr’s Bank in Winwick Street?
Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival is about to throw open the doors to both of these venues because one of the themes of this year’s programme is shedding light on the town’s unique and undiscovered spaces.
The Golden Square M&S store closed four years ago but thanks to Manchester’s Castlefield Gallery, it currently has a new lease of life as a temporary workshop and studio space under the name ‘New Arts Spaces Warrington’.
It is part of a north west scheme to breathe new life into commercial properties that have been vacant for a long time and now the public are being invited to see what it is all about as part of the launch of the WCAF 2021.
All parts of the building have been used by the town’s artists since early 2020 as a testing ground for new projects and visitors will have a unique opportunity to look around the former store, meet the artists and ask questions on 22 and 23 October.
There will also be a special one-off event in the basement of the building – a multimedia experience created by Julia Griffin on 27 November. The visual artist’s work will combine projection mapping and immersive performance to take advantage of the unique venue.
A number of events in the programme are also taking place at The Parr’s Bank, the recently renovated Grade II listed Natwest in Winwick Street which dates back to 1877.
There will be a performance there by the award-winning Not Too Tame – a theatre group which aims to break the down barriers to the arts by taking its shows out of conventional venues. Led by Burtonwood playwright Jimmy Fairhurst, most of Not Too Tame’s work explores pub and social club culture and the people who inhabit them. Parr’s Bank will also be the venue for a dance triple bill with new work by Joseph Reay Reid, Lauren Tucker and Sarah Bateman choreographed especially for the festival.
Another focus of the multi-venue festival, now in its 11th year, is creating opportunities for emerging talent in Warrington and celebrating the town’s diverse community. Over nine weeks, WCAF will be giving the area’s creatives the chance showcase new work for the first time. It is part of a new vision in line with plans to redevelop Warrington’s Pyramid Arts Centre led by Culture Warrington, the charity behind the event. Organisers particularly want to support artists who have previously had little support and opportunities due to the pandemic restrictions.
Leah Biddle, Cultural Manager at Culture Warrington, is leading the festival. She said: “Ninety per cent of the people creating or presenting work for this year’s festival are either from Warrington, or live or work in the town. It’s great to be able to support our talented artists by creating paid opportunities and platforms to showcase their work and provide a springboard for their future careers.
“Using new, undiscovered, and alternative venues will allow us to challenge audience’s perception of the arts and create intrigue around some of the incredible locations – whether that be the beauty of The Parr’s Bank or the incredibly atmospheric basement at New Art Spaces Warrington. We have created a diverse festival this year so there really is something for everyone and hopefully the community will support their artists and performers and try something new.”
Below is the full line-up of WCAF 2021:
Company Carpi dance classes, Pyramid Arts Centre, various dates between 7 October and 1 November
Culture Warrington has teamed up with Lancaster Arts and the Dance Consortia North West to create opportunities for Warrington dancers, aged 18 and over. Dancers are invited to come for a free contemporary class at Pyramid while the company develop new work to be performed in spring 2022.
Neverland, Pyramid Arts Centre, 21 October
WCAF open exhibition 2020 winner Lauren Tucker and Tuckshop Dance Theatre welcome you to Neverland. The dance and storytelling experience, suitable for young people and families, explores the digital world we live in today.
Open day, New Art Spaces Warrington, 22 and 23 October
Since early 2020, Castlefield Gallery, based in Manchester, has re-purposed the old Golden Square M&S store, creating a unique testing ground for experimental and large-scale art projects. This is your chance to see how it is currently being used and meet some of the Warrington artists based there. You can drop in between 4pm and 7pm on Friday, 22 October, and 10am and 1pm on Saturday, 23 October.
Muado by Tina Ramos Ekongo, Pyramid Arts Centre, 29 October to 17 December
Following on from her striking entry in the WCAF open exhibition in 2020, Tina Ramos Ekongo has taken up residency at Pyramid and will present her first solo exhibition as part of this year’s festival. Taking inspiration from the pioneering British Black Art Movement in the 1980s and coinciding with Black History Month, Tina’s thought-provoking new project presents a ‘clash’ of cultural identity, re-imagining British queens as her artistic heroines. Tina, who was born in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, and grew up in Spain before moving to the UK in 2011, mostly paints on cardboard with the aim of giving a new value to a disposable material.
The Social by Not Too Tame, Parr’s Bank, 9 to 12 November
The Social is presented by the award-winning ‘great night out specialists’ Not Too Tame, the company that reinvented Cinderella as a ‘punk pub panto’. This time they are back with an immersive show that celebrates social clubs and Northern Soul culture.
Parr de Trois, The Parr’s Bank, 18 November
Joseph Reay Reid, Lauren Tucker and Sarah Bateman will present a triple bill of new work choreographed for the festival in the recently renovated Grade II building.
Ciné Hustle, Pyramid Arts Centre, 25 November
WCAF will present an evening of independent film hosted by actor and director Darren Jeffries. The event will feature work by WCAF open exhibition 2020 winner Hope Strickland, an artist, filmmaker and visual anthropologist from Manchester. A panel of professionals will also talk about how they got into the film industry.
I Used To Be, New Art Spaces Warrington, 27 November
Julia Griffin will be teaming up with sound and visual artist Dave Forrest for an event which will immerse audiences in a multimedia experience in the basement of the former Warrington M&S store. The event will be supported by visual artwork from Warrington and Vale Royal College students.
Short Supply presents Slap-Bang, 4 to 22 December
Artist-led organisation Short Supply have experienced significant success in supporting northern artists who are just starting out in their careers. So this year they have joined forces with WCAF. The event aims to welcome artists back to live exhibitions and offer bespoke support following a drastic reduction in opportunities due to the pandemic. Their work will be presented at New Art Spaces Warrington and at the temporary pop-up Museum and Art Gallery at Golden Square.
Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival’s main programmes takes place between 21 October and 22 December. For more information or tickets visit wcaf.culturewarrington.org