i was commissioned to make an artwork as part of the 'next stop byker' programme, a project that sees a new piece of public-engaged artwork created for the inside of byker metro station. byker is an eastern ward of newcastle upon tyne, UK.
the ward has a relatively long history of being one of the least well-served areas of the city in terms of social amenities, as well as being one of the poorer areas of the city. it's also lucky to have strong communities and to provide spaces for all kinds of interesting artistic, industrial and social movements throughout its history.
one of the effects of the relationship between byker and the rest of the city is a relatively poor record of events there, impacting upon the status of the ward within the city. famous people are often recorded as being from a wealthy neighbouring ward, when they are in fact from byker of one of the neighbouring less well-off areas.
i worked in partnership with researchers at the city library, and newcastle university, to unearth people (living and deceased) who have made notable impacts upon national life, and are from, lived in or worked in, the area. i then created a design modelled upon the national portrait gallery, or a similar national gallery, featuring wallpaper, quotes, brass plaques and gilt frames, celebrating notable people from the area.
as well as creating the work, i ran a series of workshops in design and illustration for local young people. through donations, i made sure that these workshops left a legacy of computer equipment, software and expertise in the area.
the piece was well-received, and outstayed the typical display period of the programme. several of the people featured either got in touch or attended the preview event, and it was written up in local press. i passed through a few times after it was installed, to see friends i'd made as part of the research process, or who had come to workshops. each time it was nice to see people on their way to work, or heading out for the day, stopping to read about a famous musician, social reformer, writer or similar, who had lived and worked in the same place as them.
Commissioned by: NEXUS; Arts Council England (ACE)