Ana of the Flames Maribor. Photo by Denis Zelnik.
Ana of the Flames Maribor. Photo by Denis Zelnik.

One Street of Two Cultures

Maja Pegan (Slovenia) and Trevelyan Wright (U.K) have participated in our Tandem Europe programme, collaborating on ONE STREET, aiming to develop a hyperlocal model of cultural organisations and cross-sector collaborators working to improve one street in Stoke-on-Trent and one in Maribor. In this story, Maja and Trevelyan share insights from their collaboration.

Lantern parade Newcastle. Photo by Trevelyan Write.
Lantern parade Newcastle. Photo by Trevelyan Write.

When we came together in Milan at the start of the Tandem Europe process, Hiša (House) and B arts shared a number of contexts: Both organisations shared a participatory arts approach. Stoke-on-Trent and Maribor were both cities with industrial pasts struggling with regeneration, and both of us used light in our artistic practice.

Ana of the Flames Maribor. Photo by Denis Zelnik
Ana of the Flames Maribor. Photo by Denis Zelnik

Our first ideas were insanely ambitious: to work in a single street over the course of a year to see what impact the arts can have in everyday life. As our project evolved other two placements – during which Maja baked bread in Stoke at B arts’ community bakery Bread In Common, and Trevelyan got to see how Hiša closed whole streets for the Lent Festival, we focused on two events that used light to mark the onset of winter in our cities. B arts artist Richard Redwin travelled to Maribor to contribute.

I learned in Maribor how to effectively deliver a static version of the work that we did, and how all artist-led organisations work the same way. Our work is based on mobile parades, whereas Hisa’s lanterns are installed in a particular place for a whole weekend. The power of a festival to alter perception of a disused space came through very strongly during my time in Maribor.

Richard Redwin
Lantern parade Newcastle. Photo by Trevelyan Write.
Lantern parade Newcastle. Photo by Trevelyan Write.

Maja in turn came to Stoke when B arts were making their annual Midwinter Wakes Lantern Parade. As part of the 2017 event, we commissioned local artists, Oliver Sherlock and Sam Freeman, to create a light-based artwork that could occupy sites in Newcastle-under-Lyme over a whole week, without supervision. Their design, Umwelt, was installed at a street in Newcastle and a site in the town centre. Though the piece was rather lost in the town centre which was continually brightly lit, it had an amazing impact on a residential street after dark. The piece led to people stopping their cars to photograph and was enjoyed by all who lived in or used the street during that week.

Lantern parade Newcastle. Photo by Trevelyan Write
Lantern parade Newcastle. Photo by Trevelyan Write

Seeing the participation of the local community making the lanterns and then presenting and sharing them with the wider community has shown that simple events make a stronger community and a quality bond to their living space. Of big importance, of course, is the artistic and creative approach towards making the lanterns and how they are presented by their makers, allowing the beauty of light warms all who see them. Also, the first trial of a stationary installation was a success where B-Arts has tapped into a usually forgotten community and their space – a sleepy residential area. The piece has attracted the inhabitants and activated the debate of public art in housing areas.

Maja Pegan
Photo by Denis Zelnik
Photo by Denis Zelnik

Both organisations recreated their work during the final Tandem meeting in Athens in January 2017. Umwelt was installed in the main civic square in Elefsina for three days, before a final showing outside the meeting venue. Hiša! recreated a magical lantern installation for the very final moments of Tandem Europe as people left the meeting venue to go back to the hotel.

Magical lantern installation during the Tandem Europe Final Meeting. Photo by Constanze Flamme
Magical lantern installation during the Tandem Europe Final Meeting. Photo by Constanze Flamme

Though we are not planning an immediate further collaboration, both our organisations stay in touch regularly and plan to take part in future meetings to develop light festival projects. The exchange enriched both our practices, and the idea of ‘semi-permanent’ artworks in the public realm will be developed further in both organisations ongoing programmes. Sherlock and Goodman have been developing a larger version of Umwelt for Festival Stoke in July 2017. Hiša will incorporate a lantern parade into this winter programme of 2017.