Accessibility | Diversity/ Inclusion | Participation
Nine months planning and development with one day festival
A community engagement project culminating in a processional participatory event in the public realm and a celebratory exhibition for the general public at Tate St Ives
The aim of this project was to further develop Tate St Ives's engagement with the local community, to connect the community to their heritage and to create a site-specific community-based interaction with art inspired by a Cornish tradition specific to St Ives. The project also aimed to bring people together from different areas of town and to reinforce the power of community and cultural heritage. Tate St Ives particularly wanted to engage local residents who do not or have never visited the gallery.
This project, 063 Urban Songline (Another Hurling of the Silver Ball), was part of Tate St Ives’s ongoing commissioning of art in the public realm for and with its local communities. The programme offers a platform for artists to engage in residential, practice-led activity based in and around Tate St Ives, engaging with our context, our programmes, our community and our audiences. The 2019 commission was with Allard van Hoorn (b. Netherlands, based in New York), a sound, installation and performance artist who creates choreographies for architecture, urban structures as musical scores, scenographies for the built environment, and scripts for investigating our relationships to public spaces and nature. Van Hoorn took part in Tate St Ives’s artist residency programme in February and June 2019. The project was inspired by an ancient tradition known as the ‘Hurling of the Silver Ball’ which still takes place annually in February on Feast Day and where a small silver ball is chased through St Ives as part of the celebrations. Van Hoorn reimagined this silver ball at a much greater scale, collaborating with residents to create a unique procession that celebrated the communities of St Ives and their relationship to this heritage and the town. Van Hoorn initially met with members of the local community to research St Ives, its traditions, history, and people, with the goal of involving local people in the project’s development and final performance. Between the two residencies, the project was also supported by Tate St Ives staff in terms of ongoing community discussions. In June, van Hoorn met with groups and individuals and collaborated with them to shape their contributions to the final piece. This involved meetings and rehearsals with groups including the Ives Skate Park, St Ives Community Orchard, St Ives Scouts and Rainbows, religious leaders, Salvation Army Youth Club, Porthmeor Studios, St Ives RNLI station, St Ives Harbour Master, St Ives Sailing Club, Penbeagle residents, local fishermen and traditional Cornish ‘Guise’ musicians. Informal community drop-in sessions also took place at St Johns in the Fields Church Hall and St Ives Library. The performance itself, on Saturday 22 June, 2019 took place as a procession through St Ives. Locations included St Ives Community Orchard, St Ives Skate Park, Palemon Best Recreation Ground, Ayr Field, Barnoon Cemetery, St Ives Harbour, and culminated in the Loggia at Tate St Ives where van Hoorn performed a sound piece of recordings taken en route mixed with recordings made with the local community in his studio. These recordings were then made available as a sound work in the loggia, and a film of the performance was displayed in Gallery 10 at Tate St Ives alongside the silver ball from the event and the small silver ball used in the St Ives Feast Day hurling. Approximately 130 people within the community volunteered their time, skills and knowledge in the lead-up to the event and/or on the day of the performance. Six volunteers from Tate St Ives were involved in the performance on the day in different roles, as ball handlers, stewards and traffic marshals. Eleven members of Tate St Ives’s Community Advisory Group also acted as advocates for the project with two of them actively involved in shaping and being part of the performance. On the day around 3,000 people interacted with the performance and procession, 74 community players actively participated in the performance, and approximately 101 people in the local community were engaged in the process leading up to the day, some on multiple occasions for meetings and rehearsals in around 17 separate sessions. 55,684 people visited the exhibition documenting the event at Tate St Ives between July and September 2019, with a further 1,000 people listening to the sound piece in the Loggia (Gallery Entrance). Community groups reported a number of outcomes and impacts arising from the project that can be felt across the St Ives community:
  • The project connected the community – reaching parts of the community that historically have been reluctant to engage, the physical nature and performance aspect of the event made it easy and appealing to get involved, participation from a diverse and large range of community groups, raising their profiles
  • The project increased understanding and empathy amongst community groups – making new introductions, providing a platform for conversations among and across groups that had not necessarily met before
  • The project empowered groups to make a personalised contribution – the value of being able to directly shape their choreographed interaction with the silver ball, enjoyment positively influenced by having control over what they were doing, the value of local people being able to have their say and contribute, and the importance of this principle being integrated into the project
  • The project provided a positive experience of working with Tate St Ives – the process of working with Tate St Ives and the artist had made them feel supported and welcomed, this support was greatly appreciated, staff learned a great deal about the community and ways to communicate
  • Groups felt more connected to Tate St Ives and relationships were formed – the role of Tate St Ives as facilitator of the project challenged perceptions of the organisation, and some groups have a new, or strengthened, view of Tate St Ives as a community-based organisation, groups want to continue the relationship with Tate St Ives with a sense of anticipation for future collaborations
  • The project prompted people to think about their town and heritage – the heritage theme was important to the success of the event, looking at the tradition through the eyes of an artist opened up new thoughts, and the experience prompted groups to think about how Feast Day is celebrated in the town
  • Groups learned about how an artist works and their practice – having an artist’s involvement in the project was crucial to its success, participants valued Tate inviting an international artist to work with the St Ives community