JA40 - A conservation and interpretation project celebrating the unique heritage and 40th anniversary of Junction Arts .
Working with professional and community partners we will order, catalogue, explore and interpret the extensive archive that has been collected by Junction Arts over the last 4 decades; we are arguably one of the UK's longest established, rurally based participatory arts organisations. The resulting archive will be made publicly accessible, enabling us to share our unique heritage, particularly it’s socio-historical significance.
The project has been funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund.
We are thrilled to be working in partnership with the Derbyshire Record Office and the University of Leeds on this project, one that is so special to Junction Arts. As the result of a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund we have been able to reflect and celebrate our achievements and contextualise our work within the local area and wider community arts movement. It will also be an opportunity to share our fascinating history with the wider public. To begin we loaded our van with 38 archive boxes and drove them over to the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock. They then had to spend a period of time in quarantine before we could begin to catalogue the contents, which included project related documents, news cuttings, publications, photographs and videos.
We then went onto recruit a small team of volunteers to work with us to catalogue our archive at the Derbyshire Record office.
The sessions at the Derbyshire Record Office started in February 2016. The first, on the 9th February was an Induction Day and Junction Arts staff, were joined by pupils from Highfields School in Matlock, and some of our volunteers and artists. We were given a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the Record Office by archivist Mark Smith who explained the function of the building and the services on offer. He then went on to tell us more about the various processes the team will be involved in when we begin to catalogue our archive.
The second session was held on the 23rd February and we set to work. Working in small teams we emptied a box at a time and sorted its contents into categories, for example, photographs, posters, meeting notes. One by one the list of contents were then uploaded onto the online cataloguing system. The information will be added to each week, building up a more and more comprehensive listing of the archive that can be cross-referenced and accessed by researchers.
It’s very early days but so far it has been a fascinating experience and everyone has really enjoyed taking part.
Delving through the boxes we’ve found some very interesting material, including stunning posters, a few hand drawn, which in themselves have a story to tell! It has been of particular interest seeing how graphic design production, styles and trends have changed and many of the stylistic changes were reflected in our changing logo and branding.
The material has now been divided into appropriate numbered series and after the initial sift the next step involves looking through the contents of the boxes more thoroughly. We are having to make some hard decisions about what to keep and what to discard but being so immersed in the job in hand is making it difficult to be objective. We're coming across a lot of duplication, sometimes 4 or 5 copies of a project plan, but the Record Office policy is clear, they only keep a single copy of anything; as you can imagine, the rubbish bin is soon full to bursting!
The appraisal and packaging process is important and getting it right will ensure that anyone using the archive in the future will easily be able to find what they are looking for.
Yet again, these sessions are very rewarding, informative and great fun. We’re continuing to find out so much about our organization that is still relevant to our work today some of which might even inform our future delivery programme.
Archivist Mark Smith has come up with a list of recommendations for the arrangement of the Junction Arts archive and we have been given the following catalogue number D7913. There are then a number of sub headings as follows for a more detailed search:
- D7913/1: Annual reports
- D7913/2: policies/management/corporate governance
- D7913/3: photographs of activities (not in project files)
- D7913/4: posters, advertisements and ephemera (not in project files)
- D7913/5: Audio-visual material (not in project files) as CDs, DVDs, VHS and other formats
There is still a lot more sorting still to be done but once we've decided what to keep then those documents are kept in an acid free folder, marked with the reference number and tied with archive tape.
Whilst still a work in progress, the archive is now searchable on the Record Office website.
We're slowly piecing together the evolution of Junction Arts. The earliest references we've found seem to confirm that it begun as a small arts group in South Normanton in the 1970s delivering participatory arts events. We found records of an event in August 1975 involving open-air theatre, puppets and some inflatables and further evidence has shown that the inflatables were a firm fixture of our events and were popular for years to come!
This excerpt from a newspaper article sums up some of the aspirations of the emerging Junction Arts:
“ The Community Arts Scheme has tried to offer alternatives to the canned entertainment that has replaced the traditional creativity of the community. Activities have been varied – shows, video, street events, inflatables, drama and dance workshops, mural painting, even the mandatory concrete play sculpture”.
During the 1980s we had become South Normanton Community Arts but by 1983 we had taken the name of Junction 28, so called because we were based near junction 28 of the M1.
Another move was to follow, to the Picture Palace, an old theatre and cinema on New Street, South Normanton and another name change - from Junction 28 to Junction Arts as we are still known.
The Palace Arts Club was set up, for Juniors aged 6-11 years who met on Thursday evenings from 4.00-6.00pm and a Seniors club for 11-16 year olds who met on Monday evenings, also from 4.00-6.00pm. At a cost of £1 a week youngsters could take part in an exciting programme of activities including dance and drama, murals and crafts, circus skills, fashion and street theatre. Local people can still remember sending their children along, or can remember attending themselves.
The Picture Palace particularly leant itself to a drama and performing arts based programme and community plays and plays by visiting companies were a regular feature on the local events calendar.
Whilst cataloguing the archive we came across a lot of material relating to this period, for example: scripts, meeting and rehearsal notes, lists of costumes and props and some beautiful advertising posters.
Here are just a few of the shows we put on!
Old Tyme Music Hall
Alice In Wonderland
James and the Giant Peach
Swish that Dolly
6 Go Camping at Convent Cove
In our 1982-83 Annual Report we found out about the Twenty Steps Drama Group, set up for older teenagers and adults. It was started 18 months previously and had high ambitions and in one year performed 'The Crucible' under the direction of Rib Davis and 3 one act plays by Edward Albee, Murray Schisgal and James Saunders.
In order to stimulate ideas and inspiration the drama group also went on regular theatre visits and took part in mime and improvisation workshops.
Delving into the Junction Arts archive unearths so many things of interest and it’s impossible to put them in any kind of hierarchical list.
Every time I look through the boxes, something new leaps out and catches my eye. I am currently inspired by all the textile projects we did, the vast majority having taken place during the mid 1990s and across the Bolsover area. I don’t know if there was a particular fashion for textile and banner projects at that time or perhaps there was a member of staff with stitching skills and one project may have triggered another quite naturally. Anyhow, they just seemed to have kept on coming!
We made banners in Barlborough, Bolsover, Pinxton, Newton, Creswell, Shirebrook and Clowne and we have numerous photographs showing people making them, stitching away in as yet unidentified community halls.
Young and old worked together to create these beautiful textiles that celebrated their village. I’d love to track some of them down and find out what became of the banners. Are they still in situ or now in someone’s attic, worse still have they been disposed of altogether?
If still in existence they will now be an historical record of a time gone by. I imagine many of the shops will have closed and the scenes recreated may well have changed.
Take a look for yourself.
The Bolsover Lantern Parade
Junction Arts have been delivering a Lantern Parade in Bolsover town for over twenty years now. It came about after the then Director of Junction Arts, Tina Glover, saw a lantern parade organised by Welfare State International in Ullverston, Cumbria. She was inspired by what she saw and thought the people of Bolsover might enjoy taking part in something similar. Armed with a sample lantern she'd made, Tina went along to meet the Town Council to talk about her proposal. That year, the first Lantern Parade took place.
From then on, Junction Arts have delivered the Bolsover Lantern Parade, with only one or two exceptions due to adverse weather conditions.
People come along to our community lantern making workshops, year on year and generations of families take part, working together to create their masterpieces. Here are some of their stories.
Sam Titley: "We've had many fantastic years of lantern making with Junction Arts in Bolsover, initially with me making and the little ones enjoying getting REALLY gluey. Now both kids enjoy doing the making. The parade is looked forward to every year. Junction Arts staff are amazingly accommodating, friendly and helpful."
Sarah Bennett: "We have been making lanterns since 2015. We made the Vulcan Bomber XH558 and it was our first attempt at a lantern. Junction Arts were so supportive in the making of the lantern and it was brilliant in bringing family and friends together. We love seeing the community coming together."
Amy Smith: "One of my fondest memories is the 2015 Lantern Parade. The workshops had been so busy that year the we had people working on tables outside the hall! The parade itself was a bit of a washout and yet hundreds of people turned up, they'd put in too much hard work not to take part in the parade. Amongst other things there was a huge coca cola lorry, a dragon and a glowing jellyfish, everyone standing in the rain having fun!"
The Bolsover Children's Festival
This was another very popular annual event, held in the summer holidays at Bolsover Castle. It was a one day regional festival delivered in partnership with English Heritage that included outreach residencies and workshops as well as a full programme of activities throughout the day.
Local people have fond memories of attending and during the summer of 2016 we collected some of their stories.
Lynn Smith remembers spending a lovely day at the festival one summer with her two children.
" We had a fantastic day with fabric, glue and coloured paper designing and constructing king and pointy princess hats. There was a parade at the finale with everyone wearing their creations. I can also remember a storytelling tent."
Lynn's daughter Georgina also contributed a memory:
"I remember going up to Bolsover Castle in the summer and enjoying the arts and crafts activities. I especially remember making a princess cone hat with a variety of coloured fabrics and materials, and it had tassels coming out of the top. I must have been about 10 years old and I still remember it now aged 23!"
JA40 Tea Parties
As already mentioned, Junction Arts have worked with many thousands of people over 40 years, not only as participants, but as artists, partners, members of staff and volunteers.
There must be so many stories out there and we wanted to gather some of them for the archive.
One of the the ways we did this was to deliver three JA40 Tea Parties at events throughout the summer of 2016 where we could talk to people about Junction Arts. We printed out a series of Story Postcards designed with some of the company logos and encouraged people to write down their memories.
As you might expect, many of the stories related to our higher profile and more established events, for example the Bolsover Lantern Parade, the Bolsover Children’s Festival and the Tapton Lock Festival.
Not all though. People also wanted to share stories about the impact they felt Junction Arts had on their community or local groups, or their personal experience of working or volunteering with us.
Here are a few of those memories:
"Such lovely people doing incredible work! I’ve loved working alongside Junction Arts on the New Bolsover Model Village Project. I’m excited to do the community banner next year. All colleagues have a high opinion of the Junction Arts team and all residents in the community love Junction Arts workshops and activities. It says it all when they ask when are they coming back?" Jess Holmes - Bolsover CVP
"In 2015 Junction Arts encouraged us to participate in the Bolsover Stories Festival. We were a small poetry group meeting in a coffee shop. We’re now called Rhythm ‘n’ Rhyme and we performed at Tapton Lock this year.
Also the Junction Arts Office brought back memories of my Wedding Day in 1971 when we got married. It was then a Register Office." Lorriane Bytheway - participant
"I first became involved with Junction Arts after chatting to Tina Glover at an event at Creswell Crags. The Lantern Parade workshops came first and since then I have helped with Galas, Canal Festivals, Pleasley Vale events and others. It has been interesting to see the results of projects such as sculpture and film." Sue Hughes – a long term volunteer with Junction Arts
"I remember visiting Junction Arts at both Shirebrook and when based at Creswell. I went on a course deep in Scarcliffe Woods, imagining and creating." Sarah Page
"My son played the drums with the Manchester Camarta Orchestra as part of a Junction Arts First Art project. What an experience – a wonderful evening that made my heart soar!" Liz Smyth – parent of young participant in our First Art 4 Stages project in 2016
Creative commission – Valiants Arise
We wanted to commission a piece of ‘art’ that would be an exciting creative interpretation of our work and heritage and at the beginning of the project weren’t quite sure what art form this would be.
After advertising the opportunity widely, Paul Lovatt Cooper was selected. Paul is an English percussionist and composer and he wanted to write an uplifting and celebratory piece of music for us and the finished composition, called Valiants Arise, certainly achieved his ambitions.
Paul worked with the Whitwell Brass Band and Handmade Samba Band to rehearse the music that was to be premiered at our 2016 Bolsover Lantern Parade.
He worked closely with both bands prior to the event and also conducted them on the day.
It was an amazing experience and a privilege for us to hear the music for the first time and to observe the audience’s reaction. It has since been played around the world by a number of bands who follow Paul including the New York Staff Band and bands in Scotland and Australia!
JA40 Film Commission
Another of the outputs of the JA40 project was to commission Chris Bevan to make a film about Junction Arts, charting our journey through a series of interviews. Chris carried out his research by looking through our archive at the Record Office, probably the first person to use it! He then arranged to speak to people who had been involved with the organisation, be they partners, funders, participants, volunteers or artists. The film was premiered in December 2016 to an invited audience, many of whom featured in the film itself. Here are a couple of comments from the evening.
"Working alongside you all has been a great introduction to Community Arts. Thank you for letting me share your 40th Celebration." Annie French – Trustee and volunteer
"Wonderful evening – congratulations Junction Arts on your 40th birthday. You have created a fabulous organisation that has and will always be so much a vibrant part of the communities in which you have worked. So good that all the great work is deposited with the Derbyshire Record Office." Chris Weir – Partner and supporter.
In September 2017 we had some very exciting news. The JA40 film, was nominated for a 2017 Royal Television Society Midlands Award in the Factual Programme of the Year category. RTS awards are highly prized in the media industry, a ‘kitemark’ of excellence and are valued by those who are nominated for awards and those who win.
This is an amazing achievement for us and our film maker Chris Bevan and for Junction Arts.
The film also formed an integral part of the exhibition we created to share our story, and from January to July 2017 the exhibition toured venues in and around Bolsover and Chesterfield. To compliment the exhibition we also offered venues a free art workshop for children to create badges by collaging designs using unwanted papers from the archive.
Finally, we also gave a series of talks and film screening to local groups. For many of those attending the talks, it was an opportunity reminisce and tell us about what they knew about Junction Arts and to see some familiar faces on the screen! It was also a valuable opportunity for us to meet even more people who we’d worked with over the last four decades!