Our arts programme, which was funded by Arts Council England and Southampton City Council, both sought to explore the stories of and celebrate communities living in Southampton. Acting as a foundation for the city’s planned City of Culture 2025 bid, we used Mayflower 400 as an opportunity to develop cultural leadership through commissions, mentoring, workshops, networking and new partnerships.
Funded by Arts Council England
A Mile in My Shoes
In September 2020, Southampton welcomed the award-winning immersive project from Empathy Museum, A Mile in My Shoes.
A Mile in My Shoes is a shoe shop where visitors are invited to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes – literally. Wearing a pair of the contributor’s shoes, visitors go for a walk, listening to the shoes’ original owner telling their story. Over 200 people visited the installation when it was at Westquay on the Esplanade.
“Extraordinary to put on these shoes and feel the shape of someone else’s life thru the soles of my feet while listening to their story via an i-pod.” Helen Keall on Twitter
The installation includes stories from all over the world, we commissioned and recorded eight new local stories from Southampton, these included Professor Tom Wilkinson, his team have been trialing an inhaled drug that could prevent worsening of COVID19 in those most at risk; Paralympian Aaron Phipps; Director of Black History Month, Lou Taylor; and Ciro Scognamiglio, an Italian chef and graffiti artist. After the project, these stories were added to the Empathy Museum’s online collection and have been listened to nearly 6,000 times. You can hear the stories here
In November 2020, ArtfulScribe, in partnership with Winchester Poetry Festival, offered a weekend of poetry workshops led by poets who have made their homes in England from countries including Hungary, Nigeria, The Philippines, and Poland. George Szirtes, Theresa Lola, Romalyn Ante and Bohdan Piasecki led ninety-minute online sessions for 153 local poets exploring themes such as journeys, new beginnings, identity and belonging. The weekend included an open poetry reading night. Read more about the sessions here
“Thank you so much for making this fabulous weekend! It was such a rare treat to be able to attend three workshops with such highly experienced and exciting practitioners over two days. It was a real poetry-hit and very intense – it made my brain work hard.” Participant
Southampton residents and participants from across the world, aged 3 – 87, contributed to this multi-arts project through following YouTube tutorials, in total 1162 people took part. Responses to Belonging were captured in the form of songs, music, stories, poems, recipes, paper-boats, drawings, colour, and sound. They were brought together in an installation at Westquay Shopping Centre in December 2020.
“Entering the Art Asia Belonging art installation felt a little like entering a prayer, a homage to those who always feel slightly out of place. Those who, for whatever reason find themselves in different place to where they started.” Poetry participant and visitor
Walking through the installation, visitors were immersed in a site of Belonging, surrounded by banners designed by Cath Bristow featuring beautiful, intricate drawings printed on colourful fabric which hung down the walls and from the central gazebo. Inspired by writer, Susmita Bhattachayra, there were also streamers of paper boats, postcards, poems, recipes and stories linked together, hanging all along the walls that visitors stopped to read. A new music commission from Pooja Angra completed the scene.
The New Carnival Company – Professional Development
In partnership with Rachel Gadsden and led by the New Carnival Company, this development course supported four Southampton-based emerging D/deaf and disabled artists. The scheme provided seven online training sessions for artists to develop and/or extend skills in their community engagement practice. There was a particular focus on delivering online and to participants with diverse needs.
The programme culminated in a series of free participatory workshops for communities, both disabled and non-disabled, in April and May 2021. The artists also featured in Rachel Gadsden’s exhibition, Displaced, which ran throughout May. Find out more about the artists here
Towers of Light
Audacious CIC worked with residents of Oslo, Havre, Copenhagen, Hampton and Rotterdam towers to light up the five iconic blocks on the city’s Weston Shore. Towers of Light, led by artist Andy McKeown, ran from 10 – 12 December 2020. It asked residents what they wanted to say to the world, 115 flats joined in to light up their messages, delivered through coded nautical flags, on the sea-facing side of the towers. Watch the video here.
Andy McKeown has produced a series of online workshops as a legacy for this project, you can get involved here.
“My 6.30am run along Weston Shore was brightened up by a beautiful window light art project from @Mayflower400sc. Loved it! More shared art like this please @southampton2025!” Matt Bromley on Twitter
Voyages of the Heart
Voyages of the Heart is a powerful new work by world-renowned cellist and kora player, Tunde Jegede. This new ensemble music project, commissioned with Turner Sims, featured 25 musicians (22 of them local), and covered six musical sound-worlds: Soul, Reggae, Gospel, Folk, Indian Classical and Opera. The piece was inspired by the stories of Southampton’s refugee and migrant communities, collected through the City Archive and a new National Lottery Heritage Fund supported oral history project.
Tunde Jegede, composer describes the piece as: “about heritage, journeys, migration and the transitory sense of home and identities… [asking] pivotal questions of our perception of culture, memory, race and how we see the world.”
The premiere was streamed on 23 April 2021 and ran through to 3 May, over 700 people watched. Tunde has created free access resources for schools, choirs and community groups to learn some of the songs from the piece. These will be used by Southampton Music Hub to develop a new performance piece for summer 2022.
“A remarkable demonstration of music and culture, Voyages of the Heart is a concert not to be missed.” Olivia Gabriel
ZoieLogic Dance Theatre
Between February and May 2021 ZoieLogic Dance Theatre led two projects with communities in Southampton.
The Grid Experience at Weston Shore – This is an exciting new project designed to explore movement in shared spaces as a response to people experiencing a physical and social distance because of Covid-19. Through it, ZoieLogic has created a unique way to use dance and movement within physical distancing guidelines! The GRID took part in Weston Shore on 24 April with 35 participants. In the run up to the performance, community members had been taught the moves through online dance sessions.
We are Holyrood started with workshops with young people to develop skills in dance, film and photography, whilst also exploring creative approaches to storytelling. 15 participants aged 7-11 years old were empowered to tell their stories in creative ways and have made a film about the lives and experiences of the Holyrood community. Watch their film here
Still to come
Delayed due to the pandemic, these projects are yet to happen. Plans are for them to take place in summer and autumn 2021.
Manifesting the Unseen
Shadows and Light
Curated by Professor Stephen Foster, Shadows and Light brought together works of contemporary art which relate to light as subject matter. Featuring photography, painting, drawing, sculpture and installation, the exhibition also included works from Southampton’s fine art collection. Find out more and visit the virtual exhibition
Biannual Open and Young People’s Open
For 2020’s biennial ‘open exhibition’, Southampton City Art Gallery invited artists, amateur and professional, across Hampshire, to create new artworks responding to the themes of journeys, migration and the sea. There were over 450 thought-provoking responses, across many mediums from painters, sculptors, printmakers, photographers and filmmakers interpreting these themes in a variety of original and innovative ways. Visit the exhibition here
Rachel Gadsden – exhibitions, mentoring and workshops
Throughout 2020 and 2021 artist Rachel Gadsden has worked on various Mayflower themed projects. Exhibitions: What this Storm is all About, Displaced and Deluge; creative workshops with visually impaired or disabled young people and a mentoring scheme with D/deaf and disabled artists based in Southampton. Find out more about Rachel’s work here