Inspiring Lancashire: an artist commission

9 June 2016

A cluster of 4 signature events in Autumn 2016 has created the opportunity to shine a spotlight on Lancashire’s rising contemporary cultural ambition. An artist commission is a way of communicating that ambition and providing visitors and residents with an opportunity for deeper engagement with arts and culture across the county.

Funded by Arts Council England, Marketing Lancashire is working with leading stakeholders including Arts Lancashire, Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Council and Blackpool Council, to establish the cultural offer as one of the leading reasons why people visit Lancashire. Distinctive cultural experiences play an important role in shaping perceptions of place and attracting visitors. The contemporary cultural offer across Lancashire is gaining all the time in strength and reputation, but has yet to be fully developed and promoted as a tool for tourism. This brief helps address that.

The Creative Brief

The commission should be inspired by the character, values and distinctiveness of Lancashire. It will be a bold, innovative but cohesive idea. It will flip perceptions of the county and invite people to look at it in new, unexpected ways. Proposals across all arts forms are welcomed, whether this may be performance based, film or visual, to name but a few. The piece may be one version capable of being site-adapted. Or bespoke to each location. That is for you to propose. Either way it will work in and be relevant to each of the 4 different locations. It is hoped that it will standalone as a coherent piece and adapt to suit future locations too.

Shared histories (such as textiles, skill and craftsmanship, manufacture, hardship and toil, landscape, leisure, pleasure and popular culture, transportation routes, food and drink, social injustices and radical reforms) connect each place in different and often surprising ways. These are histories that have contemporary relevance and are to be a jumping off point for the artist commission.

The four delivery partners / events are:

  • Preston City Council – The Lancashire Encounter (Preston,  23-25 September)


  • Super Slow Way – A Rhapsody to the Leeds – Liverpool Canal (Blackburn, Sunday 16 October)


  • LeftCoast – LightPool (Blackpool – with a focus on October half-term)


  • Lancaster Arts Partnership – Light up Lancaster – (Lancaster, 4/5 November)

About Lancashire Encounter (23 – 25 September)

Lancashire Encounter is a mix of performances, street theatre, music, mass participation, market places, workshops, exhibitions and installations fused together in a unique urban fete. It is an ambitious, high quality biannual festival for the whole of Lancashire that captures the region's tradition of making and participating in great art. Bringing together Lancashire's artists, arts organisations and diverse communities, the Encounter will celebrate the very best of the region's culture over one weekend, in one central location for one audience.

Lancashire Encounter takes place in the heart of Preston, in the Flag Market, Markets, Winckley Square, Fishergate, the streets and the train station. The Festival will span the weekend, with events during the day and into the evenings.

About Canal 200 and The Rhapsody (15-16 October)

The Leeds-Liverpool Canal is 200 years old. Built in 1816, this single man-made waterway has made its mark on canal history and the region. This weekend marks the official opening of the Blackburn stretch in a weekend of events celebrating the canal’s enduring impact on the town’s manufacturing and design story. A highlight of Canal 200 will be The Rhapsody – the world-premiere of a symphony featuring the words of poet Ian MacMillan, music of composer Ian Stephens, the voices of Amanda Roocroft and 250 Blackburnians, the players of Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band with cello and tablar.

Canal 200 events will take place in spaces all over the centre of Blackburn, along the canal and in and around the stunning newly redeveloped Cathedral Quarter with the UK’s first newly built cloisters in 600 years. The Rhapsody will be performed at King George’s Hall on Sunday afternoon. It is produced by Super Slow Way which, 200 years after the canal’s birth, is staging a new, creative revolution powered by art and people of Pennine Lancashire.

About LightPool (at Blackpool Illuminations) (7 September – 8 November)

LeftCoast, Blackpool Illuminations and the Grundy Art Gallery are working together to transform the famous Blackpool illuminations.  As part of LightPool, large scale projection will be a spectacular part of the illuminations display with a stunning light show transforming the frontage of The Blackpool Tower. Artists from around the world will undertake spectacular new commissions involving light both in the gallery and around the town – and the ‘Brilliance’ arches on Birley St in the town centre will play host to a month of outdoor performance and live music throughout October. Five weekends will see the street transformed into an outdoor stage with a programme for all the family. It is envisaged that this commission will focus on October half-term weekends.

About Light Up Lancaster (4 & 5 November)

2016 will be the fourth year of Light Up Lancaster Festival. A collaborative project of the Lancaster Arts Partnership, the festival has developed into a wonderful, unique and authentic light and art festival for Lancaster, which feels 'owned' by the local community and which celebrates and illuminates Lancaster's rich cultural heritage. The programme consists of installations and performances, all with light as a central guiding theme. Some artworks will be in situ/performed for just the Friday evening, and others will continue into the Saturday, alongside the annual fireworks spectacular.

Light Up Lancaster takes place after dark, in various locations across Lancaster city centre, including Lancaster's historic squares, streets, green spaces and open spaces, forming a walk-able 'arts trail'.

The Practicalities

Whilst each event is very different in purpose and style – they share some common characteristics which will inform your response to this exciting commission.

  • Each event aims to communicate exciting stories about the place – stories of ambition, boldness and contemporary resonance – but explored and interpreted through contemporary arts practice
  • They seek to share with audiences an excitement about engaging with contemporary culture, ideas and intent.
  • Together the events create an Autumn season, taking place between late September to early November.
  • They each have strong outdoor elements and involve moving audiences through various locations. However, whilst each event involves moving people between locations, because of the additional logistical challenges, we don’t want a participative processional element.
  • They take place both during the daytime and after dark.
  • Two of the events are light-based festivals. Whilst we are not being prescriptive that the commission needs to be a light-art installation, it must work outdoors, after-dark.
  • Costings need to cover installation/de-rigging and transport at each location.
  • It should be easy to store.
  • It should capable of future revival and of being seen and understood in other contexts such as across the Northern Light Festival network.
  • Commissioned artists are required to have public liability insurance cover to a minimum indemnity of £5million and which encompasses the making, transport, installation, display and de-rigging periods.
  • A risk assessment for the commissioned work will be required.
  • Ownership will reside with Marketing Lancashire who may revive it in other contexts. The artist will be informed about such opportunities.

The Budget

This commission is £20,000 inclusive of VAT.

The budget is to cover all fees, materials, installation, transportation and removal costs from each location and expenses.


Submissions received: 9:00am on 4th July

Contract awarded: early July

Creation of the piece: July – early September

Installation – September to November


In making its selection the panel will take into account

  • The quality of the idea and concepts
  • Connection and relevance to Lancashire
  • Delivery practicalities
  • Value for money

You will be able to demonstrate

  • 3 years or more experience of producing large-scale commissions
  • Experience of creating work for the public realm
  • An association with Lancashire
  • Experience of managing similar scale commissions to quality, time and budget

How to apply

Please complete the online application form HERE by 9am on 4th July. Please email [email protected] if you have any queries relating to the brief/application.

Interviews will take place in early July.


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