Bringing the arts to the people

ARTS are frequently, and mistakenly, seen as something exclusive and elitist. Well Ip-Art is hopefully going to change people's minds. Ip-Art is a two week festival which is dedicated to bring arts into the community.

By Andrew Clarke

ARTS are frequently, and mistakenly, seen as something exclusive and elitist. Well Ip-Art is hopefully going to change people's minds. Ip-Art is a two week festival which is dedicated to bring arts into the community.

It's not only about sitting back and being entertained it's also about local people taking part. Ip-Art is about bringing local talent to the fore. The event, which runs from June 28 to July 13, was launched last night at the Willis building which will itself become the focus of a weekend event.

Ipswich Mayor Penny Breakwell said: “Art and culture have always played an important role in the story of Ipswich and we hope to prove that it is still very much the case. Ip-Art … involves dozens of arts events - bringing together visual arts, performing arts, literature, film and music. It includes the perennial favourite Ipswich Music Day, which alone attracts between 30,000 and 40,000 people to Christchurch Park and the Ipswich Community Carnival and its vibrant parade.”

She said that the emphasis on the fortnight was very much art in the community - making the arts in all its forms accessible and enjoyable to all. It was about destroying preconceptions, it was about opening up a rich and diverse set of experiences. The aim of the two week spectacular was to provide something for everybody - cross cultural as well providing a wide variety of different art forms.

She said that the open, community nature of the event was reflected in the vast array of people involved in actively supporting this venture including the business sector represented by The Ipswich Partnership, Sarah Newman of artsroute, the Nia Project, Red Rose Chain and the Ipswich Arts Association. The media partners are the East Anglian Daily Times and BBC Radio Suffolk.

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The two week arts extravaganza includes Shakespeare in Christchurch Park, countless art exhibitions, a look at the town historic and groundbreaking architecture, a dance marathon and music galore. The emphasis is very much on fun events. None of the acts will be adorning themselves in emperor's new clothes.

Leading the art exhibitions will be a major event at the Wolsey Art Gallery entitled Our Town in which will display paintings by local artists alongside masterpieces from the Borough's own collection. Local artists were invited to put brush to canvas to create a work which expressed their feelings about living in Ipswich. These new works will highlight life in the town in the 21st century which will contrast with the view of artists in the past. The exhibition will look at not only the changing physical nature of the landscape but also changes in lifestyle. Our Town runs from June 28 until September 7.

There is also an inspirational Three Churches Exhibition at St Peter's, St Mary at the Quay and St Clements. Six artists were invited to make and show work in three redundant churches on the waterfront. Of the five pieces three are site specific installations that respond to the space, one is a free standing photographic exhibition which charts the work of Suffolk sculptor Laurence Edwards and the other is a performance piece by Michael Lumb. This will be staged at St Clements Church on July 5. Performances will be given all day and will the tone will be governed by the artist's feelings on the day and his reactions to world events.

Elsewhere people are invited to take a walk or a cycle ride alongside the River Gipping to take a look at the new piece of 16 foot public sculpture, The Navigator by John Atkin which has been unveiled downstream from Princes Street bridge.

The steel sculpture was inspired by the town's maritime history and by the legacy of its engineering past. There is an exhibition of John Atkin's working drawings and a look at his other work at Christchurch Mansion.

A number of galleries and public buildings are also devoting space to art exhibitions with local connections. Ip-Art At The Point will be showing Poverty Trap, a new video work by multi-media artist Phil Robbins, while also hosting an exhibition by Suffolk Open Studios. The Ancient House Gallery is hosting a site specific exhibition which focuses on the architecture, materials and history of the building. Suffolk art teachers will be putting their own work on view in Printmaking at the Forefront Gallery in Suffolk College while on July 5/6 the Willis building will be open to the public. It's groundbreaking glass design remains one of the most influential in the country and at 2.30pm each day an architect will give visitors a short talk about the building's importance.

Theatre lovers will be delighted with the news that Christchurch Park will be playing host to two top quality Shakespeare productions: - Henry V on July 2 by the Mad Dogs and Englishmen company and A Midsummer Night's Dream on July 8 by Heartbreak Productions.

On June 30 a traditional Ghanaian ensemble Osagyefo Theatre, a ten piece outfit specialising in West African folk tales, drama and dance, will be performing at the Corn Exchange while on July 9 hip hop theatre Cultureshock will be providing a dazzling display of street dance.

Young people will have a large role to play in Ip-Art and leading theatre company Red Rose Chain will be performing a new production, Body and Soul, set at the East of England Latin American Dancing Championships. This young people's company, which scripts its productions after extensive improvisational workshops, aims to reach audiences who don't go to the theatre. This is being presented at the Ipswich Corn Exchange from July 2-5.

Meanwhile Eastern Angles are unveiling their new youth company New Angles who are staging The Search For Odysseus by Charles Way. A teenage son searches for his lost father and his quest takes him to a clutch of ancient islands where Gods play tricks. The Search For Odysseus runs from June 26 to July 2 at the Sir John Mills Theatre.

DanceEast will be holding a Dance Marathon on June 28 with events for all abilities and dance styles including jazz, latin, Egyptian, salsa, line dancing, hip hop and flamenco. There are sessions for parents and tots and for early risers with Wake Up and Shake Up. No experience is necessary just loads of energy and enthusiasm.

Ipswich Music Day on July 6 will form one of the centrepieces of the fortnight. More than 40,000 people are expected to flock to Christchurch Park to boogie the day away listening to a mix of jazz, folk, blues, rock and classical music. The sounds of the world are brought together on seven stages dotted around the park. Among the bands taking part are Perfectly Good Guitars, Irie J, Blind Poets, Soul Kitchen Zone Fluffy, Salty Dogs and South of the Border. Elsewhere in the Park will be performances by the Co-op Juniors, various brass bands, classical trios and quartets and weaving their way through the whole musical collage will be the Suffolk School of Samba.

Music will be bursting out all over through the Ip-Art spectacular. On July 5 also in Christchurch Park is Bhangra Beat - traditional Indian folk music performed by young dancers which incorporates both Eastern and Western dance styles.

Sterlingwork is a blend of classical, pop and jazz all brought together to create a unique sound by award-winning Ipswich musician Andrew Sterling. He will be performing at Ipswich Town Hall on July 1 where he will be joined by Andrew Barner on keyboards, Andrew's son Carl on saxophone and Lindsay Gowers sings early English music with a close harmony quartet providing the backing vocals.

The Council Chamber Sessions will be held at the town hall throughout the fortnight and will take in such diverse acts as George Smerrins Anti-Social Club - a nine piece latin/dub/funk/flamenco ska experience, blues man Bill Sheffield and Organic Matters with leading rock guitarist Mick Hanson and a host of others.

Meanwhile Culture Shock 2003 will be offering a diverse evening's entertainment at the Corn Exchange - including live music, art and local DJs as well as cutting edge cinema. Film forms a sub-section of the festival with the Ipswich Film Theatre providing the base for these screenings.

On July 10 Michael Burrows will be giving an illustrated lecture on John Steinbeck and his films while a week earlier on July 2, the East Anglian Film Archive will be putting together a special event taking audiences back to filmed arts events over the last 100 years. It also brings together filmed visits of the great and the good including Alfred Hitchcock, George Bernard Shaw, George Formby and Allan Smethurst - The Singing Postman.

Community events includes the Ipswich Community Carnival on July 12 in which hundreds of people including dynamic drummers and enthusiastic dancers bring the liveliest, most colourful parade of the year to the streets of Ipswich. This year professional artists have been working with local schools to focus the theme of the procession on the town's 800 year old history.

On July 3 everyone is invited to a Picnic in the Park where visitors will be entertained by samba dancers and variety of musical acts. Even local transport will be turning out in their best bib and tucker to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ipswich Buses with a fun day on July 13 at the Ipswich Town practice pitch.

And for those who enjoy life on the ocean wave there is the 2003 Ipswich to Delfzijl Small Ships race which sets sail on July 7 - although the boats will be assembling in Ipswich dock from July 4. The trip to the northern Dutch town should take two days depending on the weather. On the Saturday July 5 there will be on-shore entertainments and water-bourne competitions.

Paul Clement, of the Ipswich Partnership, one of the co-organisers, said that they supports Ip-Art because it encouraged creativity and new initiatives within Ipswich town centre and promoted Ipswich to the outside world.

“Ipswich has long had a diversity of arts events but never before have they been brought together under one brand. If we succeed this year and in years to come Ip-Art could become a recognised regional festival, attracting not only our town population but visitors from outside who will become acquainted with what the town has to offer.”

He said that acts will continue to be added to the bill from now until the end of the Ip-Art fortnight and details of these will be given in weekly updates in the EADT's Freetime supplement on Fridays.

Copies of the full colour brochures detailing all the events are available from tourist information centres, leisure centres and libraries and from the web site

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