Artist Neil Bartlett visits NSA leadership college Blackburn College

 25 September 2019

Acclaimed artist, director and writer Neil Bartlett is, today, visiting staff and students in the Creative & Digital department of Blackburn College to speak about the college’s work on this year’s Make Art Not War live brief.

Students at Blackburn College will be asked to take inspiration from Neil Barlett's work on Remembrance. Photo Credit: @24HoursofPeace
Students at Blackburn College will be asked to take inspiration from Neil Barlett's work on Remembrance. Photo Credit: @24HoursofPeace

On Thursday 26 September Neil Bartlett will speak to staff and students at Blackburn College about his piece ‘Letter to an Unknown Soldier’ and his new work ‘24 Hours of Peace’. The day is an opportunity for students to learn from a practicing artist and to use what they learn about Neil and his work to inspire their own response to the Make Art Not War brief. 

In 2018-19 Creative & Cultural Skills was a lead partner in cultural programme 14-18 NOW’s Make Art Not War project. Through the project a commissioned artist resident worked with staff and students at each of the National Skills Academy leadership colleges on a response to the brief “What does peace mean to you?” over the course of the academic year.

14-18 NOW, has now completed its four-year programme, and the Make Art Not War project is being continued by Creative & Cultural Skills in 2019-20, in collaboration with the University of Arts London (UAL). Colleges outside the National Skills Academy are invited to take part in the project which will involve responding to a live brief and the opportunity to showcase students’ work at an end-of-year celebration event.

Blackburn College 

At Blackburn College the project is taking on an extra dimension as the students are being asked to respond to Neil Bartlett’s work on Remembrance.

His work, ‘Letter to an Unknown Solider’ was commissioned last year by 14-18 NOW as a “new kind of war memorial” in which the public were invited to write a letter to the statue of the unknown soldier on Paddington Station; over 20,000 letters were received by the end of the project.

Neil is currently working on a show called ‘24 Hours of Peace’ at Manchester Royal Exchange. On Remembrance Sunday the Manchester theatre will keep its doors open for a full 24 hours, in a show which sees 48 performers telling a single monologue made up of interviews with various people on the theme of conflict and peace. In preparation for the work over 100 people from across the UK, including community and peace activists, have been interviewed including two people from The Bureau and Near Neighbours, both based in Blackburn. 

Speaking about the project, Neil said, “Every year, the two-minute silence on Remembrance Sunday asks us all to look back, but it also asks us to look forward. Last year, as the amazing moment of the silence ended, I found myself wondering about what the word ‘peace’ that is so often mentioned on the day really means to us all these days.

Due to his previous work with 14-18 NOW, Neil has been keen to support the Make Art Not War project as it continues into its second year.

“In particular, I started wondering about all the people who go to work every morning to try and turn that powerful little word into some kind of daily reality. So, what I'm trying to do with this performance is to make a space in which some of those very special peoples' voices can be heard.”

Due to his previous work with 14-18 NOW, Neil has been keen to support the Make Art Not War project as it continues into its second year. Students and staff at today’s workshop in Blackburn college will have the opportunity to not only hear Neil speak about the project and find out more about his inspiration for the pieces, but they will also have the chance to engage with a Q&A session.

“Taking inspiration from Neil Bartlett’s Letter to an Unknown Soldier and his new work 24 Hours of Peace, a cohort of students from Blackburn College will benefit from this rich artist insight along with the Make Art Not War films and resources to generate their own original work working with a commissioned artist mentor.” said Sandra Dartnell, Partnership Manager North West, Creative & Cultural Skills. 

Up to 25 colleges are able to take part in this year’s Make Art Not War UAL brief, and spaces are still available. For further information on the Make Art Not War project, contact info@ccskills.org.uk.


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