Shopping centre gallery creates a window on Weston’s past and future
- Credit: Culture Weston
A window in Weston’s Sovereign Shopping Centre has been turned into a gallery of people’s memories and hopes for the town centre.
The new cultural heritage project between Culture Weston and North Somerset Council's Weston High Street Heritage Action Zone is part of a national initiative for the High Street Action Zone, being funded by Historic England to unlock the potential of high streets across England.
The Memory Bank project is the culmination of a practical series of artist-led Zoom workshops inviting groups in Weston to share their past and present memories of the town and high street and re-imagine its future through art and craft-making.
The creative project was launched during Heritage Open Days in September with a live Memory Bank set up in the High Street’s Italian Gardens where people could deposit their memories to the open archive.
This was followed by several Zoom sessions led by visual artist and social maker, Megan Clark-Bagnall and a team of artists, with different groups of participants in Weston invited to take part, including younger people, an inter-generational group and the LGBTQ+ community.
The LGBTQ+ session also featured guest appearances by drag artist Tess Drive and theatre-maker Tom Marshman who performed extracts from his critically-acclaimed show Kings Cross (REMIX), as well as sharing memories of his time spent as a student at Weston College in the 1990s.
The Zoom workshops were a mix of story gathering and memory sharing to find out what individuals value about Weston and how their hopes and dreams could inform future development of the town centre.
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Through a range of inventive resources including fun, bespoke activities, hand-delivered in specially created arts and crafts tool-kits for each participant, a series of Memory Bank films and creative exchanges on Zoom, participants archived memories of the town and bottled the essence of what Weston means to them now.
The three past, present and future films are called Mapping The Past With Jazz with disco and heritage Queen Jasmine Loveys; Kindness Ripples Aith Ali, with Queen of Kindness and director of The Department Of Kindness at Southmead Hospital, Ali Brown; and What Could Work Shop? with contemporary artists Mona Bigwood and Carson Parker Fairley.
The films were specially created for the Zooms and to provide wider access for the public. To take part, log on to cultureweston.org.uk/listings/the-memory-bank-over-to-you.
The Memory Bank exhibition, featuring a range of artwork and material produced by participants through the Zoom sessions along with creative responses by Megan Clark-Bagnall, can be viewed in the side window of Unit 10a in the Sovereign Centre from December to the end of March 2021. The ambition is for this to become an ever-evolving window on Weston.
Artist Megan Clark-Bagnall said: “It is brilliant to be able to celebrate Memory Bank in a showcase at the Sovereign Centre for the whole community to see.
“The window exhibit shines a light on the generosity and creativity of all the participants as well as providing a beacon for the future of the town, where utopia is always on the horizon.”
Fiona Matthews, creative director at Culture Weston added: “The Memory Bank has been a wonderful and valuable opportunity to joyously, creatively and digitally consult with the community, galvanising an inclusive and collective vision for the future of Weston town centre, that ensures people are at the heart of the council’s new placemaking strategy.”
The Culture Weston initiative places cultural and heritage-based activity at the heart of Weston’s daily life and future development.
Cllr Mark Canniford, North Somerset Council’s executive member for business, economy and employment, said: “The production of the Memory Bank shopfront is a celebration of Weston and the local community.
“In these difficult times, it is heartening to see our communities coming together to make such a strong art installation.”