What’s new in York? The Arts Barge Project
York is a city packed to its creaking rafters with culture, history, lively bars and first-rate restaurants, but a dedicated community arts centre? Not yet - although it’s on its way.
We spoke to Marcia Mackey at the Arts Barge Project about her vision for York’s first dedicated community arts space, which also happens to be a large floating barge - the Selby Tony.
Tell us about how the idea came about?
“The idea grew from discussions about the fact that York doesn't yet have an arts centre for residents, students or visitors to experience our 'home-grown' arts - as opposed to the 'off the peg' arts, where you're buying a ticket to see something but you're not connected with it personally. Our model involves the whole community in the creation of art, music and drama - and we can all enjoy the process and the outcomes together.”
And how has it taken shape since conception?
“Since 2009 the project has grown into a fully-fledged community arts organisation. We run a regular gypsy jazz session for all-level players and an amateur orchestra - The Bargestra.
“We also run a really popular annual free community arts festival - Riverside - in York and we've transferred this marquee-based model to festivals.”
Ah, that’ll be the festival we’ve seen down near Skeldergate Bridge. It certainly attracts plenty of people. What else is going on behind the scenes?
“We run a therapeutic arts service part-funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to help emotionally-challenged children concentrate better at school and increase their self-esteem, improving relationships. Excitingly, we’re also now working with University of York's humanities research department too, which will give us a research-based understanding of what we do and the value it has.”
So, how exactly will the barge feature in your plans?
“The lack of a permanent base makes it really difficult to create a fully-fledged community arts operation, which is where the barge comes in. She's here in York and we're fundraising to get planning for a permanent home so that we can really start to do great things for the whole community. The barge, Selby Tony, will open all day, six days a week and host a huge variety of events.”
What sort of events can residents and visitors to York look forward to?
“It's a beautiful space to just sit and have a cuppa while you watch the river flow by but crucially, that's not all you'll get from a visit. There'll be a permanent exhibition of visual arts, an artist in residence and a musician or two.
“As well as that, the space will be available for workshops and community groups to create music, theatre, film, and crafts. In the evenings you’ll see great gigs and performances from international and local guests. We know from the feedback we had following a pilot project in 2011 that the arts barge will really be buzzing.”
If it’s really popular, might it be a squeeze?
“Once we've established ourselves, we hope to add an extra deck to the barge so that we can fit more seating and events upstairs. We want as many people as possible to be able to experience the project.”
To find out more about Arts Barge Project, or to help Marcia and the team raise funds to give the barge a permanent home, visit their fundraising site or become a sponsor of this year's Riverside Festival and don't forget follow them on Twitter or Facebook.
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Lead image source: Arts Barge Project