We’re sure that you can read the corporate press release elsewhere, and so we’re going to concentrate on the challenges that await Matthew in Colchester:
Is firstsite working?
Can it engage [URGH] with the community to better effect?
We absolutely LOVE the Golden Goose here at The Chronic. It’s not quite the day job, but the disclaimer has to be built in that we have received some freelance payments for working on the firstsite website.
We’re hopeful of continuing this collaboration…
But the vision to establish Colchester as an artistic destination [URGH, URGH] hasn’t quite filled the potential for firstsite. Much has been made of using the Golden Goose to kick start the regeneration of the Cultural Quarter [ha!]
This ain’t gonna happen.
firstsite was perhaps the late great hurrah borne out of Mr Tony’s Big Lottery vision. Vanity was everything; wonga wasn’t exactly in short supply. Statements needed to be made – a grand scale is a good scale.
We are where we are, as Mr Tony kept on telling us. Which for Britain’s Oldest Recorded in late 2012 is having a visual artists facility that looks amazing, but has yet to receive mainstream community support.
If we continue with the Third Way twaddle, the legacy of Kath Wood, Matthew’s predecessor, is getting the bloody building built in the first place. Political pressure, cynicism and a confused letter writing campaign in the local newspaper didn’t exactly help.
Kath could walk away proud from Sunny Colch, pushing through a project that has great potential. Matthew’s priorities when he first puts on the Director hat will be to finally make this fantastic space work.
If only the firstsite conundrum was as simple as International Art Vs the Hyperlocal. Does Colchester want a flagship facility that can pitch itself as the Tate Modern of the East, or does it want to passionately support hyperlocal art?
Sitting on the fence and offering something from both artistic visions hasn’t worked so far for firstsite. The VAF needs an identity, and for now it seems that an association with the Skate Kids of Sunny Colch is stronger than some of the hit and miss artwork on view in the gallery spaces.
Meanwhile and the near neighbours across The Folly in The Minories are creating some amazing Made In Colchester exhibitions. It is perhaps unfair to hold up The Minories as an example of what firstsite should be striving to achieve. The arrival of the Golden Goose effectively gave The Minories the green light to focus upon Sunny Colch.
With a new management team now bedded in at The Minories, firstsite is playing catch up. New marketing man Nathan has wasted no time in making Sunny Colch connections. Others working in a similar space around the town have all been made to feel most welcome.
Ta for the tea, Sir.
It is this understanding of what can be achieved collectively in Colchester that should shape up the first few weeks of Matthew’s time. Walk around the town; join up the dots between the Cultural Quarter and The Mercury and the Arts Centre out towards St Mary’s. Stop off for a FREE cup of tea at Slack Space.
But more importantly get a sense of what attracts artists to operate out of this region, and then consider what firstsite is able to offer the Colchester arts scene.
To be fair, this is something that firstsite has already attempted. There is a slight feeling however that it is only lip service to the bold, artistic visions that have tended to fill the gallery spaces at the VAF.
And then there are the lines of communication. We’re still unsure as to where to look for day-to-day listings about the many community events that take place around the great curve of the Golden Goose. It’s getting better with Nathan’s great use of social media, but a serious new communication strategy [URGH, URGH, URGH] needs to be considered.
Here at at The Chronic and we have no solutions, just enthusiasm. We genuinely want firstsite to become something that ALL of Colchester can be proud of. We genuinely want… to be able to hand over those freelance invoices to firstsite.
But back to the press release proclaiming the appointment of Matthew Rowe as the new Director at firstsite. Education, community and continued partnerships with @15QueenStreet are all referenced.
The first exhibition under Matthew’s management will be:
Which may just get the punters in traveling to see the Tate Modern of the East, but will it convince the people of Colchester to include a trip to the VAF as part of their Saturday High Street shopping routine?
Time to make your mind up, firstsite.
Good luck, Matthew.