Countdown to Creative Practitioner Project

There are just over two weeks left until the Sunday 23 April deadline to apply for the Creative Practitioner role advertised through Addo. This is the single biggest activity within the Finding Maindee Project and one that it both scary and exciting.

 Setting on Chepstow Road

It is two months since we got people together in the library to consider priorities - blog article here.This short article re-affirms who we are doing this project for.

Who is this project for?

  1. The library has long been a space for the Maindee and the people able to regularly access Chepstow Road in Newport. Today people come to the library to do things like print off school course work; for children to discover books; to do job searches on the internet and - starting from April 19 - to take part in mental wellbeing courses. There is a good record of activity through Instagram and on our blog article from February.

  1. The volunteers who run this space are the ultimate guardians. They are the faces of this space and the people who our visitors turn to. As they give their time - in blocks of two and three hours at a time - this keeps our financial overheads very low and provides a future. It is worth remembering that Kim Lambert, who organises the rota, won Newport Adult Volunteer of the Year for 2016.

  1. The artistic community of Newport are setting down connections with this space. For example, we have now held 3 New Paths Gatherings in this space and many of our artists have been running activities from within the building: from Ismael’s performances to Rohan’s sounds and now Jo’s exhibition of Homes in Maindee which opens on Saturday 8th April. The support of the body which represents artists in Wales, the Arts Council of Wales, is important as Maindee Library could become a long term venue for arts activities.

The library on a sunny Wednesday 5 April 2017

  1. We are definitely part of helping Newport City Council deal with austerity. Many library visitors still expect it to be managed by the Council's library services; this is completely understandable as it has been looked after by Newport’s local authority [and its predecessors] for many generations. The Council have very been supportive of our work to date and are now looking to sign off on a 25 year lease to Maindee Unlimited. Whatever happens it will remain a venue for a range of public services.

It is probably that last point which is most relevant to the work of the professionals who help us shape the space from now on. Maindee Unlimited have run this building as a public space for just over 17 months [since 31/10/15] under what is called a licence to occupy [article from RICS here] and we are about to receive the Council’s trust for a much longer period under a full lease. With this latter type of legal agreement we will have a chance to make modifications to the building and make a mark. Newport, like many other Councils, have had their fingers burnt by many other asset transfers and so we hope that our approach is one that gives them confidence and inspires others.


A tiny glimpse of where things start


The brief that we have put out through Addo is heavily influenced and guided by our relationship with the Arts Council of Wales through Ideas: People: Places. Rather than taking a traditional architectural approach to shaping the fabric of the library we will be going about the task in an exploratory fashion. We want to build on the work that Jo Haycock has been doing with the library volunteers to prepare for her Home in Maindee exhibition [see below]: she has worked with the volunteers to dress a corner of the building; source items of furniture, curtains and also paper the walls.


Changing space - Home in Maindee

Although this example above might seem like a tiny step, it is definitely a move away from the overwhelming blue colour inherited from the Council; and taste of what we can do. This whole project fromMay onwards is a question of negotiating how space is used; the artists who follow will have to be socially engaged in a similar way to Jo. In fact we expect them to be much bolder!

So, we don’t know exactly how the coming year in the library is going to develop, but we have a decent budget and perhaps more freedom than anybody realises. We hope to work with artists and designers who can go out into the local neighbourhood, find little bits of Maindee and bring them back into the library!


Related Links

Creative Practitioner role advertised through Addo

Feb 2017 library meeting to consider priorities article here

Home in Maindee with Jo Haycock

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