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Nick Jones FRSA details the launch of the Berwick Creative Guild and how RSA seed funding helped get the project off the ground.

Berwick's very first PechaKucha Night, and the launch of the Berwick Creative Guild, got off to a swinging start on Wednesday 29th May.

The venue was the recently opened Berwick Visitor Centre in Walkergate, formerly a Methodist Church. Definitely an interesting space to meet, not least because it has a pulpit (ideal for haranguing your audience), an organ (although nobody volunteered to play this time), an upstairs gallery, plus, right in the middle, an amazing 3-D model of Berwick-upon-Tweed. We reckoned on success looking like around 35 people, but in fact about 50 appeared! There's a small cafe, so everyone had drinks and nibbles (beer sponsored by Cheviot Brewery, Ford and Etal, thank you!), and there was tea and cake too.

The evening began with a welcome from Tania Willis, artist and illustrator, who has helped set up Berwick Creative Guild, with James Lowther, Director of Berwick Visual Arts, and Nick Jones FRSA. Tania explained how, on moving to Berwick a couple of years ago she realised that a lot of creative people lived and worked in the area, but that it was not easy to meet, share, or network, hindering promotion and collaboration. Nick highlighted how this event and setting up of the Berwick Creative Guild had its origins in the research and networking undertaken in 2016 for the RSA report “Northern Powerhouse, Where Do Market Towns Fit In?”, and the work he and fellow FRSAs Ross Weddle and Maurice Ward have undertaken since developing links and seeking funding.

A Guild is defined as an association of makers, people working together for a common goal, and serving the interests of the community as a whole. A model of mutual respect, inter-dependency, creativity and companionship, it upholds the dignity and value of the creative imagination, with body, head, hand and spirit working in harmony. It was Tania who suggested that we join the “awesome” PechaKucha network, linking creative people in over a 1,000 towns and cities across the globe. The set format is very effective, giving selected contributors the chance to screen 20 slides for 20 seconds each and talk about them. For this first presentation there was a delightful streamed welcome from PechaKucha's founders in Japan, who explained that it means “Chit chat” in Japanese, and how to pronounce it (“pet-chack-u-cha”).

The line-up was: Foldyard Gallery, a fascinating insight into a day in the life of artists Morag Eaton and Dave Watson, who also run the gallery, print, frame, make paint, and more; textile artist Bren Boardman, showing the development of her work inspired by nature, poetry and place; artist Anna Chapman Parker, working with words, and describing observing, sketching and imagining unseen, unwanted, unvalued weeds; writer and children's book illustrator Helen Stephens, perhaps best known for “How to Hide a Lion”, on how her books take shape; artist and film-maker Kathryn Elkin, exploring some different aspects of the experience of communicating, inspired by motherhood; and composer, scientist & sound artist Mike Worboys, with a short audio-visual piece. There followed a lively Q & A session and plenty of time after for a drink and chat.

The event has been very well received and, thanks to seed-funding from RSA North East, we are planning three more PechaKucha evenings this year – at the end of July, September and November ...dates to be announced. There is also a plan to initiate a Berwick Open Studios event in 2020, with the help of artists and creatives in the area....watch this space.

Interested in seed funding for your project? Have a look at the RSA's Project Support and see which route is best for you. Don't hesitate to email and strike up a discussion!

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