As we are getting ready to throw ourselves into an exciting 2015 (with a concert in Manchester tomorrow night) it is time to look back on the wildly eventful year we are leaving behind. 2014 saw us developing and delivering exciting projects in numerous locations – ranging from the colder and darker cities of North Europe to our rainy home city of Manchester. February: Reykjavik Winter Light Festival Reykjavik Winter Light Festival represented the start of our Northern Lights Project as we headed to the Icelandic capital. Turning the city central to a glowing masterpiece, delivering five major new installations across the city bringing together artists from Greenland, Iceland, Denmark, Canada, Norway and the UK.
February: Kew Gardens Chocolate Quest Working closely with Kew Gardens interpretation, learning and marketing teams we invited families to our explorer's encampment for a second time as part of the Orchid Festival in the world’s greatest botanical gardens. Visitors travelled to the tropical rainforest to discover the science of conservation, learned about the huge variety of orchids and their potential for our medical future.
May: Collaborative Compositions 2014 round 1 Developing our work with partners Kammerkor Sudurlands and funded by Nordic Culture Point we were able to deliver the second year of our Collaborative Compositions programme - this time working with partners in Norway, Iceland and the UK. First off we worked for a second time with composer Jack White who became new partners Pinquins composer-in-residence. Jack spent his time in Oslo working with the group to develop a new piece ‘East of the Sun and West of the Moon’ developed around a Norwegian folk tale of the same title.
May: Ageas Salisbury International Festival In May we welcomed the Icelandic photographer Anna María Sigurjónsdóttir to Salisbury Arts Centre with her exhibition ‘Eyjafjallajökull’. Displaying a series of stunning images that captured the eruption of the Icelandic volcano that caused a giant ash cloud to disrupt international air travel in April 2010. We also took the South Iceland Chamber Choir to Salisbury Cathedral where they delivered a concert In Memoriam of Sir John Tavener along with the work Welsh composer Jack White ‘Islands (Ynysoedd)’ created through our Collaborative Compositions programme - described by Salisbury Journal as "...visual, effective and extraordinary".
June: Umeå - EU Capital of Culture & Collaborative Compositions round 2 Early June we were on the road again with the South Iceland Chamber Choir with Welsh composer Jack White - this time we headed to Umeå International Choir Festival in Northern Sweden as part of EU Capital of Culture. Once again the choir wowed audiences performing a concert of their own at the Norrlands Operan which included Jack White’s “Islands (Ynysoedd)” – the fifth performance of his work in a third country – all within a year. It also began the collaboration between Swedish Composer Emil Raberg and the choir as part of Collaborative Compositions - seeing the first workshops take place to develop his new work.
July: Secret Cities - Immersion The team had a summer of urban exploration, Photoshop training and immersive projections, in collaboration with photographer and digital artist Andrew Brooks and lighting designer Nick Malbon. Offering a number of photography and Photoshop workshops enabling a renewal of outlook and a sense of ownership to local citizens so often lost in the privatised public realm of contemporary life. The project also pushed the presentation and experience of Secret Cities into new immersive directions – taking Brooks’ stunning photography from the gallery walls into a beautiful projection environment.
August: Moving Classics – European Network of New Music Curated Place secured funding as a lead partner from the Creative Europe programme of the European Union for its Moving Classics project – a two year project that will allow 6 composers from across Europe to work with some of the best musicians from the UK, Iceland and Norway to develop new contemporary classical works and performances that take traditional music out of elite environments and into the 21st century.
October: Collaborative Compositions 2014 round 3 As part of our Collaborative Compositions programme we welcomed the talented Halldór Smárason from Iceland to our base in Manchester as a composer-in-residence to work with Psappha Ensemble – one of UK’s best new music ensembles. Halldór spent a week researching the archives of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation and met UK composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies former keeper of the Queens music during Psappha rehearsals. Combining music and visuals from the archive of one of Manchester’s literary heroes the work 'It means what you think it means' will be premièred 7 January 2015.
November: Bókadagar – Literature and Light Festival The second Northern Lights Project took place in the Faroe Islands in November 2014. Bókadagar – Literature and Light Festival with the Nordic House brought together artists from Iceland, Norway, Faroe Islands and the UK delivering new work as well as taking forward some of the works that made Reykjavik Winter Light Festival such a success.
December: Enlighten Manchester – Festival of Light Art We took our Northern Lights Project home during four nights in December. Preparing the ground for a major outing in 2015 to sit alongside the UNESCO International Year of Light – we delivered a pilot light festival in collaboration with city wide partners. Despite days of fighting a ‘weather bomb’ during our set-up we illuminated Piccadilly Gardens and Manchester Art Gallery with a series of work by local and international artists. We want 2015 to be the opening year of the first Enlighten festival celebrating the culture Manchester is so rightly proud of - find out how to support the festival at Enlighten Manchester.
Enormous thanks to all the funders, supporters, artists, musicians, composers, technicians and especially the volunteers who have helped us make these projects a reality over the past twelve months...now on to 2015!