Before Christmas, Amy, Alex & Andrew visited West Cumbria to conduct a stakeholder workshop, with our associate John Knell of The Intelligence Agency. CTConsults has been commissioned to develop a Cultural Strategy for the area, a vast and rugged region which encompasses industrial and maritime heritage, futuristic technologies, sandy coast and the quieter areas of the Lake District National Park.
The workshop was held at the Florence Arts Centre, located at a former haematite mine just outside of Egremont. When the mine opened in the late 19th century, it was the deepest in Europe; at its closure in 2008, it was the last working deep mine on the continent. Since then, the site has been home to an active artist community and arts centre, comprising studios, theatre & events space, gallery, café and shop. The arts centre is one of the partners on the recently announced Creative People & Places project for West Cumbria.
The former mining infrastructure looms over the arts centre, and iron ore dust coats everything with a striking, rich red pigment. It is an atmospheric location which speaks to both the industrial and agricultural heritage of the area. On the rainy day we visited, even the puddles were bright red. Pigment from the mine has been used for centuries by local farmers, who use it to mark the fleeces of the famous Cumbrian Herdwick sheep.
Now, the artists working at Florence use this pigment to create their own paints, inks and pencils. The Florence Paintmakers use locally-sourced materials and traditional techniques to manufacture the products by hand. This range of high-quality art materials can be purchased here and provides a sustainable source of income for the Centre. More information and images can be found here.
This is a brilliant example of creative placemaking, where the very ground itself is used to create art which is distinctly and uniquely of this place. The CTConsults team looks forward to exploring more of West Cumbria on further visits, as the project progresses.