TWO lecturers from the University of Huddersfield are to bring together art and history.
They will work on a major commission which aims to revitalise one of England’s most unusual visitor attractions.
Dr Steve Swindells and Claire Barber have been awarded £20,000 to devise an art-based project that will play its part in drawing extra visitors to Snibston Discovery Museum.
It’s located on the site of an ex-colliery in Leicestershire that was transformed into a popular tourism and heritage attraction and opened in 1992.
Funded by Arts Council England and Leicestershire County Council, the Barber-Swindells proposal is part of an innovative arts project called Transform which is at the heart of Snibston’s regeneration programme.
Through a series of commissions, the Snibston site and its collections provide the creative inspiration for works produced by artists from around the country.
It is also part of a wider campaign to contribute to the revitalisation of the area.
A distinctive feature of Snibston is that in addition to its important industrial archaeology, it also houses a major fashion and textiles collection.
“It is an amazing collection, one of the largest in the country, outside of London,” said Steve Swindells, who is Director of Research and Graduate Education in the University of Huddersfield’s School of Art, Design and Architecture.
His colleague Claire Barber is a lecturer in Textile Crafts, and although their project is only just underway, the two artist-academics are already excited at the prospect of working with both the mining heritage and the fashion collection.
“We are looking at words, phrases and connections that link the mining heritage and the textile heritage,” said Claire.
And she added that the University’s expertise in techniques such as pattern cutting could play a role in creating the artworks which result from the commission.
The project, which is a significant part of Snibston’s Transform programme, will last for six months.
One possible outcome is a publication, perhaps including contributions by writers with expertise in coal mining and fashion, exploring as many crossovers as possible.
Meanwhile, Steve and Claire will create artworks, using a range of materials and might produce their own designer garments, possibly based on the traditional clothing worn by miners.
“I have a background in textiles and I am used to working on location,” said Claire.
“I find it very exciting to be working on site and responding to it, historically, socially, visually and aesthetically.”
Clr David Sprason, Leicestershire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Communities said: “We are delighted at the appointment of Barber and Swindells and are excited by the artistic possibilities that will emerge from this commission.
“Snibston is Leicestershire County Council’s flagship museum and is leading the way in its approaches to regenerating the museum’s offer for our visitors and local communities.”
“This project is a great example of heritage and the arts working together to increase audiences, promote new ideas and help people to take a fresh look at a fascinating historic collection and its unique setting.
“This exciting work will provide new opportunities for artists as well as animating and enlivening the museum using contemporary visual arts.”