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The Future Of Paradise Works

Now we have learnt all about what Paradise Works is, what the studios have accomplished over their 5 years of existence and why the studios need and deserve to be part of Manchester's art community.

Phase one of Paradise Works may now be complete but with the opening of culture after the pandemic the landscape of the art world is ever changing and how will the studios keep up and stay relevant. Founders Hilary and Lucy told us everything that is coming up in the next phase of Paradise.

What is next for Paradise Works?

Hilary: We have 'A Modest Show' coming up which is acting as collateral for The British Art Show which is going to be in many many venues across Manchester with over a hundred artists showing, not just in studios but in in spaces like The Whitworth and SeeSaw and many other spaces.

On Wednesday 25th we are having our event here which uses one of the micro-fundings for 'A Modest Show' which is called 'Triple Decker'. We will be opening up the second, first and brand new ground floor unit which has been a brand new project for us. We will have a selection of studios open for view and a curated show by Will Marshall in the gallery called 'Intersections'. This show will really bring a diverse group of people together and discuss what they share instead of what pulls them apart. There will also be a performance by Richard Shields which has been commissioned by 'A Modest Show' along with food, drinks, music and Division of Labour will open their new ground floor unit. And of course there will be cake for our 5th birthday!

Lucy: It's really going to be a celebration after the last few years, unlike the city which emptied out over lockdown, we instead have been a hive of production. For better or worse people had lost work and this was a place of some sanity and connection. Really we have only just come back into having large events so its really exciting.

Hilary: That is something else I love about this space as we do have a kind of open door policy unless people have any particularly expensive equipment or anything. The space is small enough for that to all happen on an equal basis. I was speaking to someone recently who said they loved "coming here because you can access all the spaces and don't get lost down a warren, you can really see what is here."

When we moved in here it was a bit of an emergency really and the spaces aren't that generously sized and so people use communal areas to make large scale works. Naturally peoples work expands and they need space or some peoples work gets smaller and they require less space and people generally move around but after the last couple of years we became aware that some artists careers were burgeoning and we tried to expand the space as much as possible.

We knew that this ground floor unit was available and after a few tries we hadn't succeeded until this year! We have negotiated a longer lease on the entire building, which took an entire six months. We now have a variety of new tenants coming into the building!

Lucy: It does feel like we are in the new phase because we are having this new influx with the expansion downstairs and new people coming in. That's how I really get my sense of achievement, when we move away from where we started and its expanding with the members steering group and it's becoming its own self propelling entity.

Hilary: Not many people have really moved out! So some people who want the bigger spaces for sculptural work are moving downstairs and others will fill the spaces on the other floors.

Lucy: It also means that we can be street facing and more part of the community! It's quite important, going forward if we were making the case for artists to be part of a place that has this space, generally artist students have been tucked away high.

What is coming up in the future of Paradise Works?

Lucy: We can't really say too much because we are waiting for funding and until we've got it we can't be too fleet footed. But now we have the extended lease on the building we can look at ways to improve it so you don't come in to a pile of soggy paper where your drawings were. We also want to look at the resilience in terms of the governance, developing roles and founding a board. I swear I do all the unsexy stuff, sorry if you're on the board. There's a lot of admin involved.

One thing we definitely have got coming up is working with a creative producer, Jenny Walker, who will be working with some of our early career artists looking at socially engaged arts and public activities, that will be starting with a repair shop off site.

Artist Maisie Pritchard, one of our tenants, will be working with Suez Renew Hub looking at old furniture that cannot be recycled and making sculptures out of it or even artists interpretation of furniture. That will be a co-produced project so it will be quite participatory and will be based out of an old post office unit in Walkden shopping centre.

We are still in the phase of piloting things and we started to test out workshops last year and we are continuing our 'Multiples Shop' which we are looking at taking on the road.

Hilary: The next big thing is 'Intersections' which is the big show in the gallery which will take us through to July. After that is all depends on our Arts Council funding bids, we have a show by Lucy and Nat about bricks and mortar and then probably a show coming up in November for our open studios.

Lucy: We also like to be part of The Manchester Contemporary, bringing that kind of polished, commercial presentation with this, where we can be a bit freer!

Hilary: We also have a selection of in house artists who are part of 'A Modest Show' at The Whitworth on May 12th, busy times coming up! Then we will go back to strategic developments and upgrades later on.

Lucy: A lot of the stuff is behind the scenes!

What do you two think to the art scene in Manchester in 2022?

Lucy: It's much better than it was 5 years ago which is why we keep asking if our ethos is still relevant. Now it feels like it's vibrant again, it's only been 5 years and here we are with so many artists led things going on like PINK and Short Supply and so much stuff around 'A Modest Show' is highlighting how many artists are actually working in and around Manchester and Salford.

Hilary: Then you have Islington Mill with their massive funding coming to fruition and the building is being completely changed over there. It does feel like a new and exciting time which has been demonstrated by a number of exciting emails I have had so far this week with people asking questions about how to set up their own spaces. Therefore we can assume that artist led spaces are looking to develop and use up spaces in different ways, we joke about this being the time when artists take over!

There have also been a variety of interesting industry changes going on in the city including Zoe Watson moving to The Lowry and a real change of curatorial power across the city.

Lucy: We are less frustrated these days.

I do feel proud to say that I think we had an impact, being open and honest on the journey of the past 5 years of our work. We have been very honest with others that have approached us for help and we knew we always wanted to give out information and support when anyone needed it, I wish we had it when we started out.

It does feel like "A Modest Show' will be a satellite that will show how well the cities artist community have come together.

As we always do, we ask everyone for some Mancunian recommendations.

Hilary: I think we have plugged 'A Modest Show' so let's give it some more!

Lucy: We are having our party on the 25th and beyond ourselves if we are being modest?

Hilary: There is the 30th anniversary of Bankley Gallery and Rogue are having open studios and events as part of 'A Modest Show' as well as an exhibition called 'Drawing In, Breathing Out'.

I just went to a great gig at The White Hotel by my friend Lonelady, how about you Lucy?

Lucy: Yeah, no... I went to a gig at Gorilla recently and thank god that venue still exists and all the other independent venues across the city and can see past these silly tenants that are trying to kick out the bohemian culture that lured them there in the first place. I kind of feel in that development sense that there are brothers in arms in that authentic culture and the city not divulging its soul.

Both Hilary and Lucy has such a vast insight into the culture of the city and even further afield. So now you have learnt about the space that they have created, you've had an insight into the people that have been there over the past few years and now it is time to learn more about the tenants of Paradise Works.

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