How do you make sense of a place that has been transformed beyond almost all recognition in physical, economic, social and emotional terms?
And what if it is still transforming before your eyes? How might a place move forward towards its future while holding sight of its past?
No single artist can hope to encapsulate one hundred years of history, let alone Longbridge’s current changes. WERK’s approach, therefore, has been to set up an artist in residence framework within LPAP – openings for artists to embed themselves within the community over a period of time. As one of these artists, Stuart Whipps, notes – all art is public art; all art should be public artwork. Placing the public of Longbridge at the heart of the programme, and extended time for research and making work in Longbridge, allows each artist to get much closer to the core of the place and its population – its concerns, challenges and opportunities.
Sculpture, collage, photography, drawing, and more performative walks and interventions have been presented for the past two years in public spaces, gallery exhibitions and as part of the Longbridge Light Festival. Workshops, talks, events and discussions allow for participation and the expansion of ideas. Collaborations between the WERK team, artists, community groups and Longbridge residents, including several key former plant employees who are involved with LPAP’s work on many levels, have been nurtured. It is in this exchange that the huge value of Longbridge’s heritage is being uncovered. LPAP is influencing Longbridge’s future narrative too. In some cases this has taken the form of artistic solutions to practical problems such as illuminating public walkways. As Longbridge is a place to which people have strong political and emotional connections, sensitivity is required at every step. This is living history.