County Durham Community Foundation is delighted to launch the Dover Prize 2018.

This 2-year bursary of £10,000 that supports excellence and experimentation in the arts and creative industries and is an opportunity is open to any UK-based creative practitioner, individual artist or art collective. An application must be made online along with recent images of work. The Prize will be awarded by an esteemed panel of judges to the artist(s) whose work most meets the aims of the Dover Prize in raising the profile of contemporary arts in Darlington to make a positive impact on the town.

The funding will be awarded to an artist or artists to provide them with time to think, research, reflect and/or experiment with new ideas that will create a body of work to be premiered in Darlington in 2020/1.

Applying to the Fund


To apply to the Dover Prize, applicants should complete the online application form available from CDCF’s website:

A shortlist of three artists will be chosen for interview and selected on the strength of their work and their potential to raise the profile of creative and visual arts in the Darlington.

Application Deadlines

The deadline for receipt of applications to the Dover Prize Fund 2018 is Sunday 6th January 2019. We recommend that you complete your application as soon as possible.

Image: Winners of the Dover Prize 2016 Shaun Doyle and Mally Mallinson


Previous winners of the Dover Prize 2016 – Shaun Doyle and Mally Mallinson – said: “The prize has made a huge impact on our practice, buying us time in the studio and introducing us to a whole new set of potential collaborators and materials.”

Upload Unplug – Enjoyed

On the evening of Friday 2 November 2018 Pell Ensemble performed Upload Unplug to an appreciative audience within the gallery space at Crown Street Library.  The performance fitted well in the library setting, wherein information, imagination, data, digital access, learning and various collections are accessible.  The piece was accessible to ages 12+ and attracted a good audience on the night, including children from Darlington Hippodromes Mix it Up dance class, who had been working five hours a day for several days with Pell Ensemble earlier in the week.  Pell are working with children at the Education Village this week with a performance of Upload Unplug to follow in early November 2018.

Within Upload Unplug digital dance company Pell Ensemble invited you into the world of EPOQ: A live gaming experience where your choices become data, uploaded to shape a new human being. The piece merged dance, music and technology within an hour long performance in which members of the audience played an active role.  On entering the space the audience met David, who was ready to be brought to life by the data they submitted through engaging with a short questionnaire which was accesssed via around 20 tablets, set within the library. From the safety of your seat and through a custom built app on a mobile device, and their every tap, swipe and swirl informed who David becomes within the work.  Through audience input David experienced the joy, fear and complexity of being human.

Upload Unplug was co-produced with Helix Arts, originally commissioned by Bedford Creative Arts 2017 and supported using public funding by Arts Council England.  Other supporting partners included ARC Stockton, Creative Darlington, Teesside University, Metal Peterborough, The Edge, Redbridge Drama Centre and Foyle Foundation with digital partners Visual Pilots and creative technologists Owen Hindley (Huldufugl) and Alexander Wallin.  I found the piece, which ran for around an hour, well produced and very striking. While I did not see the performance at Crown Street Library I had seen it earlier this year at Arc, and would recommend catching it if you see it on tour elsewhere.  As a fan of film and visual art I was very impressed by the distinct design, the choreography and the feeling that the creative and digital team had delighted in exploring the parallels and differences between David as a physical and digital entity.


I enjoyed the experience of being an audience member who could help inform and shape the performance, I found the alliance of dance and technology beautifully handled.  Upload Unplug made me think and encouraged me to feel actively engaged with a performance rather than a passive recipient of a pre-configured touring structure, wherein one should applaud the performer(s) at the end if you think its merited.  The exploration of autonomy, the exchange of data for experience and  differences between technology and humanity were thoughtfully explored,  the piece felt very topical given concerns around data people can be encouraged to supply day to day and concerns around whether data is put to good use.

I would like to thank Helix and Pell Ensemble for all their work in bringing the Upload Unplug programme to Darlington and all the people in Darlington who got involved in workshops and/or saw the performance.

‘Anarchy Is Religion’ – Endem & Leum

Legitimate Anarchy Records, an independent label based in Darlington, North East England, focused mainly on the genres of Rap/Hip-Hop/Grime are releasing ‘Anarchy Is Religion’ by Endem and Leum, on the 24.11.18 with a Record Release Party  23.11.18 at Voodoo bar and café in Darlington. Record Release Party tickets and further information are available now at  Fantastic stuff!

Strang Stone hit home


A piece of Darlington’s heritage and folklore was the inspiration behind ‘Strang Stane’ which was displayed within Darlington’s covered market. A live performance by Endem & Leum commissioned as part of ‘Strang Stane’ marked its opening there on Friday 24 August 2018 and it remained on display for several weeks, rotating periodically throughout the day.

‘Strang Stane’ was created by London-based artists Shaun Doyle and Mally Mallinson, who were awarded County Durham Community Foundation’s Dover Prize 2016, a £10,000 bursary to develop an exhibition of works to be premiered in Darlington.  Doyle and Mallinson’s practice deals with political, social and historical issues utilising an eclectic mix of cultural references and often use second-hand materials, salvaged from other sources, bringing with them their own history.  The duo explored the history and mythology surrounding the Bulmer Stone, a glacial boulder that once marked the northern edge of town. Associated with engineer George Stephenson, it can also be found depicted on bronze plaques alongside the Locomotion 1 steam engine. A town crier called Willy Bulmer would stand on it to read out the contents of the newspapers while in folklore it is said to revolve nine times at 12 o’clock, though no one knows if it’s midnight or midday.

The boulder was moved in 1923 during road works and is now ‘imprisoned’ behind the railings of Central House, Northgate. Using imagery and forms associated with activism and protest, ‘Strang Stane’ imagines the Bulmer Stone being returned to its original position.  The artists explained:  “We became interested in the stone, both as a prehistoric landmark and because of its association with Stephenson and the railways.  The fact it supposedly has the magic power of movement gave it an extra level of interest, as did its removal from its original site. We tried to research this, but all we could find were a few references to protests in 1923 from locals who called the removal of the Bulmer Stone ‘an act of vandalism’.  As artists we’ve looked at the imagery and forms associated with protest movements and have imagined an attempt to return the Bulmer Stone to its original position.”

Margaret Vaughan, Chief Operating Officer, County Durham community Foundation, said: “We relaunched the Dover Prize in 2016 as a major art bursary for Darlington, to highlight the Foundation’s ongoing aim to support excellence and experimentation in the arts and creative industries in our region.  Doyle and Mallinson have created an exciting and interesting piece and, through winning the Dover Prize, have helped raise the profile of contemporary arts in Darlington to make a positive impact on the town.”




Festival of Thrift, Creative Fuse and Navigator North are presenting an exciting opportunity for artists and creative, cultural or digital businesses working in the Tees Valley Region to take part in a short programme between October and December 2018.

The first of these opportunities will welcome you to join us to find out more about the programme, tell us what support you need and how to secure a place for further support, workshops and bespoke mentoring.


What: C O L L I D E R S C O P E  Welcome session

When: Wednesday 31st October, 2-4pm

Where: Navigator North, Dundas House, Middlesbrough, TS1 1HY

Book your place here

In 2018, supported by Tees Valley Combined Authority, Festival of Thrift initiated a programme of commissions – Viewpoints – aimed at encouraging artists to engage with ideas of sustainability and to create work which would provide a viewpoint on a related issue and / or be located at a viewpoint in the Tees Valley.

For 2019, as part of the run up to a Tees Valley bid for City of Culture 2025 the Festival wishes to develop the project to embed artists within regional low carbon industries, sharing knowledge, ideas and skills.

VIEWPOINTS will be a national call out, but prior to the commissions there is an exciting opportunity for creative, cultural or digital businesses and sole traders working in the Tees Valley Region to develop pitching skills, upscale work, work bigger, test out new materials and push their practice in new directions.

Festival of Thrift have teamed up with CREATIVE FUSE and NAVIGATOR NORTH to deliver a short programme October – December 2018 for select participants to gain new knowledge and develop a fit for purpose approach to bidding for and presenting innovative ideas.

Creative Fuse NE – Cultural Sector Update

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The second ever Middlesbrough Art Weekender ran from 4 – 7 October 2018 and took on the idea of connectivity (lots to work on there currently).   I understand some of the artists involved had committed time in advance of these dates exploring and engaging with The Auxiliary and with people and places in and around Middlesbrough collecting information for their art.  This Weekender felt bespoke, committed, exploratory and fresh as a result to me.  I expect the Weekender wouldn’t have had all this energy and excitement without the vision of its organisers and their commitment to  engaging with talented artists, encouraging exploration, developing connections and networks for the visual arts, beyond these days.

I travelled to the opening on the evening of Thursday 4 October by train. On arrival first stop was the Looking Down exhibition by Francesca Simon at Platform A gallery which runs until 15 November 2018. I found this exhibition beautiful and original, and I was impressed by the rigorous approach, the thorough and uncompromising investigation of perspectives, pattern and material, beautiful colours and construction within the work. I’m familiar with the impeccable presentation of exhibitions at Platform A and the friendly welcome there, but it was nice to experience this as part of a Middlesbrough wide programme involving 15 locations running over four days.  From Platform A I had a further look at Suzy Devey’s exhibition of linocut and drypoint portraits in The Tunnel Gallery (colourful, thought provoking, informed, illuminating, insightful).  Next I found the Warehouse(s) on Station Street.  On Thursday night and Sunday afternoon I saw installations, exhibitions, performance, group activity and creative practice in a variety of media, with some pieces presented inside buildings various and others outdoors or visible from the street.


During this year’s Weekender I visited Platform A, The Tunnel Gallery, Warehouse, Middlesbrough Town Hall, MIMA, Hill Street Centre and Captain Cook Square.  There were other locations I never made this time.  Common to all I visited was the warm welcome, the care and attention applied to production and the fact that the visual art I saw felt original, current and that it needed to made and shared, both in dedicated galleries/venues and pop-up spaces.


I was delighted to see crowds gathered in The Warehouse for the various performance pieces I came across, to hear voices from near and afar, and to see visual art which made me smile, delight, ponder, think anew and question.   The Warehouse was eye-catching and a delight of the programme overall was the way in which those involved had responded to, worked with and utilised some very diverse settings.

I was struck on Sunday by how well the space upstairs in Captain Cook Square and the street level space in The Hill Street Centre worked, by the quality and depth of the NE Open Call exhibition at mima (I loved the painting by Oliver Hoffmesiter) and of the installations within the former cells at Middlesbrough Town Hall.  It felt exciting to explore above the shop floor in a unit on Captain Cook Square, artwork held real sway, gravitas and beauty there.  I found the GOLDTAPPED group exhibition bold, mature, beautifully resolved and cleverly presented, to me it felt like a fantastic conjunction of space and function.


A lot of hard work  must have gone in to producing and curating Middlesbrough Art Weekender 2018, there were some big spaces and all felt fresh and thoughtfully presented.  The technical expertise applied and the vibrancy of the light, sound, moving image and installation pieces was delicate, relentless and creative – I didn’t notice anything on my two visits that felt technically compromised but there was a sense of energy and exploration throughout.  Late Sunday afternoon, as the Weekender was coming to a close, it was nice to sense the energy that was still on the street and in the participating spaces.  I found the Weekender print well designed and useful – I do like a map.  Friendly and visible people representing the programme encouraged me to step inside and explore those unfamiliar settings I encountered.  To me, Middlesbrough Art Weekender felt like a work OF progress.  Light, colour, sound, conversation, exploration, it was a pleasure.















Middlesbrough Art Weekender 2018

As Creative Darlington Manager I was delighted to attend the Middlesbrough Art Weekender Picnic this August in Darlington Market. The market gave a warm welcome and it was great to see artists gather there for an interesting discussion, led by artist Lydia Catterall as part of the extended weekender events. Lydia presented the following questions to an audience of local artists, organisations, curators and visitors

What contribution does art make to a place?
What’s the best thing you’ve been involved in locally?
What do artists in the Tees Valley need most?
What are your hopes for art and culture in the Tees Valley in the next 12 months? Or the next 5 years? Who are you connected to?



This evening marks the opening of Middlesbrough Art Weekender 2018 ‘an annual contemporary arts festival held in the post industrial town of Middlesbrough, located in the north east of England’. With activity across Middlesbrough, the weekender will be showcasing work by regional, national and international artists in a wide variety of spaces across Middlesbrough.



WHERE:  Crown Street Library, Darlington

WHEN:  Friday 2 November 2018

DOORS OPEN:  6.45pm

START:  7pm


AGE: 12 and up

FREE TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW:  Collect from Crown Street Library during standard opening hours

TELEPHONE:  01325 462034 during standard opening hours to reserve a ticket or tickets for this performance



Do you use a mobile phone or computer every day? How much personal data do you give away each day to navigate your digital life? Could you unplug, even if you wanted to?


Digital dance company Pell Ensemble invites you into the world of EPOQ: A live gaming experience where your choices become data, uploaded to shape a new human being.


On entering the space you will meet David, ready to be brought to life by your data. From the safety of your seat and through a custom built app on a mobile device, your every tap, swipe and swirl will inform who David becomes.


Through your input David experiences the joy, fear and complexity of being human. But at what cost – will your data be put to good use? And what happens to it once the experience is over?


Upload or unplug – it’s your choice.


Co-Produced with Helix Arts. Originally commissioned by Bedford Creative Arts 2017

Produced by Step Out Arts.

Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Supporting partners: ARC Stockton, Creative Darlington, Teesside University, Metal Peterborough, The Edge, Redbridge Drama Centre & Foyle Foundation

Digital Partners: Visual Pilots
Creative Technologists: Owen Hindley (Huldufugl) and Alexander Wallin




Twitter: @pellensemble

Instagram: @pell_ensemble



LAST TRAIN HOME Music and Comedy festival took place on Saturday 22 September 2018 in Darlington. I’d bought my ticket a few weeks back at the Pennyweight priced £15 in advance and collected my wristband and a beautifully designed and easy to use programme from the Hullabaloo around 1.30pm. Tickets were also available at £20 on the day, and with Tracks eye to detail,  brilliant support from all the venues and from Darlington Cultural Volunteers, the festival was easy to engage with.  BARGAIN I now reflect, given the variety and quality of programme.  I enjoyed great performers and bands from early afternoon right through to Pins bringing the festival to a close at 10.30pm.  I heard some brilliant music at five fantastic friendly venues, with clear promotion, a strong brand, smiling faces and dynamic performances aplenty and a real buzz around the Town.   All of the venues which hosted the LAST TRAIN FESTIVAL are located in close proximity to Darlington’s Bank Top station and it was a pleasure to be able to stroll from one to another.  A clear programme and the impactful brand and banners for LAST TRAIN HOME helped me explore the breadth of choice available.

Darlington based Tracks curated programmes at Hogan’s, The Hullabaloo and St John’s church, Legitimate Anarchy curated the programme a Legacy Skate store (with a fantastic crowd enjoying great live performances in the backyard of the store and from the adjoining alley), Narc. magazine curated the programme at Banktop and Hilarity Bites curated comedy at The Greyhound.  There were some brilliant performers and bands.  Things which stood out for me were what a treat it was to sample fabulous and original music of many types in different venues,  how brilliant Peg Powler’s music sounded with the acoustics at St John’s,  the warm welcome shown at all the venues for LAST TRAIN HOME and how right the festival felt in Darlington.

I enjoyed Peg Powler at St John’s, Oilbirds at Hogan’s, Endem and Leum at Legacy Skate, Eve Conway at Banktop, Vulgarians then The Lovely Eggs at Hogan’s and Pins at The Hullabaloo, they were all brilliant and it felt like an effortless adventure.    How easy it felt and how much fun it was also stood out for me, but I do recognise how much effort, expertise, marketing and promotion, expert curation and thorough planning and energy has gone in.  I hope those involved either got to enjoy the Afterparty or can reflect in the cold light of day on a creating a brilliant music and comedy festival here in Darlington.  There were photographers and phones recording things aplenty, and the dancing, smiles, conversation and energy of the audiences showed the appetite for the festival.  All of the performances I saw had good audiences, particularly as the evening drew in.

Many thanks to Tracks for bringing LAST TRAIN HOME and other activity here.   Looking forward to seeing what’s coming next.