Whitby Musicport Festival Decorative Panels Commission

In early August this year I was commissioned by The Musicport Festival in Whitby to work on an a visual arts project for the festival – initial discussions centred around a series of visual arts workshops that would engage and excite the local community in the weeks running up to the festival in mid October whilst leaving a permanent legacy for the community.

After a period of research and consultation I came up with the following approach to the delivery of the project. I established the themes that were appropriate and exciting to both the festival and the Pavilion – these were: Land, Sea, Whitby, Music, Dance and Festival – I then chose to develop ideas from the local community as a source for the designs for these panels. Big Drawing Workshops were organised in schools where children were asked to draw images appropriate to the theme of each panel on 30ft by 8ft pieces of paper and these drawings were then photographed on site after the workshop.

The most exciting elements were put together into a final design for a decorative panel which was then drawn out onto a 8 foot by 4 foot MDF board covered in canvas. Great care was used to ensure that the drawings were accurately replicated I used PhotoShop and a data projector to create the drawings on the panels. The panels were then returned to the school for painting. The painting work was then undertaken by the children supervised by Whitby Artist Bridget Wilkinson who ensured that the colours were kept clean and the children worked in a safe way on the panels.

The last panel was completed on the Wednesday lunch time before the festival opening and unveiling ceremony on the Friday. I hired a van for Thursday morning and collected all the panels from the schools and took them to the Pavilion with the help of a festival volunteer. We got the panels into the space and with the help of Bridget Wilkinson tidied up the panels outlining some of the elements and re-touching some of the paint work and decided on a hanging order.

The panels were then framed to give them more support and hung in the space ready for the opening of the festival and unveiling ceremony on Friday evening. the opening event of the festival took place at the Whalebones where children played music with Mambo Jambo and were entertained by fire jugglers. The 400 people who attended the event then processed to the Great Hall at the Whitby Pavilion to see the unveiling of the decorative panels in the Great Hall. A short introductory speech was made by Festival Director Jim Mc Goughlan I then explained some key facts about the project, that it had engaged over 300 children and that the images and paintings were all their own work unrolling one of the big drawings to show the wealth of creativity and imagination the children had brought to the work. The individual panels were then revealed one by one by the children to a delighted audience of parents, teachers, festival goers and local dignitaries to rapturous applause.

The final panel was created by festival participants during the course of the festival using the same process and was enjoyed by all participants. The painting proved particularly popular. Feedback on the panels has been excellent and they are now on permanent display in the Great Hall at Whitby Pavilion.

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