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photograph Welcome to this edition of NU Connections

Professor Julie Sanders, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, shares details of the University arts strategy and invites your input. 

At a recent lunch discussion on the topic of University arts strategy which I hosted with Dr Vee Pollock (Director of our Newcastle University Institute for Creative Arts Practice) and Professor Eric Cross, Dean of Cultural Affairs, we explored with colleagues some of the ideas, energies and interests at Newcastle pertaining to the arts and culture. It was a lively discussion and I thought it might be nice to use NU Connections to share it more widely and also to invite further input from a broader audience. 
It was unbelievably exciting for me to join this University some 18 months ago (how time flies!) not only as Pro-Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences but also as a Professor of English Literature and Drama.

I was well aware before joining Newcastle University of the richness of its work with creative and cultural partners, and who could fail to be impressed by the sheer wealth of the cultural offer in Newcastle and Gateshead with places such as Sage Gateshead, BALTIC, Northern Stage, Live Theatre, Tyneside Cinema, the Hatton and Laing art galleries, Northern Print, the thriving Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts programme and the Great North Museum for starters? And now there is also The Word, recently opened in South Shields, which if you haven't visited yet is strongly recommended.

And that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the many smaller scale arts projects and creatives that we engage with and benefit from in this region. Some of these institutions and spaces are present on campus and embedded within our teaching and research, not least Fine Art, Music, Museum Studies, History, Classics, Archaeology and English and of course many of our cultural partners work with our PGR students as part of the doctoral training partnerships such as the AHRC Northern Bridge DTP. 
Since coming to Newcastle I have become increasingly interested in the uniqueness of what I often refer to as the grouping of civic-facing institutions we have on campus, some which we operate in collaboration with Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) - the GNM and the Hatton, the latter of which is currently undergoing a major £3 million refurbishment thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant and which is scheduled to reopen in the Autumn - and others such as Northern Stage whose presence on campus enriches possibilities in all kinds of ways.

We are also hopeful of a further related project in the near future relating to architectural archives that will look to engage with the public around the ideas of cities and urban sciences more generally using our School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape as a platform for that work.
I now have the pleasure of being a Trustee of Northern Stage and am working closely with the team there to build a pioneering example of a campus-based theatre and there are some amazing things in the programme this year, including the Queens of the North series (try if you can to see the exciting new adaptations of Frankenstein and Hedda Gabler which open soon) and Clothworkers Company-supported work with young people which will contribute to a touring production of the children's author David Almond's Tyneside reimagining of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, A Song for Ella Grey. 
Vee is doing incredible work to develop creative arts practice hubs in the city with local artists and innovators.  Eric is leading, with colleagues from the Business School, other universities and cultural partners in the North, not only on the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded Creative Fuse North East project but also on the DCMS-funded 2018 Great Exhibition of the North.
Amazing times then and it is a privilege to be part of this outpouring of creativity. There is always more we could do of course and things we could strive to do even better. We talked at the lunch about the present strength of creative arts work with our medical sciences colleagues but also felt that we could grow the collaboration with social sciences within our own faculty more.

We talked about increasing opportunities in the context of digital cultures and how we might enhance access to the arts offer on campus to those who might not be able to visit exhibitions and performances in person.

We discussed the possibility of joint appointments, of collaborative research projects, with schools and with local makers, and also how the acquisition and curation of archives might feed into our broader arts strategy.

We also thought about the international angle, not least what is possible in terms of our Confucius Institute, co-hosted in our School of Modern Languages with Xiamen University, in terms of engagement with cultural partners and creative industries in China and SE Asia and more generally about building on our strong track record in the context of Latin American Studies. 
There are a series of creative practice research forums happening over the next few months so if this is an area of work that interests you please come along and get involved. The next event is on March 1 at 1pm. More information.
You will have ideas and thoughts and responses of your own and we welcome these. Please feel free to contact myself, Eric Cross, Vee Pollock, and the Institute team via on any of the topics mentioned above. 
But, best of all, sometime in the next few weeks and months, visit an exhibition, see a film or a play, listen to a concert, read a poem, attend a reading, or get involved in the making and doing of art and come back and tell us what inspired you. The Hatton Gallery talks about 'art in the heart of campus' which is a great phrase, but I also want to celebrate arts in the plural at the heart of Newcastle University. We have the chance to be an enabler, a hub for creative practice, a space of inspirational encounter and a meeting place and forum for people of all ages and backgrounds interested in creativity and the cultural agenda. Please join us in the fun.


published on: 6th February 2017


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