Centre for Rural Economy

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Arts collective conga into town culture exploration

Artistic collective GÂST have congaed around Berwick-upon-Tweed as part of their six-month residency. They received support from Berwick Visual Arts and our Centre for Rural Economy (CRE).

Laura Mahony and Dale Fearnley make up the collective. They have explored the material and cultural identity of three town venues.

They've looked at the historic and community importance of:

  • The Brown Bear Inn
  • Spittal Amusement Arcade - where they organised the conga
  • Shielfield Park, home to Berwick Rangers FC


The resulting exhibition, ‘in the best of spirits…’, opens at the Gymnasium Gallery on 31 March.

It uses sound, sculpture and installation to consider the historicising of such venues. It uses collective memory and objects of local significance to explore these themes.

CRE's input

CRE provided valuable access to researchers and academics during the residency. There was additional support from the Institute for Sustainability.

GÂST said: "Our time here has been really influential and pivotal to the development of our practice. We have been so fortunate to meet and interview so many generous people.

"Their personal accounts of the three venues have become a vital contribution. That's not only for our final presentation at The Gymnasium.

"It's also an oral history for the Berwick Record Office, so that a future public may listen."

Fruitful partnership

CRE Principal Research Associate Dr Liz Oughton endorsed GÂST's work.

She said: “Our partnership with Berwick Visual Arts has been fruitful over many years. Each new residency has brought a fresh insight into rural life and rural challenges.

"Working with GÂST has been a different experience again. Their exploration of some of the centres of social life in the market town of Berwick is fascinating.

"As academics we find it refreshing to gain such a different perspective on rural life.”

Fantastic project

Dr Philip McGowan, Director of the Institute for Sustainability, also praised the work.

He said: "We're pleased to support another fantastic project in collaboration with Berwick Visual Arts and CRE.

"It brings together local culture, community and history to benefit society. It helps strengthen efforts to safeguard cultural heritage.

"This aligns with ‘Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities’ of the UN Sustainable Development Goals."

The GÂST arts collective conga around Spittal Amusement Arcade in Berwick during December.
The GÂST arts collective conga around Spittal Amusement Arcade in Berwick during December.

published on: 22 March 2018