Twenty-three years on from the 1998 Returning Natives exhibition which included drawings and writings from PJ Harvey, Bridport Arts Centre is staging a bold new multi-disciplinary show to highlight and celebrate today’s emerging talent.
From February 10 till March 3 the Bridport Arts Centre will be energised by young talent as it hosts Return of the Natives 2; a bold multi-disciplinary showcase to champion and celebrate emerging artists from the Bridport area, giving some their first opportunity to be part of a professional exhibition.
It’s the opening project for Bryony Moores O’Sullivan as the newly appointed Youth Engagement Officer at the BAC, a role made possible by the generous Catherine Beck legacy. Bryony is an actor, puppet maker and illustrator who made her own return to Bridport in 2019 after graduating from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She says the idea for Return of the Natives 2 came from Ella Squirrel who had also recently come home from studying Fine Art at Falmouth, ‘Ella was struck by the unusual number of young people choosing to begin their creative career here at the moment and thought it would be great to get us all together in one space’.
Bryony is curating the show with Ella and Grace Crabtree who both work as painters but have also experimented with music, film and photography. Their ambitious, diverse programme includes over 20 young artists working in every kind of creative practice. The Allsop Gallery will be filled with visual work including images from painter Daisy Rickman, typographer Anja Jackson, illustrator and painter Benji Jackson, as well as Theadora Brazier who has returned from travels in South East Asia and Europe—where she exchanged mural painting for her keep—to continue producing joyful art that ‘expresses the idea of empowerment through nature and beauty away from social constraints.’
There will also be opportunities to see plenty of performance, from dancers like Imi Neylan and actor/director with Bridport Young Performers Harry Lockett, plus Off Piste Theatre’s physically-driven contemporary work. And throughout the three weeks, Bridport’s next generation of musicians will share their original songs, like Theodore Sudbury (who collaborated in 2020 with Andrew Dixson on the music for Bridport Youth Dance) and singer-songwriter-poet Jonah Corren who recently released his debut EP Dreaming and Petty Crime.
Bryony, Ella and Grace have included several key contributions to the programme that demonstrate how the experience of Covid affected every kind of creative practice. This time last year Reuben Squirrel gave a stunning performance as Hades in Bridport Youth Dance’s Orpheus and Eurydice, the show that felt like the final big local artistic expression before Covid pressed pause on public creative play. Since then he has channelled the experience of lockdown into an exploration of interior life to create a new dance film that will be screened as part of Return of the Natives 2 ‘working with the confined spaces of the home and its relationship to self’.
Another film that responds to the pandemic is Isaac Macpherson’s short Stay Home. Shot on location in and around Poole and rural Dorset, it is a reflection on the impacts on mental health that challenges the assumption that Covid is ‘the great leveller’.
Jessie Wybrew has taken time from the disrupted final year of her fine art degree to develop lockdown landscapes of stormy spring skies over vibrant rapeseed fields to reflect ‘both the positives and negatives of this year, to make the viewer question their perspective’, while singer-songwriter Ruby Dew played on Squeeze’s Cliff Difford’s 2020 album inspired by the experiences of Covid nurses, as well as releasing two of her own singles.
Byrony hopes the project itself will be a creative response to the pressures of this past year, ‘a rural community can be very isolating especially for young people and that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic….one of the key aspects of the exhibition will be zoom talks with multiple artists about the challenges we’re facing and how we are coping creatively at this time. I think this showcase could really help build a sense of community among the younger creatives in this area, giving them the peer support and connection that’s so invaluable when establishing a creative career and practice’.
The three-week show opens online on Feb 10 using the BAC’s new streaming equipment to give a virtual tour of the exhibition space hung with visual artists’ pieces, plus an introduction to performers and tasters of their work to launch a programme of daily releases of films made by each of the featured contributors and including discussions of their work, performances, time-lapses, readings and interviews.
Thursdays will focus on theatre, including a giant walk-about puppetry demonstration by Bryony. Fridays will be mini music concerts from artists like Eve Appleton who’s been performing live since 15 and is currently studying at British Irish Modern Music Institute in Bristol, while Sundays are film nights with work by Boris Hallvig, George Earwicker and Chasing Cow Productions.
(By Ines Cavill)
For more details visit www.bridport-arts.com