Getting the gallery ready

At Creative Lives we’re getting ready for the launch of our online gallery. The artists’ works-in-progress will be hosted for a year on our website from the 9th of September 2022. I’ve spent the last few weeks building new pages for our website. The multidisciplinary nature of the artwork produced has made this challenging, as each project is presented differently. The very open provocation given to the artists means that every project is developing at its own rate and the gallery promises to reveal the unique processes being undertaken through these collaborations. To accommodate this, we’ve decided that each project will have their own page on the website, which visitors will be able to explore individually.

This process has been stretching my ability to manipulate a website – and for the first time in a few years I wish that I had persisted learning proper coding! Nevertheless, it’s been exciting seeing the work appear ready to share and working at presenting them in the best way. Now I’m looking forward to finally publishing these pages so that you can see them too.

We’ll be holding an in-person launch for this online gallery at Castlefield Gallery in Manchester. If you want to come along and hear the researchers and artists talk about this work and their collaboration, please reserve a free ticket here:


Creative Lives Collaborations: Roots and Routes

Recently, we invited the artists involved in Creative Lives to come to Sheffield to talk about the progress of their projects and the collaborations that they have been undertaking. Following the prompts from Carmen Levick in May 2022 to respond to memory, trauma and/or age, the paths that the artists have taken are proving to be rich and varied, although crossroads are appearing connecting the responses.

John Powell Jones talked us through his interactive ‘choose your own adventure’ story. Players journey with Atamur (spot the anagram?) to search for protection against their hypersensitivity – ultimately questioning how much protection they really want. Created in the convention of science fiction, this stands alone as an adventure on another world, whilst exploring concerns closer to home. 

Maya Chowdhry showed us her process of using artificial intelligence (AI) to interpret and manipulate images. Taking images and phrases associated with her own lived experiences and climate justice, she is experimenting with applying AI tools to creating intriguing, sometimes disturbing images and audio. 

Julia Griffin and Steve Sutton presented their ideas together, as they have been collaborating on the theme of ‘trap’. Steve has built a sculptural cage, using found materials of metal and wood, which Julia has been exploring using movement. Parts of an old retail crate are being transformed by Steve through the insertion of branches and the winding of roots, when Julia enters the space, she is difficult to see, emerging and retreating, choreographing a slow dance in the shadows.   

Omid Asadi described how, in response to Carmen’s prompt, he is exploring saffron as a memory source for Iranians; he explained the significance of the spice, how this is changing within Iran and its importance for those who have travelled away. Following this explanation of his most recent work, Omid shared several clips of his work, including one that showed feet attempting to balance on a disinterred tree root; the difficulty of finding a point of balance on displaced roots providing a metaphor for the precarious relationship between place, heritage and memory.

Andrea Small explained how conversations with Carran Waterfield about family history in performance had been useful in giving her work direction. Andrea’s mother was given away as a child and, for Creative Lives, Andrea is working on poetry and song in relation to this history. She stunned us by singing part of a song, currently titled ‘A Mouthful of Silence’, in the meeting, pausing only when she plans to introduce harmonies. 

Picking up again on the theme of genealogy, Carran Waterfield talked about her own personal history and her family history reaching far into the occupations of generations of grandfathers. The genealogies that Carran is tracing are also those of performance and she talked about the layers of meaning-making that she is exploring through the work that she is undertaking for Creative Lives. 

Hannah Leighton-Boyce spoke last and remarked how, having listened to the others and especially Carran, there were so many connections emerging. Hannah has been working closely with Bridget O’Gorman, who unfortunately couldn’t attend the meeting. They are developing work ‘in conversation’ assessing and re-assessing what it means to both of them to make work and live in this ableist society.

Sadly Jessica El Mal wasn’t able to attend, but she is collaborating with Maya and Omid, separately and together, working on exchanging knowledge, feedback and ideas about each other’s work on trauma and memory. In her own work, Jessica is exploring the strait of Gibraltar as a site of trauma, violence and a politicized water, layers of history, and the colour of longing.

Listening to the artists speak about their work, I was struck by the concepts of routes/roots. The route that each artist is taking, the route that the work follows and the identification of roots of work, of story, of activism, of the individual and of family. The invitation to collaborate and to share has prompted these artists into discussions that are helping them to develop ideas and to consider new approaches. In September, we’ll be presenting these works-in-progress on our website – so keep watching!


Creative People

An important aspect of the work of the Creative Lives network is to collaborate as academics with artists and arts organisations in order to understand the impact of ageism. So we’re very excited to be working with 10 artists who are producing new work in response to workshops led by our Principal Investigator Dr Carmen Levick. Carmen introduced her own work on the topics of trauma and memory and now the artists are working independently, whilst collaborating, to respond to this prompt.

Originally, it was intended that the artists would work on a single piece in pairs, however, the concept of working independently, whilst collaborating, emerged from the initial workshop as a preferred methodology. As a network aiming to dismantle ageism in the arts being responsive to the needs of the artists is crucial. We needed to listen to what would make it possible for them to engage with the work.

Working independently, whilst collaborating, provides the support of a network and the creative challenge of peers, but gives the artists space to develop their own ideas and vision, as well as the flexibility to fit into busy lives.

To learn all about the innovative and exciting artists working with Creative Lives visit the People page of this website.

I can’t wait to see the work that emerges from this independent, collaborative process!


Creative Collaborations

There’s exciting work going on in the Creative Lives network right now. Working with Castlefield Gallery, Dr Carmen Levick from the University of Sheffield has brought together a group of 10 artists who have been commissioned to create work related to the concepts of memory and trauma. The artists work in a range of media including performance, sculpture, storytelling, song, poetry and drawing. They will be collaborating as their work progresses through discussion, as well as through the sharing resources, references and works-in-progress.

The creative work started earlier this month with a workshop at Castlefield Gallery. The artists were invited to hear about Carmen’s research and to begin forging the project. Together they agreed that they would mostly work independently, but collaborate through the process. Each will document their process in relation to their collaboration and this will be shared in early September through Castlefield Gallery. 

This morning 8 of the artists met digitally to discuss their ideas. Breaking out into pairs they talked about their work, moving their projects forward through conversation, before re-grouping into a new partnership. We’re hoping that this merry-go-round of dialogue will produce new ideas, prompt different ways forward, whilst also providing support and encouragement to the artists meeting the challenge of this work.

Keep watching this space to find out exactly which artists are involved!


Creative Lives Survey

Are you a part of arts organisation or institution that works with people? Have you considered how ageing is incorporated into your policies, infrastructure and programmmes? Is it included when planning education and training opportunities? Have you found ways of engaging diverse and intersectional groups of artists with funding?

Creative Lives network is undertaking a survey of arts organisations in the UK to uncover good practice that is happening in relation to the issue of age. The last two years have been particularly challenging for organisations and for older artists; we’re interested to hear about how institutions have responded to these challenges.

We’ll be using the information gathered to write a good practice policy proposal that will encourage all institutions to positively engage with the problems of age and ageism in the creative industries.

If you can contribute to this survey, we’d love to hear from you.

For more information and to complete the survey click here.


Launch of Creative Lives Report

We’ve done it! The launch of our report happened on Friday 21 May, with lots of interested people in attendance. We also awarded our first Creative Lives badge to the Castlefield Gallery for the inclusive, diverse and anti-ageism programmes like bOlder, that they support. You can download our report below. Join our network if you want to fight against ageism in the creative arts! Fill in the contact form on this website and join the fight!