Creative Conversations – Carolyn Black talking with Joe Stevens about producing ExLab

Overlay by Mat Chivers photo Pete Millson

Last year I worked for Big Picture in Dorset as their Producer for the Exploratory Laboratory (ExLab) project. It was a whirlwind experience that left me reeling with tiredness afterwards, which was when I agreed to do an interview with Joe Stevens, a Dorset artist, for his collection of Creative Conversations. Joe is really pleased Soundart Radio have also picked up on his artists in conversation series:

My new series of ‘Creative Conversations’ shows has been picked up by Soundart Radio 102.5 FM. This is an independent radio station based in Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon. Broadcast every Friday at 6pm.

It is great to be a part of Soundart Radio, as they, like these shows, is part of the movement towards the local and the global existing together. The radio station is very community focussed and welcomes everyone to make imaginative, innovative radio programmes. It is great to think that people in Devon are listening to the experiences of local artists and art groups from West Dorset. That the issues that face us here can resonante with the people in the neighbouring county.

Joe had interviewed others a year before, and talked with them about the upcoming Cultural Olympiad programme, asking them what they expected it to be like. There was a huge sense of anticipation about it in Dorset, indeed in London too, but also a sense of the unknown. It would need local authorities to batten down the hatches against gridlock on roads, a dedicated infrastructure to be put in place and a lot of careful planning and security.

The Sailing events were a great success, as was the Maritime Mix programme (the Dorset offer of associated arts activity for London 2012.) But visitor numbers were lower than anticipated and the regular holiday visitors stayed away.

It is fair to say that all organisations had to take the attitude of ‘there’s a hurricane a-coming’, only to find that not only was the storm a mild one, but also many people stayed in their homes, expecting the worst. Indeed the weather was fantastic! The roads approaching Weymouth were often empty, parking was easy most of the time.

I want to emphasise that this was no-ones fault, with the best will in the world, you can’t accurately predict human behavior.

So back to the interview, which you can listen to here. ExLab was a brilliant project and received excellent feedback from visitors who ventured out to see the artworks around the county. The collaboration between the Big Picture member organisations: Artsreach, Bridport Arts Centre, DVA, Sherborne House arts, Walford Mill Crafts, PVA Medialab (now diva Contemporary) and b-side, worked well, especially considering the geographic distance. (I apologise here for banging on about travel distances in the interview – I was very tired).

Big Picture are compiling a document that will show the project in its true glory – photographs of the artworks, comments from visitors, artists and scientists. It tells the Exploratory Laboratory story from its inception until now. And hopefully, in another year or two, there will be another project, and another update, as it is a good model of practice. We all learnt a lot and it is only by doing that we truly learn, and with that accrued knowledge move forward.

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