A Conclusion to GHT: a reincarnation

Recently God’s House Tower reopened for the culmination of the 18 month long GHT: a reincarnation residency. ‘We are Open’ included the final exhibition of work created by the 8 artists involved plus a series of public events.

From 22nd September to 1st October GHT was open with an exhibition of work throughout the grade II listed ancient monument, much of it responding to the building and it’s history. The participating artists were: Jilly Evans, Sarah Filmer, Deborah Gearing, Greg Gilbert, Celeste Ingrams, Kirsty Smith, Libby Russell, and Jo Willoughby. The opening day included a panel discussion with the artists led by Louise Coysh of Southampton University.

The week’s other events included: a sold out performance of Stone Soup, a rehearsed reading of poems and dramatic monologues by Deborah Gearing and Greg Gilbert with a ‘pay what you feel’ banquet by Curb, Southampton’s Real Junk Food Project and Butcher’s Hook bar.

Past, Present, Future – an engaging tour of GHT led by Dr Andy Russel who revealed some of the building’s colourful past, followed by short talks by the artists on the work presently in the building and an update from Dan Crow of ‘a space’ on the plans for the future. The events programme was concluded with the launch of the book to accompany the project ‘700 Women’. When last year artist Sarah Filmer invited 700 women to walk through GHT to reclaim the ‘herstory’ in the historic building.

The following is based on a conversation with Sarah Filmer to find out more about the residency and how it went.

What is GHT: a reincarnation?
A long-term artist residency involving eight Southampton based artists. Funded by Arts Council England, it’s generated paid opportunities for local artists to have a sustainable practice. The project was designed to run alongside the development of God’s House Tower as it becomes a new Arts & Heritage venue. There are three key curatorial aims that the residency has been testing;

  1. How does group working inform and enrich individual practice?
  2. What can a new arts venue be for its community?
  3. Exploring the notion of practice as research.

What have the highlights been so far?
Initially getting to know the other artists. We each ran a workshop for the group and that was a really rich experience. The other main highlight was when we previously opened up the building for a week; we exhibited our work in progress in both GHT and in Mettricks Coffee Shops. We had 3,500 people visit GHT that time with another 2,500 visiting Mettricks so it was really positive to have the work engage such a wide audience. We’re also putting together a publication to document the whole project.

What are you looking forward to?
We reopen the building again this Friday and then we will be open for the following week. It will be exciting to see the resolved work that the artists have created. And of course to resolve one of my own projects, with the launch of the 700 women book. But more than either of those really, it will just be great to have GHT open again and to see how people engage with the building and the work. I’m pleased to be able to invite the public back into God’s House Tower and to share the building with them.

What you see the legacy of the project as being?
It’s been a real privilege to be able to have the freedom to use the space as we have and to have developed such a profound relationship with quite a special building. The project has helped strengthen a lot of working relationships. Between myself and ‘a space’ – we plan to collaborate further on projects. I’m confident that it’s increased Southampton’s artists’ profiles locally, regionally and nationally. 6,000 visitors will now know more about what’s happening with the building now. We’ve also drawn the Arts Council’s awareness towards the city and have built relationships with the Southampton Cultural Trust, and with Louise Coysh, the Associate Director of Art & Culture at the University of Southampton, who will be chairing a panel discussion with the artists at the opening event on Friday.