Castlefield Gallery is a crucial part of the visual arts ecology in Manchester and the wider North West. It is undoubtedly one of the most important institutions in terms of support for artists. The value of Castlefield, and what sets it apart from other organisations, is not audience figures but its integral permeability, unswerving commitment to artistic practice and connectivity to the artist-led scene in Manchester.
The threat of its closure, brought on by this funding cut, isn’t just the potential loss of a gallery but more importantly the loss of vital support for artists who live and work in this city and who make Manchester the creative and vibrant city that it is.
We need organisations like Castlefield. They are the organisations that invest in artists and risk. They are the organisations where artists get their first major commissions, solo shows and exhibiting opportunities. There are so few organisations with the level of expertise and experience of Castlefield, working closely with emerging and midcareer artists, developing new ideas. If Castlefield were forced to close it would be a huge loss, the impact of which would be felt immediately by artists and by the sector for years to come.
The amazing list of artists that Castlefield has worked with over the last 25 years and all the comments that have been posted are testimony to the organisation’s work. However, this just shows a fraction of the respect that there is in the sector for the work that Kwong and his team do.
Submitted by Sally Lai 19 May 2011
At Axis we were incredibly dismayed to hear that Castlefield Gallery has not been retained by ACE as an NPO organisation. Some of the strongest (and best curated) work we’ve seen in recent years has been at Castlefield. As a showcase for vital experimental work, it is exemplary and fulfils a significant role in what the funders are wont to call the ‘visual arts ecology’. We hope that ACE will find other ways of supporting Castlefield and giving it the long-term security of funding that it so desperately needs. The groundswell of support that this decision has provoked is testimony to the high regard in which Castlefield is held by artists and art professionals. Long may its important work continue!
Submitted by Sheila McGregor 6 May 2011
A delayed response, I know – but I just want to say how valued Castlefield Gallery is by myself and many other artists.
As a member of the collective Association, wewere invited to test a project at Castlefield Gallery during their Summerhouse season in 2010. Our project, Call-Out to Collaborators relied heavily on Castlefield’s position as a central hub within the Manchester art scene, as it involved sending out a series of collaborative challenges to local artists. Largely due to the high regard in which Castlefield Gallery is held by artists in Manchester, we had an overwhelming response from people wanting to be involved in the project. It was an experimental project, the results of which were difficult to predict; however Castlefield Gallery allowed us a great deal of freedom whilst developing the work, and supported us throughout. Castlefield Gallery understands the precarious process of producing new work – because of the strong connections they maintain with artists. If Castlefield closes, a vital support structure for emerging artists will be lost.
I truly believe that Kwong is the hardest working person on the Manchester Art Scene – he is at every preview, knows every artist by name and always has time to stop for a chat about whatever people are working on at the time. This commitment is valued greatly.
I am looking forward to hearing Castlefield’s plans for the future – and would like to offer my help and support in whatever way it is needed.
Submitted by Jessica Longmore (17 May 2011)
It is disappointing to hear that Castlefield Gallery has not received national portfolio status.
Castlefield Gallery is one of Manchester’s highlights. The staff are rigorous in their representation of art and have always sought to thoughtfully engage audiences. Moreover, they have demonstrated strong support for artists across the spectrum of career levels.
I wish Castlefield every continued success despite this setback.
Jonathan Waring (submtted 29 April 2011)
We were startled to hear Castlefield Gallery has lost its ACE funding.
Castlefield was always on the agenda when we visited Manchester and have seen many memorable exhibitions there over the past few years.
As an artist collective, we were given the opportunity to exhibit within the gallery last summer as part of Summer House. This gave us a great opportunity to experiment with ideas that were still in formation. The staff at the gallery were all really helpful and accommodating throughout the project and the entire experience has been crucial in our recent developments.
Castlefield Gallery sits somewhere between the artist run galleries and the Cornerhouse and provides a vital space for artists and audiences alike within the North West.
Submitted by Tether
Castlefield played a major part in my introduction to the joys and challenges of contemporary art, and in particular a vibrant and exciting period in Manchester’s art scene in the late 1990s.
I have fond memories of the original gallery in Campfield Arcade, a tiny space that brimmed with big ideas. As a non-artist, it always felt like a door was being opened into a slightly exotic, sometimes odd and usually entertaining world of ideas and action.
Most importantly though, when Kwong and the team got their brand new building and moved down the road to the gallery’s current home, the innovation and opportunities for new artists continued, the ambition grew.
I can’t imagine Manchester’s art scene without Castlefield. It is a baffling decision by ACE.
Submitted by Chris Sharratt
I was really saddened by the news that Castlefield Gallery has not been selected as a new National Portfolio Organisation. There seems to be a bit of an assault on artist-led culture in general in the results. It’s so important to support initiatives set up and maintained by practitioners, particularly those delivering ambitious projects.
I do hope Castlefield is able to find a way through – it would be such a loss to Manchester (and the UK).
Submitted by Sonya Dyer
I think it was 1998 when I started volunteering at Castlefield Gallery. I was a mature student at MMU undertaking a career leap from staff nurse to something in the arts. Kwong welcomed me in, it was the old gallery then, and Yuen arrived too! I left Manchester in 2003 and that’s when I stopped volunteering at Castlefield, they were in the new gallery by then. I’m now an archivist. It was at Castlefield that I first started getting absorbed in an archive – the history of Castlefield from 1984. It felt like a significant thing for me to be doing (I found my niche there) and we started to organise the rich history of all things Castlefield. I realised then that Castlefield is about supporting unique exhibitions and about supporting artists in an everyday way. Invaluable. I’m not an artist and yet Castlefield supported my nervous but stoical change of career. I thank Kwong Lee and Yuen Fong Ling for that. I want to support Kwong and all at Castlefield in maintaining their position as invaluable in Manchester’s art world. The recent funding situation is clearly wrong and nonsensical.
Submitted by Ellie Finchy
I was really shocked to hear that Castlefield had lost their ACE funding. To me the gallery is a beacon for contemporary art, not just in Manchester but across the UK. Galleries that show work that challenges, ignites debate and offers significant opportunities to artists as they develop their careers are few and far between in the north and I am sure many feel as I do that a cut to Castlefield is a wound inflicted on us all.
But to echo another commentator, the reason we all believe in Castlefield so much is because of the gumption they always show in their programme and in everything they do - so surely this is just a minor setback.
The arts ecology is changing fast, we are all reeling from the effects of last week and the dust will take a long time to settle. I absolutely expect Castlefield to still be standing proud when that day finally comes.
Submitted by Lucy Bannister
There is no doubting the shock and upset the North West and its art scene feel over the news about Castlefield’s Funding. CG offers local and international artists that all important stepping stone from recent graduates to exhibiting successful artists. What is key, however is not to talk about ACE’s decision as the ‘end’ for Castlefield - but rather look forward to the future, and how as local artists and art organisations we can now work together to support Castlefield continue and flourish as the inspiring organisation we know and love it to be.
This is a new and scary challenge for the gallery but I have every faith that they will rise to it and succeed!
Submitted by Elizabeth Wewiora
I’m not saying I always like what I see at Castlefield Gallery - but it definitely provokes a reaction. Castlefield has an important role in nurturing artists in their early careers. It is a vital contribution to the visual arts in Manchester, the North West and nationally. The loss of Castlefield Gallery’s ACE funding effects us all. All the best to you all and when you have decided what you need us to do, let me know. I’ll be right behind you.
Submitted by Annieh
It is true the repercussions of cuts means a thankless task for ACE, however, terminating Castlefield Gallery’s funding is a serious and grave miscalculation. As an artist, our personal experience of working with a gallery is surely as critically important as any details and figures of evaluation of what has come before to arrive at this decision. Just read the posts here.
The professionalism and integrity of Castelfield is filtered through from its internal management and is manifest in the manner in which the gallery fosters its relations with artists. Not many can purport to uphold these values in practice and behind the scenes.
Kwong Lee has ensured Castlefield closely nurtures, facilitates and provides for artists at all career points and that art continues to generate quality discourse for its audience. Personally, I have experienced the degree of integrity and professionalism by which Castlefield sustains its programming and its relations with individual artists. It is exemplary, and venues with this outlook- those who passionately support the growth, opportunities and rights of artists and direction of art itself- are invaluable. We desperately need the site of Castlefield to continue- it is a venue that can be trusted to have genuine interest in the artist- as a sounding board, a meeting place and a formidable place to see art. It is one of the few venues that does not forget the gallery’s role and the longevity of a relationship with an artist from emerging to mid career and onwards. Furthermore, Castlefield is a crucial component of the UK art network and contributes to our capacity to connect with galleries and artists overseas … we need Castlefield; now more than ever. Surely this decision must be reconsidered.
Submitted by Kai-Oi Jay Yung
I was really unsettled to hear about last week’s threats to Castlefield Gallery and i3 by ACE funding cuts. The decisions represent a direct impact on staff livelihoods, and a disturbing assault on their key roles in the infrastructure of visual arts in Manchester. ACE have clearly failed to grasp the value of these organisations in their vibrant and critical programmes, and the amazing work behind the scenes. What distinguishes Castlefield is the tireless activity of staff and volunteers in supporting emerging artists from the region through opportunities, advice and, most importantly, a welcoming, inclusive attitude. I cannot fathom any rationale for this punitive decision, involving so little financially yet affecting so many in the community.
On a personal note the gallery was key to my involvement from 2001 onwards. As someone entering the scene with no contacts whatsoever the Castlefield became a place to learn, meet future collaborators, and grow in confidence. I was given an early curatorial opportunity through Purescreen, both to organise screenings and help develop the future of the gallery’s film & video strand. Through this I gained useful skills, knowledge and contacts that have helped me ever since. It is horrendous to think that today’s graduates and other new artists may not benefit from such an open, independent and supportive environment if these cuts are implemented.
I hope all Manchester’s visual artists will campaign against this disproportionate attack on our sector, and join other workers in the growing resistance to protect public-sector jobs and services.
Submitted by Dave Griffiths
I’ve always admired the cities of the north-west for their enlightened attitude to contemporary art (and design) and this admiration only deepened when The Castlefield put on my first show. This reciprocation validated my activities at a stroke and I’ve never looked back. The inspiring cultural environment that The Castlefield fosters is essential in a contemporary society that, in many ways seems cut adrift from both the grounding and enlightening effects of human creativity.
Submitted by Kevin Boniface
I’d like to express my deep support for the Castlefield Gallery at this time and can only hope that The ConDem’s blatant, reckless cultural vandalism will be thwarted given the huge protests and anger that this has caused.
I personally gained a great deal from the Castlefield Gallery by being involved in running their workshops for children. It always had great energy and will continue to do. I’m in denial that this can happen - i don’t believe that the Government can really get away with this…..
Submitted by Adele Jordan