Creative Project – order or chaos?

I've been reviewing some of the projects I have been involved with recently and thinking about how they could have been improved.

The conclusion I have come to is that most creative projects are to some degree chaotic and uncertain; You can't always predict how they are going to run. You have to be flexible and responsive to new ideas and directions as they come up.

That said, there is possibly value in at least attempting to structure the management of creative projects around tried and tested ideas. A creative project, like any other, has process steps and milestones. One reason why creative projects often fail is because not enough time is spent understanding the purpose of the project and refining the ideas around that purpose.  Sadly is is all to easy to forge ahead with half baked ideas with no idea of why we're doing it!

Step 1: The brief

Be sure about the purpose of the project and why it has come about. You might call this the creative challenge.

Get down on paper a description of what you hope to achieve, who it is for and why it is important.  For example –  Encourage year four children to take pride in their town by revealing its glorious history. We're doing this because ……

Set out what you want to achieve, how you are going to approach it,  who it is for and  why it is important.  

Step 2:  Ideas

Once we have a brief we can set about coming up with ideas (in the above case for revealing the town's glorious history).  Not enough time is ever spent coming up with ideas or evaluating them.  I would say that this is one of the biggest reason for the failure of creative projects.   The temptation is to settle on the first and most obvious idea you come up with. Often the crazy ideas are sidelined at the outset, and yet these are often the most interesting.

Make plenty time for coming up with as many ideas as possible, even the crazy ones, and evaluate them according to the brief.

There are many techniques for coming up with ideas – here are some.  Thinking Hats for evaluating ideas, Mind Mapping with which I'm sure you are familiar, and a favorite of mine, The Creative Whack Pack


Step 3: Planning

Do you decide on the team and resources before you have an idea or after?  I would say that it's sometimes better to come up with the idea first with a small core team and then pitch for people and resources once you have the idea.  That way you'll get what you need rather than having to put up with what you have got.

Careful planning of the resources and the timetable, setting of realistic deadlines and getting agreements.

Step 4: Action

Well planned activity with a great idea behind it should be exciting. Any problems will be quickly resolved because of a solid commitment to the purpose of the project.

Step 5: Celebration

The positive outcome should be shared and celebrated beyond the immediate team. The more external praise and feedback the better. A public film screening, a party for those who contributed, a commemorative web page.  The legacy of successful projects should be preserved so that the benefits can be made available to the greatest number of people for the longest amount of time.

Step 6: Review

A constructive examination of the project should always be part of its legacy.  Did it meet the brief? What were the points of learning and so on.


This may all seem obvious – in which case I apologies – but I need to remind myself just how important these project steps really are and that to skimp on any of them will weaken the outcome.


Art in the Pen

I do like Skipton's Art in the Pen. For a start, it's a great idea – holding an exhibition in a livestock auction mart. A space normally bustling with farmers and animals becomes space to eye up the work of local artists.

The variety of art is one of its great features. One of the great fears I have when visiting local art shows is having to look at yet more chocolate box pictures of bridges, gates and rose clad cottages. This is not the case at Art in the Pen. There were about sixty artists work on show, all quite individual.


Some of the work in wood was impressive, none more so than David Gross's huge and arresting wood sculptures (above).


A particular favorite was Mark Laycock's wood pieces. People have commented on his Gaudi like style, but what impressed me most was his passion for the wood itself and the ideas he has. He told me that he's be happy simply put a piece of wood on the wall and look at it. His deep respect for the material and his knowledge of why it looks as it does is wonderful. 


Another eye catching display was by Duncan Pearson from Huddersfield. His colourful and humorous paintings had a dark twist to them. He explained that he'd spent a hard time in a rough area of Manchester. One picture featured a man with a ridiculous mustache – the manchester mustache – who he explained was a horrible character in a horrible pub. His work is raw and personal.


Tim Fowler from Leicester featured some very confident and beautiful urban scenes many of which were of West London. Evidence that there's a good range of influences at Art in the Pen, not confined to gates, bridges and cottages. You'd need to come to Ilkley for that!


Henry and the magic wallpaper

The grizzly  times of the Tudors and Henry's willy nilly habit of chopping off heads has a natural appeal for year four children. 

At this school we wanted to combine music, writing, film, animation and the wonderful technique known as green-screen – or perhaps blue-screen; Chroma Separation Overlay, CSO if you want to show off. 

This film takes some of the more unsavory facts about life on the Mary Rose as a starting point. We also wanted to involve the children in a variety of interesting ways – particularly to include some of the less confident and disruptive children.  For example, some of the drawings we included may be very simple and not hugely demanding to create  but we found a place for them in the finished piece.  

There is a natural tendency for the professional film maker to be concerned about maintaining a high standard but this must not be at the expense of including less confident children. This should not just be a showcase for the most talented children but  a way of unlocking talent and confidence in the least confident ones.  Otherwise why are we doing this?

Step 1

A mind mapping session to unlock all the facts the children had learned about life on the Mary Rose

Step 2

Using Garage Band create a rap backing track

Step 3

Listen to the backing track and practice writing and performing words to the rhythm of the track.

Step 4

The children in their own time (and with the rhythm in their heads) all write their own rap songs

Step 5

We select the best ideas from each of the songs to create a single rap to be used in the film

Step 6

Tasks are introduced and allocated to the team – animating the ship, drawing pictures, operating the camera and lights, recording the sound, performing, setting up the green screen, finding images, directing etc.

Step 7

Animating session.  We filmed the ship against a coloured screen and created the sea out of rolled up coloured paper which we animated manually. Pictures were drawn, biscuits were filmed, flames and rats were scanned.  The scurvy ridden faces were drawn.

Step 8

The green-screen session. The screen was set up facing a large area of windows so we had a lot of soft natural light. This was a hugely popular activity. The children decided to call this set-up the magic wallpaper.

The backing track was played from a CD player. Jobs included director, camera operator, sound and performers.

Step 9

Editing.  The editing for this was too complex for the the schools own software so most of it was carried out off-site.  However I think there is scope in future for sections of these films to be edited by the children.



I liked the wide range of tasks and skills that this project involved, it was very inclusive. It didn't just use traditional animation techniques but required a range of solutions.  There was a high degree of problem solving particularly making the ship and water move – the children were fully engaged in finding their own way of doing this. 

Some of the less confident children appeared in front of the camera and some of the more modest drawing attempts were used in the film – this was obviously appreciated by the children concerned.

We had some positive discussion about making mistakes – if something didn't work we called it learning and improving. A mistake in the filming could be an entertaining out-take.

The green-screen was such a success that I am helping the school set up its own permanent green-screen (magic wallpaper).

Click here to get more information and to make contact


Hidden Keighley discovery day

We completed the Hidden Keighley discovery day yesterday. Six schools trekking around the town in search of boxes which had been transformed by the children. My role has been to organise the film making element in collaboration with artist Amy Heild.

The process of making a film is a fantastic way for the children to learn so many skills and build their confidence, even a simple interview has so many elements to it. Deciding on the most relevant location to film the story, observing  & planning the shots, managing the equipment, problem solving, engaging with the interviewee are only a few skills needed.  It's particularly rewarding to pick shy children to work in front of the camera or take a leadership role and see them rise to the challenge. 

The brilliant thing about video is that you can re-take if things go wrong.  We've had some wonderful conversations about the value of being able to learn from mistakes. At first the children get embarrassed when they make a mistake but soon they're able to have a laugh about it and move on to an improved attempt.

Bringing professionalism to the way the video is filmed and edited can be a huge boost to many children. They imagine that professional film makers have none of the problems they face  – being nervous, tripping over their lines, wobbly shots and so on.  Once they realise that there are some simple techniques to achieving impressive results they begin to feel so much more confident.

We've had a lot of discussion about whether the process is more important than the outcome – i.e. that a poor quality film is OK provided that the children learn something in the process.  I'm sure that the end product is vitally important – especially for a product designed for public showing.  The buzz the children get from achieving a film that looks like something they would see on TV or at the cinema is something they can be proud of and will remember for a long time.


This is  the model of Keighley Picture House. Inside is a screen on
which interviews about of the old cinema play. Next week all the films
will be shown at the real cinema at a red carpet event  for 300 children.


This is from the film Box of Sounds in which we take this animated Victorian girl to re-visit one of the local mills.

Click here to get more information and to make contact


Hidden Keighley

This week I've been continuing the Creative Partnerships schools work. We're working on a series of films about Keighley.  There are six schools and the idea is that they each choose a person, event or place to focus their investigations. The subjects include the local cinema, a haunted pub, a bandstand, a mill, and a school. The films are to be shown at a big screen red carpet event at Keighley Picture House to about three hundred children from the six schools on the 8th of July. 

But the project is more that just film making. Each or the groups has to create a box of treasures which they are to hide in readiness for a hunt using hand held gps tracking devices and hidden clues. It will become a kind of Dan Brown quest to uncover hidden secrets in the landscape.

The ideas the children have come up with have been wonderful including a a talking photo album which tells the story of Braithwaite school, a box of industrial sounds, a life size model of a Victorian child who's revisiting the mills and a wall whose bricks come to life to tell their secrets. Keighley News

All the materials and videos from the project will go on display in a public installation at Cliffe Castle Museum.

This is an area I love. My roots are in industrial Bradford with connections to the mills on both sides of the family. My grandfather on my dad's side was a mill owner and on my mother's side I have an intriguing connection with Samuel Cunliffe-Lister which I'm trying to unravel. Samuel CL was an inventor who came up with a wool combing machine which transformed both his and Bradford's fortunes. My grandmother came from a relationship with one of occupants of Swinton Park – a place to which she was secretly taken to meet members of the family.

Click here to get more information and to make contact


invitation to ascend


Tomorrow night sees the continuation of Ilkley's alternative worship services – yes it's true, even respectable ilkley folk are rocking the liturgical boat.

A small group are committed to meeting once as month to grow ideas for creative worship.  The group is made up of people who are involved Churches Together in Ilkley and so it's supported not by just one church but nine churches in the town. Can't believe that there are that many.

There are many such groups around the country but each of them is quite different – the styles of worship grow around the creative talents, needs and inspiration of those involved rather than being imposed.

Tomorrow's service is called Ascending/Descending and responds to the space in which we are holding the event.  Because we haven't settled a permanent venue we decided to hold the service in entrance hall of our house and use the stairwell as a vertical labyrinth.

The stations of activity will include – personal preparation for the journey, sustenance, difficult decisions, sanctuary, companionship, the top and the return. The stations will include video, music, projected images and ritual.

If you would like to visit us tomorrow or join the mailing list please drop me a note and I will give you more details  markwadd1@googlemail.com


Yorkshire art places

Venues in Yorkshire

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Persistence Works, Sheffield

What they say about themselves:

The UK’s first purpose-built fine art and crafts studio complex provides a range of facilities with public access for up to 89 fine artists and craftspeople on a highly prominent site in Sheffield’s cultural quarter.



Millennium Gallery, Sheffield

Arundal Gate, Sheffield. S1 2PP

What they say about themselves:
The Millennium Gallery is an outstanding venue for the visual arts, craft and design, right in the heart of Sheffield. Both elegant and innovative, the gallery breaks with the traditional institutional image of an art gallery and is a welcoming and vibrant place to be for pleasure, education and business.

Graves Gallery, Sheffield

Surrey Street, Sheffield. S1 1XZ


What they say about themselves:

If you haven’t popped up to the Graves Gallery recently, you might be pleasantly surprised at the gallery’s recent makeover. Over the last six months the home of Sheffield’s visual art collection has been refurbished and repainted, giving works by legendary artists such as Turner and Cézanne the home they deserve.



S1 Artspace, Sheffield
Units 4a-6b, Trafalgar Court, Milton Street, Sheffield. S1 4JU


What they say about themselves:

S1 Artspace is an artist-led organisation providing studio space for over twenty Sheffield based artists and a project space, which presents an annual programme of contemporary exhibitions, screenings and events.



The Site Gallery

1 Brown Street, Sheffield. S1 2BS

What they say about themselves:

Site Gallery is Sheffield’s flagship international contemporary art centre. The gallery offers a changing exhibitions programme backed up with regular publications and a comprehensive calendar of conferences, artists talks and events. The gallery focuses on an international programme of newly commissioned work supported by the iLab, (a production facility for still and moving image-making), providing a base for international residencies and supporting artists at the beginning of their career.




Bloc, Sheffield
71 Eyre Lane, Sheffield S1 4RB


What they say about themselves:

Bloc is a contemporary art gallery and studio complex located in the city centre of Sheffield.

Bloc Projects Ltd is a not-for-profit artists-led organisation that co-ordinates a programme of exhibitions, events and related activity at Bloc.



Siad Gallery, Sheffield


What they say about themselves:

The Sheffield Institute of Art and Design (SIAD) gallery is part of Sheffield Hallam University’s city centre new-build, showcasing art, design and creative media by staff and students, as well as touring exhibitions from the UK and abroad. A host of film and video will also be shown on its state of the art window projection system



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Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield

 Bretton Hall, West Bretton, Wakefield, West Yorkshire. WF4 4LG

What they say about themselves:

Yorkshire Sculpture Park is one of Europe’s leading open air galleries planned for the enjoyment and study of art and the landscape. Displays of sculpture in over 100 acres of 18th century parkland are combined with two indoor galleries to provide a changing programme of exhibitions and residencies with workshops and tours for schools and the public. Henry Moore in Bretton Country Park is adjacent to the Sculpture Park



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York Art Gallery
Exhibition Square, York. YO1 7EW 

What they say about themselves:

York Art Gallery combines a distinguished history of displaying fine paintings and ceramics with a modern-day welcome to all through a busy calendar of exhibitions, events and outreach work.



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Ferens Art Gallery

Queen Victoria Square, Hull. HU1 3RA

What they say about themselves:

Ferens Art Gallery combines internationally renowned permanent collection displays with thriving programmes of exhibitions and Live Art



Artlink, Hull

87 Princes Avenue, Hull. HU5 3QP


What they say about themselves:

A registered charity, established in 1982, working within the former county of Humberside. Defined as an Arts Access Agency, Artlink is unique as we offer access to all artforms across all sectors of the community.

Artlink has four areas of provision: outreach projects, community galleries, training and an information service. We provide community based arts activities and services to people in Hull and the Humber. 



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Leeds City Art Gallery

The Headrow, Leeds. LS1 3AA 


What they say about themselves:

There is something for everyone at the newly re-opened Leeds City Art Gallery. You will find traditional prints, watercolours, paintings and sculptures as well as contemporary works made with plastic grapes and twintubs! See exciting new temporary exhibition in this stunning building. Take a walk through the newly uncovered ‘Victorian Tiled Hall’, a new walkway between the art gallery and library building which houses and shop and cafe amid glorius settings 



Leeds Metropolitan University Gallery & Studio Theatre

Leeds Met Gallery, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds LS1 3HE

What they say about themselves:

The Gallery remains dedicated to the development and presentation of contemporary visual art reflecting new practice, new ideas and excellence in execution. 




What they say about themselves:

Artco is a privately run gallery in Leeds, exhibiting and selling quality original contemporary art.

Our aim is to bring exciting, innovative artwork to a wide audience in a friendly and relaxed gallery space. Whether you are looking for a contemporary painting by an emerging artist or piece of work by an internationally renowned master, our gallery staff will help and advise you to make the right purchase




East Street Arts (ESA)

What they say about themselves:

Is a contemporary arts organisation in Leeds. Our mission is to focus on the development of artists through our events programme, professional development and studio/facility provision




Project Space Leeds

2 Riverside Way, Whitehall Waterfront, Leeds LS1 4EH




7 Saw Mill Yard, Round Foundry, Leeds LS11 5WH


The Henry Moore Institute

74 Headrow, Leeds. LS1 3AH


Leeds Art Gallery

The Headrow, Leeds LS1 3AA




The Merrion Market, The Merrion Centre, Leeds LS2 8DB



The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery

Parkinson Building, Leeds University LS2 9JT



The Bowery

54 Otley Rd, Leeds. LS6, UK


What they say about themselves:

The inspiration for this exciting new venture came from the Bowery district of new York. We now hope that here in Headingley the bowery is where you’ll be inspired by the products and services we offer.
The dream was to open up a creative space that would provide a truly unique experience, where both the customer and artist alike can develop in an exciting and stimulating environment



Arts and Trinity

Holy Trinity Church, Boar Lane, Leeds

What they say about themselves:

Housed in the magnificent 18th century building arts@trinity is dedicated to providing a wide range of arts events for all the community in a genuinely alternative space



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Gallery II
University of Bradford, Chesham Building, Bradford. BD7 1DP


What they say about themselves:

Gallery II is situated at the heart of the University campus, within the Chesham Building



Cartwright Hall

Lister Park, Bradford. BD9 4NS


What they say about themselves:

Bradford’s stunning art gallery was opened in 1904 with an important collection of Victorian and Edwardian works following its donation to the city by Samuel Cunliffe Lister. Cartwright Hall has the best collection of South Asian art outside London. The gallery is in the middle of a magnificent park with Mughal Garden, boating lake with a café, and a stunning children’s playground



Bradford 1 Gallery

Bradford 1 Gallery, Centenary Square, Bradford. BD1 1SD


What they say about themselves: 

Bradford 1 Gallery is the new city centre space for exhibitions of contemporary and historic art and craft. It will host shows from national and regional touring venues as well as drawing upon the major collections of the museums and galleries service. It is a partnership with Impressions Gallery. This innovative contemporary photography gallery has re-located from York to Bradford and will also have its own new gallery. Both institutions will share public areas and an education space.



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 The Arts at Dean Clough

What they say about themselves
Dean Clough is nationally renowned for its commitment to the arts.  It has supported a gallery programme since the mid 1980’s that it makes freely available to the public, despite having no direct funding from the local council, the Arts Council of England, or from the EEC.

Impressions Gallery, Bradford

What they say about themselves:
Impressions Gallery is for everybody and we’re free. We’re one of the UK’s independent leading venues for photography and we show the best of today’s photographers. We’ve moved from York and have reopened in a purpose-built new building in the heart of Bradford’s city centre. Our exhibitions change regularly so there’s always something different to see. Be inspired and join in!



The Keighley Arts Factory

What they say about themselves:

The Keighley Arts Factory (KAF) opened in September 1999 as an art gallery and performance space for the community. Since then it has hosted 40 exhibitions, 12 plays and performances, two employment fairs, plus numerous workshops. Visual artists, actors, musicians and dancers have benefited from the wonderful facilities, giving the organisation many contacts and a growing reputation within the arts



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Otley Courthouse

What they say about themselves:
Otley Courthouse is a unique arts and resource centre, created and run by local people, in Otley, West Yorkshire. The old magistrates court has been transformed into a fully accessible centre for people of all ages. There’s a lively evening events programme with great films, theatre, music, dance and cabaret. You can drop into the community cafe; visit the old cell; join a workshop (lots for all ages) use our free computer room and internet access or enjoy our popular monthly craft  fair and visual arts exhibitions.