UKYA Blackpool Weekender


From 24-26 February 2017, UKYA and Abingdon Studios Blackpool took 12 artists from across the country to Blackpool for a weekend of creative exploration. This mini residency offered a period of flux and change to artists with little expectation beyond being curious and having time to think and to learn and share with others. The participating artists were:

Aja Ireland
Alexander Croft
Anna Wachsmuth
Colette Griffin
Ellie Power
Emily Simpson
Hannah Tolmie
Kasumi Dean
Georgia Grace Gibson
Reece Straw
Rebecca Livesey-Wright
Robert Mills

Click here to find out more about the selected artists and their work. Read on to find out more about the weekender.


The day started with an overview of the weekend by Michelle Bowen (UKYA) and Garth Gratrix, (Abingdon Studios). Following this, artists learned about the space and context of Blackpool at a time of cultural development from guest speakers including Michael Trainor (Director, LeftCoast), Richard Smith and Andrew Gannon. A range of topics were covered including developing group exhibitions and cross collaboration. Followed by a pop-up exhibition at Abingdon Studios and a hearty meal to reflect on the days events.


I know, I know, I know (2002). Tracey Emin. Courtesy the Artist and DACS. NEON

After breakfast we took a tour of the current show at the Grundy Art Gallery. Artists were free to discover the adventures Blackpool has to offer, before collaborating with Garth Gratrix and Thomas Small. 

Finishing the day with a burlesque bang, we attended The Funny Girls Cabaret - the internationally acclaimed showbar.


Meeting at Abingdon studios for a morning walk, the artists discussed ideas and inspirations from the time spent together. A last big breath of sea air, some contacts to share and a Bon Voyage until the next meeting. 


Aja Ireland is an experimental electronic musician and performance artist who took part in the residency. Here's what she has to say about the weekend:

"I'm so thankful for this amazing opportunity, UK Young Artists are so supportive to the creative community and I feel very lucky to be chosen to take part in this residency. I love collaborating with other artists and I can't wait to explore each others practises and learn from their approaches and inspiration. I was so moved by "Within This Dust" by Thomas Small and am particularly looking forward to meeting him as I would love to include more movement and dance into my performances. I feel I have so much to learn from all the guests and artists involved with the residency and am excited to discover more about the vast knowledge and experience they will bring. Blackpool is an overlooked location of creative inspiration and I love finding beauty in the unknown."

Find out more about Aja's work by visiting her website here.


Garth Gratrix

Garth is the founding director of Abingdon Studios as well as an artist and curator in North West. His own practice is routed within ongoing enquiries and investigation into queerness; in particular the everyday things that we interact with or bare witness to and how these behaviourally can be interpreted and offer a platform for change, playfulness or indeed innuendo and questionable offense within social constructs.

Jenny Rutter

Jenny is an experienced and dynamic development manager within creative, business and cultural sector development. Jenny currently acts the the Creative Development Manager for LeftCoast- Blackpool's Creative People and Places Organisation funded by Arts Council England.

Michael Trainor

Michael has over 20 years experience as an artist and cultural leader. He has a long successful track record of delivering complex projects involving public interaction, with over 70 commissions ranging from Liverpool Capital of Culture and the world’s largest Mirrorball on Blackpool South Promenade. Michael currently is Artistic Director of LeftCoast and has previously been awarded Clore Duffield artist fellowship.

Richard Smith

Richard Smith is an established and regarded curator of Peter Scott Gallery and former Chair of Lancaster Arts- an award winning arts provider supporting arts engagement at the highest academic level through a programme of internationally renowned contemporary theatre, dance, classical music and visual arts.

Andrew Gannon

Exhibition include Stand Up!, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2015), No Reading No Cry!, Open Graphic Art Studio, Museum of the City of Skopje, Macedonia (2015), and Festival of Minimal Actions, Paris (2015). Gannon works primarily with conceptual performance, and also incorporates drawing, poster/image making, text and video.

Thomas Small

Thomas graduated from London Contemporary Dance School with a BA(hons) Degree. He has won many awards and commissions for his work including the prestigious Bonnie Bird New Choreography Award and the Robin Howard Foundation Commission. In 2015 he was appointed as the first ever BBC Radio 2 artist in residence in association with The Space. He has also been shortlisted for the Peter Darrell Award in 2003 and he Place Prize in both 2006 & 2008.

Claudio Zecchi

As an independent curator based in Lisbon his field of research is a practice aimed at investigating new visions and readings of the public sphere. In 2014 he launched a new interdisciplinary platform- performative practices; along with the project Practices as an intersection in a fragile environment, a project that has conceived as a horizontal and porous long-term narration that originates from the need to reconsider from a discursive approach an almost ten-year long attention on the relationship between the arts and the public sphere.

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