Brierfield Mill (as was) is significant in Brierfield. A landmark building that holds a special place in many local people’s lives, memories, and hearts. When the industry left in 2008 the work and interconnected social life that wove communities together disintegrated. Gone were the canteen moments, the day trips and the social events, gone was the banter over shared territory. Memories keep those who worked their connected. But people had to look elsewhere for work and socializing, consequently, peer groups shrank, shared interests polarized and the younger generations had little connection to the mill.
When In-Situ came to Brierfield in 2011, Brierfield Mill’s future was uncertain. Slowly slipping into dereliction, it was left betwixt and between.
An inescapable landmark, a seemingly inaccessible building. A building In-Situ could not ignore. A building In-Situ wished to explore and re-activate as a TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zone (Hakim Bey, 1990), a liberated area where ways of being together can be explored, in our case, through creative interventions.
In-Situ began exploring the Mill and shifting perceptions from a derelict mill awaiting redevelopment to a place where exciting art events happen. A vibrant space full of opportunities to come together and engage through art. A new, creative landscape began to emerge at Brierfield Mill, one that engaged local communities and captured imaginations.
Art events at the Mill increased
The mill was activated
And transformed into a temporary cultural venue
Hosting works by local, national and international artists,
Emerging artists and established artists
Meanwhile, Pendle Borough Council purchased Brierfield Mill (2012) and successfully secured funding to regenerate the mill into a multi purpose development, with apartments, leisure facilities, a marina, a hotel, cafes, and shops. The joint venture company PEARL was formed (Pendle Borough Council and Barnfield Construction). The Mill was rebranded as Northlight, and a master plan was launched in summer 2014 – which did not include a cultural space.
In-Situ’s creative interventions and productions at the mill had not gone unnoticed.
One of Barnfield’s Directors was quick to notice the added value art within the mill brought: engaging local audiences, connecting communities, attracting visitors from further afield and the possibility of new funding opportunities.
Supportive of our activities we were offered a temporary space in the Mill and granted licenses for ever more ambitious projects.
Not wishing to loose the added value and vibrancy In-Situ brought to Northlight Mill, in 2015, we were offered the old garage, an independent building within the mill complex. A space that In-Situ could develop.
Massively supported by Barnfield Construction, we began to write our vision and a feasibility study for The Garage and worked together to write an Arts Council England Capital bid.
This process was pretty amazing
Skills and expertise were shared
Art and business knowledge was combined
A huge learning curve for all involved
And rewarded with a Capital Grant
Which has enabled us to transform a dank, leaking, oil soaked building into
A centre of excellence for socially engaged art practice, socially relevant art, and leaning;
A centre that is rooted in Pendle;
With space for visiting arts practitioners to work and stay
And opportunities for communities to engage in an array of programmed events and pop-up activities.
Final slider: Suzanne lacy with Pendle artist collective In-Situ, activists Paul Hartley and Rauf Bashir, musicologist Ron Pen, and anthropologist Massimiliano Mollona. Image credit: Charlotte Graham / Guzelian