The A Foundation, one of the city’s cultural cornerstones, has closed down. SevenStreets was unable to contact the organisation today, but understands that lack of funding has meant that this Baltic Triangle art gallery/performance space and cultural catalyst has wound up its board of directors, and led to the permanent closure of its Liverpool operation.
The Foundation, set up with funding from James Moores (who also seeded the Biennial) ran its huge spaces (The Coachshed, Blade Factory, Furnace) with a programme that was dynamic, challenging and exciting, bringing New Contemporaries, Biennial exhibitions, Art book fairs, debates and conferences through its doors. It was, without doubt, one of the city’s most exciting cultural zones.
Its loss is a major blow for the area, the city, and the cultural ‘legacy’ we were promised in the wake of 2008.
With Walk the Plank gone, the National Conservation Centre closing, John Moores University cancelling its Fine Art courses, Turning the Place Over closed and now the closure of the A Foundation, is it time to ask the inevitable question: Legacy? What legacy?
We have pavilions in Shanghai that, apparently, people queued around the block to see (not that they were, in any way, shipped in by the Chinese government. They don’t do things like that), and we have an embassy in London. But, we wonder, what of the drive to build a lasting cultural economy? Surely the suits can’t be left in charge of this, too? At least we have our Culture Company…re-branded Culture Liverpool to keep the flame alive after 2008. So, maybe we should call them first to ask how our legacy is shaping up….
SevenStreets makes a phone call. We check the Culture Liverpool number. Oh, that’s easy to remember, it’s 233 2008…
“Hello, can we speak to Culture Liverpool, please?”
“Sorry, they kind of disbanded…”
Oh. Seems it’s not just the telephone number that seems out of time…
We know that the world’s a different place since 2008. But, according to Phil Redmond, at least some of the Culture Company’s £105 million budget was ring-fenced for the years ahead: “We’re looking to the future now. We always wanted 2008 to be the springboard to more,” he said at the closing party.
Well, Phil, the future is now…
Over the next few days, we’re asking a cross section of cultural organisations to give their state of the nation address. Do they believe the city is stronger, culturally, post 2008? Two years down the line, what lasting impression has it had? And, because of its effects, are we in a stronger position to survive the inevitable cuts that are headed our way when the Council announces its budget this Thursday? Because, presumably, that was the point, wasn’t it? It wasn’t just a party and PR exercise, was it?
We’d like to hear from you, too. Please get in touch at email@example.com, or leave a comment below. Liverpool’s bullish cultural community has always survived in spite of everything. But we get the feeling now’s the time to step up the fight.
First in our series, Biennial Director Lewis Biggs gives his verdict on Liverpool’s Cultural Legacy:
“Yes, to my mind, Liverpool is hugely stronger in its culture post 08 than before.
Of course, that is not just about 2008, it’s about all the work that has gone into cultural activity since the low point of the mid 1980s: the Tate, VideoPositive, VisionFest, New Contemporaries showing biennially in Liverpool since 1997, Brouhaha, Africa Oye and Liverpool Biennial since 1999…
All of these happened in the 1990s and quite a few of them were supported by James Moores. Without all this work in the 1990s, undertaken in a city that did not prioritise culture, Liverpool would not have been able to think about bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture. It was Mike Storey and David Henshaw’s insight that Liverpool could run on the culture ticket, to make it more of a priority, and that did help the culture sector to grow in the last decade – FACT building, new Bluecoat, and now eventually new Museum and new Everyman.
Sir Bob Scott’s mantra (that the title was ‘not a prize but a scholarship’) was important to galvanise the city into facing up to the reality of the situation: that few people in Liverpool, and almost no-one outside Liverpool, were aware of the cultural riches on offer.
So – the difference made by 2008 (and the physical change in the city resulting from Grosvenor in Liverpool One and from 20 years of investment by Objective One) was that it was a turning point as regards the perception of Liverpool, inside and out. That perception – as a city worth visiting, with a quality of life worth staying for – has survived the end of 2008, and will continue to survive despite the current very real difficulties (such as organisations like Afoundation disappearing). That perception is as much of an asset to small organisations as to large ones. It marks the end of the talent drain away from Liverpool.
I believe Liverpool Council do actually believe that culture is in the blood stream of the city and can’t be discounted if anything worthwhile is to be got done. While up until 2008 many of the senior Council Officers did not actually live in Liverpool (so what kind of commitment did they have to making the city a better place?), my guess is that it will now become more normal for these postholders to live in the city for which they are responsible. The way that the PCT is involved with the city, the way the Universities have become more involved with the city, the way City Council officers have become ‘open’ to discussion with other employers in the city, all this is frankly new – it wasn’t there before 2008. All these things matter. And they are a part of the city’s ‘culture’ for which 2008 was a turning point.”
A Response from A Foundation’s Mark Waugh
Thanks for the support. A Foundation will miss Liverpool.
Here is the press release which confirms the closure of A Foundation on 10th February 2011.
A Foundation is “not sustainable in either the long or the short term.” This was the judgement made by Arts Council England rejecting an application towards 33% of our costs in Liverpool for 2010 – 2011. Therefore A Foundation is closing.
Some highlights since 2006 have been: Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2010, Liverpool Biennial 2010 Touched – Sachiko Abe and Antti Laitinen, Live in Translation – Tatsumi Orimoto, Following Bauhaus – Artur Zmijewski Hearts and Minds – Jon Fawcett, The Economy of the Gift – Eric Bainbridge, Brass Art, Geta Bratescu, Elodie Pong, Jacob Dahlgren, Mark Harasimowicz, Rebecca Lennon and Shaun O’ Dell, A Curriculum – Florian Bielefeldt, Noel Cluit, Przemek Dzienis, Myles Painter, Hannah Perry, Philip Root, Elizabeth Skadden, Emily Speed, A World Rattled of Habit – Ben Rivers, Haroon Mirza, Daniel Pasteiner, Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2008, Communication and Association – Artists Anonymous, Far West Metro, Fantasty Studio – Project, Kyungwoo Chun, Yeondoo Jung, Young In Hong, Yongbaek Lee, Junebum Park, Sookyung Yee and Hyun-Mi Yoo, Encounters – Manuel Vason, Port City – Yto Barrada, Ursula Biemann, Mary Evans, Meschac Gaba, Melanie Jackson, Erik Van Lieshout, William Pope.L, Zineb Sedira, The Only Living (or Your Lonely Saucer Eyes) – Brian Griffiths, Triangle of Need – Catherine Sullivan, Cennet Bahcesi – Mustafa Hulusi, drum n’ basin – SIMPARCH, Sleep of Ulro – Goshka Macuga, Silent Sound – Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, Virtual Grizedale – Grizedale Arts and Office for Subversive Architecture
We’d like to thank our staff, audiences and funders for their support of this extraordinary achievement.