When we begun Down Stairs in 2011 the residency program was originally conceived to run in parallel to our exhibition program in the gallery spaces of Great Brampton House, occasionally converging, with small exhibitions at the culmination of a residential period, or residencies that lay groundwork for shows at a later date.
For visiting artists (as well as for ourselves) we created a studio complex in an old stable block, cunningly named The Stables, which feature both individual studio spaces and communal workshops with a basic set of tools and machinery, as well as a large living area with cooking facilities. Artists stayed in a small cottage on the grounds of Great Brampton House, or if that was being used, with us in the spare room of the house we lived in.
As time passed we began to realise that the interaction with artists in residence was the most rewarding, fruitful and beneficial aspect of what we’d created for all concerned. Although many member of the public visited and raved about (in both positive and negative senses) the exhibitions we mounted in the galleries, we began to examine what form we wanted Down Stairs to take in the future. Selfishly, we decided to focus on developing relationships and fostering knowledge more intimately through the residency programme, whilst experimenting with alternative ways to work with an audience. The only problem was the regularity that the accommodation we had access to was being increasingly let to holidaymakers, rendering us unable to offer any kind of regular residency accommodation to artists.
Around this time we had already been in loose discussions with artist Kieren Reed about the possibility of installing his piece Social Sculpture in the grounds of Great Brampton House. As the conversation developed it became clear to us all that the essence of what Kieren was trying to achieve with Social Sculpture could be imbued in a collaboration with him using the cabin-like structure as the lynchpin of our residency. Practically, as a place for artists to stay, but more ephemerally perhaps as the woodland set idyl we ourselves had dreamed of when locating to Herefordshire to establish Down Stairs.
We installed the work during the summer of 2013 in the grounds of Great Brampton. Adding the basics of running water and a toilet, along with minimal furnishings, Social Sculpture was then host to its initial two residents Elliot Burns, followed by Jonny Briggs.
Now, as we prepare to wind down the residency of 2013, we are looking to find artists for our 2014 residency programme who are interested in working with the parameters our collaboration with Kieren Reed has begun to establish.
We would like to invite artists both locally and from further afield to work with us in creating a dynamic and diverse residency program, but one that is grounded by the the idea of successive collaboration through the act of staying in Social Sculpture, each resident practically contributing something to the dialogue by developing an aspect of the piece or the area surrounding around it. These are loose definitions. We are open to ideas. If you just want to come and spend two weeks solely painting however, this is probably not the residency for you.
By all means, take a look at our Artists in Residence page to see in more detail how people have used their time spent here previously. However moving forward, we are interested to hear from artists or makers whom can spend at least part of, if not all of, their stay contributing in some manifestation to a more analogous dialogue between past and future residents, as well as ourselves and Kieren Reed.
Social Sculpture (or The Cabin as it has come to be known) is a small tin roofed, timber clad building designed to comfortably accommodate one person.
It comes with a single bed, one change of linen, a duvet and towels.
There is running cold water to a large butler sink, which can be used for washing or food preparation.
There is a flushing toilet in a small extension we added during initial instillation.
There are four stools, a fold down table, shelving, and various wall hooks.
There is no power to the cabin. A solar powered rechargeable lantern is provided, as is a wind up torch, a battery operated Roberts LW/MW radio, and the more modern trappings of a bluetooth speaker set. Power for charging, general use, tools and the like can be found in the Stables.
At present there are no cooking or heating facilities in the Cabin other than a fire pit with a grill stand. Cooking facilities, along with a very basic shower electrically heated shower can be found in the communal spaces of The Stables.
It should be becoming clear that this is a very basic set up. Potential applicants should be aware that this is not necessarily someone there to meet and greet you, or show you how things work and so on. Basically, the key will (metaphorically) be under the door mat. The incumbent resident will be reliant on the previous resident to have washed the linen, tidied up, left notes of use and so on. We would wish that to be the very minimum someone departing would leave.
Residents will have access to their own studio space, as well as use of the workshop, and whatever tools may be available to hand. By negotiation, the grounds of the house can both be used to source material, and be used as a site of activity.
The nearest shop, pub and church are 1 mile away in the village of Madley. We anticipate having a bicycle for use by residents in 2014, but you are welcome to bring your own transport, or walk.
You can get to Great Brampton by public transport. Hereford is served by regular trains coming from Manchester, Birmingham, London and Newport, and there is a slightly erratic bus service that goes past Great Brampton hourly from Hereford bus station.
There is no financial support involved in any aspect of a resident’s stay. Artists will have to provide their own materials (or source them with permission from the small selection we have in The Stables), feed themselves and get themselves wherever they need to go. It is an exercise in self sufficiency. On occasion, the owners of Great Brampton House Martin and Ioana Miller may well invite residents over, offer them food etc but it is by no means a given. There is an extensive vegetable patch and Victorian greenhouse that have been under our intermittent care. You are welcome to feed yourself from whatever may be in season at the time, and equally if you wish to plant anything from our seed selection for future residents you are welcome to do so. Please leave instructions as to how they should be tended after your departure.
We are particularly interested in hearing from artists who might want to develop the facilities of the Cabin as part of their practice. There is no set length of time for a residency but we would not expect applicants to stay for anything less than one week, or more than four weeks. It is important to us that this facility is used to the best of its ability in 2014 and thus we would encourage potential applicants to think both about what it is they want to bring to the residency, as well as what they want to achieve from it.
We would also like to encourage residents to think about how they can regularly convey their experiences with Down Stairs via the blog on our website, to allow our audience to continue their relationship with us that we have fostered over the last three years.
By way of a peppercorn rent to Down Stairs, the owners of Great Brampton House have requested that visiting artists donate a work at the end of their stay (or by negotiation afterwards) to add to their collection of things in the house. Should residents also wish to donate a work to Down Stairs other than their contribution to the evolution and growth of the residency then that is most appreciated, but not obligatory.
Applications or questions should be sent to email@example.com and we will get back to you as soon as we can.