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Celebrating ceramics in the city: The British Ceramics Biennial returns to Stoke-on-Trent 2011
Merete Rasmussen, Dark Turquoise Loop.

STOKE-ON-TRENT.- The British Ceramics Biennial opens on 30 September. Building on the success of the inaugural festival in 2009, this international cultural event once again presents the very best in contemporary ceramics. Six weeks of celebrations include exhibitions, site-specific installations, artist residencies and creative responses to the region’s industrial and architectural heritage.

The historic listed site of the original Spode Pottery factory for the first time forms the creative hub of the 2011 festival, with a mass of exhibitions, events and installations. Other events and exhibitions will take place at venues in the City Centre, with a special programme of talks, seminars and workshops animating the festival.

Co-Directors of the British Ceramics Biennial Barney Hare Duke and Jeremy Theophilus comment: ‘We are delighted to be given the opportunity to present the second Biennial for Stoke-on-Trent, which we are confident will continue to fascinate and excite new audiences for ceramics as well as revealing the potential of the city itself as a centre for innovation and an international profile as a world ceramic city.’

At the heart of the British Ceramics Biennial is AWARD at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, a major exhibition of work by artists, potters and designers working at the creative leading edge of contemporary ceramics practice in the UK. From the 24 finalists exhibited, one winner will be awarded a £10,000 prize sponsored by Spode, part of the Portmeirion Group, at an event to celebrate the Biennial on 13 October.

On the original Spode factory site in Stoke Town, FRESH showcases the work of 41 recent UK graduates, together with a spotlight on six explorative post-graduate research programmes. The exhibition represents the vitality of current emerging ceramic artists and makes use of the redundant furniture and equipment from the factory buildings as an integral part of the display. FRESH also highlights the Crafts Council’s “Firing Up” project to re-invigorate the learning of ceramics in secondary schools. ReFRESH will give visitors an opportunity to see examples of new ceramic research by postgraduate students.

On the eve of the festival FRESH artist Lawrence Epps will unveil several extensions of his installation Human Resources in locations across London. A further special installation in a secret location in Stoke-on-Trent will greet locals and festival visitors alike. The installations, made from thousands of mechanically extruded businessmen, consider issues around the scale of the modern workplace, recession, and waste.

One of the largest shop floors on the Spode site houses A Great Wall. This large-scale installation features a range of selected products from the breadth of the UK ceramic industry from tableware to technical ceramics, highlighting its diversity, innovation and creativity.

The Explore programme includes a new body of work by internationally acclaimed Stoke-on-Trent-based artist Philip Eglin which sees him reuse and reclaim the discarded ceramic moulds from the nine remaining stores at Spode. Something Borrowed Something Blue playfully pays homage to the colours, imagery and traditions of pottery made on the Spode site. Eglin is one of seven artists who have created specific responses to the factory buildings and industrial heritage to allow visitors to explore the China Hall. Eglin’s work for the Biennial is a result of the Artists into Heritage programme launched at British Ceramics Biennial 2009. Other artists represented in Explore include Neil Brownsword and Julian Stair.

The work produced during residencies at the European Ceramics Work Centre in the Netherlands have been brought to Stoke-on-Trent for Sundaymorning@ekwc. The exhibition, featuring work by Tony Cragg, Hella Jongerius, Betty Woodman and Anne Ausioos, looks at the results of artistic experimentation and potential benefit to Stoke-on-Trent of a similar centre of excellence.

An associated programme OPEN WEEKENDS will see the area’s museums, galleries and ceramic industries complement the Biennial with their own ceramics-inspired programmes across three weekends during the festival.

Tristram Hunt, MP for Stoke-on-Trent, comments: ‘Stoke-on-Trent is a world famous city with a rich and diverse history. One of my priorities is to see Stoke Town regenerated, and the British Ceramics Biennial has an important part to play in this. It will bring more media and business interest to our great ceramics sector. I am hugely excited about the 2011 programme and how this cultural festival will benefit the city and the people who live here.’

Councillor Mark Meredith, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for economic development, comments: ‘Stoke-on-Trent is a city at the heart of the ceramics industry so it is only fitting that the festival not only celebrates ceramic art from across the globe but our home grown talent as well. The British Ceramics Biennial festival is in its second year now and this year’s programme is set to bring a unique mixture of exhibitions and opportunities. I hope people take the opportunity to get involved in the exciting workshops happening across the city.’

The British Ceramics Biennial takes place from 30 September to 13 November 2011.

British Ceramics Biennial | Hare Duke | Jeremy Theophilus | ceramics |

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