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Ipswich

I’m vaguely ashamed to say that today was the first time I’ve visited Ipswich Art School since it opened as a gallery in 2010 after years of no-one really knowing what to do with it. Tucked in next to Ipswich Museum off a main thoroughfare in Ipswich, it is a marvellous building, purposefully built as an art school, with an amazing glass ceiling in the central atrium that floods the space with natural light.

Brian Griffiths’ Boneshaker. 2003

Currently on display is Revisitations, an exhibition of work from the Saatchi Gallery. The Saatchi Gallery first supported the opening of the Ipswich Art School with work for it’s initial exhibition two years ago, and it is good to see the link continuing. In the current show, I particularly liked Brian Griffiths’ Boneshaker, above, entirely made out of old furniture, and Aleksandra Mir’s Newsroom, made of giant drawings from New York newspapers from 1986–2000 and 2007.

Other highlights include Spartacus Chetwynd’s spooky life-size costumes:

The Lizard, 2004

And Bedwyr Williams’ Walk a Mile in my Shoes, which made Claire laugh out loud several times. Visitors are invited to try on items from his personal size 13 shoe collection.

He provides anecdotes about each pair:

Other artists exhibiting include: David Batchelor, Steve Bishop, Matthew Darbyshire, Tessa Farmer, Guerra de la Paz, and Bedwyr Williams. The show continues until 26 August, and is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Ipswich is having a bit of a surge of cultural activity of late, much to the surprise of many of the locals. Sure, for a few years there’s been hi-brow events at the NewWolseyTheatre and Jerwood DanceHouse, and the chattering classes love it when productions in these venues are mentioned in The Guardian Guide.  Alongside this, the annual Ip-Art Festival also brings a cosy but somewhat parochial Gig In The Park, visual art and performance to the town, and big name acts play the football stadium or big parks throughout the year for the X-factor crowd. But for a town with a growing University, a vibrant FE College and culturally diverse population, Ipswich lacks a musical/cultural scene that many other towns of a similar size take for granted. There have always been a lot of gigs over the years, run on a shoe string and in the back rooms of pubs by music obsessives, but you have to know they are happening and they take a little hunting out for anyone new to the town. I’ve stated much of this before on Dubdog, especially earlier this year when there was a call for an Ipswich Arts Centre, (you can read previous posts about this here). But this week sees the Switch Fringe Festival get into full swing which should hopefully start to redress the balance:

The excitement amongst aged local gig goers is palpable as Switch takes the town by storm with its diverse range of acts and culturally rich itineracy. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the Sons of Joy play the local Labour Club tomorrow night, supported by Nathaniel Robin Mann of The Dead Rat Orchestra.

While I have my gripes about Switch—I think it has an identity problem, Ipswich already has the (albeit performance art focused) Pulse Fringe Festival to rival Ip-Art, and Switch is happening when most of the university students have gone home for the summer—but I can’t knock it for the effort that has gone into making this happen, and that it has created the sense of vibrancy about Ipswich that it hasn’t had for a while. That has got to be a good thing.

Switch will hopefully fuel others to get up and do something in this town, and that, to me, is the beauty of this little festival. It doesn’t feel like it has been organised by the local town council doing something for the ‘kids’, nor does it come across as something created by a cultural elite desperate to get in the pages of coffee table magazine. So all power to Switch, and thanks to those who are involved for making it happen.

This chair is testament to the fact that there is the construction of an Art & Design Degree Show by students going on around me at work, while I’m trying to get a mountain of assessing done.

University Campus Suffolk Degree Show, featuring work from BA (Hons): Computer Games Design, Dance, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Graphic Illustration, Interior Design and Photography courses.
Public view: 9 June–17 June
UCS, Arts Building, Ipswich, IP4 1QJ

More details and advert to follow.

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Gold bikes have started appearing in Ipswich advertising a Bicycle Ball. To celebrate National Bike Week 2012, and as part of Switch Festival, the good people of Ipswich are being invited to take their bike as a partner to an evening of music and performance after a mass cycle ride through the town and along the quayside. It’s all happening on 23 June; more details at Bicycle Ball

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