Picture of a shop in black and white, the shop is named ocean hotel
Blackpool Art Bed & Breakfast

Commission Opportunity: Art, Bed and Breakfast

Occasionally Unlimited partners with other arts organisations to co-commission work with a very specific brief. This time, the brief is very specific indeed – creating work for Blackpool’s very own Art Bed and Breakfast! Jo Verrent, Senior Producer for Unlimited, talks to Michael Trainor, Project Director for A B&B

JV: So tell us more about the Art B&B.

MT: The Art B&B is an ambitious reimagining of a disused hotel on Blackpool’s world-famous promenade. Its right on the front – the former Ocean Hotel, on the North Promenade – and currently looking shabby but it’s about to be transformed. Its linked to LeftCoast, the Blackpool based Creative People and Places project. From March 2019, the hotel will function as a fully operational hotel for paying guests with ground floor public spaces that will host an ongoing creative programme of exhibitions, performance and training, and the profits of all the hotel operations will be re-invested in the creative training programme and further commissioning.

JV: And where does the art come in?

MT: We are commissioning artists to create almost every aspect of the hotel and its operation for visiting guests and local user groups to enjoy and be inspired by art and creativity. We are looking for innovative ideas that will add to the creative and cultural experience of people staying in the hotel, visiting its public spaces or participating in its creative programme.

JV: So everywhere! Is that narrowed down at all for this brief?

MT: Yes! For this partnership with Unlimited we are seeking exciting and imaginative proposals from disabled artists and disabled-led arts collectives or arts organisations for work in any of these categories:

  • Room Design – a design or installation that affects the look and/or visitor experience of a hotel bedroom – a complete room or just aspect of it
  • Navigation – interesting ways to help visitors navigate the building though graphics or signage
  • Plinth – we are creating a plinth with a glass box (approx. 3m x 1.5m x 3m high) on the front of the hotel for displaying art. The plinth is on the seafront and is passed by millions of people each year
  • Collection – guests staying in some of the hotel rooms (known as ‘Blank Canvas’ rooms) can borrow 3 works of art for the night – a wall-based image, a 3d object or sculpture, or a screen-based digital work. These works will form part of A B&B’s permanent collection

JV: So why partner with us? Why do you specifically want disabled artists involved in this project?

MT: First, this isn’t the only way disabled artists are engaged with A B&B. We are already in contact with a few disabled artists – some through Unlimited and some not – but we feel we can push further. Unlimited has a reach and may encourage artists to get involved who otherwise we might miss; equally we can draw on Unlimited’s experience in commissioning disabled artists and improve what we already do. But for those interested in applying, the work does not have to be disability specific, although can be if that’s what the artist chooses.

Blackpool is one of Europe’s most popular towns – it has more than 12 million visitors a year so there will be a proportionately large number of disabled people amongst them. We want to attract as many visitors as possible to Art B&B; it just makes sense.

What about Unlimited, why do you want to get involved in A B&B?

JV: Whilst we commission many visual artists, it’s our performance work that we tend to be most known for, so this is an interesting opportunity to redress that balance a little. And it’s a fascinating proposition too – one where it’s not the work that tours, but the audience. I’m particularly interested in the boundaries – around what is and what isn’t suitable for this audience, in this location. So what’s the plan?

MT: We are taking on Unlimited’s ‘Expression of Interest’ idea, so people can apply just with a strong conceptual idea (and each person can apply three times, as we have a number of strands). From these we’ll shortlist some works that we are really interested in, and those artists can have a real or a virtual tour around the site before completing full applications with a greater understanding of the creative and technical requirements to realise the artistic vision. And once we have those full applications in, then we’ll make our selection.

JV: I know the timescale! Deadline for Expressions of Interest is 18 June 2018 at 2.17pm (Michael set the time…), the visits and virtual tours will be in July, full proposals need to be complete by 17 August, and we’ll let people know if they’ve been selected by the start of September.

MT: And the work has to be installed by Jan 2019 ready for our opening in March 2019.

JV: And the money?

MT: We have an overall budget of £10,000 inclusive of all materials, fees, access, travel and accommodation. Artists are encouraged to put in applications from £2,000 for Room; Navigation or Plinth and we expect proposals for work for the collection to be for smaller amounts.

JV: And if there are a number of incredible ideas, maybe we can both look around for more funds?

MT: Maybe… But let’s see what comes in first.

JV: So if you are interested – you can download the brief and the application form from Art Bed and Breakfast’s site at www.abandb.co.uk. Remember – the deadline to apply is 18 June 2018.