Thursday, 2 April 2015

Storey G2 'LANDED - Freeman's Wood' ownership arts project goes on display



Storey G2 invite the public to view a display of artworks commissioned for their project 'LANDED' (Freeman's Wood) which explores the concept of land ownership and its effects on people and places, taking the locally disputed territory of Freeman's Wood at the end of St George's Quay as an illustrative example.

The LANDED (Freeman's Wood) project will be displayed at  Campus in the City on Cheapside, Lancaster, on Thursday 9 April from 10am - 4pm.

The artists
Layla Curtis has created an iPhone app which features recordings of conversations with local people about their memories of the site, and hopes for its future. She will be there to demonstrate the app.

Stockholm-based artists Goldin + Senneby address global finance and the economic issues and injustices of recent years. For this project they bought a small plot of land and engaged a playwright to produce a script on its history, as part of the estate agent's sale details, which you will be able to view and read.

Sans Facon have developed a board game about landownership in which players take roles such as 'Developer', Planner', or 'Community Activist'. You can join in and play!

You can find out more about all these artists on the project website.

History of Freeman's Wood
The Storey G2 has done extensive research and the website carries a fascinating account of the history of the Freeman's Wood site using records going back to the 18th Century Enclosure Act. It also explores the contextual history of the site's ownership as it passed from common ownership, through many hands, until its current ownership by The Property Trust Plc, a "property investment company which is registered in Bermuda, and its owners are thought to be based in Hong Kong. The director of the UK development company for the site is a Punjab-born, polo-playing friend of Prince Charles. His son plays polo with Prince Harry. So this scrubby semi-derelict patch of land has direct links to global economic, political, and social networks."

Historical link to vast present-day political influence
It certainly does. The history also reveals the relationship of the Freeman's Wood site to the early development of the global corporation known as the Peel Group, through the marriage of James Williamson's (Lord Ashton's) daughter Ella to the 1st Earl Peel, grandson of Sir Robert Peel PM, who built up part of the initial holdings of the Peel Group (hence the name), a corporation with exponentially vast and diverse holdings in the UK alone.

The Peel Group and its subsidiaries, although now largely Qatari-owned, have a powerful influence on the national and local political, business and development landscape, not only in extensive private enterprise but wherever public money or license is channelled, from the Heysham Link road to housing development to Media City to the Fylde fracking, to name just a few. The 'Peel men' hold a greater influence in our local planning systems - and extract more from them - than Lord Ashton (who was said to be the richest man in the world in his day), ever could.

Landownership 'fundamental'
The project explores the concept of land ownership, noting on the website that it is 'is fundamental to all social structures. Unequal distribution of land provides owners with social and economic power. In Britain about 69% of the land is owned by 0.6% of the population.' As Peel Estates holdings also demonstrate, a very substantial and growing portion of UK land is effectively in foreign ownership.

'Landless' Arts Organisation
The choice of theme is telling - the Storey Gallery organisation itself lost its 'land' back in 2013 when the Storey Centre's owners fell into financial chaos, requiring a succession of council bail-outs. The Storey Gallery group was a charitable arts organisation that had used the Gallery space of the Storey Centre since the early 1990s.  Its council funding was cut and it lost the use of the Gallery space. This heavy blow followed on from its loss of Arts Council funding in 2012 in a nationwide round of  arts funding cuts. Since then it has itself become a 'landless' organisation, renamed Storey G2, creatively exploring new ways of bringing art to the public. (See previous news item: Storey Gallery: Putting it out on the Street)

There is more detail and information about this project on the website :  www.storeyg2.org.uk.

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