THE first two pieces of artwork from a major new commission from ARC Stockton have been released.

Punk poet Henry Raby and film-maker and sound artist Dermot Daly are the first two artists whose work has been released for the What’s On Your Mind project, in which 14 artists are responding to consultations with local communities who regularly use the venue.

The artists are interpreting their individual responses in new pieces of work. The form each piece takes is up to the artists, but they are being made available to audiences digitally, whether that’s a video, online exhibition, streamed live performance, or an interactive piece.

Henry and Dermot’s pieces were released last week and there will be two further pieces released each week until Friday, December 3. All of the pieces will be available to watch free of charge via ARC’s website (www.arconline.co.uk).

York-based poet Henry has strong connections to the area, having previously worked in Darlington and Durham.

His piece for What’s On Your Mind is entitled We Don’t Know How to Talk to Each Other.

Henry explained: “I was given a block of text, a provocation, which had been distilled from conversations that Paula Clark, the project’s Creative Director, had with community groups. I found the process and the provocation really interesting – it was about development. Some people were lamenting the loss of old buildings because of development, while others wanted more change. Some wanted change, but others thought change was happening too quickly.

“In the middle of this people appeared to have forgotten how to talk to each other – how to discuss things. While others just don’t want to talk at all.

“I spent a few days thinking about the provocation and then started recording my words. The process took about two weeks and I enjoyed it immensely. It is rare in such un-artistic times to be given a commission to make a new piece of art.”

In contrast to Henry’s poem, Dermot responded to his provocation with a video installation entitled The Good Old Days.

Dermot, who is also an actor and performer, said: “I wanted to give a voice to the conversations Paula had with the community groups. People talked about what life was like in the short term – before the pandemic, but also what it was like years ago, longer term.

“The last sentence of my provocation was ‘it’s never going to be as good as it was before’ which really struck me. There may be something in that, but I also think people look at the past with rose-tinted spectacles.

“In response I created a 10-minute video installation that looks very much like the Ceefax pages we used to get on our televisions.”

At the start of the project, Paula met with disabled people, care-experienced children and young people, LGBTQIA+ people, and refugees and asylum seekers, to talk to them about their hopes and concerns.

Themes that emerged from the conversations included how the town is changing and whether people feel welcome.

Paula said: “I’m delighted with the way in which Henry and Dermot have launched What’s On Your Mind. Their artistic responses to their provocations are very different, but both have something to say and intelligently and creatively reflect on parts of the conversations I had with the community groups.

“Both pieces are available now on ARC Stockton’s website and I urge people to seek them out.”

What’s On Your Mind is funded through an Arts Council England grant.

Other artists Paula has commissioned to work on the project include Syrian photographer and filmmaker Khalid Aljawad Alhussaini ; writer and director Leo Skillbeck; Sunderland-born musician Ross Millard; artist Paula Varjack; writer, activist, poet and actor Lisette Auton.

One of the aims of the project is to give ARC’s audiences and users more of a say in the work of ARC Stockton and to ensure its work reflects what’s important to its communities.

More information about What’s On Your Mind? and ARC’s other work can be found at www.arconline.co.uk