THE last piece of artwork in a new major commission from ARC Stockton has been released.

Author and playwright Sarah Watson is the last of 14 artists to have their work for ARC Stockton’s What’s On Your Mind released. The project was launched in October and explores the hopes and concerns of people living in Stockton-on-Tees.

The project’s Creative Director Paula Clark commissioned the artists to respond to consultations with a range of local communities that regularly use the venue, including disabled people, care-experienced children and young people, LGBTQIA+ people, and refugees and asylum seekers.

Themes that emerged from the conversations included change, alcohol, anger, the future, money, kindness, care, climate and escape. The artists’ work has been released every Tuesday and Friday since October 17, with Sarah’s work released last Friday (December 3).

The community consultations were shaped into provocations based on a theme that had emerged from each conversation, these were then given to the artists to interpret through new and original pieces of art. The form each piece takes was left to the individual artists, but they are now all available to audiences watch free of charge via ARC’s website www.arconline.co.uk

Geordie writer Sarah’s theme was money and her response – an audio performance – is an emotional meltdown about the extra stresses and pressures Christmas brings to those who are already struggling financially.

Other artists commissioned include: punk poet Henry Raby; photographer and film-maker Saya Rose Naruse; Syrian photographer and filmmaker Khalid Aljawad; writer and director Leo Skillbeck; artist Paula Varjack; writer, activist, poet and actor Lisette Auton; non-binary digital artist Ben Freeth and Sunderland-born musician Ross Millard.

Ross, songwriter, singer and guitarist with The Futureheads and Frankie & The Heartstrings, said he’d thoroughly enjoyed the experience: “I was approached a few months ago and I said yes straight away. It sounded a really interesting project and I’d just finished an artistic residency in Suffolk so the timing was great.

“My theme, or provocation, was anger. I responded with a sort of work song death poem, a rumination on the relationship between life and work. It was prompted by a conversation with a guy who’d been working down a mine and he felt the pit was closed long before it should have been.

“I liked the time pressure involved, it really focused my mind. I recorded some of the ambient sounds and did some writing, then got a friend of mine, Scott Turnbull, to record some of the words. I added a melody to create a work song, and it became like a lament.

“I loved working on the project, it was great to be able to respond to something specific – the theme – and I’ve enjoyed seeing how the other artists responded to their themes.”

Ross is currently in the process of developing a new musical with the National Theatre.

Paula, a freelance theatremaker and project director, said: “It’s been fascinating to see how each artist has approached their theme, how they’ve responded and in what artform.

“The diversity of the artists has produced such a wide array of brilliant work. I loved talking to the different communities using the ARC to see what they were thinking and talking about, and then identifying artists to respond to these thoughts.

“Many of the people we spoke to felt marginalised in some way and felt they didn’t really have a voice. I think through What’s On Your Mind we’ve given them a voice and really explored issues that are important to them.

“One of the aims of the project was to give ARC’s audiences and users more of a say in the the work of the venue and to ensure its work reflects what’s important to its communities. I hope we’ve done that and I’ve loved working for the ARC – an organisation who really listens to people.”

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

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