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It’s Friday evening, the first of July. Most people have left work to enjoy the start of a sunny weekend.  An overworked Arts Council England administrator is still at their computer, sending emails via Grantium, the overworked arts grant application portal. A backlog of decisions, already delayed due to high volumes, needs posting. 

We had been expecting an email all day in response to an application we’d submitted back in March for eleven new commissions. 

The email is neutral. It alerts you that a message has been posted on Grantium. You have to log on. You have to remember your username and password before learning your application’s fate. For us, it was good news. I hadn’t realised just how stressed I’d been awaiting the decision. The rational part of me knew that it was a good application and that if rejected, it would be due to oversubscription rather than a damning indictment of our ideas and values. We could apply again. We wouldn’t have had to close down without this revenue.

The relief was physical. I sat in the sun and read the application appraisal on my phone, which was glowing with no conditions. Now, we need to deliver it.

Some background. In the heady days before covid, we were awarded a similar sum to deliver several commissions, including two digital art pieces (Hit the North by Matt Wilkinson & Monument by Elliot Flanagan), two tourable outdoor theatre shows (Cabinet of Curiosity by Eye of Newt & Conference of the Birds by Frolicked) and a new show, specifically for libraries (Miss Nobodies by Ruth E. Cockburn). 

All these commissions we co-curated by groups of people from Lancashire, including young librarians, a promoters group from Burnley, the Friends of Fairhaven Lake and women in Great Harwood. 

All were successful, but we learned a lot along the way, not least how to manage a commissioning programme during a pandemic. We have broadened our reach and pre-appointed artists to engender a more collaborative process between artists and the curatorial group. 

What we plan is: 

So far, we have accepted Arts Council England’s offer of funding. We have told our partners and informed the artists that we have been given the go-ahead. I plan to use this blog to record progress. There will be ups and downs, but that is the creative process. I will also go back and tell some of the stories from our previous commissioning programme. I hope readers will find our journey interesting, and we welcome you on our learning journey over the next few months. We will need to hit the ground running as we plan to have most of the creative work done by the end of March 2023. In the middle of this (October 2022), we are due to find out if our application to become an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation from April 2023 is successful. Another nervous fumbling for the Grantium login details awaits. 

The Swan on a cold bright February afternoon

It has been a cold crisp sunny day here in Rotterdam. A beautiful day for a walk and a visit to the Swan which looked beautiful against eh February blue sky. The Swan is the local nick name for the Erasmus Bridge which crossed the Nieuwe Maas  in the heart of the city. The bridge is 20 years old this year. We are planning a tribute to the bridge with a very special concert by Blackburn People’s Choir on April 30. Watch out for more news on that one. In the meantime, if you want to find out about the architecture click here or just look at some of my photos below.

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Trials and triumphs

As I write this I am sat outside at Bokaal, my Dutch local. It’s about 9pm local time and still very warm. I’ve got a delicious Witkap Dubbel, ( a dark 7% belgian beer) and am waiting for some food. The sun has dipped below the buildings but Rotterdammers are still out in force enjoying life on the pavements.


I got to Rotterdam on Sunday evening. It had been a hectic week supporting Java Dance, a New Zealand dance company, performing on a Transdev Lancashire bus for a total of thirteen performances across six Lancashire towns. (You can read more about this on the Culturapedia blog site.)

My new Rotterdam adventure started on Saturday with an email from They were not going to be able to deliver my mammoth order on Thursday as arranged. They would bring in on the following Monday instead. I won’t be here then but was unable to call them as their call centre wouldn’t be open ’till Monday.

I got to the apartment at about 7pm local time after a Flybe flight with rather loud, inebriated and inappropriate couple on their way for a birthday treat to Amsterdam. If anyone from Amsterdam is reading then I’d like to apologise for my fellow Brits. I suppose they spend money and the Amsterdam traders tut as they count the Euros.

I set to work painting the walls and ceiling in the spare room. On Monday the pallets of flooring were arriving and this was where I wanted them to put them while they acclimatised, ( I don’t really get this acclimatisation but that seems to be the system).

Monday morning. I nipped over to Jumbo, (local supermarket) for some breakfast things etc. I was early. As i came through the checkout i was told that as I was the fourth customer my purchases were free. ( I wish i’d done a big shop now). This was naturally much appreciated.

After breakfast I cycled over to the estate agents to pick up the missing postbox and bike store keys. I then called into Praxis for some paint. Getting back was my chance to explore the bike store. I has no idea which was mine and had to try all the locks. The last I tried opened to reveal the missing doors to the living room and the mini hall that leads to the bed and shower rooms. I think I’ll put these back but this is not a priority.

When looking around appartments I noticed that there are a lot of exposed heating pipes here in Rotterdam. The Pancake Street  apartment is no exception. It appears that the pipes were last painted when the heating was on. they were caked with lumpy cratered old paint. I tried scraping some of it off and found that the pipes are all chrome plated. Scraping off the paint wasn’t too hard. I followed this with some sandpaper and then polished them with some fine wire wool. They’ve come up a treat. I’ve painted the brackets grey and am very happy with the results. they add to the 50s industrial aesthetic.

I rang Ikea. They were so lovely I couldn’t be cross. I’ve rearranged the delivery for August.

The flooring was due to arrive between 1 and 4pm. I slaved to get the spare room clear. I also needed to lift the old floors from the hall the living room and the main bedroom.  I kept looking at the clock. The floor will be here soon.

The bell rang but it wasn’t the floor people. It was the postman with a box of tricks to get me on line and digital TV set up. Ziggo were early. I was expecting this on Tuesday. As the clock ticked towards 4pm I plugged it all in and it worked first time. I am connected. I can watch and listen to Auntie BBC from my Netherlands home.

At about 4:15, with still no flooring I rang the shop, only to get an answerphone. At 4:30 I changed from my splattered painting clothes and ran round the corner to see what I could find out. The shop was festooned in Red and white tape. signs in the windows said “Closed due to circumstances”. Looks like I’d been a victim of a company gone bust. My €370 deposit lost. No flooring delivered, no flooring fitted.

When we were here last we went and bought a fridge that, when we got it home, didn’t work. We had the van so took it back and exchanged it for another of the same model. We didn’t have time to test it and left it in the box. I unpacked it on Sunday night and set it up. I plugged it in on Monday morning. (you have to let them settle before using.) It whirred into action. I put things into it. I filled the ice tray with water, the light came on and after a couple of hours there was ice. Phew. A couple of hours later the gouda cheese was at room temperature and the ice was water.

First thing Tuesday I rang the shop and they said I needed to get an Indesit engineer. One is coming in the morning. I also headed off to find another flooring shop. I found one very close to the first. They seem much more professional and established. They are also more expensive. I do feel happier.  Hans is coming to measure up for himself in the morning.

I’ve persevered with the decorating though I no longer have the pressure of the bankrupt floor fitters.

When I arrived on Sunday I was thrilled to see my name on the door plate. It’s been a bit stressful but I know that I have a lovely apartment – In a great part of the great city. Sitting here at Bokaal with my beer I can see the  front door and am confident that everything will be alright in the end.