The Merz Barn project is an outstanding contribution to the understanding of contemporary art, not only in this country but in the world-art context. It has taken great care and work to bring this to fruition. It speaks enormously well of Cumbria and of us as a nation, and will undoubtedly be a focus of interest for decades to come. To think that it will crumble away for the sake of a modest grant speaks very badly of the Arts Council’s priorities, especially in the more remote parts of England. I do hope this will be reconsidered. Email from Lord Bragg, 10.6.14
Merz Barn Consultancy: An application from the Littoral Trust to Arts Council North for funding for a major consultancy concerning the future of the Merz Barn and the Cylinders site was approved at the end of 2013, and set in motion in May 2014. The consultancy formed the major part of the trust’s work during 2014 and 2015. After some delays the final Consultancy Report is due for completion at the end of 2015.
The consultancy has been carried out by an interdisciplinary team of experts led by Penny Vowles, originally Project Development Advisor to The Northern Rock Foundation, and thus the primary backer of the Merz Barn Project. Architects, led by Andrew Shepherd, with Anthony Hoete (What? Architecture), Sarah Beth Riley (Partial Office), and Sheffield University School of Architecture, provided the main thrust for the study, and were joined by Derek Pullen of Sculpcons (conservation expert). Digital development is in the hands of Martin Campbell (MacAmaze) and Dave Kirkwood (D.K. Studios). Edward Mills is advising on woodland management, and the Manchester Metropolitan University Department of Landscape Management under Ian Fisher is providing the guidelines for development of the landscape. There has also been strong input from the University of Cumbria.
Merz North Programme: In support of the Merz Barn development programme Littoral, with the University of Cumbria, has initiated an AHRC R&D programme, Merz North. Participating universities to date are: the Universities of Cumbria, Newcastle, Salford, Chester, Lancaster, and Sheffield.
Dr. Mark Wilson of Cumbria University is leading on a three-prong bid for AHRC funding for a programme of Schwitters-based scholarship and arts events. Ian Hunter has been appointed a Research Fellow at the University to develop the bid, and the first seminars to discuss the bid took place in Newcastle on April 24th 2014, and in Ambleside on June 11th 2014. Following the Merz North meeting we held a Seminar at Cylinders on the future of the Merz Barn chaired by Dave Pritchard, and attended by Andrew Shepherd, Sally Medlyn, Dave Kirkwood, Penny Vowles – all our advisors- plus Jane Beardsworth, and Alison Clark Jenkins of Arts Council North, and a number of the Mrtz North academics led by Professor Mark Wilson.