Durham County Council with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund has created an ongoing and varied programme of community activities to celebrate the re-launch of the Apollo Pavilion.
This programme is intended to engage with local communities so as to reinforce a sense of ownership of the structure and to encourage public debate on the role of the artist and arts programmes. The programme particularly looks to provide opportunities for young people to visit the Apollo Pavilion and the Sunny Blunts estate on a regular basis enjoying positive and creative activities. The programme to date has included the following:
Summer Events 2010
On Sunday 11th July the Apollo Pavilion played host to two renowned international street bands as part of the Brass Durham International Festival programme.
An audience of 100 visitors were entertained and enthralled by Jaipur Kawa, an 8 piece brass band hailing from Rajasthan, whose performance melded themes from Bollywood films with the traditional sounds of Northern India and classical Hindustani music. The very lively and very big 15 piece Magicaboola from Milan brought the event to a storming climax with their Italian twist to New Orleans Street Jazz.
The preceding weekend the Apollo Pavilion played host to Mad Alice Theatre Company’s production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. This abridged version of the play was updated to the 1960’s and the ‘Summer of Love’ making the setting of the Pavilion particularly apt.
Strong winds and intermitted showers meant the public performance on Sunday 4th July played to a smaller than expected audience, but thankfully the sun shone bright the next day for the two special schools performances attended by pupils from St Bedes RC Comprehensive and Dene Comprehensive schools who prior to attending the performance did drama workshops with cast members.
View images from the Community Events 2010
Holiday programme 2009
During the 2009 summer holiday period we provided artists to work with two key summer play scheme providers, Holidays at Home and Peterlee Out of School Hours Club, augmenting their programmes with artists using the Apollo Pavilion and adjacent green spaces as resources.
With Holidays at Home artist Paul Belcher worked with 40 children, aged between 6 and 16, to make flags, banners, sculptures and a frieze using elements of the Pavilion as inspiration and adding their own perspective and interpretation. Others worked with dancer Bethany Ainsley to create a dance using the banners as a backdrop and performed to an audience of over 120 friends and families.
With the Peterlee Out of School Hours Club Paul Belcher organised plaster of Paris modelling where the children made their own impressions of the Pavilion. Organisers of both schemes were delighted with the quality of the work produced and the standard of the workshops.
Conversations with teachers, community workers and young people clearly identify dance and drama as art forms and activities that seize the imagination of the young. During the summer holidays a one-week intensive dance/drama Summer School, with director Philip Hoffmann and choreographer Dora Frankel, was provided for young people from Shotton Hall Comprehensive School’s drama group. They performed an intricate, absorbing promenade piece that considered the spirit of the times that led to the creation of the Pavilion. An invited audience of over 100 friends and relatives came to see the final performance at the Apollo Pavilion.
During the autumn half-term break and working with the Sports Development Officer of Peterlee Town Council and the Pavilion Community Centre there was a three-day dance workout, Beyond Breakdance, with two young dancers from Dora Frankel Dance Company. The workshops finished with a performance for friends and families. These sessions provided activity around the Pavilion at a time when anti-social behaviour was possible and provided information to support other out of schools initiatives in the locality.
This was a series of writing workshops that took place at Easington Social Welfare Centre with the poet Anna Woodford and the Easington Writers Group. They explored seasonal and life changes using the Apollo Pavilion as a stimulus and metaphor. A series of bookmarks featuring some of the poems created during the project will be available shortly.
Exhibition and events
In addition to all this activity there is a small free-standing exhibition providing a brief informative outline of the history of the Apollo Pavilion and Victor Pasmore’s contribution together with a resume of the Pavilion’s restoration. Two boards document the summer activities for young people. The panels have been on display in Peterlee library and the new Pavilion Community Centre.
The exhibition could also be seen at the Peterlee Show, 5-6 September 2009. This is a regular, well-attended community event that takes place in fields adjacent to the Apollo Pavilion. A stall in the Community Life marquee offered visitors the opportunity to explore the website and to view a photographic slideshow of the Pavilion’s restoration on lap top computers. Information packs were distributed and there were guided tours of the Pavilion. Visitors to the stall and exhibition were encouraged to leave comments. Most were positive:
“Absolutely fabulous – superb restoration, totally love it. Fantastic.”
“So pleased to see the Pavilion refurbished, its such an iconic feature”
“The new build looks great – brings some culture to Peterlee”
“Remember it as a kid, now looks great.”
“ So pleased its been revamped and not demolished”
“About time it was restored. Beautiful.”
“Lovely to see it restored, it’s a lovely place now.”
A few highlighted the problems associated with the site:
“No better, kids still climb to the top drink cider and are disruptive.”
The well-publicised Heritage Open Days regularly attract a variety of enquiring visitors who are interested in heritage sites. The exhibition was housed in a marquee by the side of the Apollo Pavilion for the Heritage Open Day on 12 September 2009.
“An excellent way of passing a Sunday morning.”
“A very sympathetic restoration – good to see some investment in 1960’s art and architecture.”
“Nice to see the pavilion restored to its former glory.”
“A good job very well done.’
Anyone wishing to borrow the display should contact Durham County Council.
We should also mention the work of three photographers, Sally Anne Norman, Chris Holmes and Michelle Allen all of whom worked around the Pavilion while it was being restored. They recorded aspects of the environment, the community and the structure. The project was funded through an Arts Council England grant with financial support from the then District of Easington Council and was primarily concerned to further the professional development of the artists. However it also provided three objective but personal responses to the structure and its environment and focused attention on the Apollo Pavilion during its restoration.
In addition in July 2009 pupils in year 9 took part in photography sessions with Sally Ann Norman and Michele Allen comprising in-school discussion and workshop, a visit to the Pavilion with cameras and a session looking at and discussing the photographs.
With the artists’ permission some of their work was shown as a laptop slide show at the Peterlee Show and Heritage Open Day.
To view images go to the Photography project 2009 page.
The restoration of the Pavilion has encouraged many photographers to visit the site.
Paul Spooner is a local photographer completing a PhD examining the historical and contemporary perceptions of British new towns and their legacy. Talking of his exploration of Peterlee and the Apollo Pavilion Paul has made the following observations.
I love walking about on the Pavilion when it is quiet. It is such a strange place, I often feel like I am standing on some stationary concrete cruise-liner, quite separate from the rest of the world.
As part of my work I have been exploring the Pavilion as a place to take pictures from as opposed to of. I mean, it’s easy to point your camera at something that is already a work of art and produce something beautiful, but what are you really doing other than reproducing someone else’s work.
Walking around the structure you can get a sense of its permanence, as if it was always here, staring out towards the town, watching. It’s hard to describe, but its as if it were the fulcrum around which the history of the town has spun, like the near stationary centre of a record-player turntable.
To view images go to the Photography project 2010 page.