Beth Bate, Director of Great North Run Culture for some 11 years, talks us though the most memorable moments of her time with the organisation. Check back over previous posts to see moments 1 through 6.
7. The new with the old
When commissioning new work every year, it
can sometimes be easy to get caught up in the "new”. What haven’t we done
before? Where haven’t we worked? Who haven’t we approached? Yet some of the
work I’m most proud of has right back to the "old”, using archive material as
the beginning point for creative exploration.
We have a rich archive of moving and still
images in the North East, with organisations like Amber and the North East Film
Archive holding treasures from the last 150 years. Tal Rosner made brilliant
use of some of this footage in the animated film he created for the Great North
Run Million Opening Ceremony. We were able to present this work again this year
as GNR Million Re:Work (read more here) which gave us
the chance to focus on this important regional material. Juxtaposed alongside
newly shot film and his graphic animations, the archive material was brought to
life, singing from the screen.
In 2009 Vicki Bennett presented Parade (read more here), which was created from footage
from the Great North Run’s own archives, with some new material she had shot at
the event. Collaged images burst across screen, all accompanied by an
avant-garde classical soundtrack. Vicki achieved exactly what we hope all of
our commissions do – she showed us the Great North Run in an entirely new way.
8. Hundreds of volunteers (pictured)
Great North Run’s volunteers have always
been key to our success, helping out at exhibitions, public events and schools
projects. I love that our volunteer programme gives all sorts of people a
chance to get involved in what we do.
For the Great North Run Million Opening
Ceremony, we had to ask for something a little bit different however. We needed
hundreds of volunteers to perform in the ceremony, to become the human, beating
heart of the show. This would require them to give up weekends and evenings, to
work with movement director Nathan Curry and a team of dance captains, to wear
costumes, to appear on TV… We knew we were asking a lot from people.
We recruited over the summer weeks in 2014
and we waited nervously at our first volunteer briefing in August to see how
many people who’d signed up would actually come… but come they did! Nearly 800
volunteers gave their time, energy and goodwill. There was a palpable buzz in
the rehearsal rooms at Gateshead Stadium and I knew when I saw the commitment
of people there that the event was going to be a success. Two nights before the
event, David Almond and I watched another rehearsal at Gateshead Old Town Hall,
welling up with pride, excitement and anticipation.
Over a year later, many of the volunteers
are still in touch, they have a very active Facebook group, and there was even
an anniversary flashmob on Northumberland Street on 4th September.
Artistic Director Bradley Hemmings told the volunteers, "This will change your
life.” He was right, and it changed mine too.