Visit Scarborough in November and paint Michael Gove: Art Party Conference launches

By Ben Miller | 18 September 2013

Although a room full of artists is by no means a recipe for minimal tension, it’s unlikely the Art Party Conference – the first of its kind, dreamed up by the playful chap known as Bob and Roberta Smith to take place in Scarborough this November – will be the scene of snidey political infighting.

One of the most divisive of all of Britain’s leaders has had indirect involvement. When Smith wrote to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, in 2011, his letter was partly a plea for creativity to take centre stage on the curriculum, calling art, history, music and culture “the principal means” by which “human beings define themselves”.

“Take art out of schools and you shut the door on childrens’ development,” he argued, saying the move could “emasculate British culture”.

“Where are our future designers, architects, craftsmen, engineers, technicians, software designers and mathematicians going to come from if no-one can draw?”

More than two years later, the conference, held at a spa in Scarborough, will welcome the words of Jeremy Deller, Haroon Mirza, Mark Wallinger, Cornelia Parker and dozens of other traditionally lucid commentators.

The ploy is resolutely unaligned to any specific party, but will make room for the placards and banner demonstrations typical of the conferences it lampoons, turning them into celebrations of art and education.

A debate series, Take a Stand, will invite regional artists and organisations to make their case, while The Summit, an artwork which will be “a focus for comment and dissent”, will be surrounded by discussions between politicians and arts leaders, including conference backers The Art Fund.

“We want to ask three vital questions: What first turned you onto art? How do you think art should be taught in schools? Why do you think art is important?,” outlines Smith, who expects “an extraordinary national event” on the north Yorkshire coast.

“It’s going to be a place where people can have their say, take a stand, have a rant and tell us exactly what’s going on in their world in the arts.

“With so much creativity on offer, it’s going to be serious fun.”

That final promise will be realised through interventions, films, life drawings with surfer models, music and DJs.

Carrying on into the early hours, the conference will result in a film, The Art Party Road Movie, promising a passionate piece of persuasive propaganda. Its contents should make for far more entertaining viewing than the usual conference addresses.

Party pictures:

A photo of a man standing on a sandy beach holding up a colourful painting
Bob and Roberta Smith - otherwise known as Patrick Brill - is predicting fine weather in Scarborough© Kevin Allen
A photo of two men standing on a sandy beach holding up a colourful painting
Stuart Cameron, of co-organisers Crescent Arts, joins in the seaside fun© Kevin Allen
A photo of a man sitting in a deckchair next to a colourful piece of artwork
The public are being invited to get involved following the launch of the conference website© Kevin Allen
What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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