MGM 2008 - From Climate Change To Sport In MGM Debates

By Marian Cleary | 28 April 2008
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This year’s Museums and Galleries Month theme, Ideas and Innovations, will be tackled in one of the most popular parts of the annual programme - the Debates and Discussions. This series of events will take a broad sweep around these topics in places around the country throughout May.

Six different discussions on everything from whether sport and art can live in peace to whether museums matter at all, will stimulate discussion amongst audiences. Debate will be spurred on by the personal, professional and passionate views of the wide range of panel speakers and participants.

Landscape And Photography

An aerial black and white photograph of a ring fort

Badbury, Dorset, seen from the air, from OGS Crawford and Alexander Keiller, Wessex From the Air (1928)

The archaeologist’s appreciation of how the landscape can reveal and obscure is the theme of the first event in the programme held at Southhampton’s John Hansard Gallery.

The backdrop for the debate is the current exhibition, Landscape and Photography, which runs until June 14 2008 and uses the extraordinary photographs of archaeologist and photographer OGS Crawford.

The curator, Kitty Hauser, will help the audience explore art, landscape, photography and archaeology and explain how Crawford's work relates to contemporary art practice and current preoccupations of landscape photographers.

Distance, in Crawford’s view, brought clarity, and he saw world history – and the future – from the broadest possible perspective, perceiving patterns in times past and in things to come.

Kitty is joined by Roger Palmer, Professor of Fine Art at the University of Leeds, to chair and lead the afternoon’s exploration.

Thursday May 8 2008
4.30pm – 6.00pm
John Hansard Gallery, Southampton
Tickets are free
Book in advance or collect on the day from 4.00pm

China and the Creative Industries

A colour photograph of an installation of Chinese fashion

China Design Now at the V&A in Kensington looks at contemporary design from the country. © V&A Images

China’s cultural and creative industries are the starting point for the London-based part of the programme. This discussion is hosted by the Victoria and Albert Museum, and coincides with the exhibition, China Design Now.

Will Hutton will revisit his “personal intellectual odyssey” around China that he made public in his book The Writing On The Wall: China and the West in the 21st century as the starting point for investigating the future for China’s creative industries.

Philip Dodds, chair of Made in China, an agency aimed at developing cultural and educational projects between China and the UK, will also offer his perspective.

Together they will open up eyes and minds to China’s new cultural and industrial revolutions.

Friday May 9 2008
7.00pm – 8.00pm
V&A Lecture Theatre, London
Tickets £8 To book: 020 7942 2211
Or visit

Sport and Art

a colour photograph of an athletic woman in a bikini running across a beach

Hilary Swank by Norman Jean Roy, March 2005. From VANITY FAIR PORTRAITS: PHOTOGRAPHS 1913–2008 at the NPG until May 26 2008.

The National Portrait Gallery, for its fixture in the series, is sending out a team from both sport and art backgrounds to throw around the idea that not only can sport and art coexist in cultural policy-making harmony - but they can even complement each other.

Chief advocate for such a view will be Keith Khan, the London Olympics Organising Committee’s Artist Executive. Alongside him on the panel will be former England football team manager, Graham Taylor, and broadcaster Munira Mirza.

Thursday May 15 2008
Ondaatje Wing Lecture Theatre, National Portrait Gallery, London
Tickets are free and available on the night from 5pm

Do Museums Matter?

A photograph of a stuffed badger peering out at the viewer

© Keswick Museum & Art Gallery

What do museums do exactly? If we had to come up with an answer to this question, we would not be able to agree. So if we can’t work this out, what is the point of them? What do museums contribute? What do they give us today?

Urbis will host a debate around these very ideas when the discussion programme moves to Manchester.

The debate will show how museums mean different things to different people. They are places that tell compelling stories, they are trusted sources of knowledge and inspiration, places for the exploration of ideas and experiences, vital partners in our communities, economic engines, sources of civic pride and accomplishment, catalysts for social change, and partners in a knowledge economy.

But still for some they are dusty old buildings full of stuff that has no relevance or connection to modern life. This debate will explore what museums do, embody and contribute that makes them matter - or not - today.

Helping the audience and panel to confront and comment on these questions (and answers) will be Dr Maria Balshaw, director of The Whitworth Art Gallery, Vaughan Allen, Chief Executive of Urbis, and David Wilson, Director of Wordsworth Trust.

Artist Lubaina Himid will add her perspective and Professor Jennifer Latto of the Heritage Lottery Fund North West Committee will be in the chair.

Friday May 16 2008
4.00pm - 5.00pm
Urbis, Manchester
For free tickets, contact Jennie Crawford:

Beat the Panel: save the planet

Shows a photograph of the door to the Dana Centre in London. The centre's logo can be seen above the glass double door, while the red brick walls of the centre can be seen either side of it.

Can four entrepreneurs come up with something that will save the planet at the Dana Centre?

The buck stops with the audience at the Science Museum’s, Dana Centre event. A group of four young environmental entrepreneurs have been invited to enter the 'lion’s den' to demonstrate and generally show off their ideas and innovations to cut carbon emissions.

Before them a panel of climate change and business experts will give straight-talking feedback - with the audience having the final say by voting for what they think is the best idea.

There will be heated exchanges and the chance for the audience to question both the entrepreneurs and the panel.

Experts so far confirmed include the Science Museum’s director, Chris Rapley, himself an expert on climate change and Katherine Mathieson from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA). Katherine is involved in NESTA’s innovation programme and knows a thing or two about encouraging innovative new ideas.

A third person, an investor from the world of commerce is being lined up to provide a hard-nosed business approach to the proceedings.

As we have come to expect from the Dana Centre, this promises to be an entertaining discussion that tackles the role of innovation in the battle to cut carbon emissions. But will the audience agree with the panel or decide that they know best?

Thursday May 22 2008
7.00 – 8.30pm
Dana Centre, Science Museum, London
Tickets are free but must be pre-booked
Phone 020 7942 4040
Or email:

Can design save your life?

A colour photograph of a strange telescope sculpture

Stethoscope designed by Doshi Levien. Wellbeing centre / Wellcome Trust / Window installation. A stethoscope that can hear your soul and entices you to seek health through self reflection and questioning.

More questions of a life and death nature are asked at the Wellcome Collection, London, where the links between good design and improvement and innovation in the world of medicine are scrutinised.

Journalist and curator, Henrietta Thompson, will chair the discussion, that will include Ken Arnold, Head of Public Programmes at the Wellcome Collection, Sunand Prasad, President of the RIBA, Jim Dawton, Director of Pearson Matthews.

Joining them wil be designer Sally Halls from the Hamlyn Research Centre at the Royal College of Art. Together this distinguished panel will tackle this sometimes hidden but lifesaving and endlessly innovative aspect of design.

Thursday May 29 2008
6.30pm – 8.30pm
Welcome Collections, London
Tickets £12 (which includes a glass of wine)
Book tickets on: 08700 503 688 or email

By the end of May 2008, the Museum and Galleries Month Debates will have set both curators and visitors thinking for another year not only about what is put in our exhibitions and collections but how we explore them and what we get out of them.

Art world concerns, from here to China, will have been investigated whilst the precision of design will inspire us look for the little things and the details which stimulate thought and debate in galleries and museums throughout the UK every day of the year.

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