Public Sculpture of Lancashire and Cumbria – In conversation with David Cross

To celebrate the release of Public Sculpture of Lancashire and Cumbria, we sat down with David Cross to discuss the historical influence on the creative process and why the art showcased in the book may have been overlooked for so long.

Public Sculpture of Lancashire and Cumbria

What was it that caused you to draw your focus on art in Lancashire and Cumbria?

I was born in Barrow and spent my childhood walking and sailing in the South Lakeland area.  Following an encounter with the sculpture of Barbara Hepworth in my teens, I have sought out galleries all over the UK and Europe.  Eventually, I decided to leave conventional employment and have been researching the artists and sculptors of Cumbria for thirty years.  I have published several related books and articles and given many lectures on these creative individuals. Cumbria is not just a county of poets!  When this PMSA volume was mooted by Edward Morris c.2004, it seemed a logical step to accept the project.

Why do you think the work of local sculptures has been somewhat neglected over the years?

Local sculptors are often very talented but do not gain the opportunities or contracts which tend to fall into the laps of those who are London based.  Many of the major sculptures in the area are the work of artists from the south who were perceived to be capable of higher quality work. Of course, there are those who make the leap to London, like Musgrave Lewthwaite Watson but they have tended to be exploited and underpaid by the more business-like sculptors and architects who have the contacts and the chutzpah.  Britain’s regions have suffered for centuries from this London centric culture and even today Lottery money is often spent on ‘off-comers’ rather than upon giving greater opportunities to the creative communities of the regions, especially in the north west.  This situation is slowly improving. A related phenomenon is that committees very often prefer to choose sculptors whose work they know, rather than those who may be gifted but have not the same track record. Thus the cake is never shared equitably and numerous works by the same sculptor are often found in the same or adjacent towns.

Did any of the pieces particularly attract your attention? Which pieces do you think will be of most interest to readers?

I have particularly enjoyed engaging with the work of the late 20th-21st century sculptors: Judith Bluck, Thomas Dagnall, Chris Kelly and Mary Bourne. In the 19th– early 20th century I would refer to Musgrave Lewthwaite Watson [though much of his work is in London], Louis Frederick Roslyn, Harvey Thomas Miles, Herbert Hampton, Walter Marsden and Herbert Tyson Smith. It is difficult to say which works will appeal to readers as taste is a very personal thing.

You make sure to detail the historical and political context of the pieces in the book? Do you often find these are heavily influential factors in the creative process?

Historical and political contexts are referred to, but kept brief as there was insufficient space. A fair tranche of this material was cut. Two key works are the Monument to the Victims of the Riots in Preston and the Monument to the Child Miners in Whitehaven.

To analyse the influences upon the creative processes of the many sculptors is really work beyond the scope of this book. But I am convinced that we would have more work of higher quality if artists were not miserably constrained by budgets and the demands of committees which are often stacked with people who know little about sculpture. Perhaps those largely working in stone might have produced finer work in bronze and vice versa?  They were not always given the opportunity.

What are you going to be working on next?

In tandem with the current volume, I have been building my archive of material relating to artists of Cumbria, in all genres. I plan to produce one or more volumes on this in due course.


David A. Cross was born in Barrow-in-Furness and graduated from Durham University, taking his M.A. (by research) at Lancaster University, followed some years later by his Ph.D.  After 1987 he contributed to extra-mural art history classes for Liverpool, Lancaster and Newcastle Universities and now lives in Carlisle. He is an honorary research fellow of University College, Durham.

Brothers Peter and Richard Needham have been exploring the medium of black and white photography for many years. They both studied under the English Teacher and Architectural Photographer Peter Burton at Scarborough College in the 1970s.

Purchase your copy of Public Sculpture of Lancashire and Cumbria here.

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Are We All Addicts Now?

To celebrate the launch of Are We All Addicts Now? we caught up with Vanessa Bartlett and Henrietta Bowden-Jones to discuss how addiction to technology may be explored through artistic interpretation. 
Are We All Addicts Now?
Are We All Addicts Now? Digital Dependence is an artist-led enquiry into digital hyper-connectivity and the normalization of addictive behaviours through our everyday interactions with digital devices. Could you tell us a bit more about the book?

The book brings together essays and artworks that respond to emerging concerns about internet addiction in both clinical discourse and internet culture. It is part of an artist led project by Katriona Beales which culminates in an exhibition of artworks at Furtherfield, London. The book offers a taster of the kinds of research that underpin the project, but also serves as a standalone provocation for anyone hoping to critically reflect on their own internet use. Our aim is not to document extreme clinical cases of internet addiction, rather to consider the way that online interfaces support habit forming behaviour in many users of digital devices. The book also reflects visually on the seductive and overwhelming experience of addictive online platforms, through artwork by Katriona Beales, Fiona MacDonald: Feral Practice and design by Stefan Schäfer.

Could you tell us a bit about how you conducted your research for this book with an artist led approach? How does the book compliment the exhibition?

Artistic research offers an incredible opportunity to work with experiences and ideas in a way that doesn’t need to adhere to the linear pathways of clinical investigation. Artists, curators and writers all have a degree of freedom to experiment with knowledge from other disciplines, so in the book we wanted to exploit this by bringing together experts from different fields. The result is a publication that has contributors from psychological science, philosophy, anthropology and digital cultures as well as visual arts. It was interesting to discover when compiling the essays that often different disciplines wanted to say similar things, just using very different languages.

At our book launch and symposium on 7th November we will bring many of the key contributors together to extend the discussion. The combination of the exhibition, book, symposium and other AWAAN? events results in a project that addresses ideas about online addiction using experiential, sensory and critical modes of exploration. This capacity for multifaceted investigation is for us one of the key strengths of what artists do.

Which devices and platforms do you think that we are most susceptible to, and how do you think addiction to these platforms can affect our day to day lives?

One of the aims of the book is to suggest that while there are severe clinical cases of internet addiction, many extreme behaviours are actually becoming normalised for large groups of people. For example online research platform ‘dscout’ has gathered data that suggests people touch their mobile on average 2617 times a day. While there is nothing inherently ‘unhealthy’ about this, many of the essays in the book reveal methods deployed by marketing companies and technology designers that encourage this obsessive behaviour in order to promote online consumerism and provide short term emotional gratification. The book features an interview with artist Katriona Beales in which she talks about her experiences of social media sites such as twitter and their ability to keep users online for as long as possible using techniques such as ‘infinite scroll’. We felt it was important that the book investigated the ethics of these subtle forms of control.

How do you think that Are We All Addicts Now? Will pave the way for further research into addiction and the digital world?

Clinical research has very specific aims related to reduction of symptoms. While most medical researchers absolutely recognise the importance of considering social and economic conditions related to mental health, their opportunities to do this can be limited. On the other hand, aesthetic experience has always been recognised as a valuable approach for prompting reflection on lived experience, politics and the social world. As arts led research takes on increasing cultural significance, we hope that AWAAN? can set a precedent for interdisciplinary research into addictive behaviours and to help build upon important work that has already been undertaken in anthropology, psychosocial studies and neuroscientific fields.


Vanessa Bartlett is a researcher and curator working between Australia and the UK. She is a PhD Candidate at UNSW Art & Design, where her research investigates connections between digital technologies and mental distress through a psychosocial approach to curatorial practice.

Henrietta Bowden-Jones is the Founder and Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic in the UK, the only NHS service (CNWL NHS Trust) designated for the treatment of pathological gamblers and their families. She is a medical doctor specialised in Addiction psychiatry.

Are We All Addicts Now? is on at Furtherfield until 12th November.

The Are We All Addicts Now? book launch and symposium takes place at Central St Martins on 7th November.

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Publishing your book OA: An author’s perspective with Helen Gilbert

An interview by Alison Welsby, Editorial Director with Professor Helen Gilbert from Royal Holloway University of London, on the publication of the Open Access work, In the Balance: Indigeneity, Performance, Globalization.

Thank you, Helen, for agreeing to this interview. In the Balance is a remarkable work that considers indigenous peoples’ performance over recent decades. Why did you choose to publish this extraordinary work Open Access?

Above all, we wanted as wide a readership as possible so as to showcase the vital cultural work being done by indigenous performance makers across the world. Open Access allows broad and equitable distribution of our research, including to people who may not be able to readily source or afford a printed book. It therefore opens up the possibility of new reader communities, even if they only look at some chapters. In particular, we were determined to make the book accessible to the indigenous artists and communities whose creativity has inspired and sustained it. Too often, such communities are left out of the dialogue once the research is officially finished.

‘In the Balance’ is an edited collection: were all contributors supportive of the work being Open Access? Did anyone have any concerns or pull out from the volume?

There’s been great enthusiasm for this publishing route and no-one has raised any concerns. In fact, several contributors have reiterated (more than once) how happy they are that the results of their research will be broadly available. Many have worked closely with indigenous communities in developing their ideas and are delighted to be able to send the published results back to stakeholders so readily.

When choosing an Open Access platform, what were the factors that were crucial in your decision-making?

We wanted to publish with a rigorous and reputable press while also making the book widely available. A subsidy from the European Union’s Open Access pilot programme made it possible to pursue this route. Liverpool University Press was our first choice because of its long-standing interest in postcolonial cultural studies and its record of producing high quality, influential books in this and other humanities fields. We were also impressed by the press’s website, which is informative, attractive and easy to navigate. In terms of actual platforms, OAPEN seemed to have the profile, professionalism and rigour we sought and was recommended by experienced EU research staff.

The book has many stunning images. Were third parties accommodating when it came to acquiring rights to use their material in an Open Access publication?

Yes, with only one exception and we eventually managed to negotiate rights to the photograph we wanted in that instance, after explaining the conditions of the Creative Commons license at issue. One other copyright holder we attempted to contact didn’t reply, but we were able to find a suitable alternative image. Many of the photographers were kind enough to grant free use of their work since this is a not-for-profit publication and where we did pay licensing fees, they were very reasonable.

If someone was starting a similar Open Access project today, what advice would you give them? What are your lessons learned?

First, plan ahead and canvass options for offsetting the costs, whether through a larger research grant, or a separate subsidy. Second, approach the publisher whose remit best matches your topic and aspirations, keeping an open mind about which presses may be willing to explore the possibility of producing Open Access work. Otherwise, the process was fairly standard so the usual advice should apply: offer only your best work for publication and always keep prospective readers in mind.

Finally, do you plan to publish future works as Open Access?

Yes, wherever possible. I’m committed to sharing my research widely and can only see benefits to this mode of publication as long as editorial and production standards remain geared towards producing quality work.

@LivUniPress  #OAWeek 

An Open Access edition of this book will be made available on publication via our website and OAPEN.


The Changing Discourse in Spanish Art and Culture – An Interview with Paula Barreiro López

Paula Barreiro López, author of Avant-garde Art and Criticism in Francoist Spain, discusses the changing discourse in Spanish culture following the regime of Francisco Franco. 

LUP: Hi Paula, could you tell us a bit about the book?

This book surveys the aesthetic discourse in connection with the artistic practises that decisively influenced the shaping of the avant-garde during the Franco dictatorship in Spain (1939-1975). It discusses the creation and the various shifts of this discourse that linked culture and ethics/politics and also analyses its impact on the intellectual and artistic landscape (visual, print and exhibition culture) especially during the last decades of Franco’s regime.

LUP: Could you expand on this for readers who are not familiar with the history of Spain in this context?

In the 1950’s Franco’s Spain became a strange, but nevertheless accepted ally in the Western camp of the increasingly heated up Cold War. The paradox of an autocratic country being part of the ‘free world’ was felt by a lot of Spanish artists and intellectuals, who had to confront the dilemma of linking the particularities and necessities of a developing society run by the dictator Francisco Franco with the exigencies of the avant-garde that was arising in the country. In this situation various art critics (Vicente Aguilera Cerni, José María Moreno Galván, Alexandre Cirici, Tomàs Llorens, Valeriano Bozal, Simón Marchán), who began to maintain close contacts with other intellectuals in foreign countries, would gain importance. Participating in the contemporary aesthetic debates in the Americas and above all in Europe, their role as mediators became decisive as they introduced new methodologies and arguments in their theoretical discourses that found their way to the Iberian Peninsula. They got involved very closely with avant-garde groups becoming equal peers in artistic movements. Equipped with their theoretical knowledge these so-called ‘militant critics’ participated actively in the artistic creation by instilling questions of liberty, the commitment of the artist and the social commitment of the arts, elements that significantly mapped Spanish culture as the 1960 ́s advanced.

These intellectuals, and the shifts they incited in the conception of the arts during the second half of Francoism, are at the centre of this book about the distinct character of the Spanish avant-garde and the cultural field. Their manifold activity affected Spain’s cultural production in different ways. It shaped the artistic activities of the avant-garde and vanguard art, and helped decisively to raise social and political awareness within the cultural scene and universities.

 LUP: What is new about this book and what made you want to write it?

Let me start with the second question first. Already when writing my PhD thesis about written about Geometric Abstraction in Spain I had noticed two things. Firstly, the artistic creation was much more connected to the theoretical debates of that time and the players taking part in the latter were highly politicised.

Secondly, the art scene in Spain and the theoretical debates were very much connected via certain intellectuals abroad and therefore Spanish Art was, could and should be seen in the international context of that time. Thus, I wanted to broaden my focus. I left Spain for a couple of years to work abroad, first in France and then in Great Britain. I started to look at art and cultural phenomena during the Franco Regime. Occasionally some connections and figures that I had first noticed during my PhD re-surfaced and also other intellectual figures from different European countries important for the cultural field of that time gave more colour to the network that was forming in my mind. Nevertheless, looking for literature that could give me specific information about these important connections, I noticed that there was a serious lack of bibliography about this topic in English.

I do not pretend to reinvent the wheel, but actually, this I think this book helps to fill a gap in the history of Spanish Art and builds on scholarship on the second and final phases of the regime (1950s until the 1970s) by proposing a new interpretation of the art, culture and politics of that time and the first reading ever of their complex interactions and their repercussions for the Spanish culture. The study bases on extensive archival material, until now unavailable in English and a lot of it published for the first time, and uses an interdisciplinary approach (touching art history and theory, intellectual history, politics as well as ideology) that brings a new facet into the evaluation of art and culture in general.

LUP: What audience did you have in mind when writing your book?

I think this topic is interesting for scholars in art history, visual, cultural and museum studies of modern Spain, in particular, and Europe in general. It also addresses, and this I think is important, a much broader readership that includes, in my eyes, professionals, such as journalists, culturally interested in Spanish History and Culture as well as students and University teachers.

I think the book is perfect for teaching purposes at university level. The first two introductory chapters provide a concise overview of the art, culture and politics during Francoism and I think that this part of the study is very useful for undergraduate teaching. The three following chapters provide an in-depth study of the intertwined transfer processes, intellectual networks, aesthetic debates and artistic practices during Late Francoism, which – in my eyes – is addressing the theoretical and practical interest of graduate students who want to know more about cultural processes in Europe and in Spain in particular during the 1950s until the 1970s. Although the complexity of the argument is increasing, especially in the three chapters following the introduction, using an advanced political, cultural and artistic vocabulary, terminology is always introduced and explained accordingly as the argument develops and therefore I think the reader will acquire a lot of knowledge on different levels when reading the text.

In general, the interdisciplinary focus that the book touches on:art, aesthetics, culture and politics makes it suitable for students studying in the fields of Art History, Aesthetics, Cultural History, History and Hispanic Studies.

  LUP: Does the book contain reproductions of that which exemplify the interconnection of the aesthetic discourse and artistic practices?

 The material reproduced includes artworks, photography and print material mostly coming from archives and private collections. Most of it is difficult to find and has so far not been available for a general readership. The reproduced artworks illustrate well the connection of the Spanish Avant-Garde with the European art scene but also the specificity of their socio-political context of creation. The art & design objects exemplify the theoretical basis of their creation and the socio-political intentions of their creators and in context with their written analysis it becomes evident why many of these works have often been (and are still being) interpreted differently in an international context despite their often intended anti-regime character. This way a specific Spanish paradox becomes clear and it will be shown why the regime itself tried to co-op modern art in order to modernise its image.

LUP: Has any scientific angle influenced for your study and why?

 The book puts forward an original and innovative point of view analysing the reciprocal processes of cultural transfer, the adoption of foreign aesthetic theories and ideas as well as their adaption to the specific Spanish socio-political context and it shows the importance of culture in general, which was understood as a battle field against the repressive politics of the Franco regime.

Therefore the book is indebted to a cultural historic approach that takes high culture, popular culture, politics as well as the history of ideas in account studying the reciprocal transfer processes within these fields and across European and American geographies. It seemed to me that, especially today, as we focus rather on connections and networks instead of separations, which also reflect more and more working across scientific boundaries, such an interdisciplinary approach would be of interest.

 LUP: What are the greatest strengths of this book?

The book redraws the position of Spain within post-WWII history. I think it helps to understand culture and the vanguard artistic production of the late Franco dictatorship, discussing the intellectual and cultural field as an important battlefield for fighting the dictatorship from within. Furthermore, it is not just about Spain, it connects the intellectual landscape to the European socio-political and artistic context of that time. Therefore it gives an insight in important processes and border-transgressing networks that shaped the arts and culture from the 1950s to the 1970s in Europe. Especially today, when we try to distance ourselves more and more from centre-periphery models that imply very often a subjugation of the latter when evaluating the artistic production of the reciprocal processes between these two poles, it is essential for the understanding of Spanish art of the 1950’s and 1960’s putting it in the contemporary geopolitical context of the Cold War period.

You can find Avant-garde Art and Criticism in Francoist Spain and other titles in our Value: Art: Politics Series on our website

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