Alongside the inspiring discussions and the chance to network with those shaping today’s art world, an undoubted attraction of the Future Now Symposium is that it takes place in the beautiful and historic city of York. The city’s attractions also provide the backdrop for the Aesthetica Art Prize, which this year takes place at the recently refurbished York Art Gallery in its cultural quarter, and later in the year York hosts the BAFTA-recognised Aesthetica Short Film Festival which sees many of its most famous and more bespoke locations transformed into a city-wide cinema experience.
The compact and historic heart of York has more miles of intact city walls than any other European city, and a walk around the walls is an ideal way to get acquainted with your surroundings. Though much of the wall dates from medieval times, it also provides a link to York’s Roman past, with some structures such as the Multangular Tower in the beautiful riverside Museum Gardens, believed to date from the reign of Constantine the Great (himself proclaimed as Roman Emperor whilst in York). And wherever you are on the walls, or anywhere else for that matter, the city skyline is dominated by the imposing grandeur of the Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, the construction of which began in 1220.
A city so rich in history of course has a selection of world-class museums to bring it to life. The Castle Museum sits next to the ruined former Norman keep known as Clifford’s Tower, which commands views over the River Ouse from the castle mound. The museum itself occupies buildings once used as a prison, whose most notorious inmate was the highwayman Dick Turpin, and famously features reconstructed Victorian streets – though the real-life cobbled Shambles by the city’s market place still retains the atmosphere of old York in the heart of today’s city. Jorvik, in Coppergate has reopened following a full refurbishment after flood damage, and offers an interactive experience of York in the Viking age. Meanwhile, the city’s prosperity in the Victorian era owed a lot to being at the heart of the new railway network, halfway between London and Edinburgh, and the National Railway Museum celebrates this as home to giants of the age of steam locomotives including the Flying Scotsman and Mallard.
York boasts a thriving retail offer of both well-known brands and independent traders, many of them long-established family firms. It is also rightly famous for its pubs, many of them historic and atmospheric, and was well ahead of the microbrewery and craft ale trends, with its own brewery starting up within the city walls back in the 1990s. It boasts an abundance of bars and restaurants around the city centre and beyond – ideal for continuing the discussions sparked by Future Now late into the night.
1. Courtesy of Ben Trickleback.