In 2008, the Department for Culture Media and Sport announced the Cultural Olympiad. A four year programme of cultural activity, it includes national and local projects as part of a UK-wide cultural festival. There has already been a lot of noise about the project from both sides. There’s the party-line suggesting that the Cultural Olympiad is a unique proposition, tracing a seamless path between sport, education and culture, and then the dissenters who are asking the age-old question – who is paying for it? What are the benefits in real terms?
With any project of this scale, it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly the Cultural Olympiad is. However, it’s certainly ambitious. Part of the programme, FLOW, Northamptonshire’s lead project, will deliver a series of new site specific artworks that explore and respond to the journey of water through the country focusing on different aspects of the country’s waterways, from its major canals and rivers, to its iconic water towers and reservoirs.
The rhetoric is hard to keep up with at times, but the works speak for themselves. Opening tomorrow, August 18, is a major commission by environmental artist Steve Messam. This work, entitled Seven Spires, sees seven 4-metre high red spires installed in the Oxford Canal on the approach to the Grand Union Canal junction and the historic narrow boating village of Braunston. Exploring both the county’s relationship to its canal network and its long standing reputation for being the county of spires and squires, Seven Spires uses solar technology and LED lighting to transform the landscape.
Seven Spires and 84 Spires, by Steve Messam, can be seen 18-29 August as part of FLOW, a countywide series of new site specific artworks set in Northamptonshire’s rivers, canals and waterways. FLOW is part of the Igniting Ambition Festival 2011 and UK Cultural Olympiad.