Nicholas and Alex Vaughan

As part of our “Manifesto For A New Wakefield” project, we are proud to be commissioning Nicholas and Alex Vaughan to create a new piece of work connected to their larger project of “Grassy Slag Heaps”, taking place in Wakefield in September and October 2018.

The piece of work commissioned for Long Division was part of a wider piece of work. Can you tell us a little more about the overall project?

The idea for the ‘Grassy Slag Heaps’ project spawned from an author’s edition book called ‘The Diary of a Coalminer’s Son’ by George Bale, my great-uncle. My paternal grandmother had helped in the making of the book and our family still holds a copy. In it Bale documents the closure of the mines during the eighties, exploring the legend and folklore of Wakefield’s mining heritage. The book inspired me to write a short text that became the starting point for both the visual and written work that is being created. There will be: a series of ‘Durham Gala’ banners, mixed media works, a sculpture, a fictional story, and performance, plus many other events.

How did this specific piece fit into that idea, and the idea of a Manifesto For A New Wakefield?

For the Long Division piece, we took the angle of looking at the past, present and future of Wakefield. We met an ex miner who told us a story that we both found memorable. The reason that he got into mining was because when he used to watch television back in the eighties he used to see an advert that promised the high life to miners. On their weekends they would go skiing in the mountains or playing the exciting life of an international spy, these rewards alone were enough to persuade him to ‘go down the pit’. The funny thing was that he had never actually been skiing. Also, when we noted the irony of a ski slope having been built on the site of his former pit at Glasshougton we knew that this was a great thing to build into the piece.

How do you feel about the final piece, and it’s very public location outside the Art House?

I’m very happy with the final piece, I feel as if we have fulfilled what we set out to do. By bringing together the story of our ’ex miner’ with other elements from Wakefield’s rich mining heritage, we have created a piece that will make people question their own histories and futures, regardless of whether the environment has changed.

The Art House were incredibly helpful in letting us take over one of their walls – Mulberry Way side – and coordinating with us the best ways to affix it. The support of the team has been great, and to agree to something like this from a couple of artists just arrived in town, with no idea as to what we would deliver has not gone unappreciated by us.

As artists it is incredibly rewarding to know that our work is in public view 24/7. Bringing art out of galleries is something that does not happen often enough – not at this grass root level. We are very happy with the feedback we’ve received on the piece and we believe that we managed to capture the past/present/future of Wakefield in this piece, as we set out to do.

You are relatively new to Wakefield, how have you found your time here, and at Long Division?

It’s been great to be part of the Long Division festival and a part of the very creative art scene in Wakefield. The Arthouse is a hub of energy not to be met and its brilliant to be surrounded by artists all very busy on their own projects. Their print room facilities are also excellent, and the rest of the building is full of arts organizations and events laid on by The Arthouse which there is open and free access to.

We’ve been in Wakefield for 3 months now and the balance could not be more positive! Apart from someone stealing Nick’s bike’s handlebars everyone we have met has been incredibly nice and helpful and after a few weeks in town we felt we would always bump into a familiar face wherever we went! Getting a chance to be involved in the LD a Manifesto for a New Wakefield meant as well that we very quickly got ourselves quite familiar with the city as we explored ideas for the project. The festival and all events around it was amazing, the type of experience that you feel proud to be part of.

Do you feel the commission allowed you to do or try something new that you would not have otherwise been able to do?

Completing this public commission has been a first for us and something that I would like to do more of. It’s been great to put something out that is there to challenge the thought pattern of the crowds of commuters who bustle past at the beginning and the end of each day.

Most definitely! It’s not every day that you make 8 large scale hard-ground etched pieces that come together into a 2.5m by 1m long mural. We’ve learned a lot about the city, TAH, where we are based, about etching at this scale. It’s been a massive learning curve at all levels.

What’s next for you?

I’m happy with the balance of time and space we have now living in Wakefield. It leaves us plenty of time to put all our endeavours into the current project as well as develop more ongoing themes. Its good to keep evolving ideas and techniques so when the next project arrives we will have ways to execute it!

The focus now is in developing all the work for the Grassy Slagheaps project, to be shown at a few venues in town with the September Artwalk. At the same time, we are settling into our new home (we just rented a small house in Agbrigg) and getting other plans off the ground (with the mundane day-to-day money earning activities in the middle).