© 2005 Jonathan Swain. All rights reserved.

CLOSE PROXIMITY (2005) New Greenham Arts, Newbury, Berkshire. I was the guest co-ordinator, with Helen Sloan (SCAN) of a two day gathering for activities and discussion that looked at the changing identity of areas that lie under the shadow of the ever bulging “commuter belt” around London. Organised for Networking Artists Networks (NAN) and AN Publications.

Three miles east of Newbury, sixty miles west of Shoreditch and just off the M4 (junction 13), New Greenham Park is a collection light industrial businesses set in a 1000 acres of ancient heathland, a civil war battle site preserved from the ravages of suburban decay by the United States Air Force.

Close Proximity seminars and displays took place in and around the old officer recreation center (sic), now New Greenham Arts. NGA plays host to touring theatre companies, a gallery, several artist’s workshops and open studio events.

Discussion topics questioned whether anything of any cultural significance could survive the Ballardian wipe down sprawl that has infected the South East of England? How are artists responding as a consequence? Have other forms of networks sprung up; survival strategies, pockets of resistance, gang culture, out of town developments? Are these satisfactory? How is it affecting other creative industries? Are localised galleries, studio complex’s, and art centres really an option, or just good places to go for coffee. Will we always be taken in by the tingle of fame and fortune offered by the Big City or is it an age and babies thing? What lessons can be learned from previous networking structures?

Guided tours of the area took in bird-watching on the common, GPS tracking devices, cold war decontamination chambers, ex- nuclear silos, an industrial fabrication unit and a council cleansing depot.

In recognition of the historical significance of the site and the poverty of those attending the conference  permission was granted to camp in the grounds of the business park.

Further observations on the weekend by myself and other participants are grouped together on the Nan webpage. click here.


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