July 7, 2017, by David Greenaway


This year we celebrate 25 years since the opening of Lakeside, which now attracts almost 200,000 visitors each year to its programme not including another 150,000 who frequent the two cafes on site. Where did it all begin?

Highfields Swimming Bath.
circa 1925
Courtesy of Nottingham City Council and www.picturethepast.org.uk

In 1924 Britain’s largest outdoor swimming pool opened, on what is now University Park. It was 330 feet long, 75 feet wide (or 100 by 23 metres) twice the length of an Olympic pool. It was commissioned by Sir Jesse Boot, and functioned until 1980.

On a personal note, I actually swam in Highfields Lido (as well as the other outdoor Lidos in Nottingham: Bulwell, Carrington, and Papplewick). I remember it being a very bracing experience.

In 1989 the University launched its first modern day Campaign, the Arts Centre Appeal. Its target was £5 million to build a new Arts Centre on the by now derelict Lido site. It was successful, and in 1992 the Sir Harry and Lady Carol Djanogly Gallery opened, as did the Angear Visitor Centre.

In its early years, under the stewardship of Joanne Wright these new Galleries allowed us to host major shows like Rubens Drawing on Italy, a step change in the quality of what could be curated, as well as the level of our public engagement.

In 1994 the Department of Music relocated to be adjacent to the new Djanogly Recital Hall. This added a further suite of activities, building on a long tradition of concerts previously delivered in the Great Hall and Hugh Stewart Hall. That programme has only grown stronger and more ambitious under the direction of Dr Catherine Hocking.

Then, in 2001, with support from the Jubilee Campaign, the DH Lawrence Pavillion was added. This gave us a theatre, which supports a rich menu of performing arts. It also provided further exhibition space: the Weston Gallery, as a shop window for our University’s Manuscripts and Special Collections; and the Wallner Gallery, a white box space for regional artists.

At this time Shona Powell OBE was appointed to create Nottingham Lakeside Arts, build audiences, and promote public and community engagement. This has happened in many ways since then, with the development of an inventive and strong schools programme, and support for many diverse community festivals and celebrations.

Nottingham Lakeside Arts as we know it now, was completed in 2011 when the Djanogly Gallery was effectively doubled in size. This changed our level of ambition dramatically, and the opening exhibition in the new galleries was LOWRY, which attracted almost 50,000 visitors. Since then Neil Walker and his team have curated major nationally acclaimed shows like Pop Art to Britart, Elizabeth Frink : The Presence of Sculpture, and Victor Pasmore : Towards a New Reality.

In 2011 we also relocated the University Museum to Lakeside, and this autumn it will support its biggest ever exhibition Viking : Rediscover the Legend, led by Clare Pickersgill, in partnership with the British Museum and Jorvick Centre in York, also platforming the expertise of Professor Judith Jesch, Centre for Viking Studies, in a complementary Weston Gallery exhibition Bringing The Vikings Back to the East Midlands.

The newly opened Chinese Feathered Dinosaurs exhibition in the Angear Visitor Centre is testament to many partnerships with major Chinese academic institutions and museums brokered through Asia Business Centre and Dr Wang Qi, Faculty of Engineering, and led on behalf of Lakeside by James Parkinson. It is already attracting record numbers of families through the doors of the Djanogly Gallery.

There are several threads which run through these last 25 years of development.

First, building excellence in a sustainable way, enriching the spectrum of offers, and broadening the audience which can enjoy Nottingham Lakeside Arts.

Second, the vision, dedication and ingenuity of a wonderful team led by Shona Powell OBE.

Third, great partnerships. Some are local, like Nottingham Contemporary, New Art Exchange and Dance4; some are national like Tate Britain, the British Museum, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Sadlers Wells and MOKO Dance.

Fourth, extraordinary support from extraordinary people: Sir Harry and Lady Carol Djanogly, Tom and Pat Angear, David Ross, Edgar and Judith Wallner and the Garfield Weston Foundation. That support is not just financial. LOWRY and Elizabeth Frink would not have been possible had Sir Harry and Lady Djanogly not been so generous in allowing us to access their private collections.

And the 68 exhibits in Pop Art to Brit Art all came from the private collection of David Ross. Extraordinary generosity and extraordinary trust.

Finally, back to where I started.

To celebrate Lakeside’s first 25 years, and acknowledge the heritage of its site, Barret Hodgson used digital technology to create an inventive, interactive installation recreating Highfields Lido in the main Djanogly Gallery. It was quite something.

Professor Sir David Greenaway


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