14 Abingdon Street, Blackpool, FY1 4DE info@abingdonstudios.co.uk

ABS Ambitions for a new coastal curators and artists network

Back in 2020, Abingdon Studios received some research investment to explore the idea of a new artist and curators network with a focus on seaside and coastal terrain where artists reside. This peripherality and living and working on the edge and or cusp of something is a pertinent topic for many artists and the cultural sector.

Blackpool-based artist and curator Garth Gratrix initiated the idea with investment received from LeftCoast CPP, Grundy Art Gallery NPO and East Street Arts SSO as part of the GUILD programme. It forms part of ABS ask to Arts Council England to help expand the research into a pilot network; whereby we will be able to announce a number of coastal bursaries and commissions through our upcoming a-n assembly conference in Blackpool September 2021.

The purpose of the network is to explore future commissions and touring of coastally based contemporary artists nationally inc Blackpool, Brighton, Margate, Scarborough, Grimsby, Eastbourne, Plymouth, Hull, Hastings and beyond. We are particularly interested in ‘The Coast is Queer’ as a framework to explore difference and diversity in the quest to change perceptions of people and place. We hope such a network would impact policy, commissioning and partnership strategies to include the coast into the future and build stronger relationships between funded organisations and growing artist-led ecologies and spaces.

This continues the efforts of ABS to maintain paid opportunities for artists currently and builds on our covid-19 support packages of rent-free periods and bursaries to Blackpool-based artists to connect and collaborate with artists nationally. This has created over £35k in individual grants awarded to artists in the area in the last 10 months.

Rockified: Gustavo Ferro & Sam Meredith


Gustavo Ferro (São Paulo/Blackpool) in collaboration with Sam Meredith (London)

Exhibition Ran: 18 JUNE – 10 JULY

Gustavo Ferro (b.1988) is a visual artist based between Brazil and the United Kingdom. He is interested in the urban environment and the relationship between the human body and man-made objects. His approach to materials is experimental, working across different media such as sculpture, drawing, video and photography.  

Gustavo and Sam first met as part of the School of the Damned Cohort in 2018. During this time they began a conversation surrounding the materiality of objects and the process of making sculptures, travelling from city to city in the UK and engaging with each other by exploring their practices within different contexts. 

Gustavo’s recent work comes from an investigation into artificial landscapes built with pulhamite, a material that resembles natural rock created by Pulham & Son and used to ‘rockify’ the cliffs in the North Shore of Blackpool in 1923. Since Gustavo began to research and regularly visit these sites in person, a collaboration with Sam began remotely, developing homemade recipes and mix designs to try and simulate this material. 

Sam Meredith (b.1991) is a visual artist based in London. Sam’s work arrives through the process of construction, unpicking objects he encounters by making moulds and casting multiples, then slowly assembling them into new hybrids. Sam enjoys documenting the pre-life of his sculptures, filming videos to elaborate on the experience of them being made. 

Abingdon Studios Project Space and Window Gallery* will act as a laboratory and workshop, allowing for the experimentation with glass fibre reinforced concrete to continue to unravel, exploring possibilities of working together through creating a site-responsive installation. 

For both artists tactility is important, their work is a collaboration with materials that demands kinship and presence, acknowledging the waste, sweat, labour, and love that goes into creation. 

This project is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England with additional support from Abingdon Studios.

*The Window Gallery is a new partnership between Abingdon Studio and Blackpool Council as an iteration of a former Culture Shops Project (est. 2013/14). With thanks to Heritage Action Zone funding.

Many Splendored Things: Garth Gratrix & James William Murray

17 May – 07 June



This collaborative project brings together two artists exploring concepts of queer materiality through contrasting aesthetic approaches. The collaboration will culminate in two exhibitions occurring concurrently at Abingdon Studios (Blackpool UK) and Gallery DODO (Brighton UK).

READ THE REVIEW BY JAZMINE LINKLATER, CORRIDOR 8, HERE: https://corridor8.co.uk/article/many-splendored-things/

Many Splendored Things is developed as an experimental testing site for new and previously unexhibited artworks, including Gratrix’s Shy Girl Flamboyant Flamingo Crown of Feathers, an iteration of work recently acquired by Grundy Art Gallery’s permanent collection, and several small-scale sculptures by Murray. The installation engenders new formal relationships between the artists’ respective works, transgressing binaries of abstraction and figuration.

Exhibition to be reviewed by Corridor 8….Coming soon…..


Object Q / The Pursuit of Happiness was planned entirely off-site and is a more conceptually driven exhibition based around the theme of ‘queer verticality’. The austere installation features just one example of each of the artist’s work, as referenced in the title.

Exhibition Q&A essay by Amie Corry…. Coming Soon…


This project is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

SOFT HANDS ON MOSSY ROCKS: Kerry Tenbey & Ellie Barrett

SOFT HANDS ON MOSSY ROCKS is an exhibition of research, ideas and artworks by Ellie Barrett and Kerry Tenbey.

READ THE REVIEW by Grace Edwards, Corridor 8 here: https://corridor8.co.uk/article/soft-hands-on-mossy-rocks/

All of the things around us pulsate. Material stores energies, ripe for mining. Stuff we come into
daily contact with absorbs information about the places and people it interacts with. Objects
rumble with knowledge.

Hacking into this information could tell us more about our bodies, our identities, and our

Both artists explore overlaps between material, place, identity, process and information. Ellie
uses accessible materials – salt dough, tin foil and soap – to represent fragmented body-parts,
rock formations and industrial structures, suggesting an overlap between material and social
exchange. Kerry compares material information to data-mining with references to invasive
plants and familiar material forms, inviting us to perceive stored energies contained within. Both
artists navigate the blurred boundaries between the natural, the man-made and the handmade.
Objects in this space are alive.

SOFT HANDS ON MOSSY ROCKS not only presents sculptural and 2D works which explore
these ideas, but brings research into the gallery space. The exhibition is an immersive diagram,
mapping the various activities which both artists have collaboratively engaged in during the
development of this project and placing them in connection to the work. This includes exploring
specific locations, gathering material to make work and creating new connections between
physical sources of meaning.

Material Arts Network was launched as a result of this project, recognising the wealth of
research and activity in contemporary art practice surrounding material and the need to create
new connections between artists to share new knowledge.

Ellie Barrett is a sculptor and researcher investigating the ways in which material contributes
critical meaning to artworks as a means of widening participation in contemporary art. Ellie has
completed a practice-based PhD at Lancaster University. Recent exhibitions include Explain
Things to Me (Subsidiary Projects, London); Breathing Space (Lancaster Arts); More T’North
(The Harris, Preston) and Eminent Domain (ex-Robert Miller Gallery, New York). Ellie is also
co-director of GRAFT Lancaster CIC.

Kerry Tenbey is a queer artist based in Blackpool exploring individual and collective identity
through making. Kerry is currently completing their MFA at The University of Central Lancashire.
Recent exhibitions include Exhbit Gay (The Harris, Preston); Queer Contemporaries (Short
Supply, Manchester); Social Matter (Art B&B, Blackpool); SOFT//HARD (By-Weekly, Enschede,
Netherlands). Kerry is also Cultural Governor for Prestons Cultural Framework Board and
Programme Curator for The Birley, Preston.

This project is supported by Abingdon Studios and Arts Council England.

www.elliebarrett.com / @EllieCBarrett
www.kerrytenbey.com / @kerrytenbey
www.materialartnetwork.hotglue.me / @materialartnetwork

Heritage Action Zone: Calling all artists, creatives, and organisations on the Fylde Coast

Are you an Artist, creative business or arts organisation on the Fylde Coast?
If so, this is your chance to take part in new research to inform Blackpool Council’s Heritage Action Zone (HAZ).

The research aims to understand what creative skills and resources are available in the area and ensure that artists don’t miss out on opportunities to be commissioned as part of the project.

Abingdon Studios Ltd is working with lead applicant AuntySocial CIC on behalf of Blackpool Council, to encourage as many people as possible to take part.

The survey takes around 15-20 minutes to complete. The survey is open for responses until Sunday, February 28, 2021

Everyone who takes part in the survey will have the option to opt into a draw to win one of three £100 cash prizes.

Following the survey, we will carry out detailed interviews with some local artists & creatives to take a closer look at their needs and finally provide a report to the council.


About HAZ
The Blackpool Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) is a £1m project funded jointly by Blackpool Council, Historic England, and the Department of Culture Media and Sport focused specifically on using built and cultural heritage to revitalise the high street.

The first strand of the project is all about improving streetscapes through improving the condition of historic buildings. This part of the HAZ builds on the success of the ongoing Quality Corridors project, which has focused on new pavements and road surfaces as well as a £1.5m shopfront replacement scheme on Deansgate, Topping Street, and Edward Street. As part f this we’ll be restoring some of the Victorian shopfronts to the church street elevation of the Winter Gardens, putting back the Art Deco frontage of 28 Topping Street, and restoring part of the Former Black’s building on Edward Street. In partnership with the Quality Corridors project, we’ll also be creating a creative cooperative hub at No. 28 Topping Street to provide local artists and creatives with a place to sell their work and run workshops and events. The work at the former Blacks building on Edward Street will also form the first phase of creating live/work units for creatives.

The second strand of the project is a bid for £120k to create a programme of cultural events to bring new offers to the high street and new reasons to visit it. Blackpool’s bid contains proposals for street markets (crafts/farmers/flea/specialist) using empty shops for film screening and performances well as heritage events and walks.


Work/Leisure is inviting emerging and mid-career artists, living and working in the UK/Europe, to create new work in 2020.

In its first iteration, Work/Leisure (2016), delivered 5 short-term, non-prescriptive artist residencies designed to enable artists to research and develop new work in the historically and culturally unique location of Blackpool.

This time, things are different because the world is different. This new iteration of Work/Leisure occurs at a time to global pandemic, social distancing, restricted travel, remote working, and civil unrest and has been made possible through the support of Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Funding.

This funding has allowed Abingdon Studios to continue its work supporting artists in Blackpool and through Work/Leisure we hope to support artists beyond the town boundary to develop new work.

Work/Leisure’s first iteration (2016) sought to address Blackpool as a site where ‘work’ and ‘leisure’ are intricately linked. This second iteration occurs at a time when boundaries between location, space and time have softened and the borders between work and leisure space and time are harder to map.

Work/Leisure is is a project developed by Abingdon Studios Ltd and coordinated by Abingdon Studio directors, Garth Gratrix and Tom Ireland.

Applications for Work/Leisure are now open.

The deadline for applications is Monday 17th August 2020, 5pm (GMT).

Applications received after this time will not be considered. Applications should be sent to workleisureresidency@gmail.com with the subject heading; LastName_FirstName_Work/Leisure_2020

For further information regarding Work/Leisure please contact workleisureresidency@gmail.com.

Application information can be found here.


In 2020, during Covid-19, Abingdon Studios presented a series of invited artist talks. Meanwhile… in partnership with Grundy Art Gallery, LeftCoast and Blackpool School of Arts is pleased to present this permanent digital archive, encapsulating the essence of each artist talk/workshop and or shared research.

The Meanwhile zine has been created by Joseph Doubtfire & Garth Gratrix .

Thanks to all partners and to Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund that supported Abingdon Studios’ time to develop the talk series.

Continuation and/or duration: Margrethe Aanestad & Elin Melberg

24 OCT 2019

Refreshments provided

Conceptually the works will revolve around abstract expressions of universal existential themes, such as contrast and dualities between fragility and strength, the eternal and ephemeral, and the liminal space where the human being lacks control between those states. This will be explored through materials and tactile expressions, executed in a number of ways and dimensions, from delicate, fragile paper works, sculptures, to painting and textile.“- Margrethe Aanestad & Elin Melberg.

Margrethe and Elin are co-founders of the non-profit, artist ran Prosjektrom Normanns in Stavanger, Norway, as well as co-founders and co-owners of the creative studio/working space, ELEFANT, Stavanger, Norway.

Margrethe Aanestad (b. Stavanger, Norway, 1974). Studied Fine Art at the Rogaland Art College and graduated from the University of Stavanger with a BA in Culture & Art Management including Art History and Aesthetic Philosophy.

Aanestad lives and works in Stavanger, Norway, and Brooklyn, New York. Solo exhibitions include Kunsthall Stavanger, Norway (2018); Torrance Shipman Gallery, New York (2015); Dimensions Variable, Miami (2015); Open Source Gallery, New York (2013). Selected group exhibitions, Interface Gallery, Oakland, CA (2019); Vestlandsuttstillingen- a traveling juried exhibition shown across institutions in Norway (2019); Another Space, Copenhagen (2016); Interno4, Bologna (2013); ISCP, New York (2012). Public collections include Unversity of Stavanger (2016); Stavanger City Council (2016); British Petroleum, Norway (2016).


Elin Melberg (b. Stavanger, Norway, 1976) graduated with a Masters in Fine Art from the Royal College of Art, London (2012). Melberg has recently exhibited at Interface Gallery, San Francisco (2019), Aker Brigg, Oslo (2018), KUBE Art Museum, Alesund, Norway (2018); Nord-Trondelag Art Museum (2018); Kunsthall Stavanger (2018); Solvberget Galleri, Stavanger, Norway (2018 & 16); Untitled Art Fair, San Francisco (2017 & 18); Nordenfjeldske kunstindustrimuseum (Trondheim) (2017); Stavanger Art Museum (2017 & 14); Galleri Format (Oslo) (2016); Untitled Miami (2015 & 16); Open Source Gallery (Brooklyn, NY) (2016); Griffin Gallery (London) (2015); Vestlandsutstillingen (touring 2015); Galleri Opdahl (Stavanger) (2014).

Collections include Stavanger University Hospital, Stavanger Art Museum, Oslo Municipality Art Collection, Stavanger Concert Hall, KORO, Statoil Art Collection, Stavanger Municipality, Royal College of Art, Norwegian Petroleum Directorate and the Bazil Alkazzi Foundation.


*Continuation and/or duration is a micro-residency and exhibition at Abingdon Studios Project Space and has been developed and curated by Abingdon Studios co-director, Garth Gratrix, in collaboration with the artists. Gratrix previously spent a period of residency resulting in an exhibition of new works at Prosjektromm Normanns, Stavanger, Norway (2018).

Harry Clayton-Wright: The Fortnight

Across 14 days, Harry Clayton-Wright presented 14 brand new eight hour performance pieces. Each day involved its own persona, its own world. Each piece experimented with the different ways in which people stage themselves over time. Reflecting on the artist?s experience with growing up in Blackpool ? a sea-side town ubiquitous with traditional entertainment ? and with his biography as a professional performer, The Fortnight provides a show about show business, a series of performances about performance itself.

Drag, dance, lip sync, tattooing, all day raves, showbiz autobiographies, character comedy, storytelling and Scrabble with mum all took place.

Audience members were invited to visit briefly or stay a while. Some days invited more participation than others, some days required more observation. The days are designed to serve as counterpoints to one another in tone and what they explore. They have been carefully programmed in relation to The Fortnight as a two-week durational experience – visit once or collect all 14.

Because as they say, ?the show must go on?, and on, and on.

Commissioned by The Spire, produced by David Sheppeard, supported by Abingdon Studios, Marlborough Pub & Theatre and New Queers On The Block and using public funding by The National Lottery through Arts Council England. Set design by Ryan Dawson Laight. Performance development by Melanie Jame Wolf. Poster image by Joel Devereaux with costume by Ruby Slippers. Poster design by Sarah Ferrari.

The Fortnight ran 10 am – 6pm, 5th to the 18th September at Abingdon Studios Project Space, Blackpool* framed by a new queer colour installation produced by artist Garth Gratrix titled Cheeky Felicia.

Images courtesy of Matt Wilkinson



JOYRIDE: Bethany Costerd, Sarah Louise Hawkins and Daniel Newsham

08 – 22 Feb 2019.

Bethany Costerd, Sarah Louise Hawkins and Daniel Newsham.

Diverse disciplines and varied perspectives converge, showcasing a shared interest in methodical, repetitive processes and a visual relationship of bold compositions of vibrant colour palettes. The methodical making manifests itself in almost dizzying works, full of movement and kinetic energy. Whether the medium be ceramic sculpture, oil painting or ink drawing, this collection of work falls somewhere between spontaneous gesture and a measured systematic repetition, resulting in works that deliver an immediate impact whilst simultaneously calling for a slower, extended contemplation.

Bethany Costerd creates ceramic sculptures which are influenced by her insatiable desire to build large structures. However, lacking structural integrity, the work becomes precarious in its ‘temporary’ approach to support. This insatiability also becomes suppressed by the slow medium of ceramics, a frustration she likens to a childhood desire to build her own theme park; impatiently drawing and building structures that inevitably lay unfinished.

Sarah Louise Hawkins makes abstract compositions based on the systematic repetition in grid patterns, geometric shapes, repeated lines and colour combinations. A series of delicate drawings comprising a continuous line of tiny dashes and dots randomly snake their way across the paper and from one drawing to the next. Her painted wall reliefs stretch and flatten solid shapes within space whilst the patterns on their surface bring about an optical experience, playing with the viewer’s perception and creating a constantly changing composition within their line of sight.

Daniel Newsham is a painter and printmaker. His current practice explores the material and accretive processes of painting.