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Capital culture/ Discover art close-up

  • Date: 14 August 2012
  • Artform: Dance, Literature, Music
  • Area: North
group of dancers Photo: Gateshead College/ Gilbert Johnson

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This was an innovative partnership project between a college, artists, arts companies and shopping centres. It explored the potential of shopping centres as performance venues. It also provided an opportunity for the college and its students to work with professional artists and arts companies.

Having been originally conceived outside the Arts Nation pilot programme, this project had only a partial focus on audience development and capture of audience data was largely anecdotal. However, the project has produced legacy of successful collaboration, a clear understanding of what improvements are needed for future projects and the hope that this partnership model can be extended to other towns and cities.

The project arose out of discussions between the National Skills Academy (NSA) for Creative and Cultural Skills, Capital Shopping Centres and the Arts Council concerning the use of shopping centres for promoting the arts whilst providing relevant cultural industry training for young people.

Gateshead College is the Northern Founder College for the NSA and was asked to develop a pilot project to explore the possibilities with a view to an ongoing programme in major shopping centres throughout the country.

The resulting project, DART, consisted of two weeks of dance and music performances, storytelling sessions, and art installations in two shopping centres: Gateshead Metro Centre and Eldon Square Newcastle.

Students of dance, multimedia, music and childcare worked with dance companies, choreographers, musicians and storytellers to develop and present performances.


1,690 people experienced a Dart event live and during the programme period, (mid to late May 2011), 13,844 people viewed the video posts on the DART Facebook page.

The project has kicked started an arts and education programme and drawn a favourable response from the shopping centres' management with respect to future events.

'Metrocentre and Eldon Square are pleased to have supported this extremely enjoyable, fun-packed project, which has certainly grabbed the attention of our shoppers, bringing Art to all with innovative and surprising experiences.' Tim Lamb, General Manager, Metrocentre

The project partnership was successful and laid the foundations for future collaboration.

'We would be keen to repeat this type of project.' Debbie Beeks, Seven Stories

The case study suggests that DART has the potential to become a national project featuring partnerships between shopping centre companies, arts organisations and colleges across the country linked by a dedicated website and enriched through participant and audience use of social media.

Key learning

  • the shopping centre was clearly a good place to reach both Dinner and a show and particularly Family and community focused segments
  • DART involved a substantial number of local Gateshead students. This encouraged their families and friends to both attend and promote the events. Such engagement offers a direct route to new arts attenders particularly from the Family and community focused segment
  • a shopping centre is likely to offer only a brief encounter with the arts. Having further sign-posting literature and/or immediate face-to-face follow up is required to move people beyond a positive first encounter
  • professional input on this scale is invaluable to students but cannot be funded through normal college income; external sources are needed. A national sponsorship agreement between major shopping centre companies and the National Skills Academy (NSA) for Creative and Cultural Skills is one potential answer
  • the involvement of high quality musicians and music educators via the Academy for Music and Sound was key to the performance quality achieved
  • story-telling arts organisation Seven Stories was important to attracting the Family and community focused segment
  • the involvement of a professional hip-hop dancer took the dance performance element to a new level emphasising the important of professional artists to the delivery of high quality student performance