Iona Hodgson is Project Lead for Art Walk Ipswich 2021, a town wide art exhibition and a wellbeing walk accompanied by five live music concerts. Here, she explains the thinking behind it
I studied photography and then spent 15 years working as a professional editorial portrait photographer in the UK and Spain, while also being a freelance photographic producer and also working for a photo agency and subsequently as a picture editor in a Magazine. When I returned to the UK in 2011 I began to diversify my production skills and began working in arts marketing which slowly evolved into the arts marketing business I run now At Large Ltd. I realised how much I loved producing and project managing – and I had various jobs doing on site design and exhibition production for various large clients. In 2011 I also started working with Daisy Lees, an old friend, supporting her work with Arts La’Olam with marketing and organisation. To be honest it’s quite a long story of working in various sectors of the creative industries since graduating from photography, through graphics production, exhibition production, spatial design, and now into festival, event and community arts production (amongst other things).
Daisy and I have known each other for many years and our fathers still live in an intentional organic farming community in East Bergholt with 60 other people. We were both brought up there, albeit at different stages. Daisy and I began working on her projects together occasionally and we soon realised that our skills were complementary – and we basically came up with the idea of an Art Eat Festival over a meal one day and decided on the name quite fast. The idea was inspired by bringing more visual art to Ipswich and combining this with international street food, which we saw everywhere else, but was lacking in this little Suffolk town. We figured that everyone loves food, and hopefully art and music too. Hence the name Art Eat. We produced the festival in 2019 on the Ipswich Waterfront, which we were intending to be every two years, but those plans are currently on hold. We then continued to work together developing funding bids and delivering arts projects and we are very happy to be doing events again. We are also beginning to work with commercial clients and BIDs in the development of projects, and murals.
Last year was shaky for everyone, but we managed to secure enough project funds to keep us going and continue to deliver meaningful and engaged work in Ipswich, with the help of the ideas and energy of the Art Eat Projects Group who have met every two weeks since April 2020. Things are going well this year despite the situation last year, thankfully the niche we are in of funded community diverse arts coupled with Daisy’s 20-plus year history of fundraising plus the new commercial projects and private clients we are working with, we are going strong. Thanks for asking.
Adapting to the pandemic has involved a mixture of all the emotions and stresses plus video calls. We were both lucky to work from home already, so we were used to that. We managed to rethink a few projects and deliver two murals on Ipswich Waterfront in a Covid safe way since last year too, which was amazing. Most of the time we direct ourselves and each other so we don’t have the stress of employers with large teams!
We are both passionate about supporting towns through arts and culture, and the idea of an exhibition seen through windows was inspired by lockdowns and lack of access to any sort of arts when stuck at home only able to walk to pass the time. We also felt walking was good for wellbeing, so we added a list of wellbeing organisations to the Art Walk Map which we hope people will find useful. We are always platforming artists – and we launched an Art Shop on our website last December to support the local arts scene and this project is an extension of that. There is huge talent in Ipswich and as far as I am concerned people need to know about it – and support creative practitioners as much as possible. Obviously, we also wanted to work closely with the lovely independent businesses in Ipswich who will be displaying and selling art who we want the project to support.
In a nutshell, Art Walk Ipswich is a response to what has been happening this past year or so. It’s also a response to where Art Eat is coming from as a social enterprise and what our priorities have always been: community, culture and creativity.
Discovering new things is proven to be good for you. Seeing beautiful art that makes you think has to be good for you, too- and the benefits of walking are well known.
We have been in discussion with people and we hope it will become a regular event. Our community driven work is 100 per cent reliant on grant funding which is a long and extremely insecure process. But if we can gain support from private business, local authorities and sponsors to make similar projects happen then we would be able to say a definite yes. We are always looking to talk to interested businesses or organisations about how they may be able to support our projects, but it comes down to money at the end of the day. These projects cost a lot more than people think if you pay everyone as you should, which we do. They also have the possibility to make money too, but a project like Art Walk Ipswich would be impossible without funding. Thankfully, I feel that priorities have shifted as much as the landscape and economies of our towns so I believe that plenty of larger organisations and businesses will continue to see the benefits of placemaking and community engagement through arts and culture and begin to value the cost of such endeavours. There are a lot of stats to support this. It is not a new idea. I could talk about that ‘til the cows come home.
The music programming is mostly led by Daisy who always champions great talent. If I was in Ipswich, I would book tickets to go to all of the gigs as I think we all have missed live music profoundly in recent times.
We have just been offered two retail spaces in Cardiff Bay, which is the area I am based in now, so that is a very exciting move for Art Eat for this Autumn. We plan to open some shared studios and an art gallery. We are always doing projects and it is worth following us on social media @arteatevents and signing up to our mailing list to keep up to date. We just set up a LinkedIn Page which we hope will be fruitful.
During Art Walk Ipswich 2021, 17 local artists will have their work for sale in town centre windows in central Ipswich between July 24 and August 15. Art Eat will also be delivering five intimate live music concerts in small venues in the town centre:
July 24, 6.30-8.30pm – Harry Kalampakakis will be playing at On The Huh, 3A St Peter’s Street, Ipswich IP1 1XF
August 4, 6.30-8.30pm – Sefo Kanuteh will be playing at The Green Room, 18 St Margarets Green, Ipswich IP4 2BS
August 7, 6.30-8.30pm – Darien Prophecy will be singing at Shadow Gallery Barber, 14 Orwell Place, Ipswich IP4 1BB
August 11, 6.30-8.30pm – Corrina Piatti will be playing at Hulabullo, 14 St Peter’s Street, Ipswich IP1 1XB
August 14, 6.30-8.30pm – Emma Buckley will be playing at Rockafella Industries, 8 Eagle Street, Ipswich IP4 1JB
Concert tickets will be sold at an affordable £5 and are available from Eventbrite (search for “Art Walk Ipswich Concerts”) – but hurry as small venues have a limited capacity of 20 for each gig so please book early to avoid disappointment. Visit www.arteatevents.com/artwalk as well as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter