Gifts For A City - The Event - April 1979

Submitted by root on Mon, 08/05/2013 - 16:18

Gifts for a City was The Blackies' fourth participatory exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

The ideas/inspirations behind the show were public sculptures, the Blackies' summer theatre 'Gifts to a City' and to get people thinking about how they would like their city to be. 

As the flyer publicising the event said  "Our cities have never been more in need of gifts than they are to-day. This exhibition gives you the chance to make a gift, and to look at some of the gifts which others have made."  

How It Worked

The Sites  It was decided to photograph a range of sites within Merseyside  and to then print these photos on the bottom part of poster sized paper, canvas, and tea towels leaving enough space above the photos for people to create their 'gifts'.   Choosing the areas was of Entrance to the exhibition with two posters course difficult, we ended up with  seven - The Docks, A grand Civic Building, Housing, Waste Land, Parks, and Motorways/Roads.  

Left photo of the entrance to the Exhibition showing posters with The Docks and Fulshaw Close printed on them.

The final choices were Sandon Docks in Kirkdale;  The David Lewis Northern Hospital; Mozart & Handel Street in Toxteth (they had been demolished so this was the waste land;  Hornby Street in Bootle;  and Fulshaw Close in Netherley;  Walton Hall Park; and the Dale St City Centre Motorway.    

The Room Layout  As with the previous exhibitions at the Walker the room was divided into two with the left hand side displaying the blank works with the black boxes containing appropriate materials underneath them.  For this exhibition there were not only paper, board,  and canvas to be worked on but also tea clothes to be stitched or appliqued. 

Overall there were 18 separate stations; 13 on paper or board for use with pastels, charcoal, inks  and acrylics and oils; and 5 of which were tea towels - 3 on embroidery frames for stitching, one with a sewing machine and one for applique.

The room showing the layout

Phot0 showing the tea towels on frames and the works on the wall

Above and right photos of the room at  the start of the day showing the works ready to worked on.




The right hand side of the room was where people sat and worked out what they wanted to do.  For inspiration books and slides were provided  on public art including works done by others as well as works done by the Blackie.  This material included sculptures, everything from works by famous artists to the driftwood sculptures of San Francisco. Murals from the UK and USA.  The Blackies Gifts to a City and Inner City Rainbows.  Information on Meanwhile Gardens and David Harding's works in Glenrothes.  So not just art as such but adventure play areas.

Looking at what has been done by otherslooking at slides of existing worksReviewing slides

People reviewing material providedPeople working on ideas

Above people viewing the slides, photographs and written material provided.

People could also view the photographs of Liverpool through prisms and distorting glass.

Visitor viewing photos of Liverpool through prismsChecking photos though distorting  glassViewing photos though distorting glass

Above people  viewing the photos of Liverpool though  prisms and distorting glass

Anyone who wanted to make a 'gift' was encourage to preplan the work before starting.

People working on ideas for giftsReviewing ideas for gifts with Bill Harpe

Above young people working on their 'gifts'.

The Works  As with previous Walker Shows people worked in a variety of ways, by themselves, in families, with friends, etc.   People could take their works home if they wished, if they did not, then they were displayed in a poster rack and other people could pick a work if they liked it and take it home.

Working of a 'gift' for the Docks  Friends working on 'gifts' for Toxteth'Working on a gift for ToxtethA family working on a gift for the DocksCreating a work for Dale StreetStitching a 'gift' for Fulshaw CloseStitching awayStitching a giftWorking on the Tea TowelsPeople working on applique

Above people working on 'gifts' Below the work areasThe work area in operation in operation

The stitching area in operation








Once works were finished they were either masked  or rolled if they were being taken away or hung on the poster rack, if they were not wanted by the artists, to be viewed or taken away.

Work being prepared to be taken awayWorks on the poster rack being viewed

After the Exhibition some of the works were exhibited on Merseyside. If you want to look at more of the works click here.


Over the week of the Exhibition there were 2,585 visitors (1,544 young people and 1001 adults.  Between them they produced 500 works (319 by young people and 181 by adults).  In this exhibition, as in previous exhibitions, the system is set up so as to ensure that for every 2 young people working there is a place for one adult.

The number of works produced at the various stations was dictated by the nature of the materials on offer and the number of actions available - for instance 20 works in oils cf to 66 in acrylics.  The stitching, applique and machining were particularly time consuming and the 5 stations produced 17 works for the week.


The Team

The exhibition was created by Bill Harpe and Sally Morris with assistance from  Wendy Harpe, Julie Hallam, Reg Cox, Vivi Mitts, Martin Brems, Ronnie Taylor, Poll Breek, Duncan Curtis,  Dave Gollancz, Maria McIntyre, Cor van Dam, Carlos Munoz Wilde, Lars Greve, Marloeke Jacobs, Mary Lawton Pick, Tim Sutton, Benedikte Nielsen, Steve Bennett,  Jeannie Campbell, Sara Richards, Alasdair Robertson, Judy Bates,  and staged by the above with help from Dave Kay, John Steedman, Tess MacDonald, Howard Steele, Maurice Watson, Noel Holmes, Adam Jefford, Tom Jefford, Neil Johnson, Graham Littler, Tessa Chisolm, and Angie Lowe.


Thanks to the following who made the exhibition possibly by making  donations, or lending materials or equipment:  The Littlewoods Organisation (Liverpool); Jamie McCullough;  Pilkington Glass (St Helens); Barbara Steveni; Merseyside Visual Communications Unit;  Liverpool City Engineers Reprographic Dept.; David Harding;  Liverpool City Council Public Relations  Dept; Michael Norton; Merseyside Play Action Council; Adrian Henri; Barbara Putt; John Latham; Rowney & Co. (Bracknell); Graham Cooper; Liliann Lijne; Liverpool City Library; Liverpool Salvage & Demolition Co.; Liverpool post and Echo; Water World Ltd (Liverpool);  Merseyside County Museum; Christopher Cornfield; and Peter Stark.