Culture means different things to people; from art to sport, music, theatre, dance and much more. In our series of 'Our Community' interviews, we introduce you to some the many Sotonians who have helped to keep culture alive in our city throughout the recent pandemic.
Today we caught up with Dan Crow; Director of 'a space’ arts; a Southampton based organisation established 'by artists, for artists'. 'a space' arts aims to support Southampton’s artistic talent with affordable studio spaces, galleries and professional development opportunities. In 2019 ‘a space’ opened God’s House Tower, an arts and heritage venue on Town Quay Road.
Tell us about yourself and your links to Southampton
I came here to study fine art in 1995, fell in love with the city, made lots of friends and decided to stay after university. Shortly after graduating, and along with some fellow graduates, we set up the original ’a space’ arts gallery space in Old Northam Road, as at that point there was a lack of opportunities for me and my peers to establish careers as artists. At that time I didn’t realise how the organisation would grow, but looking back I’ve enjoyed every project, and it’s been great to be involved with the city’s art scene for so long.
Why is Southampton special to you?
Southampton has become my home, my adopted city, and a place that has given me so much, including education, friendships and a career. The city is special in so many ways. I have always loved the Old Town and its stories, as well as the city’s art collection. And walking through our city centre green spaces, as they change across the seasons, is always a joy. Mostly though, it’s special because of the people I’ve been able to build friendships with over the years.
What’s your favourite place in Southampton?
I have a few favourite spots around the city. The Common has to be one of them; I walk my dog there regularly so know it well and always enjoy it. The view from the roof of God’s House Tower is impressive all year round. The character and run down charm of Old Northam Road keeps drawing me back to it. The city art gallery will always be a special place, but also my own private studio where I paint and take sanctuary from the world.
What does culture mean to you?
Culture means something different to us all. We own our personal culture and use it to define ourselves. Culture informs our daily lives from what we wear, what we listen to, what we eat and almost all of the everyday things we do. We often think about culture as exhibitions, theatre, gigs etc, which of course it is. But if we start thinking about our own personal cultures, how we influence them and how they influence us, I think we begin to have a greater appreciation for the diversity of cultures around us.
How has lockdown affected the work of 'a space'?
Lockdown hasn’t been the best time for anyone in the cultural sector and we have all had to adapt. At ‘a space’ we moved into more digital ways of working and supporting artists, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing and isn’t necessarily going away. We now have an active Youtube channel where we can host exhibitions and talks, and it gets loads of views, which is brilliant. Lockdown has been challenging for us all but we are over the worst of the pandemic now. We are on the way out of this and will be able to re-focus on the issue we all need to tackle - the climate emergency.
Why should Southampton be named UK City of Culture 2025?
Why not? We have all the right ingredients here. Southampton is ripe and ready to be UK City of Culture. The city’s artists, and the wider arts scene, need investment and support to meet their potential and we have such an abundance of talent in Southampton I’m convinced we would be an amazing host city. Southampton and its artists aren’t often in the national spotlight so to have that opportunity would be amazing for them. I’m sure the artists of Southampton would rise to this challenge.
Photo credit: Rachel Adams