More Than a Hundred Stories

We are two artists, interested in how art can animate, challenge and create communities. We’ve been commissioned by Creative People and Places to creatively map and respond to its achievements, the problems it faces, and the questions it has generated.

We are interested in the programme’s ambition to change how art is commissioned and experienced and will be exploring how and to what extent this ambition has been realised across all 21 projects.

We will be posting creative responses to conversations, observations and research throughout the project and will share our final work with you in autumn 2016. Do join us and follow our creative journey on this blog.

You can find out more about our work at: and

Sarah Butler and Nicole Mollett

Cycling the ‘Northern Belt’| Wednesday 23rd September: Right Up Our Street, Doncaster


darts, Doncaster Community Arts leads the community based strand of Right Up Our Street and have appointed Arts Supporters to develop artistic activity with local involvement and decision making in five areas of Doncaster. They decided to take me to two different areas, the first, Bentley, where there have been significant problems and delays with the project; the second, Mexborough, where the scheme has 'flown'.

Cycling the ‘Northern Belt’| Monday 21st September: Creative Scene, North Kirklees


It is raining in Dewsbury but this town is still immediately beautiful, with its rows of elegant stone buildings. There has been money here – from heavy woollen cloth, I am told, when I ask.

Again, I hear the story of the unloved cousin, the place that has been forgotten, the sense that somewhere else (Huddersfield in this instance) gets all the attention. And yet I am also told about local pride, about very strong attachments to specific places, an appetite for arts activity and a willingness to come along, to talk, to be interested. Still the story of being forgotten, overlooked, but more of a sense of confidence than I've picked up on in other places.

Rebecca tells me there has been a history in this area of new initiatives full of promises and injections of cash over fixed periods of time. 'Things come in and then leave,' she says, 'And so there is an element of distrust.' This is a huge issue for all the CPP projects I think – how to have impact; how to create something that lasts; how to avoid being just another initiative that comes and then leaves – or if that is unavoidable, then the question is how to do it well.

Cycling the ‘Northern Belt’| Week Two: Dewsbury to Hull


So, another week's cycling, this time from Dewsbury to Hull, moving from lush hills and limestone, through coalfields and along waterways to a much flatter landscape, traversed by drainage ditches and scattered with wind farms. Sitting in my hotel room in Doncaster I spoke to a friend in London – 'it's sheeting it down here', she told me as I looked out of the window at a rectangle of clear blue sky. Save for a soggy Monday in Dewsbury, we had only sunshine, beautiful, crisp autumn light, trees tinged red and yellow.

My GPS machine broke over the weekend, so this week we navigated with paper maps, strapped to the handlebars of our bikes. It is less convenient but also, perhaps, a more pleasant experience than following a flashing dot on a screen, Over these two weeks, I have heard again and again the phrase 'we want to put [insert CPP place of your choice] on the map'. There's something about travelling between places on your own steam, something about the long approach maybe, that gives you a sense of ownership of the place. These CPP projects have been my daily destinations, the places that have defined the route I have taken and the things I have seen; they are certainly on my own personal map.

Sarah Butler

Cycling the ‘Northern Belt’ | A note on cycling and thinking:


I chose to cycle along this northern belt of CPP projects because I wanted the opportunity to see and experience and reflect upon the landscapes and specific localities of each project, and get a sense of what lies between, how one place connects to another. I cycled many canal paths and disused railways – peaceful, rural-feeling spaces away from the hustle and aggression of A-roads and hurrying traffic. And yet, historically, these were transport links supporting huge industries, now gone. This relationship between rural/green/peace/(wealth?) and urban/industrial/grey/(deprivation?) was maybe the most striking aspect of the journey.

Cycling the ‘Northern Belt’ | Thursday 17th September: Super Slow Way, Pennine Lancashire


I visit Super Slow Way on the day their website goes live and their first press release goes out. It’s a great contrast to Heart of Glass and LeftCoast who are mid delivery. Here it is all new – a series of new commissions announced, and community partnerships starting to come together. I spend the morning with Programme Manager Katy May, and Chrissie Tiller who is visiting to start talks about a CPD programme across the North West CPP projects. We walk along the canal in the sunshine, then have lunch in Towneley Park (in the midst of a funeral director photo shoot...). We discuss the programme; the plans for CPD; the delicate balancing act of bringing in artists from outside of the area and developing artists and arts organisations based locally; the role of the ‘broker’ – between artist, community, organisation; the nature and importance of instinct. We joke that this doesn’t feel like work, and at the same time note how valuable time out to reflect and explore is.

Cycling the ‘Northern Belt’ | Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th September: LeftCoast, Blackpool and Wyre


Again, I turn up tired from cycling, my bike spattered with mud and my cheeks flushed from hours cycling against a strong headwind. Tea and chocolate cake are immediately offered, along with a conversation with volunteer Pete and LeftCoast staff member Helen about how the Spare Parts Festival has grown out of the long standing Tram Sunday event in Fleetwood. Listening to Pete, I think about how essential these people are for CPP – local people with open minds, a willingness to try something new and the confidence to invite others to come along on the journey with them.


Sarah arriving in Blackpool

Cycling the ‘Northern Belt’ | Monday 14th September: Heart Of Glass, St Helens


My first CPP visit. As soon as I reach the centre of St Helen’s I recognise it from a video on Heart Of Glass’s website about their bugle call commissions. Always strange to have visited a place online before you’ve been there in person, it feels like creating a false memory.

I sit with a cup of tea and aching legs and listen to Kat and Laura talk me through the programme. Struck at once by how vast each CPP project is in its scope, my mind starts fretting at the very idea of trying to represent the stories of the whole programme. But more than that, I am inspired, excited, caught up with the ambition and the scale of what people are setting out to achieve.

Sarah Butler in St Helens

Cycling the ‘Northern Belt’ | a note


From 14-17th September I cycled from my home in Manchester to Heart of Glass, St. Helens; then LeftCoast, Blackpool and Wyre; and on to Super Slow Way, Pennine Lancashire (I will continue my journey east from Dewsbury to Hull next week). The following posts are some reflections from those visits. I have not included everything I did and everything I saw, but have tried to pull out the themes, ideas and questions that arose during my time with each project. I will be posting some creative responses in the coming weeks. You can also search #morethan100stories on Twitter for more photos and tweets from my journey.