More Than 100 Stories is a commission led by artists Sarah Butler and Nicole Mollet that explores and creatively maps the Creative People and Places programme.

Thunderbolts and Decison Making in Corby


On June 7th 2016 Nicole Mollett visited the Made in Corby community decision panel meeting. The following day she wrote a reflection on the visit, focusing on the themes of language and decision making.


When I arrived in Corby, what I first noticed was the newness of the station facilities, there has obviously been some local regeneration investment in recent years. The high street was fairly busy, but the architecture gave the impression of a place that had been booming in the 70’s but had perhaps since then not fully recovered. I was meeting the Made in Corby programme leader Helen Willmot, at Grosevnor House, which I later learned was the old council offices, before they built the new ones directly opposite them. In a strange twist of fate, the Made in Corby office is in fact in the same room the Local council arts team used to inhabit. Waiting for Godot a la Corby.

Helen and her team, Marion (Marketing) and Natalie (marketing assistant) welcomed me in. They gave me a quick overview of the history of the project to date. Compared to other CPPs they seemed a small team, however Helen explained they hire in creative producers in for specific projects (who are specialist in the art form) which made a lot of practical sense.

We discussed the importance of the language they use in marketing and discussions. Helen said her team were attempting to ban the use of the word ‘commission’ outside the office, as this word was seen as pretentious and confusing to many local residents. She also said that at earlier meetings whenever she talked about investment/funding and then said the word ‘art’ people used to start tutting and rolling the eyes. A problem which she now resolves by always starting with a disclaimer, which includes mentioning the fact this is lottery money ring-fenced for art.

She explain that the meeting I was about to attend was a very important moment in a project which had been underway since January. The project focused on the Kingswood and Hazel Leys estates, less than 5 minutes from the centre, built in the 1950s and 1960s, and home to 6800 people. Apparently bits were being pulled down, described in parts as brutalist architecture and nicknamed locally ‘Binladen’s Cave’ (graffiti), there was obviously a shady history lurking beneath the brickwork. It was one of the first places in the UK to be given a curfew for under 15 year olds in 2002, as this Guardian article explains (

As we drove to the meeting in the community centre, I thought that the semi-detached houses looked quite care for, apart from one or two, and there was plenty of green spaces for children to play in. I noticed the street names, as Helen had explained, were all named after artists; Turner St, Hogarth Walk, Gainsborough St e.t.c. This fact had inspired one of the panel to come up with the idea for one of the mini commissions; to make a piece of work drawing attention to this fact. What a great idea!

The KHL panel had decided they want to commission 4 artists (max 5K each) to produce a piece of work to go towards a festival which is to take place in September. The artists must work with the communities on the estates to develop their ideas. The commissions ranged from dance (flash mob), Storytelling, visual arts and the one about the street names.

I sat and listened to the visual arts panel. What struck me was how thorough and detailed their observations of the proposals were. They had read everything in minute detail. They had checked the budgets, and websites of the artists. This is not a passive group of decision making novices, but a very passionate and earnest group of people who take their responsibility seriously. Yes of course, there are subjective opinions, and matters of taste. However they were fully engaged in discussions we were having, and each panel member was given the chance to voice their opinions. There was also a very strict marking system, against the criteria as mentioned in the brief. The decision making criteria was devised and set by the community panel at a previous meeting. Panel members are asked to mark against fact, i.e. there must be evidence in the proposal or else they cannot reward a mark. Thus proposals could not be chosen on a whim, or won in argument by the person with the loudest voice.

The atmosphere in the room was one of friendly excitement, each of the panels were talking the commission they were shortlisting, but there was still time for a cup of tea and a biscuit. Sadly I had to go before the meeting reached its conclusion.


When I got to the station my train (the last train) had been cancelled due to lighting striking the track. In yet another strange twist of fate, a family who were trying to get their daughter on a train back to London offered me and a young man who worked in the local ice cream shop a lift to Kettering (the nearby town with more likelihood of a train home). As we drove, thunderbolts shot through the sky and my fellow travellers talked of the joys of Corby. Although brief, I felt I had just been to a very special place, and the people who live there care for it a great deal. If the artists they choose to work with give even half the commitment the community panel have shown, then the festival in September promises to be a very fine and fun event indeed.