Mandy Legg Appointed as Chair of Arts and Heritage Alliance MK

Mandy Legg

Arts and Heritage Alliance MK (AHA-MK) are pleased to announce the appointment of Mandy Legg as its new Chair. Mandy will start her role in mid June for AHA-MK. With an extensive background in Children’s Services and Arts & Culture, Mandy brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her new role.

Mandy has just completed a year of being the Mayoress of Milton Keynes where she has shone a light on the amazing work being done by the community groups, charities, business sector and charities in our city. She is also passionate about breaking down the stigma around mental illness and shares her own story to inspire others with what is possible.

In her capacity as Chair, Mandy will lead AHA-MK in its mission to champion the rich heritage and the creative future of Milton Keynes. With her visionary leadership, AHA-MK will continue to work on behalf of the Arts & Heritage organisations to position the cultural sector as a strategic contributor to the community and economy of Milton Keynes.

MK welcomes new culture sector apprentices

Alongside Milton Keynes City Council, we are proud to announce three new apprentices have started in prominent cultural venues in the city.

Funded by MK City Council’s £3.5m Economic Recovery Plan cultural organisations were invited to apply for a grant to employ apprentices. MK Gallery, Bletchley Park and Milton Keynes Theatre were all successful in their bids and have since recruited an apprentice each.

The apprentices are benefitting from more than 1,400 hours of work experience each across 15 months with their employer. All three apprentices will receive online specialist training from leading provider of creative apprenticeships, Creative Alliance while also learning on the job from industry experts.

Joshua Yon, Digital Marketer, MK Gallery

Born in Zimbabwe to a musical family, Joshua first moved to Milton Keynes at age 10 and over the years he has been involved in various creative and cultural events such as the MK: International Festival, taking on various roles from photographer to performing musician.

I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to work and learn from MK Gallery. I’ve visited the Gallery so many times and always enjoyed their work and events, so for me to be behind the scenes and contributing to those experiences is really a privilege.”- Joshua Yon

Remi Ajibola, Cultural Learning and Participation Officer, MK Theatre

Remi is an outspoken activist at heart, having engaged in programmes with groups like the Fair Education Alliance, giving a speech at the National Gallery on educational inequality and actively advocating within their poetry.

I’m really excited to explore a field I have a genuine interest in. It’s been amazing so far, such a supportive environment and team. Looking forward to everything I have yet to learn and build.”- Remi Ajibola

Evie Spillings, Events Assistant, Bletchley Park

Evie recently completed her A-Levels at Ousedale Sixth Form in Newport Pagnell where she planned the sixth form prom alongside one of her best friends. This motivated her to choose an apprenticeship where she can integrate personal experience and academic knowledge from her events course into practical, real-world applications.

Being a lifelong resident of Milton Keynes, I am enthusiastic about continuing my journey here, signifying my dedication to ongoing education and the value of acquiring practical skills in a professional environment. Bletchley Park’s rich history and its current role as a cultural and heritage venue add an extra layer of excitement to my journey.”- Evie Spillings

“It’s so inspiring to see young people with such passion for culture. We’re really proud to be sponsoring these apprenticeships which will give Joshua, Remi and Evie brilliant opportunities. I look forward to following their journeys and seeing them develop fulfilling careers.”

– Cabinet Member responsible for Culture, Cllr Shanika Mahendran

“Creative Alliance is thrilled to announce our partnership with Milton Keynes City Council and the Arts and Heritage Alliance MK (AHA-MK). Together, we’re launching a pilot scheme that has placed three talented apprentices in three cultural venues in Milton Keynes, namely MK Gallery, Milton Keynes Theatre and Bletchley Park. This collaboration wouldn’t have been possible without the fantastic support of MK City Council. We’re ready to empower the next generation of creative talent in the heart of Milton Keynes.”

Apprenticeship Recruitment Manager for Creative Alliance, Jane Wright

Rethinking Cultural Inclusion and Diversity: A Call to Action for Milton Keynes Report Launch 16th November 17.15-18.45

ONLINE VIA ZOOM Book via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rethinking-cultural-inclusion-and-diversity-report-launch-tickets-126397296717

A celebration for anyone interested in inclusion and diversity, with specific focus on the arts and heritage sector in Milton Keynes

In 2019, in response to a Discussion Paper prepared by Milton Keynes Culture Team, AHA-MK proposed a programme of research to take a hard look at how well our arts and heritage sector engages with our diverse communities, with particular reference to gender, disability, race, religion or belief, class, sexual orientation and social mobility. Milton Keynes Council commissioned and funded AHA-MK to undertake this work and deliver an Inclusion Action Plan for Culture. The report we created presents recommendations resulting from our research, and has resulted in a dynamic action plan to take the sector forward to the next stage of this journey of inclusion and diversity.

Entitled Rethinking Cultural Inclusion and Diversity: A Call to Action for Milton Keynes, the report was published in September (see here for online copy: https://aha-mk.org/inclusion-and-diversity/) and it will be officially launched ONLINE at this event.

We are delighted that guests Abid Hussain, Director of Diversity at Arts Council England and Carole Baume, Portfolio Holder for Culture at Milton Keynes Council will be present to make short speeches. There will be opportunities for communities and sector organisations to network, and some demonstrations of cultural activity from diverse communities. A full schedule will follow shortly.

So many of the Milton Keynes community have contributed to the creation of this report and helped to form the recommendations which will be actioned over the coming months. The launch will be a chance to celebrate these contributions, and it marks the beginning of the next phase of working towards a more inclusive sector.

Member Feature September 2020

The next member feature on the AHA-MK website is Ephemeral Lines at Milton Keynes Arts Centre by sisters Elmira Zadissa and Ramona Zadissa, a residency which runs between May and September 2020. 

Ephemeral Lines by Elmira Zadissa and Ramona Zadissa. Milton Keynes Arts Centre

Back in May 2020 the Zadissa sisters (Elmira and Ramona) began a digital residency at Milton Keynes Arts Centre. The residency responded to lock-down and self-isolation by collecting stories and experiences of how people have coped during this moment in time. It uses a website (elines.miltonkeynesartscentre.org) as a digital platform where the people of Milton Keynes can upload their stories. Pairing and matching stories together the Zadissa sisters use the website to create a new space that shows emerging patterns in the experiences we have had.  Since May, over 60 stories have been collected through written word, voice recordings and images.

The Zadissa sisters’ concept for Ephemeral Lines emerges from the idea that things are temporary, but can leave a lasting trace in communities and individuals. While lockdown and social distancing are very relevant now, it is just one section of the story that makes up the bigger picture. The website acts as an archive where we remember that these stories can change and develop, but existed in this form at a certain point in time.

Importantly, Ephemeral Lines creates a space where untold stories can be shared. When we connect with others through our stories there is an increased sense of belonging to something bigger, and an understanding that we are all in ‘it’ (life/lockdown/society) together. As part of the Ephemeral Lines development, the Zadissa sisters ran some online workshops with local diverse community organisations such as Living Archive, Q:Alliance, and The African Diaspora Foundation. These were really interesting discussions where aspects of identity were brought out. AHA-MK attended the beading and braiding workshops run by The African Diaspora Foundation and it was a lovely way to connect with new people and hear stories about culture and tradition while creating braids and necklaces from items we had at home.

A collection of the stories gathered throughout the project formed the basis of a large single artwork also entitled Ephemeral Lines, which will be presented online (Instagram @MiltonKeynesArtsCentre), and live at the Open Market, The Centre MK, in Milton Keynes on 19 September 2020 from 11am – 3pm. A programme of workshops and free activities suitable for all ages will be on offer throughout the day at both the Open Market, MK and Milton Keynes Arts Centre. Booking essential at www.miltonkeynesartscentre.org.

Member Feature. July 2020

From July 2020, the AHA-MK website will feature a recent arts or heritage event of an AHA-MK member, updated every 4-6 weeks. Two photos of the event will head the AHA-MK home page, and there will be a blog post to accompany it. It is with great delight and pride that our first featured event is Digital Light: Code Makers, a collaboration between MKIAC and Bletchley Park in March 2020.

Digital Light: Code Makers, MKIAC and Bletchley Park collaboration

Connecting cultures by celebrating past and present stories of mathematics and design was a unique and special experience for all those participating in this Digital Light: Code Makers project” Anouar Kassim, MKIAC

In March 2020 Milton Keynes Islamic Arts and Culture (MKIAC) collaborated with Bletchley Park to create Digital Light: Code Makers, featuring the artwork of artists Sara Choudrey, Maryam Smit, and Soraya Syed. This wonderful and innovative event highlighted the history of mathematical thinking in the Islamic world by displaying geometrical patterns that are traditional in Islamic design. These patterns were lit up and projected at various points around the Bletchley Park site, juxtaposing the long history of maths in the Islamic world with the modern Western approach to code breaking developed at Bletchley Park during World War II.

Using the latest technology to create the light projections, this project celebrated the mathematical pathways that have brought humanity to this historical and cultural time where digital is all around us, allowing us to communicate across thousands of miles within seconds. One of the digital artworks was created at community workshops, splendidly bringing the voice of the Milton Keynes people into the mix. These workshops were formed of local Muslim communities, and diverse groups of young people from schools and MK College. The first evening of the event was open to community partners only.

The evening after was a preview for ‘invited VIPs’ with a reception and photographs, attended by about 200 people showing their support for this amazing display. At this buzzy preview, renowned scholars of Islamic maths and science spoke about the gap that exists in Western science books for 1200 years before the Middle Ages, where stories of scientific innovation are not recorded. Yet in the Islamic world, much scientific change and revolution occurred during that period, and mathematical thinking was highly developed. Not only does this demonstrate the very real bias our history books take when story-telling, but it also shows how different cultures influence each other to take humanity forward into new ground. While one culture is experiencing obstacles another culture can overcome them, resulting in a collective push forward.

When we collaborate, it allows us to go beyond our limitations and create something that is more than the sum of its parts. Digital Light: Code Makers is a fantastic example of a collaborative effort that was enhanced by the meeting of minds. It was phenomenal project to kick-start a new decade of intelligent and exciting cultural activity in Milton Keynes, that has inclusion at its heart.

Photos by Karen Kodish