Edition number 19; dateline 26 June 09

Opening up to your inner artist

I haven’t turned my thoughts to art recently in this column and in fact I don’t think I have ever ventured too far into this area of leisure. I am not renowned for my knowledge or indeed my appreciation of art, although I did venture into the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern about a year ago and dangle a child into the ‘crack’ in the floor which, I was informed, was the piece of art I was meant to be observing. I’m not sure that I quite ‘got’ the art and I am sure the child didn’t, although his cries of delight showed he enjoyed the experience.

Ever one to be open-minded and as someone who believes that I should always be enthusiastic to new learning, I have chastised myself for my  behaviour at Tate Modern and have begun to think a little more about this area of leisure. Should I be giving it more respect? I guess art is all around and enjoyed by many in its different formats but sport has always been a large part of my life and, to be honest, I realise I haven’t really considered art.

I am perhaps, guilty of compartmentalising it. I discovered early in my life that I couldn’t draw or paint so I think I made a decision at the age of five or six that ‘art’ wasn’t for me. I couldn’t draw, therefore I was encouraged to drop ‘art’ as a subject at the age of thirteen or so as I wasn’t going to achieve an O level in this subject. By the time I had become a teenager, ‘art’ had gone from my life and I had gone from the tender care of ‘art’ people into the rough, tough world of sport. As I consider this now, I see that art is much more than drawing and painting. Of course, I take some responsibility for my lack of understanding in my formative years of what exactly art is but I think that some responsibility has to go to the education system, which calls a subject that is primarily drawing and painting ‘art’. Art, of course, is much more and if we widen this to the cultural sector it includes everything from dance and poetry to drama and even my beloved sport.

I think we sports folk sometimes become frustrated by the arts world. We see it as a bit fluffy; we can’t pin it down – after all, who wins? We even get a little frustrated by our own sporting activities when we see them venturing into the personal preferences of individual judges and being a bit ‘arty’, for example synchronised swimming, ice dance, skating and even gymnastics. However, some have been accepted more than others – we have accepted ice dance since the stunning success of Torville and Dean – so are we a little contradictory?

I am currently working on a project that includes a wide range of different activities, including heritage, art, health, education and skills and sport. It is incredibly exciting but also hugely challenging because the work is beginning to develop links to several or perhaps all of the different themes. I am having to challenge my own thoughts about how to combine art and sport, and concentrate on what is the best solution for the end-user. For example, designing a programme that will work for people with mental health issues uses both physical activity and competitive sport (in some cases) but also a drawing class or learning about photography. Not only are we having to think about combining the programme of activities but also what the facilities look like. We are asking ourselves questions such as how can we use public art pieces to enhance the experience of people accessing what is firstly a sports venue. My first response is to think of all of the sports activities we could do with the money being spent on that piece of public art but even us sporty folk like and need some art in our lives. I was reminded of this when the statue of Brian Clough was unveiled in Nottingham’s Old Market Square to great support and applause.

So now I am becoming persuaded that art is, in fact, very much part of my life. I love reading wonderful novels and continue to enjoy writing, which is art (although whether it counts as good art I’m not sure). I have also begun to become more accepting of modern art, despite the Tate Modern experience. This change of heart, at least some of it, is thanks to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The ‘new’ Duke and Duchess (since 2004) had a reputation before moving to Chatsworth of liking that ‘terrible modern art stuff’. What were they going to do to the magnificent house? I have to say that, after several visits fairly recently, the sculptures and drawings they have introduced completely enhance the house and they have taught me that modern art and heritage can work hand in hand. I also love to take a few minutes to just sit and relax in the magnificent piazza of the British Library, overlooked by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi's statue of Isaac Newton, before running for the train back t’north from St Pancras station, which, almost in its entirety, could also be described as a work of art.

I need to go swimming now – sport getting back in there –  but as I plough up and down the pool I may let my thoughts turn to the art of coaching and not just the science of sport. A subject for the future perhaps?


Kay Adkins is an executive board member of a county sport partnership, chair of a CSN and a member of the interim board of the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure. Kay is also managing director of KAM Ltd, which offers a range of support services in the sport and leisure industry working in volunteer/workforce development and facility development.

Photography: Ms Adkins

To find Tales from a Tub in previous issues please visit the Comment page.


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