Context 153 - March 2018

32 C O N T E X T 1 5 3 : M A R C H 2 0 1 8 awareness of the historic built environment but also to highlight the need for good contemporary architecture on the island. The aimwas to use Isle of Architecture as an umbrella to promote a series of events, some organised by the group, and some by other island-based organisations (similar to the approach of Scotland’s Festival of Architecture). It was hoped that many of the island’s heritage trusts would become involved and organise their own architecture-related events. This proved difficult, partly due to the initiative’s short lead-in time, and partly due to a lack of enthusiasm by the Alliance for Building Conservation, which acted as a conduit to the heritage trusts. Throughout the year, Isle of Architecture organised and promoted lectures, competitions, workshops and other events. Revel produced an online cycle tour around Ramsey, focusing on the town’s built heritage and capitalising on the island’s love of everything on two wheels. The #ilovethisbuilding competitions were particularly successful. People were asked to photograph or video their favourite building, and upload it to the Isle of Architecture Facebook page with a short commentary. The competition received extensive publicity and Revel managed to secure some handsome prizes, including a weekend break in MNH’s thatched cottage, Yn Thie Tooit, in the north of the island. The lectures also proved very popular. Speakers from off-island included Kathryn Ferry (on seaside architecture) and Marianne Suhr (on restoration and energy efficiency in old houses). It was particularly rewarding to hear from two young Manx architects, Hannah Corlett and Jasmin Eastwood, who have forged successful careers for themselves in the UK.The future of rural design was discussed during one event which included presentations from architects and planners, followed by an open discussion. An architecture-related PechaKucha was held. To encourage young people’s interest,Isle ofArchitecture ran several Art inArchitecture workshops for Key Stage 2 pupils and hosted a half-termBig Drawworkshop.There was a Creative Spaces workshop for adults,which resulted in an exhibition and discussion about generating space for creative industries on the island. Perhaps the most innovative and inclusive of the Isle of Architecture events were the Gigs in Unusual Spaces. These aimed at bringing people into buildings they might not normally visit, and appreciating them in a different way. After a short introduction to the building, the gig itself would begin.There was an evening of Poems andYarns in the old Sailor’s Shelter in Peel, and Manx music performances in Peel Lifeboat House. Other venues included a swimming pool, a village hall designed by MH Baillie Scott and Castletown’s Old Grammar School (formerly a medieval church).Working with partners, the Crow’s Nest at the Sea Terminal in Douglas was reopened, a venue that many remember from its bygone days as a restaurant (see page 35).This included an audio-visual installation inspired by the building, recorded onsite by local musicians. Isle of Architecture officially ended in July 2017 and much thought has been given to its potential legacy. MNH and CultureVannin have both expressed interest in continuing Gigs in Unusual Spaces. In October every year MNH organises two Heritage Open Day weekends. One plan is to arrange a mini festival of architecture throughout the intervening week, comprising one or two lectures, an exhibition, a few gigs and perhaps some children’s workshops. The steering group is especially keen to get the island’s children interested in architecture from an early age. Not only will this develop greater appreciation of the built environment among the next generation, but some of these children will become our future architects and planners. Isle of Architecture received considerable publicity in print, radio and online. Good use was made of social media, with 1,238 Facebook and 402 Twitter followers added over the course of the year. Around 1,200 people attended the live events. While a longer lead-in time and additional funding would have been beneficial, Isle of Architecture was a great success, and shows what can be achieved on a relatively small budget with a lot of hard work. It has been lauded by planners and politicians, as well as heritage organisations, and it certainly brought the island’s architecture to a new audience and generated much debate. Find out more at www.isleofarchitecture.com . Future initiatives for the Building Conservation Forum include an investigation into the potential reuse of church buildings – a significant problem on the island, where there are no sources of funding available for their upkeep. There are also plans to develop an online advocacy toolkit for the island’s built environment. The recent review of planning has demonstrated a willingness within government to encourage greater public engagement with the planning process and in the formulation of planning policy, perhaps through the creation of non-statutory local plans. In September 2016, representatives from the north-west branch of the IHBC visited the island, and held a lecture and workshop on public engagement in planning, and demonstrated the Oxford Character Assessment Toolkit. This toolkit was recently trialled with a small group in Peel, but it was considered too complicated for the island’s needs.The Building Conservation Forum is considering options for a similar form of character assessment. Over the last two-and-a-half years a significant momen- tum has built up on the island through the activities of the Building Conservation Forum, the Alliance for Building Conservation and the Isle of Architecture initiative. Combined with the recent planning review, it feels like there is an opportunity now to keep the dialogue going, in a spirit of openness and cooperation. By encouraging people to think about the buildings around them, and helping them articulate what is important to them, we can help fulfil our ambitions as a Unesco biosphere reserve, and truly make the Isle of Man a special place to live, work and visit.

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