Transcript - Community Cohesion through the arts with Niki from The New City Art Gallery (Episode 1)
Updated: Mar 17
Libby: You are listening to Constellations, the podcast connecting charities, communities and causes in the Essex unitaries of Thurrock & Southend. In today’s episode we are chatting to Niki, the gallery curator at The New City Gallery, a pop-up gallery in Southend. Niki is a champion and facilitator of arts within the local community. She’s a photographer herself, as well as being an encouraging voice to the artistic community, both those just starting out, as well as more established artists. Thanks for tuning in, and we hope you enjoy the episode.
Libby: Today we are joined by Nikki who is the gallery curator at The New City Gallery in Southend. Thank you so much for coming on to talk to us today.
Niki: It's a pleasure. I'm super excited. Thank you.
Libby: So what is The New City Gallery?
Niki: It's the second gallery that I've had in Southend High Street. They are Community to Southend really. They I had someone apply today from Durham, but the whole point of the gallery is people from Southend exhibit, and then the come in with their work. So I like them to be in the gallery with their work so they can talk to the public about their work. The gallery is very inclusive - what I want is a gallery where the art is accessible for everybody. So, literally in my last gallery, anybody can walk in and access what is on show? I don't accept anything political because it's the gallery’s for enjoyment, and I like to exhibit people from any age. So I think I had people from 13 to 75.
Libby: Oh, brilliant.
Niki: Of any standard as well, but literally it's someone that can have just started in art or someone that's been doing it for years. So it's a gallery I want everybody in Southend and any visitors for Southend to be able to enjoy.
Libby: That sounds absolutely, brilliant. Whereabouts is it located?
Niki: It's in the Victoria Shopping Centre. It's on a corner and it's the old opticians, and I'm kind of smiling to myself because there's a reason for that. And some of the images that I’ll later display will show why I'm smiling at that… and six massive windows. And that means six artists can show huge pieces of work. And I'm collaborating with artist Andy Downes, who does immense pieces of striking artwork. So my objective is to open up and say, “This is a gallery”, you won't be able to miss it.
Libby Sounds so amazing.
Sharen Incredible. So how long do you display the work for?
Niki: Well the gallery is going to be a pop up for six weeks. Work will change every week. So at the moment I've got 42 artists who would like to exhibit. I am absolutely blown away by that. So I put a post up and within 24 hours I'd had 42 interests, some out of Southend, as I've explained, which I’m unable to exhibit because of my terms, you know I want the artists in there because the public would love to talk to them. So a week. So the artists have a week to show their work. I'm also going to, a rolling film of the artists that exhibit, so it will be immortalised their work, with the artist's work.
Libby: That sounds great. Are you still looking for more artists?
Niki: Yes. Still looking for more artists. What I'm trying to do is I want to say yes to everybody. That's my aim. Today I have two more artists and I'm having to look at their work later on today. People are thinking I'm just doing art and photography being that I’m a photographer. I'm not. I'm doing jewellery, fabric design, sculpture, ceramic, every single type of art form: furniture, restoration, anything creative! Music, anything artistic - film, anything artistic you can think of. Yes. So yes, I am looking for other people.
Sharen: So how can people get involved if they want to have their work displayed?
Niki: Does need to be done via Facebook.
Libby: So you mentioned you’re a photographer. How long have you been doing photography?
Niki: Oh, did I mention that?! Did I slip that in there..? Since 2008 - it was really at the railway hotel. There are lots of musicians who played at the Railway Hotel and super talented - we've got so much talent in Southend in every aspect, and music is one of them. And I started taking uh photos of people playing instruments or singing at the railway hotel, and it just grew from there really. I think portraiture’s my forte - I love people. I love people's eyes. It grew from there, and now I do photography in various fields.
Libby: And you've also got a film?
Niki: I'm super excited. We have a film festival in Southend - we've got two, and I've been volunteering for both film festivals for 10 and 12 years. So the Southend Film Festival has been running, I think 12. The Horror Festival has been running 10 years, so I'm their official photographer. But the whole team works in a voluntary capacity because it's an independent film festival… So after watching horror films for 10 years, so I've made a 14 minute horror film noir short. Yes.
Libby: So when this episode airs, the launch will have already happened. Will your film be available to view anywhere?
Niki: Yes, it will have been premiered already by now, but I'm hoping to use the downstairs basement gallery if I can to show it. That might just be for cast and crew screenings
Niki: But it will one day go into other festivals and ultimately onto YouTube. And it's called Locked.
Sharen: And what was your inspiration behind creating the film?
Niki: Rolling series of portraits. So stark black and white portraits and the director of photography is blind photographer Ian Treherne - working with Ian over many years, he and I have…
Niki: We're in tune. I knew that he would be able to produce the images that I was looking for. [it’s] a film which used all recycled everything. Nothing was bought. I think I spent a pound on some false nails and they never got used.
Niki: So as far as low budget films go, yes.
Libby: You’re winning!
Niki: So I sent I sent the nails to my daughter. And she was “Thanks, mum?”
Niki: Yes, so and the film stars Wendy Morgan and she has been in so many films, so Google her because I'm very, very, very lucky to have Wendy Morgan as my leading lady.
Niki: I won't tell you if she dies or not, but as it's a film noir, that usually ends badly. As a clue.
Sharen: As an indication of what could happen.
Niki: Yeah yeah.
Sharen: So do you think you'll do more films?
Niki: I would love to, I must admit. Because the film is a very slow film. It's very visual. I've got lots of musical scores in written by local artists. Again, Winter has written a song specifically for my film.
Libby: That’s amazing.
Niki: I've had Scatty Lee producing musical scores that are so romantic to go along with the film. This is such a visual and call it audio feast. I want to see how people respond to it. I'm very excited and it is an artistic film. So it, I’ll wait and see how I’m received. Ohh!
Libby: So exciting!
Niki: It's so exciting. I would yes, I would like to make another.
Libby: Well I hope so. I'm really excited to see it, now. Yeah, me and my um husband and our best friends have been playing a video game, and it's a horror video game, so I'm proper in the mood for that at moment, I gots to say!
Niki: I'm a big fan of Beecroft Art Gallery. It's a fantastic gallery. Also, I work with St Vincent's, the charity for people without housing, and I teach art. It's fantastic. I'm quite conceptual in my artwork, so I try and do projects that make them reflect on what the charity maybe have… Not given them, but made them feel, or grow. And one of my art lessons was to provide them with a tin, again recycling, And then they hammered holes in the bottom. And then they painted a picture and stuck around the outside, and then they filled it with compost and put a plant in. That was all to do with how they were growing.
Libby: That’s beautiful.
Niki: Honestly, it was so fantastic. If I say so myself, they really, really enjoyed doing that. I do that monthly. We're hoping for a weekly thing. Things are being put in place for that.
Sharen: That’s incredible. So it sounds like you're inspiring all these people. So where do you, where do you get your inspiration from?
Niki: Going and seeing other people's work. I think, and being inspired by that. I go to galleries, I get very involved with people in Southend and if, if you feel part of something, then that spurs you on, doesn't it?
Niki: There are so many talented people in this area, and if we can just continue us all together… It just breathes! I said to Andy, um, Andy Downes who I'm collaborating with. And I just said I'm just buzzing and part of that is because of him, because he's posting his studio, the Little Known Studio and tagging me in and it grows and the comments we’re getting… Flooding in. And it just makes everybody feel good, doesn't it? And the fact that everybody can be involved as well, that that it just grows. It's like a great, big sunflower, but that grows all year round, not just in the summer.
Niki: I like my analogies, and I can’t believe I've only used one!
Sharen: I love that image.
Libby: It is. It's a beautiful image. Is there anything that you're super excited about exhibiting?
Niki: Exhibiting yoga, I thought, wouldn't be wonderful to have yoga in an art gallery.
Niki: So I've contacted two yoga instructors and they said yes. So what I thought was, I could then incorporate some music, some yoga, and then, whilst the people are doing yoga, I've asked um Andy Downes if he'll do some 30 second pencil sketches of nudes in positions, not necessarily yoga moves, yoga positions… But, just that to me, if you walk into a room, and then there's pencil images. It just all kind of fits in together.
Niki: So that's something that I have not done before.
Libby: I think we might need to go and move in.
Libby: It sounds fantastic. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Niki: Inspiring artists… Is that you've just got to do it. Some people do art or send art to me, and they say, I know I'm not very good…
Libby: but <laughter>
Niki: But or I've just started off… Time doesn't make any any difference.
Libby: We all start somewhere don’t we.
Niki: We all start somewhere. Be brave. Do do your work. And if you get knock backs… Jump right back up again because we all get knock backs, don't we? It's taken me two years to secure this place.
Libby: Yeah, wow.
Niki: I've I’ve had a lot of “no”s. You’ve just got to get right back up again. And I just think if you feel creative in anyway, or if you are creative or if you're not sure if you’re a creative, then, you know, just do it. And the fantastic thing with Insta, and Facebook and Twitter, is you can put your work out there. Some people are brutally honest - too brutally honest - sometimes, but if you can grow from that rather than feel defeated, make your artwork happen. Bring it alive… Definitely.
Libby: Yeah. Well, even with brutally honest comments, art is so divisive isn’t it?
Libby: Just because one person says “I don't like that” doesn't mean that there isn't going to be plenty of fans out there.
Niki: No, and I think more and more, we all know that our world is becoming more and more and more diverse, isn't it?
Niki: There is a world where anything is possible, and always has been, but I think we're seeing that even more than we ever have done before.
Sharen: So if any of our listeners would like to get in touch with you.
Niki: Uh, Nikki Cornish on Facebook, NikiInstapics on instagram.
Libby: You're also on Twitter, that's where I found you.
Niki: Yeah, I am on Twitter. I was trying to think - it’s NikiCPhoto on Twitter as well. Yes.
Libby: Is there anything else that you would like to talk about?
Niki: To thank everybody. I have got so many of the artists coming in to paint the walls for me
Libby: Community spirit, lovely.
Niki: It’s community spirit! So we're having a day where we're getting together and we're painting and hoovering and and and no so massive, massive, massive um thank you to everybody
Sharen: Yes, and I cannot wait to uh pop along and see it.
Libby: Yeah me too! It’s so exciting!
Niki: Thank you, thank you. Yeah, it would be really, really good to see you. And thank you for this opportunity.
Libby: Thank you so much for coming to speak to us!
Sharen: Yes, thank you for joining us.
Niki: An absolute pleasure. Thank you.
Libby: Thank you so much for listening. If you've got any questions for us, have suggestions for topics you'd like to hear about or any individuals or organisations you would like to hear us interview, please send us an email at hello(at)constellations-podcast.org. We would also be really grateful if you could leave us a review and share this podcast with anyone that you think would enjoy listening too. <MUSIC BY> Thank you again and take care. Bye!