Culture LABS

Metal runs a programme of Culture LABS each year that brings together groups of artists and thinkers in exploratory, week-long, intensive residencies around different themes and subjects. Artists come from a variety of disciplines, types of practice and different places around the UK and overseas.

LABS in 2011 and 2012 have included investigations into Digital work with emphasis on new software and hardware development; Comedy and Live Art; Protest and Propaganda in relationship to the modern Olympic movement.

We host LABS at our spaces in Liverpool, Southend-on-Sea and Peterborough. They are designed to help artists examine and develop their practice, assist with knowledge exchange and expertise, and to provide the opportunity for time and space to develop new ideas.


25-29 November 2013: Site and Situation Lab in Liverpool

Metal is assessing the transitional affects of the regeneration programme that has literally changed the landscape around Edge Lane and environs. We invited 9 artists from different disciplines to respond to Liverpool as a city and Edge Lane as a community within it. The artists were primed with talks by artist Neville Gabie and poet Lemn Sissay, both of whom have recent experience of devising work in public places. A tour of Liverpool organised by Ian Brownbill showed the contrasts of the city centre redevelopment and the surrounding areas - vast warehouses and remnants of the city's history as a port, giving way to heritage museums and shopping.

The artists spent three days developing new thinking for the area, work that Metal aims to continue with in 2014. This included the ghostly before and after effect of Google maps that still show the houses on Edge Lane by Jamie Gledhill, Maddi Nicholson's proposals for temporary works on the green areas where the houses once stood and David Kefford's sculptural assemblages from found materials.

Musician and songwriter Shereen Elizabeth worked on three new tracks within the Tower at Edge Hill Station (click here for her EP) and Bristol-based artist Hannah Clarke produced a new work using skype. Quarantine artists Richard Gregory and Renny O'Shea worked on current projects and storyteller Rachel Rose Reid met with people from the newly formed community. Andrew Mottershead (from French and Mottershead) developed several new ideas - again connecting into the Edge Lane redevelopment.

Overall, the lab and its theme served to highlight the importance of new ideas to the neighbourhood as the regeneration of the area cannot be constrained to roads and housing; as culture and place-making are an important part in community cohesion and spirit.

For more information about our Labs, click here

17-21 June 2013

Metal Liverpool's series of interdisciplinary labs continues with a composer's lab at Edge Hill. Composers and musicians are working in an intensive week, devising new work.

This has included peer to peer presentations of current work and in-depth practical and technical sessions. Alan Dunn, Jeff Young and Martin Heslop presented a new sound piece with a Q&A afterwards.  Award-winning composer Anna Meredith talked to participants about her career development and musician/sound engineer Gareth Jones worked on technical software development. This was followed by production and co-development of new sound and musical works, ranging from electronica and synthesis to traditional composition. The final evening session included a presentation by composer Nigel Clarke, who also gave practical and conceptual advice to the lab composers.

Nigel commented: 'It was a rewarding experience to see these highly talented and motivated composers supporting each other and creating such excellent and imaginative work.'

The lab participants were:

Shelly Knotts
Simon Dobson
Daniel Thorne
Mak of All Trades
Luke Moore
Thomas Hawley

Rachel Nicholas
Lucy Pankhurst
Jon Hering

Read Luke Moore blog post about his Composers Lab experience.

Find out more about Metal's Culture Labs here.

Listen to the compositions created during the composers' lab (including Alan Dunn's new sound piece London Road 66):


Metal and Arts Council of England / Partner Organisations: Norwich Writer's Centre and Pacitti Company.

Pacitti Company, Ipswich - 28 January - 1 February
Writer's Centre, Norwich - 4 February - 8 February
Metal, Peterborough - 18 March - 22 March

Download the final report from all three labs HERE.

Metal, in conjunction with Arts Council England, offered 24 arts practitioners the opportunity to get involved in one of three ideas labs across the East of England. This is part of the Digital Escalator programme within the Eastern Region. The Ideas Labs were 5 day intensive opportunities to develop and embed digital practice within creative people in the region. They were aimed at artists and arts practitioners and companies currently active in within the Eastern Region (as defined by Arts Council England – see - including Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex). The opportunity allowed all participants to establish a comprehensive overview of ways and means of using new technologies in arts projects in a variety of contexts, involved technical sessions, peer to peer presentation of current work and an opportunity to devise and develop new ideas.


Metal worked with 12 artists and curators in an intensive week long lab at Chauffeurs Cottage in Peterborough between 18-22 March. This was the third lab supported by Arts Council England with the specific aim of building digital capacity in the Eastern region as part of Metal's lead role as Digital Escalator. The Peterborough Lab focussed on outdoor arts development and included an opportunity for those participating to develop new ideas for projection within Cathedral Square.

The Ideas Labs have generated significant networking opportunities for those participating and overall Metal has been able to work with 24 curators, programmers, arts leaders and artists between January and March.


Working with 8 regional artists, Metal were developing new works looking at coding, writing, maps, apis and more. The artists have experienced an intensive series of sessions including talks by Justin Hopper and Rachel Lichtenstein.

You can see some of the emerging work at:

We also explored the city, including the inspiring Soup Lab run by Rachel Rayns, who was one of the participants.

Read Matthew Linley's blog about the Norwich Lab.


Metal in collaboration with Pacitti Company in Ipswich developed a five-day ideas lab working with 6 regional practitioners. The artists involved explored a variety of approaches to digital practice working in the Think Tank space at Pacittti Company. The lab investigated the use of technology in performing environments, including surround sound and open source processing. A number of emerging new projects were developed and both Metal and Pacitti Company will be staying in touch with the artists over the next few months.


Metal hosted a week long Culture LAB for creative writers, designed to provide a peer-to-peer environment for an intensive period of development of your writing practice. It included input from invited speakers (including respected fiction writers Cathi Unsworth, Christopher Fowler, Julie Myerson); one-to-one advice from our facilitator for the week;  support from the Metal creative team; time and space to write and develop specific aspects of a current project; working and social time with peers for discussion and exchange of ideas and practice. Funded through Metal’s grant from Arts Council England (ACE).

There is an added opportunity for participants to work towards being part of Shorelines, Metal’s Literature Festival of the Sea that will take place in Autumn 2013. The participants of the Culture Lab were encouraged to consider how their work might fit into this theme of the sea with a view to either beginning a new piece of writing or developing an existing text for inclusion in the Shorelines festival, Metal’s Literature Festival of the Sea that will take place in Autumn 2013.

Speakers info:

Julie Myerson
The novelist Julie Myerson was born in Nottingham in 1960. She read English at Bristol University and has worked for the National Theatre and in publishing. Her first work of non-fiction, Home: The Story of E veryone Who Ever Lived in our House, was published in 2004, followed by a memoir about PE at school - Not a Games Person (2005). Julie Myerson's work has been translated into many languages. Her latest book is Then (2011).

Cathi Unsworth
Cathi Unsworth is a novelist, writer and editor who lives and works in London. Her first novel THE NOT KNOWING was published in 2005, followed the next year with the award-winning short story compendium LONDON NOIR, which she edited, and in 2007 with the punk noir novel THE SINGER. Her third novel, BAD PENNY BLUES, inspired by the unsolved 'Jack the Stripper' murders of 1959-65 was published in 2010 to great critical acclaim. She has recently published WEIRDO in 2012.

Christopher Fowler
Christopher Fowler is the multi award-winning author of thirty novels and ten short story collections, and the author of the Bryant & May mystery novels. His first bestseller was 'Roofworld'. His most recent short stories appear in The Time Out Book Of London Short Stories, Dark Terrors 3, London Noir, Neon Lit., A Book Of Two Halves, Vengeance Is, Love In Vein 2, Destination Unknown, 100 Fiendish Little Frightmares, and The Time Out Book Of New York Stories. The tenth book of the series, Bryant & May and the Invisible Code was released on August 2nd, 2012.

Videos with the participants of ON WRITING FICTION Culture Lab:

May 2012


photos and video to follow...

March 2012


March Culture LAB took place at Metal in Southend, and looked at the subject of Protest and Propaganda in relationship / response to the Olympic Games 2012.

Participating artists: Heidi Wigmore, Hayley Goodsell, Stephen Walker, Lynn MacRitchie and Josh Langan.

Watch the videos to see what the artists thought of the lab:

October 2011

Culture LAB:  Comedy and Live Art

Metal devised and hosted the second in our series of Culture LABS in October 2011 with the performance artist, Oreet Ashery. The week-long, residential LAB held in Southend brought together live artists and stand up comedians to explore humour and the processes of developing work. The LAB was facilitated by Oreet Ashery and Simon Poulter. Participating artists were Caroline Smith, Mem Morisson, Owen Parry, Scottee and Oriana Fox. Visiting comedians included Simon Munnery, Alex Horne, Shaista Aziz and Markus Birdman.

During the week a number of artists developed ideas for new projects. These were presented to a number of invited guests at the end of the week and several of the projects have already gone into development.

See what the artists had to say at the end of the week:

Culture LAB:  Digital:  March 2010. Metal's first Culture LABS was developed and facilitated by artists, Simon Poulter and Graham Harwood and was organised in partnership with the Digital Exploration Centre in Southend on Sea.  We invited eight European artists to come for a week to Chalkwell Hall.  Participants included Hans Verhaegen, Stephen Fortune, Caroline Heron, Markus Soukup, Olga Panades, Rob Smith, John O'Shea and Emilie Giles.

Visiting guests ran sessions with the artists, these included Dr Tim Kindberg, Pervasive Media Studio, Dr Matthew Fuller, Goldsmiths College, Dr Ken Guild, University of Essex and Peter Higgins, Land Design Studio. A series of early development projects were created by each of the artists, including a short film by Markus Soukup that went on to feature in Metal's exhibition STILL and contribute to him winning the Liverpool Art Prize in 2011. You can see documentation of the Metal/DEC Lab 2011 by clicking here.

"I was hugely grateful to be nominated for this week long workshop because, having not been surrounded by a supportive network of my peers for some time, this was an opportunity for me to rejuvenate, to come up with and develop an idea quickly, using the group as a soundboard and finding their comments extremely useful in my progress. I felt over the course of the week I found a way back to my own ideas again and have a new sense of positivity about my practice for the future." Caroline Heron