Derby’s QUAD arts centre celebrates tenth anniversary
- Credit: Archant
Derby’s QUAD arts centre has become an important part of the city’s identity over the last decade and it celebrates its impact on the cultural landscape at its 10th anniversary this September
The steel and glass cube in the Market Place that is home to QUAD has become a symbol of the city, and its cinema screens, exhibition spaces and café bar have become a beloved part of life in Derby. The striking original design and location have won over visitors, although not all were enthusiastic when plans were revealed back in 2004. The arts centre was the shared vision of the former Metro Cinema and Q Arts, with partners Derby City Council, but the public had to be convinced that a multi-million-pound investment in the arts was needed.
Now a decade on, QUAD’s importance to the city and the way it has put Derby on the map are widely acknowledged and few people in the city haven’t been engaged by its exhibitions, projects or education programmes, watched a film or event or enjoyed a drink or bite to eat at the venue.
It hasn’t always been easy with cuts in arts budgets, but QUAD has thrived and grown over the last 10 years as Chief Executive Adam Buss explains: ‘QUAD opened at the height of the recession so we knew that the funding landscape and indeed our customers’ available time and resources would change significantly. We have seen a reduction in public funding of over 60 per cent and this continues to decrease year-on-year, so we have had to find ways of adapting our business whilst staying true to our ethos and objectives. One example of this is the Summer Nights Film Festival which now attracts around 25,000 people a year and allows us to reach audiences outside our four walls whilst engaging them in spectacular film screenings in beautiful locations.
‘I have to say a massive thank you to all the staff for their incredible hard work and for constantly finding new ways to save money and generate income. I am fortunate to work with such an inspiring team. Physically the building has been amended over time with redevelopments to the café bar and digital studio as well as some of the spaces changing names and usage, including the important renaming of Cinema 1 to the Sir John Hurt cinema in tribute to our first patron. Our programme has also changed, with every exhibition now being part of a “season” which allows us to explore themes more deeply; and the increase in digital technology meaning we are able to screen more diverse films and more live content via satellite broadcasts. We also made a conscious decision three years ago to present more work that uses or discusses digital media.’
Adam has been with QUAD throughout its history and has seen its impact on the city: ‘I think we have raised the profile of Derby through events like FORMAT (the UK’s largest photography festival) and Derby Film Festival (attracting the likes of Sir Ben Kingsley and Sir John Hurt as guests), provided unprecedented experiences through things like the Derby Soap Opera (the largest mass participation film ever made), and raised ambitions and aspirations through showing that brilliant people and things come from Derby. We have always tried to take our civic responsibility very seriously which is why being the regional host for Holocaust Memorial Day and creating Q Club for young people with complex needs are as important as anything else that takes place here. By working with and highlighting the achievements of another of our patrons, Jack O’Connell, we are saying “Jack is from Derby and works in Hollywood, so can you” and similarly by exposing aspiring photographers to some of the world’s best during FORMAT Festival we are both bringing the world to Derby and showing Derby to the world.
‘I hope that many of our exhibitions have been thought-provoking including our recent “Our Friends Electric” which explored the rise and developments in Artificial Intelligence and our exhibition by Mark Neville “Battle Against Stigma” which explores post-traumatic stress disorder. I have had conversations with audience members who have taken forward an interest in a particular subject after being inspired by an exhibition they have seen here, that is an incredibly important part of what we do.
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‘I am always struck by how many times I see QUAD represented on graphics, photography and designs that are there to show the best of Derby. The building design was always going to be controversial as our architects FCB (Fielden Clegg Bradley) were committed to reflecting a contemporary design that was true to its roots. We are one of very few buildings left in the county that is clad with Derbyshire gritstone (only quarried in Derbyshire) and the design tells a story of innovation and creativity in the city by reflecting the work of Joseph Wright and his use of light and bands of coloured stone which are a representation of the topographical nature of Derbyshire. In some ways we are the most “Derby” building design in the city as every part of the design was inspired by our city and county.’
Despite having a maximum of three screens compared with more than 10 at the multiplexes, QUAD has shown a more extensive and diverse range of movies. Adam Marsh is QUAD’s Cinema Programmer. He says: ‘We’ve run the gamut of films, countries, genres here at QUAD since we opened. We’ve had Oscar-winning dramas, blockbusters, arthouse classics, horror, sci-fi, comedy; together with our regular screenings for parent and babies, special Cine Kids’ club screenings, supportive environment and dementia-friendly screenings. All these alongside the run of incredible new films that are released year in, year-out. We screen more than 250 different films per year from a whole host of countries. Since we opened we’ve screened films from countries all around the world, we’ve even had a film called Somi – The Taekwondo Woman play here, which was made in North Korea.’
A host of famous names from the world of cinema have visited QUAD, so who is Adam most pleased to have brought to Derby?
‘Obviously we’re really proud to have had Sir John Hurt to QUAD on a number of occasions, he was our patron and we renamed our cinema in honour of his work. But the one I’m most happy with was Sir Ben Kingsley. We got very late confirmation that he would be able to do the event but we sold out our biggest screen in under 12 hours. Then the event was possibly the most intense Q&A I’ve ever seen. He was magnetic on stage.’
Despite programming films for nine years, Adam still hasn’t ticked all his must-do film boxes as yet. He says: ‘We’ve been kicking around the idea of doing a day dedicated to Bill Murray called Murraymania! We’ve not managed to find a slot for that, but I think that Quick Change, a movie he co-directed, would benefit from a cinema screening.’
And what has been the most popular film with QUAD audiences? ‘We’ve had a bunch of really popular films here, but none have come close to selling the amount of tickets The King’s Speech did in 2011. We couldn’t sell tickets quick enough!’
Louise Clements is QUAD’s Artistic Director, bringing the best of visual arts to the city. She’s also the director of the FORMAT photography festival which every two years has QUAD as its central hub. Louise says: ‘My excellent programme team and I work extremely hard to deliver a diverse, challenging and inspiring programme. We are constantly raising the bar and are ambitious beyond many expectations. The programme we present is driven by our team with the collaboration of valuable local and international partners and artists. Our reputation is globally recognised and nearly all our programme is produced and directed by our team. Over the last 10 years we have supported more than 2,500 talented artists and engaged over 3,500,000 wonderful audience members.
‘We have enjoyed developing our diverse audiences who both travel to visit or live nearby. Our programmes are often challenging but we aim always to be friendly and open, to encourage participation and share the best programmes. We are always grateful to anyone who attends our work. The Derby audience is very important to us, we are fully committed to engaging our city and region and it is crucial that local audiences feel engaged and involved, we love to hear the feedback. FORMAT is a hugely important programme for QUAD that has allowed thousands of creative people to be seen and heard. If you look at the history of Derby, innovation in photography and new technologies has always been present. We have developed these as a focus that is recognised worldwide, consequently our expertise is in demand globally.’
Kathy Frain, QUAD’s Marketing and Audience Development Manager has been with QUAD throughout, having previously worked at the Metro cinema in Green Lane. She says: ‘It really is a cultural hub, friendly, welcoming and somewhere you can go and see, hear or do something surprising, amazing, unique and inspiring. You can meet like-minded or unusual people or feel comfortable on your own. I like to think that we prioritise young people engaging in the arts and culture and that can be anything from pure inspiration to a whole new career pathway. The arts are so marginalised in education at the moment, there is really a lot of work being done here behind the scenes to bring on the next generation of artists, filmmakers and creatives. We hope QUAD can say to everyone “come in and see what we’ve got, you’ll be very welcome.”’
Kathy says that QUAD has staged more than 75 exhibitions and shown more than 4,000 films since 2008: ‘Anything outside London is still relegated and we have to fight harder to be noticed but we’ve had tons of national and international coverage.’
As QUAD celebrates its 10th birthday it’s looking to the future as well as the past. As Adam Buss concludes: ‘In the next ten years I want QUAD to continue to celebrate Derby and the people who live, work and visit here. I want QUAD to retain care, fun and creativity at its heart whilst reflecting the changing nature of society and the digital landscape we inhabit. The future is full of wonderful possibilities through digital media but allied to this are concerns about wider societal impacts and it is our role to reflect all sides and find ways of including everyone in the discussions.’
Best memories from 10 years at QUAD
KATHY FRAIN: ‘As Press Officer I’ve been lucky enough to meet many talented and famous guests, but the most down to earth, friendly and thoughtful person – as well as being the most consummate patient professional with any number of media enquiries – was our first patron, the late Sir John Hurt. At his last visit in 2014, my daughter and I went to a Derby Film Festival screening of Plague Dogs, in which he starred. Sir John and his wife Anwen were in QUAD Café and we went and said hello but both Anna and I were too shy to ask him for an autograph or a photo. We then went into the film feeling a bit foolish, but after we’d sat down, Sir John and Anwen also came in to watch the film and came and sat right next to Anna. She absolutely grinned with pride, and will always cherish that memory, as will I.’
ADAM BUSS: ‘My favourite memory comes from the very first day. We were all anxious as to what response we would get once we opened the building for the first time as everyone had put so much work into it, but it was brand new for the city. I was overwhelmed by the positive responses and one image sticks in my mind of a punk and a Morris dancer chatting on the balcony and smiling, they were both part of one of our first projects – The17 by Bill Drummond – and it summed up for me what we were all about, finding ways of using art, film and digital media to bring people together and improve lives.’
LOUISE CLEMENTS: ‘There are hundreds! However, one I can’t forget was the finale of Bill Drummond’s The17, where all the participants, over 2,000 people, joined us in the Market Place during QUAD’s opening week, to attend his performance of all of the 1,700 voices singing a single note in the pentatonic scale, and at the end it was deleted. This was an extremely emotional and powerful moment for the audience and ourselves that was certainly etched into our memories. We are very happy to bring back the exhibition of photographs of all of The17 participants as part of our anniversary programme.’
ADAM MARSH: ‘There have been a crazy amount of great memories from the past ten years, but my favourite memory has to be the screening of Purple Rain at Derby Film Festival 2016. Prince had died in April and I felt we needed to represent that in some way, so we booked Purple Rain to play at the festival with a Prince DJ night in the bar. I don’t think I’ll better the memories of playing Prince songs in a jam-packed bar at QUAD with over 100 people singing Purple Rain.’