New Icons of the North

Working as a Consultant Director between 2005 and 2010 for Wakefield-based ‘Arts for People & Place’ organisation Beam, Ian was involved in a number of key public art projects and strategies. Biggest and most high profile of this was undoubtedly his work as lead consultant for them in 2005 to propose the artistic vision and business plan case for the pan-regional ‘Welcome to the North public art programme. The aim of Welcome to the North was to enhance perception, profile and quality of place in the North of England by investing in a small number of iconic public artworks at key gateways.

Covering the NW, NE and Yorkshire, Beam had been appointed by Arts Council England to work for the 3 northern Regional Development Agencies to propose a major capital spend programme. In developing the artistic and business cas, Ian and Beam worked alongside an invited Expert Panel of specialists to first identify and then test proposals. Funding wise, this formed part of the ‘C10 Market the North to the World’ investment priority outlined in The Northern Way Business Plan published in 2005.



A budget of £4.5 million in total was invested by the 3 norther RDA’s as part of broad financial package consisting to begin with of 10 public art projects. Of the actually, finally 8 realised projects, 5 were given significant core capital funding contributions, 2 were given development funding linked to the Channel 4 Big Art Project running at that time, and a further ‘virtual gateway artwork’ was also commissioned. As such, the following (realised) works contributed to were:

Core Arts Capital Funding

  • Another Place in Crosby by Antony Gormley – Secured permanently in March 2007
  • Turning the Place Over in Liverpool by Richard Wilson – Temporary project launched in June 2007
  • Halo ‘Panopticon’ in Rossendale by John Kennedy – Permanently installed in September 2007
  • Light Neville Street (previously known as a Sound and Light Transit) in Leeds by Peter Kuhn – Permanently installed in October 2009
  • Temenos in Middlesbrough by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond – Permanently installed in June 2010


Development Funding (and linked to Channel 4’s Big Art Project )

  • Invisible in Burnley by Greyworld – Ultimately temporary project launched in March 2008
  • Dream in St Helens by Jaume Plensa – Permanently installed in May 2009


In addition: as a ‘Virtual Gateway’ The Wonderful North by artists Bryan and Laura Davies and digital agency Numiko, documented the artists exploratory journey throughout the North of England, and made over 1 month; A special edition of Art and Architecture Journal, was also published in Autumn 2008 with and introduction and feature written by Ian Banks; and a Northern Way website (no longer live) hosted comprehensive articles and information on the programme. Both of these latter used a programme strap line – New Icons of the North.

Following the completion of the programme, and evaluation of Welcome to the North was completed by the SQW Evaluation of the Northern Way published in April 2009 and Policy Research Institute in October 2009 . A Final Report by the Welcome to the North, Programme Manager in December 2010 , included a quote from Ian Banks’ article on the programme as published in the Art & Architecture Journal.

Categories: Public Art

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