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Photo of visitors to Shift and Spin at Stanley Mills
Shift and Spin marked the end of a micro-residency at Stanley Mills and the chance for students to discuss their work with the local community

The latest chapter in the restoration of Stanley Mills, one of the best-preserved relics of the Industrial Revolution, has unfolded in Shift and Spin, a celebration of Intermedia artistic practice by students and staff at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) and the local community of Stanley, Perthshire.

Taking place over two days in late April 2015, Shift and Spin involved performances and exhibitions of artists’ work, all responding to the building, its history and its setting on the River Tay.

To create the site-responsive artwork, staff and students on the Intermedia BA and Fine Art MA programmes at ECA took part in a micro residency at the mill complex, hosted by partners in Historic Scotland, which maintains the property.

Over the course of two overnight research trips, they met former mill workers who worked at Stanley in the 1940s and 1960s, visited a salmon hatchery, the Loch of the Lowes nature reserve, the Birnam Oak and a smokehouse, and talked to a local ghillie.

A sensorial strategy for art making

Intermedia at ECA is the only undergraduate degree programme in the UK that focuses explicitly upon the conjoining of the different types of media prevalent within Contemporary Art; a sensorial strategy for art making.

Shift and Spin brought together 25 creative practitioners, including established international artists known for making work outside of the perceived centres of culture: Walker & Bromwich; and Zoë Walker's colleague at ECA, Susan Mowatt (Programme Director of Intermedia).

As well as a performance by a local school choir, and a costumed procession through the village of Stanley, the event involved exhibitions of weaving, sculpture, drawing, installation, film and stories by the following students:

Scott Baxter; Ruth Bingham-hamilton; Healey Blair; Amy Boulton; Emily Campling; Anna Danielewicz; Adam Castle & Lorna Stubbs Davies; Michael Di Rienzo; Nicola Farr; Lucas Galley-Greenwood; Zoë Griffin; Mary Hartley; Eleanor Jones; Aaron Jose; Camilla Loyd; Natalie Louise Lyons; Harry Maberly; Claire Pearce; Ellie Powell; Hazel Powell; and Rachel Treloar.

Some of the students have spoken of their experience of the residency and of Shift and Spin

"Conversations with visitors to the mill were highly rewarding. Listening to their stories from the workplace allowed me to see things from a different perspective. The exhibition was a brilliant opportunity for exchanges that really made the old factory site come to life"

Anna Danielewicz, third year Intermedia – BA (Hons)

"Stanley Mills was such a different context from Edinburgh College of Art I found myself thinking completely differently about what art making is to me and what it can become."

Camilla Loyd, third year Intermedia – BA (Hons)

"I think that, for the visitors, their interpretation of the factory's history became interestingly non straightforward, as artists' open-ended explorations of Stanley's history were woven among factually informative historic displays. Artworks made for a museum context seem to have a very different 'duty' placed upon them to gallery artwork; they inevitably become part of constructing a story and a history. It was a great opportunity to think about the effects and implications of working in non-‘white cube’, more public contexts."

Adam Castle, second year Intermedia – BA (Hons)

Susan Mowatt said:

“The project [was] a fantastic opportunity to make work in the public realm in response to a specific historic site [and] learn not only about Stanley Mills but the local area too… salmon in the River Tay and ospreys at Loch of the Lowes, for example”.

About Stanley Mills

Stanley Mills is a unique complex of water-powered cotton mills situated on a majestic bend in the River Tay.

First established by local merchants in 1786, it was a production centre for textiles for just over 200 years, before falling into disuse in 1989.

Twenty years after its closure, the restoration and conversion of Stanley Mills won the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europe Nostra Award 2009 and it is now a popular visitor attraction managed by Historic Scotland.  

From threat of demolition to regeneration, its journey was the subject of an Architectural Conservation Masterclass at ECA in January 2014, organised jointly by the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies and Europa Nostra UK.

Fiona Davidson, Learning Development Officer of Historic Scotland, said:

"This project has provided students at ECA with the opportunity to engage with the rich history and heritage of Stanley Mills in an innovative new way. The unique exhibition also provides members of the public an insight into the Mill's industrial past." 

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Photo of an artwork at Stanley Mills
Artwork by Healey Blair, 3rd year Intermedia student
Healey was inspired by the movement of people and hands over the course of Stanley Mills's history
Image courtesy of Healey Blair