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Arctic island project selected as winner of Cultural Olympiad award

22 October 2009

On Thursday 22 October, Arts Council England and London 2012 will announce that a project to tour a small Arctic island round the south west coast has been selected as the south west winner of a £500,000 commission.

Alex Hartley's project –nowhereisland– is one of twelve across the country selected for Artists taking the lead, one of the major projects for the Cultural Olympiad.

nowhereisland was selected by an independent panel of artists and producers from the four projects shortlisted in August from a total of 239 south west entries.

Alex Hartley will bring an island he discovered in the High Arctic to the south west of England. The island is about the size of a football pitch and was revealed from within the melting ice of a retreating glacier. Alex was the first person ever to stand on it. The island has been recognised by the Norwegian Polar Institute and is now included on all maps and charts.

The project nowhereisland explores issues of climate change, land ownership, national identity and the exploitation of the earth's remaining natural resources.

A portion of the island will be transported to south west England through international waters and whilst en route will apply for micronation status. The new micronation, nowhereisland, will navigate the entire 702 miles of the coast of the south west region, visiting its ports and harbours accompanied by a travelling embassy and support vehicle.

Almost 400 people have already signed up for citizenship of the island, and nowhereisland aims to surpass the population total of the Vatican, the smallest country in the world, by Friday (23 October). Before 2012, nowhereisland hopes to exceed 34,000 citizens – greater than the populations of Liechtenstein and Monaco, to become at least the world’s 8th smallest country and the 186th largest country.

Arts Council England, South West Executive Director Chris Humphrey said:

'nowhereisland is an extraordinary project. The sight of an island approaching the shore will be an amazing spectacle for the people who are fortunate enough to experience it. This project has a strong connection with the south west region and its coast and yet the opportunities it offers extend far beyond our shores. Huge numbers of people will be able to get involved with the island and the ideas behind it. nowhereisland will provoke thought, create excitement and will help us to fulfil our ambition to make great art available for everyone.'

Alex Hartley said:
nowhereisland will capture people's imagination, engaging local, national and international audiences. The island addresses the most significant global issue of our time, namely how we can respond to the urgent issue of climate change together. This project embodies the spirit of international cooperation that is at the heart of the Olympic ideal.'

Alex will be working on the project with a team of experts: artist Tania Kovats; Situations the University of the West of England’s public art commissioning programme; web creative agency Bullet Creative and independent filmmaker David Bickerstaff.

Nowehereisland will be transported from the Arctic during the summer next year and will tour the south west coast in 2012, starting in Poole in mid July and ending in Bristol in October 2012. The island will be in Weymouth and Portland during the last days of July and first weeks of August for all the Olympic sailing events. At the end of the Olympic year, the island will return to the Arctic to be made whole again.


Notes to editors

About Artists taking the lead

Artists taking the lead is one of the major projects of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Arts Council England is managing the project on behalf of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Scottish Arts Council and the Arts Council of Wales.

The other winning commissions across the UK are:
East: On Landguard Point, Pacitti Company
East Midlands: Lionheart, Shauna Richardson
London: Bus.Tops, Alfie Dennen and Paula Le Dieu
North East: FLOW, The Owl Project and Ed Carter
North West: Projected Column, Anthony McCall and FACT
Northern Ireland: The Nest, Brian Irvine and John McIlduff
Scotland: Forest Pitch, Craig Coulthard
South East: The Boat Project, Lone Twin
South West: nowhereisland, Alex Hartley
Wales: Adain Avion, Marc Rees
West Midlands: Godiva Awakes, Imagineer Productions
Yorkshire: Leeds Canvas, Leeds Canvas

The winning commissions will be developed across 2010 and 2011 in close collaboration with local communities. All twelve will take part in a final unifying celebration, prior to the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The value of the commissions awarded to the winning artists is:
Nine English regions            £500,000 each
Northern Ireland                     £190,000 (Lottery funded)
Scotland                                 £460,000 (Lottery funded)
Wales                                     £230,000 (Lottery funded)

The winning commissions for each nation and region were selected by independent panels of artists and producers with a range of experience in commissioning major arts events.

The panel judged the submissions based on the quality of the ideas and how they met the four core aims of the project:

  • Ideas that are original and led by artists
  • Ideas that reflect or are inspired by the location in which they will take shape
  • Ideas that show a legacy for communities and artists beyond 2012
  • Ideas that celebrate London 2012 and reflect the values of the Cultural Olympiad

For further information see
FOr press information on London 2012 contact Paul Woodmansey at LOCOG 0203 2012 461

About Arts Council England
Arts Council England works to get great art to everyone by championing, developing and investing in artistic experiences that enrich people’s lives. As the national development agency for the arts, we support a range of artistic activities from theatre to music, literature to dance, photography to digital art, and carnival to crafts. Great art inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves, and the world around us. In short, it makes life better.

Between 2008 and 2011, we will invest £1.3 billion of public money from government and a further £0.3 billion from the National Lottery to create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

About the Cultural Olympiad
The Cultural Olympiad is a national celebration of culture which is happening now and is about:

  • Giving everyone in the country a chance to be part of London 2012
  • Bringing sport and art together on a scale that has never been done
  • Using the power of the Olympic Games to inspire creativity across all forms of culture, especially amongst young people.
  • Making a real impact which will leave a lasting legacy well beyond 2012


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