Member Spotlight - Beam

Swing It at The Orangery. Image by Bob Collier

‘Wakefield Lit Fest’ is just one of the many popular and high profile initiatives that have been created by Beam – the arts, architecture and education company and charity that has stepped into this month’s member spotlight.

Here we chat to Emma Butler, Assistant manager, to find out how they help people to make better and more sustainable places. 

1. Sum up your business in just a couple of sentences?

Beam is an arts, architecture and education company and charity established in 1986, working in Wakefield, across Yorkshire, and elsewhere, providing services that help people make better and more sustainable places. Beam operates as creative commissioners and programmers, developing and delivering projects and events involving the arts, place-making, and knowledge-sharing.

Beam also manage and programme the Grade II* listed Orangery next to Wakefield Westgate Station as an arts, events and conferencing venue and instigated and manage the annual Wakefield Lit Fest, a ten day festival which takes place annually in late September.

2. Can you provide details of your core services, including any examples of the artists?

Public Art Commissioning and Management
Beam has wide experience in developing public art programmes and commissions, both temporary and permanent, in a variety of media such as the visual arts, film and new media, dance and music.

Beam recently commissioned Rachel Welford, a specialist in architectural glass, to create a new artwork to commemorate World War I, which is now installed within Barnsley PALS Centenary Square and is entitled ‘As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust’  - a line from the poem ‘The Fallen - They shall not grow old’ by Laurence Binyon (1869 - 1943). The three person-sized columns made from layers of toughened, laminated glass allude to the human group of Pals and their families. The excerpts of personal correspondence and written records printed on the glass are taken from the World War I Collection from Barnsley Archives and Discovery Centre.

Arts and Public Realm Strategies
Beam works with individual clients, local authorities, and design teams to analyse and articulate the potential for the arts and culture in regeneration schemes, master plans, local and regional strategies. We undertake audit, consultation and research to place the arts in an economic, social, and built environment context, bringing national knowledge to local context. Our most recent public art strategy was for Wakefield city centre.

Art installations at The Orangery
‘A Maze for Yorkshire’ by international artist Richard Woods was a brightly coloured cartoon drystone wall situated in the front garden of The Orangery during summer 2013 which attracted over 6,000 visitors and staged over 30 events from storytelling to dancing to singing and poetry reading.

This summer, ‘Swing It!’ by Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan was another interactive art installation that attracted a lot of attention in the media and opened up The Orangery site for members of the public to enjoy the adult-sized, brightly coloured swings and signs. Accompanying ‘Swing It!’ in the back garden was a series of regular events at The Orangery including our Music and Food ‘Collisions’ every Friday, which combined an array of different cuisines ‘colliding’ with surprising genres of music. There were also some crazy collages and vintage garden games created during our ‘Families Together Art Club’ every Wednesday.

Creative Events at The Orangery (and elsewhere!)
Beam has experience in delivering arts-led events and celebrations for both the public sector and local communities. Our regular arts programme at The Orangery currently has:
• Live Music Takeaway – an eclectic serving of live music accompanied by a tasty takeaway
• Families Together – special family-friendly events for children 9-95!
• Ideas Alive! – experts speak on wide ranging topics – a chance to listen and be heard
• Past is Present – a lively series of talks and events on history and heritage
• Words at The Orangery – poetry, stories and more…
• Wakefield Lit Fest (September, annually) – a ten day festival of reading and writing in Wakefield city centre and the wider district including Ossett and Sandal. Headliners such as poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Michael Woods, Simon Armitage, Roger McGough and Joanne Harris have all made an appearance over the past three years.

3. What excites you about your business and the work that you do?

The variety of the job! Engaging with lots of interesting artists, promoters, partners, musicians, community groups and helping to create and organise exciting events and artworks, which everyone can enjoy!

4. Tell us about a recent project/campaign?

Playful City’ is a 14-month Arts Council funded programme, which creates more opportunities for the arts in our streets, alongside opportunities to share knowledge and skills amongst our creative community.

The temporary art installation ‘Swing It!’ in the back garden of The Orangery was one part of this project, as was the ‘Art in the City’ temporary art interventions in The Ridings Shopping Centre - where a small selected group of Yorkshire artists collaborated with other creatives who had just returned from an international work placement in Madrid, Spain to showcase their work to over 800 people in one day.

5. What one piece of work/campaign/project are you most proud of?

Bringing outdoor cinema to the heart of Wakefield city centre! Beam worked in partnership with Wakefield Film Society to screen a series of classic movies in The Secret Garden Outdoor Cinema, from ‘Grease’, to ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, ‘Amelie’, ‘Brief Encounter’, ‘Top Gun’, ‘The Full Monty’ and we even screened an outdoor Halloween fright night special of ‘Ghostbusters’ in October! It was a truly unique movie experience and great to see everyone getting in the spirit by bringing camping chairs and blankets down to The Orangery to brave the cool summer evenings.

6. Why have you chosen to become a member of Cognitiv?

It’s great to be a part of this creative and digital sector group in Wakefield, and fascinating to discover which organisations and individuals are already working in this area locally – it’s so varied. The networking opportunities are fantastic and it will be interesting to see what exciting projects come out of the opportunities provided by the network over the coming months!

7. What are the biggest issues faced by your sector?

In terms of the arts sector, funding is always a big issue. Many organisations have a small core team of staff who have to juggle everyday tasks alongside applying for grants so it is often difficult to plan ahead.

Application forms are often time consuming to fill in and the allocation of money is uncertain and unpredictable.

Marketing and promoting events locally is also a challenge with no central ‘hub’ for promoters to use so it is difficult for people to find out what is happening in Wakefield – and when they do, it is usually too late!

8. What are the biggest opportunities for your sector?

There is a strong sense of partnership working, which reflects the real cultural buzz happening in Wakefield at the moment. Seeing what can be achieved by people, working together to make creative ideas happen - and how that can change people’s perceptions of a place are all really positive aspects of working in the arts.

One group in particular who are emerging into the arts sector and being given opportunities to establish themselves and develop their practice, networks and skills are the ‘Local Creatives’ from the Wakefield / Yorkshire area. Beam have hosted three events at The Orangery to date and organised a ‘Creative Meal’ on 11 November which entailed a delicious three-course meal combined with a series of talks from four practising leading artists, each with a unique story to tell. Our dinner guests included - Gordon Young, one of the UK’s leading artists in the field of public art; award winning artists Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan; and Emilie Taylor ceramic artist exploring British society through place specific projects. We hope to continue to develop and support this network of up and coming young creatives so stay tuned!

9. What do you enjoy the most about working in Wakefield?

The passion, enthusiasm and support from all the arts organisations and individuals who are keen to work together and make something positive happen in the city through creative means. There are so many amazing venues offering a range of alternative, diverse programmes that Wakefield folk are spoilt for choice! The bi-monthly Artwalk is testament of this - it is always a great night out which is well attended and provides opportunities to showcase local talent.

Visit the Beam website at