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Newcastle's AmberSide secures £1.1 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund

AmberSide ihas to announced that it has received a confirmed grant of £1,121,200 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for its project, The AmberSide Collection: Access & Engagement.  It provides the key element in a £1.6m, three year programme of work. Securing a remarkable documentary film & photography collection, it supports:

  • The capital redevelopment of Side Gallery on Newcastle’s Quayside, delivering full access, increased/enhanced exhibition spaces; a study centre with digital access to the collection and a library; improved work, exhibition development and conservation facilities (see image, right);
  • A major exhibition at Newcastle’s Laing Art Gallery opening in June 2015, while Side Gallery is closed, exploring the rich narrative of the collection;
  • A programme of volunteer involvement that will help to digitise over 7,000 images, 2,000 minutes of film & video as well as audio tapes and documents;
  • The redesign and rebuild of Amber-Online, delivering access to the digitised collection and the rich network of connections between the different films and photographic bodies of work; 
  • 18 projects working with the collection and the possibilities of documentary with primary schools, secondary schools, colleges, community groups and individuals - particularly in the communities whose histories have been captured in Amber / Side Gallery’s documentary works.
  • The project will see the digitisation of photographs, video, documents and audio from an extensive T Dan Smith archive; together with the digitisation of a filmed interview with Mary Lowther on the Socialist Cafe, a key leftwing meeting place in Newcastle’s Royal Arcade.

Ivor Crowther, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “Documenting the lives of working class and marginalised communities in the North East over the last 40 years, the AmberSide collection is of significant local, national and international importance. HLF’s grant will not only conserve the historic building where the collection is housed, it will also drastically improve access and, by digitising the majority of items, create even more opportunities for people everywhere to learn about key moments in our history, including the decline of industry along the Tyne in the 70s, the redevelopment of Newcastle in Byker and images of Durham’s mining communities.” 

Founded by the filmmaker Murray Martin, the Amber collective came to the North East in 1969 ‘to collect documents of working class culture’. Collection accelerated after it opened Side Gallery in 1977. In 2011, the interlinked narrative of Amber’s films and the photography of collective member Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen was inscribed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World UK register. An influential voice in British documentary photography, it was a key player in the Film Workshop movement of the 80s and early 90s.

Collective member Graeme Rigby, said: “This is a hugely important award for us. Amber has created a living archive over the past 45 years. This gives us the opportunity to work with the collection and let people know just how beautiful and extraordinary it is. And it sets us up for the next 45 years!”

Matched funding is still being sought. 



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