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Founded by the Jude Kelly in 2002, artistic laboratory Metal now has three key hubs in Liverpool, Peterborough and Southend-on-Sea. Under the inspired leadership of chief executive and artistic director Colette Bailey, the past few weeks have seen the flourishing of several high profile projects for the creative powerhouse. Metal exists to provide the catalyst that can transform the potential of people and places through great art and inspiring ideas, and that guiding principle is perfectly evidenced in the opening of Lucy + Jorge Orta’s FOOD in Peterborough and in the spectacular Estuary Festival in Essex and Kent.

Metal presented a survey exhibition, FOOD, of the work of Lucy + Jorge Orta that opened at the City Art Gallery this month. The exhibition marks the culmination of an 18 month residency in the city, which saw them host a “social sculpture”; a meal for 500 residents cooked by a local chef, eating locally sourced ingredients. The work provided the opportunity for residents to look at their city, each other (including the local prison population) and with their own creative capacity in a way that has had a lasting and palpable legacy in the city. Four Colman Getty coordinated a press trip of suitably impressed journalists, ending with a superlative lunch with the artists and team at Metal at the restaurant of Lee Clarke, the local chef who had the task of providing the culinary extravaganza. 

Meanwhile, in Essex and Kent, the team have staged the hugely ambitious Estuary Festival, a truly unique celebration of the people, history and  landscape of the spectacular Thames Estuary through contemporary art, literature, film and music. A coach of journalists joined Colette and the team for a preview tour of the festival, staged in a series of spectacular historic locations, before culminating at the historic Tilbury Cruise Terminal for an opening party with a difference. The response from visitors and media has been fantastic, with high-profile coverage across broadcast, nationals, art press and online, and with reviews now coming through it seems the critics have been similarly impressed.

It’s through the team at Metal that we were introduced to the artist and performer Caroline Bergvall, who premiered her astounding Ragadawn at La Bâtie in Geneva and Estuary this year ahead of a tour of the northern hemisphere in 2017. Ragadawn is a stunning work, as unique as it is ambitious, that takes place at sunrise. With a central song by Gavin Bryars, beautifully sung by soprano Peyee Chan, the work was performed at the dockside of the river at 6.38 precisely. The Guardian reviewed the work here.

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