13 September 2011
Emily Phillips - Arts
Emily Phillips was the general manager and arts co-ordinator at the Nexus Art Café. She has a Bachelors degree in history from Lancaster University, a Masters from University College London and worked in numerous part-time jobs in music stores, bars and cafes to help fund her studies. Emily was born in Macclesfield and her heart has always been in the North West as Manchester, its people, history, outlook (and problems), is a hugely inspiring place.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I didn't have such a great experience of being a child, so I concentrated hard on books and doing well at school as a form of escapism. Although it sounds rather cheesy, I just wanted to be a good person and live a meaningful 'examined' life, whatever that form that took! I'm still trying to figure that one out…
After three years out of my PhD and much soul-searching, I believe that following a professional career in academic research is the best place that I can use my talents, despite not always thriving in the often macho and sometimes isolating culture of academia. Being at the forefront of developing the Nexus project during my time out has equipped me with some excellent skills and lots of confidence with which to go back into battle!
What is the topic of your PhD?
My PhD thesis is a sociological exploration of the role of art exhibitions as forums for public participation and meaning-making in relation to biotechnological science. Basically, I'm looking at public engagement with difficult issues around the life sciences and how we might harness more creative approaches to understanding the future of such technologies in society.
I came to work at the Nexus Art Cafe in 2008 after taking a leave of absence from my PhD in order to gain some work experience working in an arts and community environment. In three amazing years I have experienced first hand the benefits of a creative and spiritual environment for personal development.
What gem did you find in your research?
That Scousers (I conducted my fieldwork in Liverpool in 2008 when I carried out an ethnography of a major art and science exhibition) are amazingly perceptive, opinionated and imaginative people. During my project, I was continually impressed with the creative insights and intelligence of the public participants in my study and this experience will stay with me forever. Expertise does not reside in paper qualifications!
Cultural highlight of the year so far?
I couldn't say, though I did enjoy Victoria Wood's That Day We Sang which was part of the Manchester International Festival recently. It was really lovely and disarming.
Who inspires you?
Just people, day in, day out. Getting on.
Does the Bible inform your art?
Not on a conscious level.
What is your vision for the arts?
Multidisciplinarity in the arts. And that experimental modes of exhibition-making as alternative sources of community meaning-making and understanding are encouraged.
What is your dream for society?
Hmmm… that there is another way?
How is the art café developing?
Beautifully. We are very excited about re-launching the Night Café as a city centre 'Safe Spot' in September with the support and partnership of Greater Manchester Police Authority and the Public Health Development Service. The Night Café opens on Saturday night/Sunday morning between 2am and 6am and is led by a brilliant team of volunteers.
What would you advise any budding artist?
Be brave - get involved with as many projects, collaborations, residencies and exhibitions as you can. It all leads somewhere!
What makes you happy?
I'm a bit pregnant so, at the moment, my bump!