Robson Fund helps students curate exhibition of the future

Robson Real Life Experience Fund

Danni Harper leads an in conversation event with photographer John Kippin and historian Patrick Low on ‘social memory and the landscape’.

Four University of Sunderland Arts students were given the opportunity to curate for a major regional exhibition thanks to financial support from the Robson Real Life Experience Fund.  

Stacey Bennett, Kathryn Bennett, Moshen Mousavi and Danni Harper attended mentoring sessions from Network before selecting pieces to be displayed a part of the BOOKSHOP exhibition at the Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art.  

The scheme saw the students travel across the North East and to London to speak to industry professionals and flesh out research interests through one-on-one sessions with experienced curators. 

It was the brainchild of Adam Phillips, an associate lecturer at the University who has spent almost a decade as director of Newcastle-based art organisation CIRCA.  

The funding he received from the Robson Real Life Experience Fund proved instrumental in the success of the project, with the students each given the necessary finances to cover production costs for their event and to help with the travel costs of travelling across the country to further their knowledge through research. 

Although the project proved to be a challenge for all involved, Adam was immensely proud with the final product and firmly believes that the students have learned a great deal from the experience.  

“Aspects of this project were challenging. In particular the concept of students’ selecting their own research interests, was a big leap for them to make,” he recalled. “However we hope that in the events they created, students felt like they had ownership over the content and could take a lot from having put these events together.”  

For participant Moshen, the event helped him to develop his curating with a brief that pushed his skills and knowledge to the fullest.  

He explained: “The brief was challenging and asked me to put my own research concerns towards the front of our collaboration – looking in greater detail at poetry and symbollism within artists’ film.  

“My curated screening involved the presentation of 10 artists’ work – using my own films as a joining contact.  

“The project enabled me to further consider how one curates a screening and some of the practical and conceptual processes involved.”  

Adam also stressed the importance of the event for the wider city and is hoping that it inspires more to take up similar projects as the city aims to be named City of Culture in 2021.  

He added: “There is scope for this seed funding to have real impact not just on the students involved but also on the cultural activities of the city at this important point – with the City of Culture bid in development.”  

He praised the Fund for supporting the project and stressed the importance of supporting the next generation of artists and curators.  

“Thank you for supporting this scheme. I would not only say this money is valuable educationally in terms of creating 'real world experiences' but vital in terms of supporting the current cultural agenda for the city.”  

“Small amounts of support can make a big difference.”

Article written by Journalism graduate Matthew Shevlin.

Book Shop 10 Web - Robson Scholarship

Install view of BOOKSHOP curated by CIRCA Projects in collaboration with University of Sunderland students Stacey Davidson, Kathryn Barnett, Mohsen Mousavi and Danni Harper. 


Stacey Davidson zine created within BOOKSHOP in response to an Instagram/Twitter residency by artists Olivia Dunbar and Sam Blackwood. 

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