Doing the Preston Polka ... and why Prestoning is art's new buzz word

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Have you heard about the Preston Polka? Maybe you haven’t yet ... but you soon will.

In addition to a brand new dance there will be art, photography and much, much more creative work to delight local audiences when a series of city art micro commissions are unveiled.

The creative feast will be showcased online in these socially distanced times.

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But the works, ranging from photography to video, by some 30 local arts practitioners, will feed into Preston’s emerging Cultural Strategy.

Anthony Padgett pepares for the Preston (lockdown) PolkaAnthony Padgett pepares for the Preston (lockdown) Polka
Anthony Padgett pepares for the Preston (lockdown) Polka

The micro commissions have provided a modest income boost for arts workers whose income has disappeared due to the Coronavirus lockdown.

Shirley Bailey of the Brewtime Collective said: “This came about because of Covid-19. This was a direct response to people of Preston in dire need of cash. This was a very quick and easy and creative way to do it immediately.”

The project has four partners - Preston City Council, UCLan, Curious Minds and artists’ group The Brewtime Collective and has also utilised some Arts Council funding.

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Artists were given £200 to create work over two days which relates to the city’s 12 year creative strategy, working title 'Something’s Brewing'. Shirley said: “This idea of Prestoning came in as a thing at one of the strategy meetings. We had 30 commissions at £200 - that could be audio, video, photography, on paper, digital and zines.”

Shirley Bailey ofShirley Bailey of
Shirley Bailey of

Artists were told: “Work should respond to the concept of ‘Prestoning’. The term was invented to reflect the unique nature of our city. It might mean ‘taking a risk, testing things out and doing things differently’- think the Preston Model, Guild or Easter egg rolling - all with a Northern sense of humour and pride. Or you might have your own definitions of what 'Prestoning' could mean! ”

Artist and dance teacher Anthony Padgett’s ‘Preston (lockdown) Polka’ will be one of the first works put online within the next few days. Anthony, a painter and sculptor who also teaches jive dance, devised a lockdown Polka dance which he filmed at his home.

He said: "The idea was to have a dance you could do with coat hanger and a jacket if you don't have a partner and in lockdown you can improvise. The polka has a long history. It's basically a triple step and there's no break between the triple. I filmed it in the back garden."

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His quickly conjured coat hanger partner wears a jazz swing jacket which Anthony uses for classes, including the ones he teaches in the Preston area. He said: "It was a day to film and a day to edit and a lifetime to get to a position where I could come up with the crazy idea. I just enjoyed dancing and having a bit of fun. I am hoping it will put a smile on people's faces."

Anthony Padgett presents the Preston Polka, a dance for socially isolated times!Anthony Padgett presents the Preston Polka, a dance for socially isolated times!
Anthony Padgett presents the Preston Polka, a dance for socially isolated times!

In addition Anthony, who has a studio in Preston, said he hopes it encourages people to be active and enjoy exercising and will "maybe even make them feel a little less lonely if they do feel lonely."

Photographer Gary Cooke, who is working on a Proud Preston People portrait project, also gained one of the commissions.

• All the £200 works will be showcased on the website over the next few months.