Matt Retallick Research Questionnaire 1: Patrick Kirk-Smith

Name: Patrick Kirk-Smith

Location: Huyton

Organisation: Art in Liverpool


1. What is your relationship to Merseyside? 

I was born here, I grew up here, I have lived in on both sides of the North / South wealth divide, and in many ways I owe my career to it.

2. How does Merseyside impact or shape your practice? 

It’s my day-to-day: writing about the artists and galleries of the region, and supporting where I can. Sometimes failing, but I wouldn’t have a job, and my practice would likely be much more insular if I wasn’t here.

3. What’s are the positives and negatives of living and working in Merseyside? 

The positives are the audience, and the way they engage. In every other city I’ve worked with, audiences have been driven to major galleries, and funded space. In Merseyside, artists strive to connect to audiences, and manage it in a really unique way. 

The negatives: The myth of connectedness. I think this probably defines most of the negatives of working in Merseyside: We (as in those that are part of the wider arts sector at any level) exist through the lens of scouse culture. That means we are seen to be (and probably see ourselves as being) friendly, sharing, affectionate, and open. We could do more, rather than be seen to be doing more, of that.

4. What does independence / being independent mean to you? 

I’ve spent the last three years peeling back this question. I don’t really know. I guess it’s about taking responsibility for your own ideas.

5. Is Merseyside a good place to be independent? 

As an organisation, probably. As an individual, I’ve always hidden being an organisation – using ‘we’ more than I should, so I’m not too sure. But as an organisation, there are challenges, mostly around identity, balancing between grassroots identity, and having wider impacts.

6. What are your favourite examples of independence / the independent in Merseyside?

If we mean utterly unconnected independence, I’m never happier than sat with hash browns & beans in Keith’s on Lark Lane. If its independents in a wider sense, I think one of the most inspirational examples is Open Eye Gallery. They’re well connected, well networked, and part of the infrastructure of major galleries in the region, with an international reputation, but they are an independent business. It’s really important to make sure independences isn’t disguised by success.

7. What is your favourite cultural organisation in Merseyside and why?

I honestly couldn’t pick a favourite, but the one that embodies the spirit of the city, and is truly independent is Dead Pigeon Gallery.

8. What is your favourite place in Merseyside and why? 

Home. Because people look at me weird if I start pulling up weeds in the park.

9. If you could make Merseyside different, what would you change, and why? 

Core funding for smaller organisations. It would create such a shift in how we can work, and create stable income for the artists and freelancers around us. 

10. Describe Merseyside to someone who’s never visited

Divided, but never shut off.