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Warwick Stafford Fellowship Recipient - Kathryn Elkin

In 2017, performance and video artist Kathryn Elkin become the 5th Warwick Stafford Fellow. We caught up with her five years on, to hear about the impact the Fellowship has had on her professional practice and career trajectory.

Now working from Northumberland, the Belfast-born artist is effusive about the impact of the Fellowship. When she applied, Kathryn describes being ‘burnt out from piecemeal freelance work’. Whilst she was energized by the prospect of creating ‘new and distinct’ work, she couldn’t see a way to do this without support - support to dedicate her time and whole self to her practice.

‘I needed the means to slow down what I was doing and to move more purposefully,’ she reflects.

‘The fellowship gave time, space and focus to achieve -  in 12 months - what would have taken many years. It solved a very real set of problems for me. It gave me respite from the pressures of juggling other work and responsibilities against my practice as an artist.’

It is exactly this opportunity that the Warwick Stafford Fellowship seeks to afford early mid-career artists. An innovative collaboration between Northumbria University and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, it aims to support artists to develop their professional practice by providing them with the space to explore their interests - both literally and figuratively - for a full year.

Fellows receive their own studio space at BALTIC, where they become part of an active and enriching community of art practice, as well as £20,000, allowing them to immerse themselves fully in their practice without financial pressures.

‘The Warwick Stafford Fellowship came at a critical juncture in my practice when I desperately needed a chance to change scale, reflect and focus my research. It allowed an unprecedented amount of time to make work and supported me with what was effectively a regular wage for a year. I don’t think it can be overstated just how meaningful and exceptional this is for an artist, especially in an earlier stage of their career.’

In addition, fellows become part of Northumbria University’s dynamic Department of Art, with access to world-renowned artists and academics, University facilities, as well as technical support from postgraduate and PhD art researchers. This is an unrivalled opportunity for Fellows to expand their network and develop new skills.

‘I made great use of the library and undertook training in using cameras and equipment while I was there too. I had excellent support from staff working on the MA and PhD programs.’

During her Fellowship, Kathryn conducted research that culminated in her video artwork, Queen, an irreverent musical memoir that compares bodily labour, performance, leisure and domestic work. It adds to her portfolio of performance and video work concerned with cultural and biographical memory, role-playing and improvisation.

Queen was exhibited at Baltic 39, then formed part of Elkin’s solo exhibition at Lux in London. It premiered at the Visions du Réel film festival in Nyon, Switzerland, before garnering a prize at the Courtisane experimental film festival in Pamplona, Spain.

Describing her time at Northumbria, Elkin calls it ‘exceptional, supportive and bolstering’, adding ‘I wish there were more opportunities of this scale for artists in the UK.’

‘Through the Fellowship, I was also able to work with a Director of Photography, editor and colourist for the first time. These were very meaningful professional processes for me and marked the start of a new chapter in my career.’

Since the Fellowship, Elkin has received a Developing Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council England and is using it to research a proposed piece on accents inspired by the 1988-1995 broadcasting ban on voices of individuals from the North of Ireland associated with Sinn Fein, and other republican and loyalist groups. 

The Warwick Stafford Fellowship was made possible by a generous donor honouring their passion for art and making a gift in their will. This generosity has had an indelible impact on both the lives of the individual artists and the art world. 

You, too, can leave a lasting legacy. If you would like to know more about making a gift in your will - or sponsoring a scholarship - contact Peter Storey (


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