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FEE: £10,000


Commission opportunity to create a participatory artwork in response to the Sankey Photography Collection in Cumbria.

Apply Now:


Artist/Photographer Commission


Closing date: Monday 6th September 2021. 
Fee: £10,000 (To cover artist & workshop delivery fee, production, any travel and accommodation needs)
Online Interviews: Between Tuesday 22nd – Wednesday 23rd September
Start Date: October 2021. 
End date: End Feb 2022
Sign up via: https://forms.gle/KTEMCoPqYN4KYu5u5

Brief and Application Guidance

Signal Film and Media are accepting proposals for creative projects from Photographers or Artists who will work collaboratively with local people to produce a new artistic commission that responds to the Sankey Family Photographic Collection. 

The Sankey Photographic Collection is a stunning collection of over 15,000 glass plate negatives and postcards of Barrow and the north-west, which were produced and shared around the world from 1895 to the 1970s. 

We welcome applications from artists who work with photography or lens based digital media and who have experience of, and the passion for, working in a socially engaged and /or participatory way. We welcome artists with an interest in how working with archival photography and how working collaboratively can inform the development of their work.

Applications are encouraged from artists from all backgrounds and we actively encourage artists to apply who belong to one or more of the following groups: Black, Asian or from a Minority Ethnic group, Refugee, D/deaf, Disabled, Neurodivergent, Working Class and LGBTQI+

This project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to rescue, digitise, conserve and celebrate the vast Sankey Photography Collection. 

3681, Ship Street, Barrow-in-Furness, early 20th Century. © Sankey Family Photography Collection.

The Brief

Signal Film & Media is an award-winning charity that creates opportunities for all to take part in film and digital art activity. With support from National Lottery Heritage Fund our ‘Seeing the North with Sankey’ project is rescuing, exploring and celebrating an incredible collection of photographic work, made by the Sankey Family, in collaboration with local communities in Barrow-in-Furness and wider Cumbria. 

THE SANKEYS were a father and son duo who documented life in Barrow and Cumbria over 70 years. Starting in 1900, they captured the landscape, cultural changes, individuals, industry and tourism (plus much more). The postcards they created from their photography were posted all over the world and tell fascinating stories of the 20th century.  Since 2019, we have successfully re-housed, re-packaged and digitised the full collection in collaboration with the Sankey Family and Cumbria Archives. 

We are now working with local people and partner organisations to bring the collection to life through research and creative workshops. 

As part of our work we want to commission an artist or collective to work with the local community to explore the collection through creative workshops and activities.


THE SANKEY photographic collection was created by father and son duo Edward and Raymond Sankey in Barrow-in-Furness, and Cumbria more widely from 1900 to the early 1970’s.The main use of the Sankey negatives were as printed postcards which were produced using a special printing machine developed by Edward Sankey. During peak production the Sankey family were producing 100,000 postcards per year.  The postcards were sold throughout Cumbria and the messages on the back paint a picture of a by-gone day, offering small glimpses into the lives of people who were living in and visiting Barrow and locations in Cumbria. 

The Sankey family were pioneers in documenting the huge shifts in the social, economic and physical landscapes of the area. They photographed a wide range of events including royal visits, the launch of ships from Barrow’s shipyards, the steam ships, glimpses inside the factories, airships, Barrow shop fronts, street scenes, railways, picturesque scenes of the Lake District and portraits of local dignitaries and ordinary working people alike.

The commissioned artist will work alongside community members to increase engagement with the archival collection and with contemporary art. The project will support participatory, artistic responses to the Sankey Collection, so that more people, from more backgrounds, can engage with art inspired by archival collections.


Mayfly Naval Airship Accident, 24th September 1911. © Sankey Family Photography Collection.

Additional Info

Aims of the commission:

  • Develop artworks inspired by the Sankey Photography Collection as a group and/or individually, focusing on using photography, lens based and/or digital media to explore the collection
  • To run a range of workshops to interpret the research and findings from volunteer and heritage sessions
  • The artwork to be exhibited to a wider audience

We expect the project to include:

  • Research and development with the collection and in the local area
  • A chance for the public to meet the artist and hear all about the project and the collection
  • Taster sessions in heritage interpretation techniques to peak interest with all our partners’ organisations, encouraging participation in the project.
  • Development of an artwork (individually and as a group)
  • Engagement activity including up to 10 workshops 
  • Final artwork(s) produced interpreting the findings, for an exhibition and to be presented on the purpose-built Sankey archive website and publication. 

The artist(s) is required to:

  • Work closely with Signal Film & Media to deliver the project and final artwork(s). 
  • Work in participation with local individuals in creating the artwork.
  • We ask the artist to deliver a talk (potentially online) and a workshop for the local community (this is alongside and additional to the artist led sessions/research during the commission)
  • The artist will adhere to Signal’s safeguarding policies and procedures


We can offer the artist:

  • A fee of £10,000 (to include artist fees, workshop delivery, travel, accommodation, materials/production and final exhibition costs) 
  • Studio/work space
  • Curatorial, practical and technical support throughout the residency
  • Wide Publicity and Marketing with associated public events
  • Gallery and Online Exhibition
  • Signal will arrange the publicity and recruitment of all workshops and spaces and is able to supply a range of digital camera equipment and editing software. 
  • Activity will take place in line with Government requirements for safety and social distancing, if needed online delivery or a blend of on and offline delivery can take place.



  • Open to all professional artists (not students) 
  • For ages 18+ years
Sankey Postcard showing women working in Vickers Shell Shop during WW1. © Sankey Family Photography Collection.


Online application deadline: Monday 6th September 2021
Artist’s selected for a short interview will be informed by: Friday 10th September 2021. 
Online Interviews: Between Tuesday 22nd – Wednesday 23rd September
Start date: October 2021
End date: End Feb 2022
Exhibition: Feb/March 2022

To Apply

Application is via an online form (below), if this presents any issues or you would like further information about the commission please contact julia@signalfilmandmedia.co.uk


2231, Fleetwood Fish Dock and Trawlers, Early 20th Century. © Sankey Family Photography Collection.

Selection Process and Criteria
All applications, including the supporting material, will be reviewed by a panel of assessors.

We ask you for:

  • Artist Statement – Biography about you and your work (Max 300 words)
  • How you would approach the brief, including outline details of your ideas and how you would engage the community in the process (Max 300 words)
  • How you would use the commission fee 
  • Why you are interested in this application and how it fits in with your work
  • Portfolio of work and a CV

We are committed to ensuring that all employees and applicants are provided with equality of opportunity. If you would like to discuss this brief, please contact: Julia Parks (Signal Film and Media) julia@signalfilmandmedia.co.uk

Further Info

Signal Film & Media is an award-winning film and digital media company based in Barrow-in-Furness with a reputation for both high-quality, professional short film production and a wide range of community engagement media projects. Our artist-led company has delivered innovative film and digital media projects since 2001, providing access to opportunities and inspiration through film and digital media, creating award-winning works for exhibition and supporting the development of a vibrant film and arts culture in the area. 


NATIONAL LOTTERY HERITAGE FUND The National Lottery Heritage Fund is the largest dedicated grant funder of the UK’s heritage.