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Creativity, collaboration and a celebration of emerging art: MADE IT lands in Liverpool

Promoting a variety of ‘artist-led antics up north,’ Short Supply bridge the gap between artists and arts organisations. Producing exhibitions, talks, workshops… and now a podcast, Short Supply create environments for artists in the north-west and beyond to flourish, and their mission is clear – ‘be the change we want to see.’

Mollie Balshaw and Rebekah Beasley established Short Supply shortly after graduating in 2019, aiming to support artists who feel a lack of support and community after leaving art school. Since then, the organisation has gone from strength to strength, collaborating with Islington Mill, SOUP, Manchester Pride, Manchester Art Gallery, the Institute of International Visual Arts and the Whitworth Gallery among others, all while battling a global pandemic, a cost-of-living crisis, and the ongoing precarity around arts funding in the UK.



Short Supply’s annual graduate art prize MADE IT platforms artists in the north-west, providing a springboard for them into their new lives as artists, post university. Many of its alumni have gone on to exhibit internationally, start their own collectives, or get that all-important foot in the door of some of the most exciting galleries in the country.  

For its fourth edition, MADE IT moved west to Liverpool in collaboration with local collective Ellsquared, both exhibiting work from 25 shortlisted artists at The Royal Standard, the city’s oldest and largest artist-led studio and gallery space, and offering a wealth of bursaries, residencies and opportunities from a range of sponsors such as CASS ART, a-n, Paradise Works and Castlefield Gallery.  

We partnered with Short Supply again this year to bring their bold, colourful poster campaign for MADE IT 2023, which also featured snippets of the graduate work featured in the exhibition, to the streets of Liverpool and Manchester. Catching up with them on the eve of the exhibition opening, Mollie and Bek told us more about what they do, the importance of supporting emerging art in the north and what the future might hold…

Could you start by telling us a little more about you and how Short Supply got started?  

Sure! We’re Mollie and Bek, and we’re the directors of Short Supply. Today, Short Supply is an artist-led organisation and CIC creating opportunities for emerging artists in the north and nationally, but when we started, it literally was just us two and an idea! We started Short Supply in our final year of university because we knew that once we left, the structure we had built would disappear and we had no bloody clue how we were gonna make this art thing work! We also figured that there must be loads of other graduates and emerging artists out there feeling the same as us. So, we got our arses in gear and started something. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but here we are, 4 years later!  

Why is the north-west so important to you and what you do? 

The north-west is really important to us because it’s where we are both from, but maybe a bit more importantly, it has a sick art scene. The north-west churns out some of the country’s most ambitious projects, and having Eurovision hosted here in 2023 is surely reflective of the impact that this part of the country has on culture? Nonetheless, despite how incredible the organisations and artists are that we work with, the north is underfunded and its cultural offering undervalued. Creativity in general is undervalued in this country, but the north is our point of focus because we know what incredible things happen here when the resources are made available, and we hope we’ve contributed a little to that!

This is the 4th time you’ve presented MADE IT, your annual graduate art exhibition, how has it evolved and what’s different this year? 

Even though we only graduated in 2019, we recognise that things have still changed so much since then. The events of 2020 and its impact on graduates brought a lot of the problems students face within institutions to the surface. As we move further away from being graduates, we aren’t as in touch with what their needs are or what that support should look like. We want to make sure that there’s still a fresh perspective in there from someone who is a recent graduate, who can say what it is that they want now – that’s what we did when we started the project, and that’s the legacy we want to maintain.  

That’s why this year we launched an open call to find a graduate collective to help us produce the show. This idea is important to us, because we know that artists need supportive frameworks to not only exhibit, but also learn to produce and diversify their skillset. We wanted to use the budget and resources we had available to support a collective to create a show and do it really well. There’s a lot of graduate initiatives out there making things happen, but when there’s issues, there’s nobody to turn to, and they might end up in unsafe situations they aren’t equipped to handle. We wanted to take a leadership and advisory role in this project, a bit like a more traditional board might be in a commercial business – we’re there when you need us!  

Working with Liverpool-based collective Ellsquared (aka ‘the Ells’) this year has been brilliant. They are recent graduates, and they understand first-hand the impact of the cuts to education and how to be responsive to those necessary changes. They also have a big network in Liverpool, which shows some impressive reach for such a new collective. They are already making things happen and that’s why we wanted to work with them. We knew they would be able to take on the challenge.  

What led you to present the exhibition in Liverpool this year?  

The Ells mainly! We’ve been meaning to get our arses over to Liverpool for the longest time to do a project, and it just took us finding a group who are already well embedded in the creative offer there to take the plunge. We prefer this way of working though, it creates a more genuine connection with that place. We’re not a huge fan of organisations who pop up in places for the sake of it; we want to make a connection with the places we work in, understand the network and what makes that place unique. The art scene in Liverpool is vastly different to Manchester. We want to learn more about it, and working with Ellsquared on that has been joyous.

Excitingly you’ve also just started your own art podcast, BANG ON, how did this come about?  

It came about how most things come about for us, we look at each other on a car ride or over lunch or something and go, how sick would it be if we did this? Haha. This is partly true of the podcast, we did have a moment of divine inspiration over our Tesco meal deals, but actually we’re big podcast heads so it was a very strategic move too.  

We weren’t hearing any art podcasts with a tone of voice like ours, talking about things that emerging artists want or need to hear. Art podcasts are often sooo dry and hard to get through. Which we found funny, since creatives are expected to be playful and engaging, no? We had the idea for BANG ON to act as an unapologetically northern take on the art world, and to be the podcast we wished had existed when we were in university. We preferred listening to a lot of podcasts and watching documentaries over doing lots of reading when we were in uni, it’s just how we learn. We think if something like BANG ON had been available we would have probably begged the hosts to be guests on it! Is that egotistical, our past selves admiring out future selves? Oh well!  

We wrapped season 1 in August and are recording season 2 through September, which will be released later in the year… so stay tuned!  

What are you most excited about over the next year? Can you reveal anything about your plans? 

We will be frolicking, learning, thinking, observing, getting pissed off, crying with laughter, exploring new places, enjoying the comfort of home, working hard, hardly working, manifesting joy and acceptance and seeking pleasure like an ancient Greek. It’s all up for grabs! 

MADE IT 2019 Image Credit: Short Supply & Friends / MADE IT 2023 Images Credit: Virginia Gianni / Ellsquared Image Credit: Ella Matthews & Elisa Sallis / BANG ON! Image Credit: Niall Hegarty & Elisa Sallis

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