A County Durham concrete building will celebrate its 50th birthday – by being wrapped in a giant inflatable work of art.

The Apollo Pavilion in Peterlee – considered an important and innovative piece of brutalist architecture – will host an inflatable, illuminated installation designed by County Durham artist Steve Messam.

Steve’s previous projects include the landscape artwork Hush in the North Pennines. This piece saw a hush – an artificial hollow created by the mining industry – filled with hundreds of saffron yellow sails.

Steve also created a sculpture near the Bowlees Visitor Centre in Upper Teesdale, which has drawn substantial praise.

The Apollo Pavilion was opened on Peterlee’s Sunny Blunts estate in 1969. Because the structure was completed around the time of the Apollo moon landings, it was named after that achievement.

The pavilion – which straddles a small manmade lake – was commissioned by the Peterlee Development Corporation and designed by artist Victor Pasmore.

A number of events have taken place to mark the pavilion’s 50th birthday. The building has been lit up by a light installation, organised in partnership with Artichoke, the producer of Durham City’s Lumiere festival.

The Apollo Pavilion was also given a 50th birthday party in July. This celebration featured music – by performers from Durham’s BRASS festival and Futureheads frontman Barry Hyde – and a programme of space-themed films.

Steve Messam’s inflatable installation – entitled Apollo – can be viewed by the public from Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd September between 10.00 am and 9.00 pm each day.

Though commissioned by Durham County Council, Steve’s installation is funded by Arts Council England. It is part of #Durham19, a programme of artistic, cultural and sporting events taking place this year.

How the Apollo Installation will look

The council’s cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, Cllr Joy Allen, said, “We are delighted to have a local artist like Steve involved in our celebrations of 50 years of the Apollo Pavilion, and our year of culture#Durham19.”

“His Hush installation has proved a massive success and having seen images of how ‘Apollo’ will look, I am sure it will be just as popular.”

“It’s been really pleasing how people have engaged with the light installation and birthday party and we look forward to seeing everyone at Apollo.”

Steve Messam said, “It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to work with such an iconic piece of brutalist architecture. It’s such a bold statement of time, place and ambition, all within the context of the Apollo moon landings. I really look forward to celebrating that spirit 50 years on.”

A number of other artistic events are coming up in County Durham. Steve Messam and fellow artist Sara Cooper will be working on a project called Playful Places with students from The Academy at Shotton Hall and Dene Community School.

The students from these Peterlee schools will – with guidance from the professional artists – produce their own art installations. Their creations will then be exhibited around the town.

East Durham Creates will be working with local schoolchildren and residents to publish Zine, a commemorative newspaper. Zine will capture local people’s impressions of 2019 and their experiences during this year by including their words and artworks.

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