Artistic director David Wheeler leaves IOU arts organisation after 47 years
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More than 120 guests from across the arts and cultural sectors helped to celebrate David’s body of work with IOU that has helped to change the artistic landscape of the UK.
‘’We are entering a new era in the arts and this is the perfect time for me to leave IOU,” David said.
"I feel very lucky to be leaving on a high-note with the company in great shape and with ambitious plans for the future.”
Hosted at the IOU Hebden Bridge hostel, the event brought together many of the original members and artistic partners, who listened to David’s talk and shared memories from over the near half century.
From its formation in 1976 as a small collective of fine artists, sculptors, poets, and musicians, to today's many-layered National Portfolio Organisation, IOU is one of the longest running companies from when this type of work was just becoming established.
IOU is a leading producer of interdisciplinary, site-specific contemporary art. Presenting an array of ambitious original productions from alternative experimental theatre, sound and light installations, site-specific shows and online galleries, to visual art exhibitions, 360 films, and large-scale contemporary sculpture.
A notable innovative IOU production was Rear View (2017-2019). By repurposing a double-decker bus into a rear-facing, mobile amphitheatre, IOU was able to take audiences on a unique, immersive journey around towns in the UK, using the real-world as the setting for a young woman's life in the town.
In 2020, post-pandemic, IOU continued to evolve and deliver with online installation My Three Words: Goole (2020), indoor sound and sculpture installation Two Rivers (2021), and Sound Wave Collider (2023) a large-scale outdoor sound installation for Yorkshire Sculpture Park with sound artist Jason Singh.
In September 2023, IOU piloted and premiered David’s final production with the company at Festival of Thrift in the North East, a new show that will go on tour in the UK from 2024.
In typical IOU style, The Wheel is a blend of sculpture and performance where the whole stage production moves at a metre a minute through a town. With a tiny mechanical explorer, supposedly on a long walk from Pole to Pole, audiences are encouraged to slow down, sit, contemplate and use their imagination to draw and write about the possible encounters that the character will have on the long journey.
In 2016, together with Joanne Wain, David oversaw IOU’s move within Dean Clough to bring all its operations under one roof in the IOU Studio. The 1,000 sqm of studio, office, workshop and gallery space is where the creative team in collaboration with artists, makers, engineers, technicians and academics, continues to make innovative new work, often blending unconventional and unfamiliar ideas with traditional crafts, heavy engineering and digital technology.
In a dynamic shift in April 2022, IOU expanded into the management of the 14-bedroomed IOU Hebden Bridge Hostel. This hostel serves as an outpost for IOU's work with emerging artists and provides accommodation for visitors to the Calder Valley. It also offers a space for creative retreats and workshops for artists and the wider community and is central to the organisation's future plans.
With David’s departure, IOU has restructured with Joanne Wain now leading the company as CEO with Richard Warburton, who joined the company in September 2023, in the new role of creative director, tasked to shape the new IOU Creation Centre together with the small and dedicated IOU team.