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Who we Are

Established in 1995 by Alan Smith and Helen Ratcliffe, Allenheads Contemporary is based in an old Victorian Schoolhouse overlooking the village of Allenheads in Northumberland.   Since then they have delivered an extensive archive of projects and residencies for creative practitioners that brings together myriad combinations of themes in contemporary art and contemporary living in both the local and global context.  Often pairing art with other disciplines such as the sciences; human geography, astronomy, the environment and philosophy, the creative outcomes present a wealth of ideas and practices.


Helen Ratcliffe is co-curator and development director at ACA. She is responsible for fundraising, project management, developing partnerships with regional and international organisations whilst shaping the future identity and sustainability of ACA. 


Since living in Northumberland, Helen has also worked outside of ACA as Exhibitions Director at Queens Hall Arts in Hexham, the National Glass Centre in Sunderland and the Florescent Art Festival in Soho, London.  Previous to that, she ran the Student Union Gallery at the University of Massachusetts and went on to work with the Director of Pace Gallery in New York City.


Alan Smith is artist/co-curator and creative director at ACA. In his own practice as participant/observer, he creates live events, performance and audio/video installations that subtly shift the security of apparent normality. Real and imagined locations appropriated from the North Pennines environment are vital and loom large in his work; from the labyrinth of disused lead mines under-ground, to the vast, exposed fells and forests, to the dark, starry skies above. His practice merges with his curatorial role, authoring projects such as As Above So Below, Beyond and Continuum.  Alan has worked as guest lecturer and has delivered talks and workshops at several UK universities including Oxford Brooks, Newcastle, Manchester, Central Saint Martins, Dartington, as well as with international partners Vilnius Academy Of Arts in Lithuania and Massey University in New Zealand.


ACA's directors: 

John Bowers.jpg

 John Bowers

Nick Kennedy.jpg

Nick Kennedy

Hannah Marsden.jpg

Hannah Marsden

David Butler.jpg

David Butler


Mark Thomas 


Julian Germain

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