Acclaimed automata artist to create circus-themed donation box for libraries

The Inspire Arts team are delighted that as part of Inspire’s Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status, and the country wide The Big Draw programme, they have been able to secure and commission acclaimed automata artist Keith Newstead to create an original work for The Big Draw 2018: Play! touring exhibition.

Keith, whose work has featured in numerous exhibitions, on film and at the Chelsea Flower Show, will be creating an enchanting automata collection box inspired by what would happen if the circus came to the library. Local artist Emma Reynard has also been commissioned to work with 12 Nottinghamshire primary schools during the summer term exploring the same question through visual art workshops. Emma will also be offering FREE family workshops throughout October and November at libraries across the county.

Keith’s automata work and the artwork created by the school children will form an exhibition at Mansfield Central Library Gallery, which will be on display from 29 September until 20 December 2018 before touring three other Inspire library venues from January – June 2019. Keith commented, “I am delighted to be taking part in this project and I am looking forward to working with Emma Reynard. I am sure the children involved in her workshops will come up with some exciting ideas”.

Helen Ackroyd, Principal Arts Officer for Inspire said “We are very excited to be working with Keith Newstead and know that the young people who influence the commission, and will be celebrated in the exhibitions, will be proud of the legacy they leave as young artists.”

The international The Big Draw Festival runs from 1 October until 4 November and Emma Reynard will be running FREE family workshops in 12 Nottinghamshire Libraries during that time.

Emma commented, ‘I am really excited to be working on The Big Draw 2018 project for Inspire. I will be working with the schools to come up with ideas and designs which will inspire Keith’s automata. We will be looking at old-style circus acts and the artist Alexander Calder’s wire circus as inspiration; creating fabulous drawings, collages, projections and shadows. The workshops will be fun and playful and hopefully generate lots of visual ideas for Keith to develop into his final piece’

Full details of the free workshops and the exhibition can be found at

Inspire is a charitable community benefit society who deliver culture, learning and libraries on behalf of Nottinghamshire County Council. For more information visit


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Lindsay Hall, Communications and Marketing Officer

Inspire: Culture, Learning and Libraries


Mob: 07769 284 935


Notes to editors:

About Inspire: Culture | Learning | Libraries

Inspire is a Community Benefit Society delivering a range of cultural, art, library and learning services. These services are funded by Nottinghamshire County Council, The Arts Council of England, Education and Skills funding agencies.

Set up in April 2016, Inspire is an independent organisation that has charitable aims and status and covers:

  • Libraries
  • Archives
  • Arts
  • Inspire Learning
  • Inspire Youth Arts
  • Inspire Music and Nottinghamshire Music Hub 

About Keith Newstead

After studying graphic design at Essex University Keith went to work in an art studio in Newcastle but left after only six weeks suffering from extreme boredom. He travelled to Finland and took a job delivering newspapers but as the temperature was minus 20 degrees he decided to come back to the UK to find warmer employment.

Keith became a motorcycle dispatch rider (a little warmer). During this time he started to make and sell jewellery and later saw a TV program about automata. He found the mixture of art, craft, graphics and movement very exciting and it wasn’t long before he made his first piece. He gave up dispatch riding after ten years and started to make a living from automata, working with Cabaret Mechanical Theatre. That was 20 years ago and his fascination with automata has never left him. He loves to experiment with new styles and materials and to find new ways of creating movement. He never aims his work at a particular age group, and is happy that both children and adults enjoy his work.

About Emma Reynard

Emma is a Derbyshire-based, practising artist and art tutor. She has many years of experience working with educational establishments and groups such as art societies, art galleries and museums, residential care homes, homeless hostels, hospitals and within mental health and special needs facilities. More info

Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation

Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

Photo credit: Keith Newstead. Design produced for Diarmuind Gavin for Chelsea Flower Show 2017.