UK’s first artist-led public news bureau opens in Liverpool

Imagine: A newsroom where the correspondents are artists, the editor is a film-maker and the stories are first hand testimonies, the news agenda is shaped by ordinary people and the headlines are written by the public.

This radical cultural experiment -The Rapid Response Unit (RRU) – has opened in St John’s Market, city centre Liverpool.

RRU will break the cycle of mainstream media, spin stories on their heads and share original artistic reactions to the news via digital and broadcast media.

As trust in politicians, bankers and the media has reached new lows, truth and fiction have become interchangeable, with the agenda defined by likes and shares not integrity and interrogation. The Rapid Response Unit will offer a dramatically different array of lenses through which you can view local, national and global events as they happen. It will interpret the news, create the news and challenge the news.

Regional, national and international artists from all art forms paired with some of the City’s most innovative and acclaimed arts and cultural organisations will be commissioned to produce new work inspired by global and local stories and headlines. These “reporters and correspondents” will work directly opposite a huge new DWP job & work assessment centre, surrounded by small market traders (representing 39 countries) and daily shoppers. Their news sources will be chosen very carefully.


Cartoonist & illustrator Phil Disley with First Take and dot-art

Liverpool based digital artist Jane Farley from First Take and internationally renowned cartoonist and dot-art member artist Phil Disley will transform a traditional 2D artform onto digital platforms including GIFS, animation and Augmented Reality.

Creating a cartoon a day in response to shifting news priorities Phil’s work will then be animated and shared via social media on the same day. Using Smartphone technology First Takes animations will also be shared around Liverpool through a number of ‘street portals’ – that will activate the animations at the location via Layar, a free app.


The Correspondents

National and International artists/actors/directors/musicians/writers will have full autonomy to respond to any issue, news item or any aspect at all of the news (however abstract) in a mode or form that suits their idea. They can do so in real time, within 24, 48 or 72 hours and others will take part in longer residencies.

Their eventual output will be presented to the public via national and international media, RRU social media channels and websites and sometimes within a partner institution.

The Public

Members of the public will be asked to actively engage in the business of news gathering and processing. In the open, public newsroom they will be offered the daily national and international newspapers, access to online and rolling news and asked to respond to those stories.

They will be asked to offer alternative headlines that we will then present on public rolling electronic news tickers, and they will be asked to deposit “real news” stories in our real news bank, from which commissioned artists can draw material to respond to.


“The art of politics is in decline and the news atmosphere is unhealthy to say the least, so creative, outside interventions are imperative. This project will question what news is and explore its full impact on us all. Toni Morrison once said that the best art is “unquestionably political and irrevocably beautiful at the same time.” We’d add to that: “in real time”.

Mark Donne – RRU Bureau Editor

“Savvy and timely, Rapid Response Liverpool is typically imaginative, bringing the famous artistic flair of this city together with its political nouse and offering the nation a new way of capturing our contemporary life. “

Jude Kelly – Artistic Director, Southbank Centre (London)

 “This is an opportunity for a wide range of artists to respond in the moment to current events, and for that response to radiate out from Liverpool to engage a global audience. It will be fascinating and energising to experience our complex and rapidly changing world through a radical and creative lens.”

Deborah Aydon – Executive Director, Everyman & Playhouse Theatres (Liverpool).

“Rapid Response is a brilliant concept, and builds directly on the fact that Liverpool has always been a city in which its artists have been politically and socially engaged. Audiences expect their arts to be of the moment, and speaking to their experience of the world right now. This project will produce work which will be immediate, unpredictable and which will provide different perspectives from those available anywhere else.”

Michael Eakin – Chief Executive, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic



Mark Donne – Rapid Response Bureau Editor

Mark Donne is a writer, artist-filmmaker and former news journalist/reporter with The Guardian, Sky News and ITN amongst others. He is MD of Brass Moustache Films and his feature artist-documentaries have won various festival awards including “Best Documentary” & official festival selections across 41 international territories and broadcast in 36.

His short films & installations have been commissioned by TATE, The Guardian, Pitchfork, NY Times and Estuary Festival. The open-air screening & cultural event programme he instigated & curated for “The Salesman” in Trafalgar Square (in direct response to the US Muslim travel ban) in March 2017 has been nominated for the Screen International “Film Event of the Year” award.


Edward Morgan – Rapid Response Curatorial Director

Edward Morgan has worked at the BBC, ITV and for independent companies Brook Lapping and Juniper. At the BBC he worked as output editor on Newsnight.  With a team based jointly in Glasgow and London he was editor of The Culture Show and BBC’s Edinburgh coverage.

He helped to set up and run the BBC College of Production, responsible for training and development across TV and radio. He set up Northern Town which has made programmes for BBC4, BBC World News and a flagship series on contemporary artists for Bloomberg.




Phil Disley

Born in Liverpool, Phil is now acknowledged as one of Britain’s foremost Illustrators.  His work has regularly appeared in The Times, The Guardian, The Spectator, The Financial Times, The London Evening Standard, Esquire, GQ Magazine, Tatler, Wall St Journal and LA TImes. Oxford University Press has commissioned illustrations for many educational publications with Harper Collins and Little, Brown Book Group engaging him for several book covers. Phil’s work is as often appreciated by his subjects as it is by editors and the general public. Collectors include David Cameron, Marco Pierre White, Steven Gerrard, Andrew Rawnsley and Andy Murray.


dot-art supports visual artists and champions art as an intergral part of everyday life. We do this by selling locally sourced, affordable art, working with businesses to put art in the workplace and public realm, running art classes and working with schools and community groups. All this is underpinned by our unique membership scheme for artists in the North West which gives access to all the activities above and a package of support and advice, creating and developing artists’ careers.

First Take

First Take is an award-winning not for profit filmmaking, new media and arts organisation specialising in working with diverse communities and on artistic collaborations, producing edgy, authentic, untold and often complex stories. It aims to create projects that impact on people’s lives, their understanding and perceptions.

The Layar app

Layar connects our digital lives with the physical world. With the Layar Creator, a self-service web application for activating print pages with digital content, Layar is pioneering the interactive print movement and paving the way for a more robust future for the publishing industry in a digital age. The Layar app is free for iPhone and Android.

Rapid Response Unit forms part of Liverpool 2018 and is supported by Liverpool City Council and Arts Council England.

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Liverpool Waterfront