Sale of works

June 10, 2013 by · 5 Comments 

During our open days  Friday 21st June and Saturday 22nd June  between 12noon and 8pm we will also be selling some work from recent years including framed and unframed works on paper and textiles as well as publications including:

Things-I-found-3..  

Works on paper  from the Storyweir  series Things I Have Found, Learned and Imagined on Burton Beach; the series  In Good Heart ,  Pinning Our Hopes, and the original drawings for 100 Views of Worthing Pier Tall Tales Ghosts and Imaginings and As It Comes as well as other works on paper and textiles. You can see some more of some of the series of the drawings here

1950s memories - Version 2  

 

‘Hidden Families’ at Conference on Human Factors in Computing 2013

May 1, 2013 by · 5 Comments 

CHI_poster2

As part of our project Hidden Families with Lizzie Coles-Kemp (from the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway University of London).  Alice illustrated, digitally printed and created a handmade quilted textile ‘poster’ about the wider project for the 2013 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing.

CHI_poster3  CHI_poster5 CHI_poster6 CHI_poster7

CHI_poster1

 

 

Hidden Families StoryCubes

March 25, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

DSC_0378

“The visitors who told their stories are very proud of the work and the fact that they can see their work put to good use.” Cath Chesterton NEPACS

We were recently asked to create a set of 8 StoryCubes for Hidden Families (part of Royal Holloway University of London’s Families Disconnected by Prison project), to be used by Royal Holloway and partners such as Action for Prisoners Families, NEPACS and in training, talking about and raising awareness of the issues faced by families with a relative in prison.

We selected 48 of the images, originally created for the Hidden Families quilt, around the six key themes that had emerged – family, journey, time, finance, loneliness and support. Using a combination of participants’ photos, words and sketches with my illustrations, we created a block of 8 cubes that brings together some of people’s memories, comments and experiences.

Lizzie Coles-Kemp project lead said;  “The focus of this project was to create a call to action by collecting the voices of families separated by prison and using different techniques to present the collective narrative. StoryCubes help us to develop the call to action by making the collective narrative interactive and providing another means for adding to and developing the story of this particular community. They make interactive and tactile objects from the textile quilt which are even more accessible to families, policy makers, practitioners and academics alike.”

NEPACS and Action for Prisoners Families will be using the cubes at training events and conferences, raising awareness of the impact of prison sentences on families.

View the whole Collection of 8 StoryCubes

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Hidden Families Films

March 12, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Some films made as part of the Hidden Families project :

“The Loneliness Group” by John, Donna and Jonny from StoryWorks on Vimeo.

“Hidden Families” by Cath Chesterton from StoryWorks on Vimeo.

Hidden Families publication

February 27, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

We have just finished putting together a new publication for the report on Families Disconnected by Prison, of which the Hidden Families project was one part. The project is led by Lizzie Coles-Kemp from the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway University of London and is going to be on show at the AHRC Connected Communities Showcase on the 12 March.

 

New Threads

January 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A delivery of digitally printed fabric arrived this morning with the work for the Hidden Families project and for my mermaids and monsters work. I’ll be spending the next few days sewing up the quilts for Hidden Families partners.

The other fabric that arrived is part of new textile and embroidered work inspired by the traditional knowledge, memories and myths of the sea and water that have come up in Storyweir and Tall Tales Ghosts and Imaginings, In Good Heart and Sutton Grapevine.

Hidden Families

January 16, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

  

In the last few months I’ve been working on Hidden Families, a project with families with someone in prison. The project, run by by Lizzie Coles Kemp of the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway University of London, was trying to find out how to improve the way information is made available to families, because people sometimes don’t or can’t engage with support services. The hardships families experience are diverse;- travel, costs of visiting, the huge distances to visit,the stress of uncertain weather and travel conditions that might cause someone to be late and miss their visit, bringing children, access to pension, welfare and benefits advice, sentence planning, prisoner safety and welfare, being stigmatised and outcast, and not expecting help or having the ability to improve the situation.

The project has several facets and I was involved in working with Action for Prisoners Families, NEPACS (who provide support services for families separated by prison), performer Freya Stang and visitors to a visitors’ center in a Category A prison. 
Action for Prisoners’ Families (APF),

works for the benefit of prisoners’ and offenders’ families by representing the views of families and those who work with them and by promoting effective work with families…
A prison or community sentence damages family life.

NEPACS builds bridges between prisoners, families and communities that they will return to, they

believe that investment must be made in resettlement and rehabilitation to ensure that there are fewer crime victims in the future, and less prospect of family life being disrupted and possibly destroyed by a prison sentence… After all, the families haven’t committed the crime, but they, especially the children, are greatly affected by the punishment

Lizzie’s approach to working with people differs from typical academic studies. Rather than only surveying or asking questions of a community she collaborates with groups to create projects, workshops and events that are independently of value to that group, rather than just to fulfill research ends, she often works with artists, writers and performers to support partners and participants in articulating ideas.

The project partners and visitors contributed to booklets, postcards, conversations and a wall collage gathering experiences of the practical, technical and emotional issues people face.  I brought together the stories, experiences and sketches, with a series of  sketches I made, into a digitally printed textile hanging based on the idea of a patchwork quilt for the NEPACS Visitors’ Centre. Participants expressed a wish to produce a version that could hang in the Chapel and Action For Prisoners Families have versions which they will using for their training, education and work raising awareness of the hidden issues families face.

   

Installation at Bridport Arts Centre

October 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Some images of the last of the various Storyweir installations from this summer and autumn made with Gary Stewart and Stefan Kueppers, these works are at Arts Centre 13 October till 23 November 2012.

We are showing a new 2 screen audio and video work and a series of 22 works on paper tracing the research ideas. Inspired by the notion that history looks different depending on your perspective, the video clips are randomly selected from a bank of video shot at Hive Beach along with maps, scans of the seabed, drawings and old films. It features footage of several people whose activities bring them into contact with different cycles of life of the area including a fossil hunter, an archaeologist, a kayaker, a member of Coastwatch and Bridport Wild Swimmers. Data about Wave height, wave period and wave direction data gathered over the summer at West Bay is being used to control and modulate an ambient soundtrack that accompanies the voices of many people who live, work and play on the coast.

 

 

Storyweir at Bridport Arts Centre

October 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Yesterday we delivered a series of research drawings and video work made in collaboration with Gary Stewart and Stefan Keuppers to Bridport Arts Centre for their exhibition of a selection of work from  ExLab2012. Gary and I have been working on a new two screen audio & video work inspired by conversations about the experience of time and memory we had with the  Cultural Geographers from Exeter University we’ve been collaborating with this summer for our  Storyweir commission  at Hive Beach. Hive Beach is a continually shifting strip of shingle between the land and sea where the endless cycles of sun, tide and waves cause changes larger than we can imagine, but which are also felt by humans on a daily basis.

The new  video at BAC is a new piece combining video shot at Hive Beach with maps, scans of the seabed and archival material.  It features footage of several people whose activities bring them into contact with different cycles of life and histories of the area including a fossil hunter, an archaeologist, a member of Coastwatch and Bridport Wild Swimmers. Data on wave height, wave period and wave direction data gathered from the Channel Coastal Observatory beuy at West Bay is being used to control and modulate the ambient soundtrack that accompanies the voices of people who live, work and play on the coast.

You can see it at BAC from 13 October to 23 November.

 

Storyweir at Hive Beach, Dorset

July 25, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

a vision of the sea floor

July 15, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

With under 2 weeks to go till the opening of Exlab I’m rushing to finish some parts of our commission and am working on outputting an image of the seafloor of the area by Hive Beach to then lasercut. Ive finally managed to get some workable images from the 2008 Bathymetric surveys (a kind of sonar scanning) of the geology of the seabed available on the Channel Coastal Observatory website and this image shows the Burton Beach area. Its an area swimmers have described as being difficult to swim through – the waves are unpredictable and you get stuck in it. I’m reliably informed by many people who live and work here that his part of the coast is pretty dangerous because the shingle slopes very steeply into the sea causing powerfull undertow under the waves.

Exlab; Art, Science and the Coast pre exhibition and talk

June 25, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

I have just packed Things I Have Found, Learned and Imagined on Burton Beach  – the first set in a series of works on paper I am making to try and make sense of the the many narratives and local stories (of life, time, the sea, the land, folklore, history, industry, craft, science and geology) that have crossed our paths on Burton, Hive and Cogden Beaches for our Storyweir project.  They are going to be part of an exhibition of work related to the Exlab commissions at the gallery in Arts University College at Bournemouth opening 9th July – 3rd August. There will be presentations by the 5 commissioned artists on the 12 July at 5pm.

ATLAS: Geography, Architecture and Change in an Interdependent World

June 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Earlier in the spring I received a copy of ATLAS: Geography Architecture and Change in an Interdependent World (edited by Renata Tyszczuk, Joe Smith, Nigel Clark and Melissa Butcher) a new book published by black dog publishing that brings together architects, artists and geographers to look at global and economic change. It is linked to and grew out of the web project  ATLAS: making new maps for an island planet. Many of the contributors to these projects, like me, were part or participated in events or publications arising out of the Interdependence Day (ID) project back in 2006 and the organisers have gone to great lengths to keep those people and ideas together over the years through events, discussions and publications that keep progressing ideas and conversations.

For Atlas I revisited the project In Good Heart; What Is A Farm? (2009) which grew out of the partnership between Dodolab and Proboscis exploring communities, environment and resilience. I has been invited to visit the former Charlottetown Experimental Farm on Prince Edward Island, Canada, by arts organisation Dodolab. The visit, coupled with conversations with people and farmers, historical research into representations of farming, the lore of agriculture, weather, the seasons and the labours of the months, triggered many questions about land, farming and the factors that impact on this most ancient and technologically advanced of trades. The map created for ATLAS was inspired by these questions and the mediaeval illustrations of the Labours of the Months which were some of the first representations of farming and food production. It maps the interconnected stories people told me about what the word farm meant to them; their hopes and fears about food production and the harsh realities for farmers themselves. One of the things that struck me was how many people, who now live in urban places, recalled growing up on farms of visiting their grandparents farms. It impressed on me how swift the move from rural to urban has been for some people. Knowledge about environment has shifted with that move, some knowledge must have been lost and other knowledge is perhaps being created.

Dialogues at the Tideline

June 15, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

At the start of our commission Storyweir (part of the art science project Exlab) the brief was to work with earth scientists (as well as local people) but when we heard cultural geographer Dr Ian Cook (Associate Professor of Geography in the College of Life & Environmental Sciences at University of Exeter) speak at the Exlab induction day/symposium we were instantly inspired by his highly collaborative approach to his research work; we wanted to try and collaborate and to bring Cultural Geography into the project. Ian’s project followthethings.com  demonstrates his co-creative approach to social engagement and cross disciplinary working (with academics, students, filmmakers, artists, journalists and others). It felt like a natural link with our work and was very exciting to find at the Exlab event.  I had read an essay Follow the Thing: Papaya way back in 2004 and I remember at the time thinking that I’d like to work with geographers who take this approach but I hadn’t realised until very recently that Ian was the author of that paper.

A windy walk to the end of Bridport Harbour with Ian and artist Gary Stewart who works with us at Proboscis resulted in a Ian offering to introduce us to some of his colleagues Geographies of Creativity and Knowledge Research Group, University of Exeter. Ian introduced us to three colleagues who each brought different strands of thinking to the project; Dr John Wylie (Associate Professor of Cultural Geography and Director of Postgraduate Research in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences) who has opened up our thinking on time and being in the landscape; as well as the ‘intertwining of self and the landscape’ coupled with how we move and walk in the landscape and visualise it through photographs and images; Dr Nicola Thomas (Senior Lecturer in Human Geography in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences) has brought her exploration of craft and communities and the traces of history and memory bound up in skills, crafts and the evidence of them; and Rose Ferraby (PHD Researcher in the Department of Geography) who has an undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MFA in Illustration brought both an archaeologists eye to our reading of the land at Hive Beach and her ideas about how abstract ideas can be communicated visually.

An initial audio skype conversation left us very excited at the blend of academic discussion and rigour with a deeply creative and poetic approach. Following that we all spent a windy early January day outside on Hive, Burton and Cogden beach and a creative media ‘mash up’ day at PVA medialab (in Bridport) which saw us coming together with drawings, audio, video, data and other media. In all these we have found a shared interest in the social and cultural effects of the way the local community engages with its environment and the exploration of human and deep time. Looking at the sediments of Burton Cliffs and their fossil layer we discussed the evanescent nature of time and timelessness and the relationship between deep geological time and human time – particularly how he perspective of time is different depending on the prism through which history is viewed (fossils were once cited as evidence of the Deluge). In that sense history (perhaps also time) is not experienced as single linear narrative but constantly in flux.
 
Finding a lost welly trapped in the shingle mud brought up the notion of the Anthropocene (a unit of geological time that marks the moment when human activity is resulting in a visible impact on the ecosystems and geology).

Walking the beach and then above on the cliffs to the caravan site sparked conversations on the transience of nostalgia and memory, the way the beach (which is such an elemental place) triggers memories and affects our experience of time. The beach reconnects us to patterns and emotions that are long lasting and outside of the pattern of daily life.

This is not a large budget, long term research project so we feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Ian, Nicola, John and Rose it is a very exciting process and these interconnected conversations are influencing the questions we ask in public activities and the form, materials and content of the work. Through the dialogues we have focused an initial interest in the relationship between deep time and human time into how it is reflected in the ongoing dynamic processes and transitory human life at play on the geology of the coast. In that ephemeral space of flux between the land and sea the continual cycles of sun, tide and sea affect changes larger than we can imagine but also are felt by humans on a daily basis.

Tales and trials of smuggling and contraband

April 27, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

You can’t spent much time in West Dorset and not get drawn into the true stories and tall tales of smuggling and how it affected people. (I’d like to know of any smuggling songs if anyone knows any.)

Its a well known saying near Chesil Beach that on a dark moonless night a smuggler could tell where he landed a boat between Portland and West Bay by the size of the shingle; which starts pea sized at West Bay and ends Boulder sized near Portland. I had read some accounts and stories, (returning again to the Burton Bradstock website among others), and was struck looking at lists of people prosecuted for smuggling by the breadth of ages and types people that were involved, from teenagers to widows. It could be a dangerous, violent activity with harsh punishments to those caught smuggling who were sometimes very young; several months in jail, hard labour, deportation and sometimes death. Having never read the classic novel Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner (published in 1898), this seemed a good time since it is set somewhere along Chesil Bank near where our work will be sited. The bank is a huge shingle barrier beach that stretches from West Bay up to Portland (on it there are still remnants of anti tank defence from WWII). It drops steeply into the sea and the pebbles are so smooth that the combination of strong undertow and slippery pebbles can make it impossible for a person to get out of the sea. Locals tell me you can hear the thunder of waves upon shingle for miles inland.


Images of Chesil Bank

Moonfleet, set in the 1750s is a thrilling yarn but also captures the relationship of people to the land, nature and sea and the way the geology of the area (the steep banked beaches, the grassy clifftops, the sliding shingle, the high sandstone cliffs and deep quarries) has such a strong influence on the way people live. You can read it on Project Guttenberg if you can’t find a copy.

For with that wind blowing strong from south, if you cannot double the Snout, you must most surely come ashore; and many a good ship failing to round that point has beat up and down the bay all day, but come to beach in the evening. And once on the beach, the sea has little mercy, for the water is deep right in, and the waves curl over full on the pebbles with a weight no timbers can withstand. Then if poor fellows try to save themselves, there is a deadly under-tow or rush back of the water, which sucks them off their legs, and carries them again under the thundering waves. It is that back-suck of the pebbles that you may hear for miles inland, even at Dorchester, on still nights long after the winds that caused it have sunk, and which makes people turn in their beds, and thank God they are not fighting with the sea on Moonfleet beach.

In his poem epic Lewesdon Hill William Crowe also describes the Dorset landscape of 1788 in great detail and in particular the lighting of a beacon on Burton Cliff for smugglers;

(…)From hostile shores returning, glad I look
On native scenes again; and fisrt salute
Thee, Burton, and thy lofty cliff, where oft
The nightly blaze is kindled ; further seen
Than erst was that love-tended cresset, hung
Beside the Hellespont: yet not like that
Inviting to the hospitable arms
Of Beauty’ and Youth, but lighted up, the sign
Of danger, and of ambush’d foes to warn
The stealth-approaching Vesslel, homeward bound
From Havre or the Norman isles, with freight
Of wines and hotter drinks, the trash of France,
Forbidden merchandize. Such fraud to quell
Many a light skiff and well-appointed sloop
Lies hovering near the coast, or hid behind
Some curved promontory, in hope to seize
These contraband: vain hope! on that high shore
Station’d, th’ associates of their lawless trade
Keep watch, and to their fellows off at sea
Give the known signal; they with fearful haste
Observant, put about the ship, and plunge
Into concealing darkness.(…)

I read on Real West Dorset about local filmaker Frank Trevett who in the 1930s created a film about sumggling using family friends and actors. Dope Under Thorncombe – which you can watch here on Close Encounters:

Dope Under Thorncombe from James Harrison on Vimeo.

Finally…the poem that opens Moonfleet;

Says the Cap’n to the Crew,
We have slipped the Revenue,
I can see the cliffs of Dover on the lee:
Tip the signal to the Swan,
And anchor broadside on,
And out with the kegs of Eau-de-Vie,
Says the Cap’n:
Out with the kegs of Eau-de-Vie.
Says the Lander to his men,
Get your grummets on the pin,
There’s a blue light burning out at sea.
The windward anchors creep,
And the Gauger’s fast asleep,
And the kegs are bobbing one, two, three,
Says the Lander:
The kegs are bobbing one, two, three.

But the bold Preventive man
Primes the powder in his pan
And cries to the Posse, Follow me.
We will take this smuggling gang,
And those that fight shall hang
Dingle dangle from the execution tree,
Says the Gauger:
Dingle dangle with the weary moon to see.

If you want to find out more you can also look at Smugglers Britain and the educational website Dorset and the Sea

Songs and shanties

April 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Ive been doing a bit of searching around for sea shanties and fishermen’s songs that might be local to Lyme Bay and Bridport and I came across “the Wreck of the Napoli”  by Bob Garrett and Bill Pring which reflects on the ship that ran aground  in Lyme Bay in 2007. Apart from the controversy that followed over what happened to the cargo which washed up in Devon, a great many oil covered birds were washed up on Hive Beach at Burton Bradstock.

This searching for local music has also taken me, via my reading and rummaging around in Real West Dorset, to their article about the British Library folk song map to the  Library’s online sound archive of traditional music, language, accents, and soundscapes called Sounds. It features a series of maps and archival collections. There seems to be a lot of material from West Dorset in the Traditional Music in England Collection and I’ve really enjoyed listening to the local accents and dialects of the time. I particularly liked George Hirst, cowman and ex-serviceman of Burton Bradstock talking in 1944 about Louis Brown of Burton Bradstock who used to sing  ‘A Nutting We Will Go’ and ‘The Cobblers Song’, ‘Sweet Nightingale’  on the accordion, and  finally this song, Barbara Allen recorded in the 1950s and sung by Charlie Wills.

I’d like to hear more about local music and shanties especially any that come directly from Burton Bradstock area.

 

Lerrets, seine nets and mackerel

April 25, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Alongside the films I posted from Pathe News in yesterday’s Storyweir update I found this one of Mackerel Fishing in West Dorset in the 1940′s

It looks like its somewhere along Chesil Bank near Burton Bradstock. The boat is a traditional Lerret which I think was unique to Lyme Bay. Boat builder Gail McGarva recently created a new Lerret for the Lerret Project an initiative to celebrate the fishing heritage of the area.  There is a lot more about the history of fishing off Hive Beach on the Burton Bradstock Village website including some audio describing local fishing methods and the recollections and fascinating film of Cynthia Stevens net making – her hands move faster than you would have thought possible. So fundamental was fishing that boats were blessed and garlands created and carried to the beach to bless the harvest of the sea. Garland day continues in the nearby Village of Abbotsbury.

There are few Lerrets left seine net fishing off the beach these days. I heard of how shoals of mackerel would often come right into the shore of the sleeply banking shingle beaches but its not seen often now. There is a film of the “now rare sight of mackerel shoaling just off the beach in 1987″ on the Burton Bradstock village site. I was talking to a local fisherman who supplies Hive Beach Cafe and he recalled there being fishing boats all up the coast between Burton and West Bay. Several people also recall there being thousands of herring gulls nesting in the cliffs – which now have gone. No-one seemed to know why, maybe because there is very little seine net fishing directly from the beach, so not much for the Gulls to scavenge, maybe its another reason.

Spinning, weaving and monopolies

April 24, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

US TROOPS IN AN ENGLISH VILLAGE: EVERYDAY LIFE WITH THE AMERICANS IN BURTON BRADSTOCK, DORSET, ENGLAND, UK, 1944
US TROOPS IN AN ENGLISH VILLAGE: EVERYDAY LIFE WITH THE AMERICANS IN BURTON BRADSTOCK, DORSET, ENGLAND, UK, 1944© IWM (D 20135)  From the  Imperial War Museum Collection

Mrs Annie Northover (in traditional bonnet) uses a wooden needle to braid nets on the doorstep of her cottage in Burton Bradstock, Dorset. According to the original caption, net braiding is “an old established local industry. Before the war they made billiard table pockets, sports nets. Today they make camouflage nets for the Services.”

When we recently met up with Human and Cultural Geographers at the Exeter University who we are collaborating with on Storyweir. Nicola Thomas  brought along a list of people from the 1851 census who were working in the fibre industry in Burton Bradstock: cord winer, hackler, net maker, flax dresser, cordwinder, twine maker, twine spinner, flax dryer, flax spinner, flax packer, rope maker… Ghosts of an industry that had been prevalent in this area for hundreds of years, shaped by the geology and in turn shaping the architeure, society and future.

Burton Bradstock where we are working on Storyweir (a project about the connection between the human story and the geology of the area) has a long association with flax production and rope manufacture. It is very close to  Bridport which had a key role in the flax and help industry for over 750 years from well before 1200 till later in the 1900′s. Though rope is not made the net making industry continues to this day. King John in the 1200s commissioned;

“to be made in Bridport, night and day, as many ropes for ships large and small and as many cables as you can, and twisted yarns for cordage for ballistae”

Later Henry Vlll ordered that all hemp grown within a five mile radius of Bridport be reserved for rope for the Royal Navy, Bridport eventually was granted a monopoly to produce rope in the 1500s. Later the area provided rope to the East India Company. The geology of the area provided the well drained soils and sheltered slopes with warm weather that suited the growing of hemp and flax. I’ve come across some films on the British Pathe wesbite of flax and Bridport net production in the 1940s and 50s.

NETS

SPINNING FLAX

 

There are some interesting articles about this history on Burton Bradstock Village Website, Dorset Life and Real West Dorset


Ideas exchange with Pallion

April 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Just before Easter we were back in Sunderland working with Pallion Action Group and Royal Holloway, University of London’s Information Security Group  on the project to help build a community network for people to share ideas about money, spend and budgets in ways that help them cope with the massive changes in the benefits system and reduction of the public sector’s contribution to the local economy.

I’m finding each time I visit PAG I’m more and more amazed at their ability to bring people together and invent solutions to tackle serious problems through creative thinking and activity. Their projects range from street dance, to pre-employment confidence building, mentoring of young people and projects to engage older people with technology. Although PAG are not an arts organisation their approach does remind me of two media arts orgs – Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) in Western Sydney Australia and Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol. ICE  open their doors to all sections of the diverse western Sydney community to join in a program of activities that enable communities and artists to tell the stories of this extraordinary place. Knowle West Media Centre is a media arts charity that aims to develop and support cultural, social and economic regeneration supporting communities to engage with, and benefit from, digital technologies and the arts.

These places have a commitment to valuing everyone’s voice in a democratic space. They’ve created environments that, because they are trusted and run by the community, encourage people to come to them they need an answer or a problem solved or just want to be involved. They all use creative processes, arts, music and film in their projects and through it are able to connect up people, ideas and communities to find solutions, support initiatives and ‘make things happen’ that are both practical and transformative.

PAG “was formed in 1993 by a small group of local residents who intended to take action relating to some of the problems that their community was facing.” Its mission is “To work to improve the living conditions, community facilities, social, educational and economic opportunities available to the residents of Pallion and surrounding areas of the City of Sunderland.”

Spending a few days in the building you get to see the way that PAG subtly makes opportunities for people to work together, to help each other as well as themselves. They are adept in seeing people’s passions, capabilities and capacities and supporting them. It doesn’t take long being there to be struck by the perceptive, resourceful and intelligent people who are involved in Pallion Action Group. People of all ages from many walks of life who have found themselves facing degrees of difficulty over lack of employment and a complex confusing benefits system.

On this last visit we were working with PAG on a shared design approach to mapping the broad themes, areas and issues and began to collect sample stories and experiences. We started with some basic explorations of resources in the home; what comes in and what goes out. It led onto more in-depth explorations of people’s perceptions : where did these things sit in relation to one another; what things people can rely on and what are unreliable; what is fixed, what changes? Finally we moved onto mapping what people’s aspirations are and the barriers that get in the way of achieving those. After these sessions we collaborated with members of PAG on scoping the next stages of the project and how it will intersect with current PAG activities and be supported by people involved in PAG. The discussion concluded that for this network to be of value it will have to enable people to improve their situation and not reinforce fears. Our focus for the project now rests on how what Proboscis does or brings to the process can connect with and supports PAG’s own work; how we can build on and exploit PAG’s skills and enhances (rather than adding more work) their efforts to build on their positive approach.

Heading Back to Burton Bradstock

March 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Since November we have been doing a lot of background research for Storyweir our commission to explore the relationship between the human story and physical geology at Hive Beach on the Jurassic Coast, working with local people, geologists, Human geographers at the University of Exeter the Hive Beach Cafe and the National Trust.

It is a place of many intersecting narratives of sea, land, farming, fishing, industry (the area was a flax, rope and net producer for several hundred years) and geology; which are all woven together amongst narratives of time. A walk on Hive beach takes you from the deep unimaginable time of geology to human time and through many cycles of tides, seasons, and patterns of life.

This month I head back to local village Burton Bradstock to spend a bit of time out and about again talking to people involved in geology and fossil hunting as well as people living and working in the area.  I’m really interested in how the  human ‘data’ that forms the aura of the place  (stories, experiences, local knowledge) sits next to or can merge with scientific data and analysis.

We will be there from the 22 – 24 March and weather permitting will be on Hive Beach from 11.30am to 2.30pm on the 24th March offering a cup of tea  in exchange for peoples experiences of the area so if you are in the area please come and join us.

 

Image: Strata in the Burton Sandstone Cliffs – an example of the distinctive layered geology of the cliffs which contain many fossils of the Jurassic era.

 

Compendium of Public Goods

February 27, 2012 by · 6 Comments 

One of the definitions of Public Goods in economics terms describes them as goods that are not diminished by a persons consumption of them. The air is cited as an example, sometimes the beach, street lighting, free broadcast television and so on (though in the ‘real world’ perhaps nothing really fits this description).  Are there other interactions we value that might be called public goods?  Things that people feel are precious about the places and communities they belong to – stories, skills, games, songs and so on. Maybe they are more intangible than a place, or element or thing, like the way people use local markets as places to meet, converse or share knowledge.

The notion of  Public Goods comes up often in our work; common space and ‘the commons’ as a public good for Being in Common; the role of markets and independent traders in Lancaster for As It Comes, and in Hertfordshire for With Our Ears to the Ground and the social impact of technologies for Urban Tapestries, Snout and Social Tapestries. I can’t quite pinpoint what these public goods are and I want to try and make a bit more sense of them for our Public Goods programme so I’m working with Mandy to create a Compendium of Public Goods  – a series of short animations inspired by many of the conversations and interviews we have had with people about their lives and communities. We are starting with a look back over conversations I had with the March History Group in Lancaster about jumble sales, hand me downs and knitted swimming suits… remember knitted swimming suits anyone?

 

Into Deep Time on the Jurassic Coast

November 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

After reading about the Jurassic Coast several years ago I’m really excited that we now have the chance to work there on a new commission at Hive Beach and Burton Bradstock, for our project Storyweir. Its been commissioned by PVA medialab and Bridport Arts Centre working with Hive Beach Cafe and the National Trust as part of ExLab 2012.

The commission will be developed over the next few months as we research and collaborate with geographers, earth scientists, the cafe and communities on the coast at Hive Beach and around the village of Burton Bradstock. We’ll be exploring how the human story of the Jurassic coast and the physical geography influence each other. The final works will be staged on the coast during the 2012 Olympic/Paralympic sailing events.

We will be popping up on Hive Beach with a temporary lab to work with local communities recording stories of amateur geology, scientific fact, folklore and tall tales alongside looking at scientific data and mapping of erosion, gathering local sounds and working with geologists and cultural geographers.

Hive Beach runs along the other-wordly Bridport Sands cliffs where it is possible to see Jurassic Strata and where there is a thin upper layer of  limestone, the Inferior Oolite which is rich in fossils such as ammonites, belemnites, shells and sponges. Its a place both steeped in ancient geological time and is a rich mix of more recent physical and social history, folklore, scientific knowledge (amateur and professional) and contemporary stories.

Back and Beyond

July 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

 

The new Lancashire based publication  Back&Beyond, out this week, have published a feature on As It Comes. The team behind this arts, culture and heritage publication have a long-term goal of creating a regular, high quality arts publication for the area.  It combines fiction and non-fiction writing together with profiles of local artists, projects and organisations. The publication is  created by a group of artists, designers and writers and this first issue is free,  if you would like a copy they can be found around Lancaster or contact Back&Beyond directly.

You can also download the entire publication from the Back&Beyond website or the As It Comes spread here.

 

 

Looking back on Bookleteer

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

City As Material 1 Limited Edition Set

It is now a year since we launched the short run printing service for Bookleteer our online self publish and print platform. So now seemed like a good time to start a series of posts reflecting on the diverse uses people have found for it.  Fredrick Leasge has been doing a series of case studies and interviews over on the Bookleteer Blog with people who have used it. Ive been interested to read how some historical and ethnographic projects that have used this method of publishing for documentation and communication.

Julie Anderson, the Assistant Keeper of Egyptian and Sudanese Antiquities at the British Museum used Bookleteer to create 1000 books in Arabic and English about a 10 year archaeological excavation in Dangeil, Sudan to share the findings with the local community in Sudan.

Following the distribution of the book, teenagers began coming to our door in the village to ask questions about the site / archaeology / their own Sudanese history… connecting with their history as made possible through the booklet. It was astonishing. More surprising was the reaction people had upon receiving a copy. In virtually every single case, they engaged with the Book immediately and began to read it or look through it….The Book has served not only as an educational tool, but has empowered the local community and created a sense of pride and proprietary ownership of the ruins and their history.

Bookleteer was used in the Melanesia Project to record, Porer and Pinbin, indigenous people from Papua New Guinea discussing objects in the British Museum’s ethnographic collection. Bookleteer was used first to create simple notebooks that were printed out on an office printer and handmade. Anthrolologist James Leach used them to note the discussion in both English and Tok Pisin, next to glued in polaroid images, to produce a record that involved “capturing the moment of what we were doing and what we were seeing”.

Once filled in the notebooks were scanned and professionally printed to share with the local community in Papua New Guinea. (who have a subsistence lifestyle without electricity).

“[...] As something to give people, they’re an extremely nice thing. People are very keen. I also took some to an anthropology conference before I went [to Papua New Guinea] and would show them to people and they’d immediately say “Oh, is that for me?” People kind of like them. They’re nice little objects.”

Researcher and community education worker Gillian Cowell has used the books as part of a community project with Greenhill Historical Society:

“I think, for community work, it’s really important that you engage in much more unique and creative and interesting ways as a way of trying to spur some kind of interest and excitement in community work [...] The books are such a lovely way for that to actually fit with that kind of notion.”

If you are interested in finding out about how you could use Bookleteer, come along to one of our day long Pitch Up & Publish Workshops or Get Bookleteering short sessions this summer.

Book Get Bookleteering

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Book Pitch Up & Publish

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New Works for Coventry Market

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Coventry Market

Last month I went up to Coventry Market to spend the day talking to traders and shoppers about set of works on paper I made last year as part of an ongoing series about markets, food and the informal spaces that draw communities together. The Coventry Market Traders found the works online, contacted me and bought them to hang permanently in the market hall. It was a honour to have the traders buy the work and bring it back home where it was created.  You can get a sense of Coventry Market from this film made by the traders. The drawings will be on permanent display later this year but for now you can see images of the 10 works on flickr here. They grew out of a commission from Dan Thompson of the Empty Shops Network to record some of the places the ESN Tour was going to. I was inspired by the vibrancy of Coventry Market and the care traders take over arranging and decorating their stalls as well as the range of produce; from pet food to ribbon, cards to cucumbers, roasting tins to yams, fishing tackle to carpets, cakes and cranberries, you  name it, someone will have it. You can find out more on the market website.

I want to say a big thanks to Bill and Sophie for looking after me so well last month and to Brian and all the Coventry Market traders for making me so welcome.

Coventry Market Coventry Market

Coventry Market

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