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.
For everything we sell we provide a back up service which isn’t what many people do nowadays… but at the current time its very hard…Independent shops are going to be a thing of the past and I think everybody, once they are gone, is going to realise how important they are but its going to be to late.
Yesterday Lucy from Mid Pennine Arts and I moved the As It Comes work to St Nicholas Arcade as the project was commissioned to tour to different sites in Lancaster. At the same time we dropped into see some of the traders who had been part of the project and I was reminded of some of the conversations we had about the intangible aspects of knowledge and skills (which is feeding into our new programme Public Goods). Whilst I was drawing and interviewing traders I tried to work out what were the tools of the trade, and what were the unspoken skills of the independent traders. The obvious tools were not necessarily the only or main ones, there were many unspoken less obvious tools – things about how people talk to customers, their body language, how they use their hands, their knowledge of the tools, food and produce they sell and their experience;
Its the knowledge, you go to B&Q and you just pick it off the shelf but if you come here you can ask and we’ll tell you about it… you can come here with a description of what you need and we will disappear into the back shop and reappear with one single screw.
We had a lovely hardware shop but he has gone. They can’t compete with the chains, but you go into those places (chains) and ask for help and they are running away from you, they don’t want you to ask “what size screw?” or “what kind of glue?”..
He’d go, “Just a minute…” and he’d go in the back where he had hundreds of drawers and then he’d come out with it and you’d go, “Thank you so much how much?” and he’d go, “5 pence please”.”
In August 2010 I was commissioned, by Mid Pennine Arts and Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce, to create a work about Lancaster’s independent traders, As It Comes. Building on my previous work about markets and traders I worked with historian Michael Winstanley and artist Caroline Maclennan to research the trading history of the city and to meet local people, shop keepers and traders.
I’ve been developing my use of drawing as a way to research the character of a place and to create a space for conversation; on my visits I began to draw in traders’ places of work, where we would talk about craft and knowledge; communities and friendships and the relationships they have with commodities, food, and people.
What’s inspired me is their skills, care and connection to local communities and suppliers; whether selling fabric, tailoring a suit, fitting a floor, repairing tools, advising on paint, gutting fish or butchering meat. Though I saw many tools of the trade, its not the physical things that people mention most but knowledge, ability to talk to people, honesty and trust.
I spent time with traders to have conversations, collect audio interviews, make drawings and take photographs which have inspired new works combining traditional embroidery with drawing and digital printing on fabric. Lancashire was once famous for cotton manufacturing. Embroidering in cotton seemed appropriate to capture fragments of conversations about intangible skills, experiential knowledge, an uncertain future and the unique relationships these traders have with their customers.
The project was commissioned to investigate the trading history of Lancaster as well as to use some of the empty shop units in town so some of the work is currently in the windows of 18 New Street until the end of Jan 2011 where after it is planned move to another home.
Mid Penine Arts are offering to post free copies of the Project Publication to the first 20 people to share their thoughts on the project. If you’ve seen the work in Lancaster or been have following the project online it would be great to hear your thoughts. You can post in response to this, or alternatively go to:
There are two publications and a special set of StoryCubes printed using bookleteer.com – you can download the print and make up version, or get in touch if you would like a specially printed version.
You can download print and make up versions of the project publication and StoryCubes here:
As It Comes by Alice Angus
A Lancaster Sketchbook by Caroline Maclennan
My time in Lancaster on As It Comes is drawing to a close this weekend with our final event this Saturday when we’ll be hosting a stall at the Vintage and Handmade Market at Storey Gallery in Lancaster from 11am until 6pm. Instead of a financial exchange for one of my drawings (with a brew, mince pie and piece of cake), I’ll be asking for your memories about independent shops. So bring me a memory and we will provide a drawing and some tasty refreshments. Directions are here.
At 1pm I’ll also be doing an informal talk about the work and weather permitting we will walk down to the hangings in 18 New Street and talk about Lancaster’s independent traders. You’ll also be able to pick up the set of storycubes and the project publication.
This week we had Caroline Maclennan in the studio using bookleteer to create a download-print and make sketchbook of documentation of As It Comes. We’ve been lucky to have Caroline as a placement on the project and she has also been documenting its progress. You can download her book here:
For the past few weeks I’ve been heading up and down from Lancaster working on As It Comes. It was commissioned by Mid Pennine Arts and Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce and is inspired by both the heritage and future of local traders and shopkeepers.
I have been interviewing and drawing with some of Lancaster’s current shopkeepers and traders to understand more about their businesses and talk about; craft and knowledge; communities and friendships; and the relationship with commodities, food, and people that is different from chains and supermarkets.
The project is continuing my work on markets and shops exploring the people and communities they engender. I’ve been continually inspired by the skills, crafts and care of traders I’ve met in Lancaster – whether selling fabric, repairing tools or butchering meat. The As It Comes blog is recording some of the thoughts and conversations as the project continues.
Next week I am hanging some large scale work in New Street that combines traditional embroidery with drawing and digital printing on fabric, inspired by these conversations, the history of trade, development of textile technologies and history of cotton weaving in the area.
On the 4th December I’ll be leading a walk around of Lancaster talking about some of the issues raised by the project and thinking about the future of independent traders and town centers. NEF (New Economics Foundation) have published a follow up to their 2005 Clone Town report, entitled Re-imaging the High Street: Escape From Clone Town Britain which supports the need for independent traders; and the Transition Town movement – among others is gathering pace – so I am wondering what we want the new ecology of the high street to be? If you believe that supermarkets and large chains are unsustainable environmentally and socially, but we need some of what they offer, what new retail ecology might we build in the future?
Alice has been commissioned by Mid Pennine Arts to undertake a new commission in their Arts Talking Shop programme. The commission is to explore the issues and history surrounding independent shopkeepers and retail in Lancaster and it draws on Alice’s interest in markets, shops, common spaces and the way communities define the identity of a place.
The issues of local distinctiveness and the idea of ‘creative city’ have recurred in Proboscis work across commissions in both the regeneration and art sectors. Independent shopkeepers play an important role in shaping the notion of ‘creative city’ as a shared, flexible space; using the street and pavement a selling space, a meeting space, a space of exchange. The project will be exploring the inherent creativity of shopkeepers; how the presence of shops affects life on the street and the way informal things can happen around local shops and markets. Local shops sometimes foster a very human scale of vibrant life on streets that have not been sucked dry by a shopping centre and often its the less regulated more informal spaces like markets that draw their communities together.
The project is a Mid Pennine Arts Arts Talking Shop project, delivered in partnership with Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce, Storey Gallery and Lancaster University.