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
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.
At the end of March I headed up to draw Coventry indoor Market to spend a few days on the next leg of the artistsandmakers.com Empty Shops Network Tour created by artist Dan Thompson (and involving Jan Williams (Caravan Gallery), Steve Bomford Natasha Middleton and podcaster Richard Vobes.) I’ve been commissioned to draw some of the spaces (and their occupants) the tour is visiting and Coventry Market follows from my drawings in Granville Arcade in Brixton.
An ancient city, Coventry’s medieval buildings were almost all destroyed during the second world war blitz that devastated the city. Its rich history is crossed by stories of King Canute and Lady Godiva. Today Coventry now has a maze of traffic free precincts and modern buildings built in the postwar period and it is far from what the medieval city must have been.
These precincts are watched over by many surveillance cameras and again on this project I to the issue of private and public space that has come up so often for Proboscis in the last 2 years as we find ourselves prevented from taking photos in shopping malls and public squares. PD Smith writes about this issue in an interesting blog post about Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the 21st-century City, Anna Mintons Book looking at control, fear and the city.
Coventry’s indoor market is a circular space in which you can get lost, dizzy and a bit confused about which door you came in but in the process find everything from a cup of tea to 5 kinds of sweet potato, dog biscuits, birthday cards, fake flowers, fresh rolls, loose cake mix, baking tins and graph paper. Its got a real sense or people mingling from different communities and backgrounds and ages using it to meet, chat and hang out, not just shop. They once celebrated it in a musical.
In many of our recent projects people tell us its less regulated more informal spaces that draw their communities together, Watford Market, Coventry Market, Brixton Market…But these more informal spaces are on the decline it seems and everywhere we see what Paul Kingsnorth wrote in In “Cities for Sale” : From parks to pedestrian streets, squares to market places, public spaces are being bought up and closed down, often with little consultation or publicity. In towns and cities all over England, what was once public is now private. It is effectively owned by corporations, which set the standards of behaviour. These standards are the standards that are most congenial to their aim – getting you to buy things. … There will be no busking, and often there will be no sitting either, except in designated areas. You will eat and drink where you are told to. You will not skateboard or cycle or behave “inappropriately”.
The Empty Shops Network is aiming to celebrate the kind of local distinctiveness that gets lost in these developments and it is working with communities to use empty shops for projects in the spaces and times inbetween other uses. The Network’s projects involve public meetings, informal training for local artists, and showcase the tools needed to run empty shops projects. See artistandmakers.com for details.
You can see more images from Coventry here.
Proboscis is collaborating with Dan Thompson of artistsandmakers.com to run a series of bookleteer Pitch Up & Publish events alongside his Empty Shops Network Tour. Last week we were in Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex and this week (Friday 19th March) we’ll be in Carlisle, Cumbria, with future visits planned for Coventry and Margate.
Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to spend a few days drawing Granville Arcade/Brixton Village, on the first leg of artistsandmakers.com Empty Shops Network Tour to six towns across England, created by artist Dan Thompson.
I joined Dan, Jan Williams (Caravan Gallery), Steve Bomford and podcaster Richard Vobes, for lively discussion and to create new work on site for an all day event on the Saturday, you can hear Richard Vobes podcasts of about the project here.
Its been a while since I had the chance to stay in one place for a few days drawing, talking to stallholders and getting to scratch a little below the surface, seeing the flows of life. This year we’ve (Proboscis) been involved in several projects that have looked at the issue of common space and how its changing alongside the implications of huge shopping malls, department stores and the privatisation of public space. It was a real pleasure to be in a place where the character of it is created by the people using it to trade and to socialise. There was an almost constant sound of conversation, laughter and music and the smells of all the food being cooked or sold.
Exploring empty shops is about celebrating local distinctiveness and the project will also show local communities how to use empty shops for meanwhile projects. Each project will last less than a week from start to finish and Dan makes a very open space for artists to follow their interests. Each week will involve public meetings, informal training for local artists, and showcase the tools needed to run empty shops projects.
The tour has been organised by the Empty Shops Network, with the first event happening just a week after the project was conceived at a meeting of organisations involved in bringing empty shops and spaces into meanwhile use.
The tour is supported by the Meanwhile Project, and the Brixton event is using a space provided by the Space Makers Agency. After Brixton, the Empty Shops Network project will visit five further towns, with dates in Shoreham by Sea, Coventry, Cumbria and Durham to be confirmed in coming weeks. See artistandmakers.com for details.
You can see more images from the Brixton week here.
Jan, Dan and Steve.
Steve and Terry – the butcher – in front of the pictures Steve and Jan took during the week.