Thursday, 9 November 2017

The Festival of Change

We are proud to announce will be the first showing of art and poetry from the project Armour at The Festival of Change, which takes place at the Museums Association (MA) Annual Conference and Exhibition in Manchester.  16th and 17th November, 

Poem and artwork Gavin Farquharson, stitching Lois Blackburn


This body of armour that
is the weight and size
of my heart...
(Eliot Hallisey)

Poems, embroideries and other texts made in self-defence

Armour is a project that uses words and stitches to explore the ways we protect ourselves. It is a collaboration with veterans of armed conflict and with people who have lived experience of homelessness. We asked people to describe their personal "armour", physical and mental. Artworks were inspired by gambesons, the quilted jackets worn under suits of armour, were made out of rust dyed fabric and embroidered with poems, and other writings.

Poem Danny Collins, embroidery Peggy Prestley


Many people we met were veterans who have also experienced homelessness. We asked people to describe their personal "armour", physical and mental. And to imagine what might happen if was taken off. That spark of imagining is what gave life to these poems. Out of much heart-searching, during the art and poetry workshops, came many pieces of writing. Some were embroidered, or inscribed on suits of armour made of cloth.

Although we all need protection, sometimes protection becomes the problem. Armour can be extremely heavy, it limits sight, sound, touch - and emotions. In the poem Sir Galahad by Tennyson, the crucial moment comes when the famous warrior realises if he is to let in love, he must remove his armour. But to do so is fearful as well as freeing.

Defences fail and life falls into a dark disarray
Observe yourself when the mind is viciously dismantled...
(Anon)

Imagining the absence of armour was a difficult sometimes frightening exercise. For some, it took tremendous courage to write about it. For others, it brought relief. And for others again, many questions.

"I wonder where it will lead me, this writing...?" (Gavin Farquharson)

"Poetry, I've never got it before. This is the first time I've even written a poem. Never before. I've enjoyed it, it's been special." (Elliot Hallisey)

How can people who've experienced physical and psychological violence live peacefully with their memories? In our workshops we discussed how we protect our deeper selves and how we heal.
This project was devised to allow emotional/artistic exploration of difficult areas of personal history. The poems come out of the experience of conflict - but our hope is that they might help people to find some peace.

...friends friends linked linked together hand
hands safe safe.

(Peter S)

Embroidery Lois Blackburn, inspired by anon artwork