Three and a half workshops days in and we have the start of a wonderful collection of artwork for a map of you (working with homeless and vulnerably housed people). As ever, when doing collaborative work we are unsure just where things are going and exactly how they will turn out; this can be stressful, but also creatively stimulating. We’ve a pattern now, with a drop-in artists’ residency in the a.m. and then a ‘closed’ workshop afternoon, but are still learning the ropes, still untangling the patterns.
Our morning at the Big Issue office divided between me progressing the postcards and Phil interviewing staff. When we were putting together our book PATIENCE, we found that the interviews with nurses, doctors, psychiatrists and so on gave a strong sense of context to the book. Certainly talking with Nathan and Gemma this morning helped us to understand some of the pressures that both vendors and staff are under. These interviews will be blogged in due course.
The afternoon at the Booth Centre by Manchester cathedral was a powerful experience. Our group of six participants skated around the subject of comfort, moving delicately between totems of comfort and lack - teddy bears, detox, separation, joy, chocolate and even suicide. It felt like eggshell-walking, but it was finally an uplifting gathering of people and their thoughts. The word ‘comfort’ grew and grew in scale and significance and as we worked a kind of peace settled in the room.
For a map of you, we have a number of outcomes already planned, this gives us the framework and direction for the text/art. At the end of April, we will be showing a concertina postcard at the Text Festival in Bury. We will be selected 6 images from the growing collection of customised postcards of Manchester or from the collection of customised Lowry postcards. Its a lovely position to be in, to already have so many pieces to select from.
Phil has started to work with participants to create short (140 character) poetic pieces that can be used in the LED displays at the BBC Big Screen, and with LOVE advertising company. These short poems are also be written, or stencilled onto the postcards.
Yesterday we had our first disposable camera developed, D chose what he considered to be discardable photos (blurry, out of focus, all sky...) and wrote on them short fragments of text about his life. We're excited about these images, would like to develop a collection. These could possibly used on the Lightboxes at Piccadilly.
Without prompting, 3 participants picked up bamboo dip pens and worked on their own poetic pieces. Its wonderful to see people re-visiting their calligraphy skills, something many won't have done since childhood.
The stories of casual violence and the battered expressions are only part of the story. There is much tenderness in this little community at The Booth Centre and particularly on show is the great British survival mechanism of humour. It sparks everywhere, filling the place with big gales of laughter.
Thanks to The Lowry, in Salford Quays for kindly donating the large number of postcards.