Friday, 31 May 2013

honey trap

Our project with Gallery Oldham documents ideas for creative workshops, using reminiscence boxes so that others can try them too. We've written session notes for a while now, often with ideas discussed, or even point-by-point guides.

However, our most impressive trick is very simple – conversation. The art of conversation means not only talking, but listening. Out of conversation comes first trust, then engagement and the wonderful reminiscence that is the backbone of our work.

Today's morning session in Oldham was a case in point. I brought with me a packet of mints and we discussed sweet jars in the sweet shops of memory, while crunching peppermint. Out of this flowed a conversation that roamed from mint humbugs to a police raid on a brothel to stealing lead off a roof. It's a pocket history of childhood in a tough northern town. It's my job to have a pen in my hand and jot down these moments, using people's exact words and listening out for the most ear-catching phrases. They're often rambly and rough-hewn, but to my ears these pieces are poetry. They will be revisited and participants will often strip out individual phrases or sections, but the heart of what we do beats here – if you choose to hear it.

sweet jars

en masse

humbugs, humbugs, humbugs

indoors, in jars

coltsfoot in slices to buy

go to a herbalist quarter pound

sarsparilla in bottles in George Street

back to me mam's to claim

toffees for bonfires

(I'm an old bugger now, a fogey)

all the old ladies sitting outside

give you a threpenny bit for errands

they're living on snuff and extra strong mints

I've led a frivolous life

toffee apples

fry's peppermint crème all down your shirt and

up your elbows, oh chocolate lick

a jar to catch the monkey

boiled sweets and bullseyes

fire them with a catapault at your sister

the old ladies gave you a mouthful

pineapple chunks, cola cubes

the miners send you and your bike to buy

baccy twist

to chew

Mumps Bridge over Oldham

round the corner a little tobacconist


tobacco smoked in brandy

and jars of

sweets - he'd make you a mixture

up Gas Street by the Royal Oak

down again on your bike across Bottomley

honey trap

(brothel on the corner of 101 Waterloo

full of Councillors and Dignitaries

snatched when the Vice Squad did a swoop)


Emery's in the market hall for gingerbread eunuchs

with smarties for buttons

old ladies

90 years old farting and growling at the kids

the attraction of the windows

fight for the best

kayli and Spanish off yr finger

go home and your mum tells you to get them clean

lemondrop, cinder taff

kids come on Yorkshire Street with a football

aniseed balls

and pontefract cake

for those who want relief

sitting all day duty free the old ladies


and farting and burping

have you anything to declare?

dolly mix

vanilla milkbottles

take the lid off and dip your hand in.

Group poem

Gilbert, Geoff, Ida, Julie, Harry, Sydney

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