Thursday, 11 December 2008

The art of hearing aids

'There is a great art in using hearing aids,' Barbara commented at the beginning of this session. It's true: the things are a miracle of electronic engineering, but they squall and squeak through many of our gatherings like disgruntled babies.

One of the sadnesses of growing old is the isolation that can result - and bad hearing exaggerates this, drops the sufferer into an aquarium of muffled noise and looming faces whose words are lost in swirling tinnitus - another of the sadnesses of growing old is that the voices of older people are often ignored - seen but not heard, and not hearing.

This Friday we felt that we owed it to to the group to do a lighter session - the holocaust-related material is heartbreaking and heavy to carry week on week - so in order to find a lighter subject, we talked about light itself - a cutup of the conversation is to be found on this blog, titled the bedeken.

The subject came from the kabbalic A poem for the Sefirot as a wheel of light by Naftali Bacharach, the result of dipping the magnificent Poems for the Millenium vol 1 edited by Rothenberg and Joris (met Jerry Rothenberg awhile ago at dinner with Tony and Sue Trehy, but of that another time) - was delighted to find a concrete-ish poem form that dates from ways back and another older tradition than that of Dada and Noigandres - and so we talked about light and we made sure that everyone was heard.

Although Pat did have a snooze.

the bedeken

the bedeken

what is light? we don’t know

sometimes it behaves like a beam of particles
sometimes a
the sun must come up tomorrow
gladdening the bride - musseltov! good luck!
light is something I haven’t got
light meaning understanding and the longer days
seeing things that you can’t see is the dark
something I haven’t got
the dark/the sun

go out and lie
mention a rainbow, leave the curtains slightly ajar
at night, light refreshments bless you and
preserve pure oil to light candles
white light, all the colours, every religion has light
put it through the prism
bells to be rung, the priests roar
back to Stonehenge, the druids worshipping to catch the sun
facing west, see the sunset over the trees
the sun in the one candle
the lord shine and turn his countenance
we are all brought up blinkered behind those walls
think of summer and the longer days
what is light? we don’t know – something I cannot have
all religions carry their candles
lighting their memorials
sometimes a beam of particles, sometimes a wave
go out and lie in it
why does it worry scientists? because they can’t see?
the lights up and down fantastic
the lights upon the

sea prism
good sabbat to you and you and you and him
and I’ll keep a little bit for myself
things don’t grow in the dark
light is something I haven’t got

the call for prayer:
sun come up from the earth-rim like a bubble
brighten and ripen
the bride and groom

Myra, Barbara, Pat, Betty, Susie, Diana
5th December 2008
Morris Feinmann Home

pills by the bucketful

Last Friday, at Cherry Tree Hospital, working on our pilot ‘Patience project, we sat with a fantastic group of 9 older people all on the ‘Rehabilitation Ward’. We discussed what it feels like to live with pain, I found them to be inspirational in their attitudes, some had had a lifetime of pain, others living in retirement with it. Here are a few quotes:

“day by day, hope the next day will be a little bit better.”
“it’s a great thing when you can jump out of it, the body can be a prison sometimes”
“fight against it all the time, it will come never the less.”
“can’t move like I used to, must be something stopping me”
“hope and pray, they find a cure”
“tormenting irritation”
“best thing to try and think about other things, mind can conquer your body, can’t come easily though”
“got to make the most of what we’ve got”
“and hope the pain, next day is a little better, pills by the bucketful”
“it’d be like no end, there’d be no end to it, I’m on fire, I really feel it burns and hurts’
“an all over feeling, makes you depressed, you have to block it out”

we finished the session with a look at my collection of old medical tins, which everyone enjoyed, reminiscing about everything from Fennings Fever Cure, to Harrogate Iodised throat tablets, to permanganate of potash……pills by the bucketful!

Photo © Lois Blackburn 2008, for more please visit

Friday, 5 December 2008

Bring light towards you

A remarkable art project bringing together older Jewish people, Imperial War Museum North and the Morris Feinmann Home in Manchester will commemorate the holocaust in poems displayed at Piccadilly Railway Station, Manchester.

On Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January 2009) poetic texts created by the older people, many of whom are holocaust survivors, will be displayed in lights on the electronic billboard at Piccadilly Station, Manchester. The holocaust has often been linked to trains: millions of people, particularly Jews, were taken to concentration camps by train before being killed in the notorious nazi Final Solution during the Second World War. This artwork will give fragments from accounts of their journeys: to destruction and journeys of escape.

‘Kindness’ is one of many arts projects run by the arthur+martha organisation; artist Lois Blackburn and poet Philip Davenport have been working with older Jewish people living at The Morris Feinmann Home, Manchester, exploring issues in regard to the holocaust. John Collins from Imperial War Museum-North is part of the team, bringing objects and personal stories from the museum collection to discuss and prompt memories.

“This work is made up of family histories, experiences of displacement, refugee backgrounds and direct holocaust memories,” says Davenport. “We are interested in the bric-a-brac of people’s lives, the tiny moments, rather than the grand history. We called the project Kindness because some of these people experienced a terrible lack of kindness. And because they were persecuted for being a certain ‘kind’ of cultural group.”

Lois Blackburn added: “It’s a privilege to meet the wonderful people at Morris Feinmann and we are delighted about our collaboration with Imperial War Museum North too. This is important work, but it touches very deep memories and we will tread delicately. One of the women we worked with used the phrase ‘Bring light towards you’ in a poem and that little phrase seems to sum up our philosophy for this project – whether it is the light of realisation, of finding hope, or simply of clear recollection.”

Maria Turner, Activities Co-ordinator at the Morris Feinmann Home, described the effect of arthur+martha’s work: “In a very sensitive and caring approach, the project has enabled our residents to talk about their experiences and express their feelings.”

From 24-31 January 2009, Imperial War Museum North will be hosting a series of free events to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, including gallery tours, lectures, musical performances and storytelling. The Museum also runs regular object handling sessions and tours for school groups learning about the Holocaust.

Funding for Kindness has been provided by the Clore Duffield Foundation, through Sparks: The Clore Jewish Development Fund.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Cherry Tree Nov 28

Around the table in an old nightingale ward people are face-to-face - it's a relief to be gathered in a group rather than moving from bed to bed as we tend to in the modern wards.

It's a remarkable and charming group - the lady sitting next to me has lost her sight in the last two years but has great equanimity ("I try to accept what's given with good grace") - another lady waiting for a cancer operation is nervous and brittle - an older man quiet, tremulous with war memories - a woman drooped in semi-sleep comes alive with the conversation, and another and another...

(1920s: at school as a child eating an apple, surrounded by other children so hungry that they are waiting for the core to eat.)

We talk about the time they are in now, at the end of their days and the time they grew up in amidst war and poverty but with a remembered sense of community - Lois and I jotting down their observations - there's a consensus among the group that many feel lost in this time and useless - where is there a place for all this experience? - I tell them about 'other societies' - what a catch all - where older people are considered to be in the last phase of their lives and it is their function to reflect on what they have lived - this is their contribution to society - this is what I've read though have not witnessed for myself, so can't vouch for the truth.

What's surely true is that it's an indictment of our own place and age that we do not have the ability to receive this wisdom from our elders, even less value it - but still, in this long room they sit full of treasure.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

‘Now I think in English’

(Holocaust survivor, Morris Feinmann Home Nov 2008)

The first holocaust survivor I met was a man called Meyer – he had been in Auschwitz – showed me the tattoo on his wrist – I was interviewing him for a newspaper several years ago and we talked for hours – he told stories that were so cruel I sank back into a kind of dream – the voice stayed with me for weeks after, little mirror fragments of someone else’s terror – in the last few weeks Lois and I have interviewed several survivors, including a man who was interned in Buchenwald – each time I slip into the same familiar uneasy half-here state of self-anaesthesia.

Over the nine years that Lois and I have worked together we have talked with several thousand older people about their life stories – in some ways I wonder if I’ve lived my life too much through them, because I love these accounts so much – have I become a hollow vessel for other people’s lives? - I wonder if you can really learn through other’s experiences or if, like reading a book, that is only part of the story – you have to find out the rest by being fully within your own history?

When I visited Berlin recently I was struck by how energetic the city is and yet how haunted – as I rushed between the u-bahn stations or walked around Prinzlauerberg on my way to meet artists and poets I felt as though I was being stepped through by ghosts – I’d spoken to so many older Jewish people who’d left nazi Berlin (and lost whole families there) that it was difficult to separate my now from their memories.

I feel extremely privileged to have spoken with the survivors I have met (oh how insufficient these words!) – but the accounts divide me – I have shied away from reading very much about the nazi holocaust – it seems so unremittingly hopeless - and yet like every human who has curiosity I also contain a terrible need to know just what happened – although I can find no overarching sense there.

Work on the text pieces for Piccadilly Station is close to done and none of this is any more resolved – perhaps one of the things that we are bearing witness to is our own struggle to understand.

'The German I talk is not the same as the language the German people are talking here'. (Paul Celan, letter)

Kindness and the Imperial War Museum

On Friday afternoon, John Collins from the Imperial War Museum North, paid his second visit to The Morris Feinmann Home. For the discussion, we suggested the theme of ‘Why the Jews?’ John brought in documents and handling materials from the Museum, then started the discussion with Hitler’s rise to power and the harrowing impact it had on the Jews. We investigated evidence of Anti-Semitism and possible reasons for it.

Before the discussion I felt nervous about sitting with a group of elderly Jewish people and posing the question, ‘why you?’ Many of the participants had been directly affected by the Holocaust. However, everyone seemed to be keen to discuss the question. It was an incredibly moving afternoon. John was eloquent and knowledgeable in his presentation and during his talk I watched woman who had experienced events first hand in Berlin, nodding in agreement and sharing their memories. One of the most moving moments, was when John showed us some replica callipers, and how they where used by the Nazis to measure racial purity and therefore human value. A woman who hadn’t spoken until then, said quietly and with matter of fact, that they had been used on her. I spoke with her later, and she explained that when she had left Berlin, the family went to live in Holland, where at school her teacher had used the callipers to measure the skulls of any of the children who where suspected or known to be Jewish. To know some of the history is one thing, but to meet the people who experienced it is quite another.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

workshop feedback

I was lucky enough to work with Violet Gamble again last Friday on the pilot for 'Patience', we met her on our first day at Stepping Hill, at the beginning of October. She wrote her thoughts about being in hospital onto paper, which we made into badges for her (and other patients) Although clearly in a lot of discomfort she welcomed us warmly and clearly recalled the session and the effect it had on her:

people like you make life interesting, to have someone to talk to, are you making badges? That was a funny day, a fun day, a big surprise, it was such a surprise- didn’t know what you where going to do with that big box. Very interesting- all very interesting. We where so proud of ourselves, we wore them all day, then wore them the next day, wore them until they changed my nighty, then put them by my bed, until I sent them home.

Its so rewarding to hear such feedback, especially after so long after the actual workshop.

Photo © Lois Blackburn 2008

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Ode to joy

Phil just sent me this edited poem from last weeks session- it was a wonderful afternoon, and this has brought it all back...

Ode to joy

the tea-trolleys go by
freedom from want and distress
I am very happy
a peacefulness, a feeling of peace
a figment
for a lot of ladies their first baby
children are special
can’t imagine life without
(I accept joy without any question
I don’t doubt it at all
makes you feel warm all over)
in order to feel joy
be in good health
some are inclined to be happier than others
I always try to achieve something more
than I think I can achieve
and that gives me joy
it can be very simple
joy is more short-lived than happiness
a very fleeting person
whereas unhappiness sits next to your bed
and starts knitting
sorrow sadness misery
can’t have anything without the bad bits
I am very happy
being happy is an involuntary action
we’ve got our own reactions: what makes one person
happy or sad?
come through atrocity and feel quite whole
or damaged?
some deal with it some can’t
genes – born that way
it sticks with you
develops with the child
there must be some overlap
with my grandfather
environment is so important
disposition comes into it
coping mechanism:
do you distinguish between joy and pleasure?
the tea-trolleys go by
freedom from want and distress

relationships with the opposite sex
academic success
realising an ambition
that little face those eyes
making each party
war was the most devastating
joy grabber
that’s my boy
you can’t will these moments
I’m very happy
(the saddest thing in this place
is watching people whose minds are going
or in the process of going:
how do you know your own mind?)
the tea-trolleys go by
freedom from want and distress

assurance of one’s place in the universe
up on the hills and walking
feeling insignificant
a perfect coffee sitting in the sun
with a handsome man
my family are happy I’m happy
happiness is a very big word
a very big word
my pleasure my children
I am very happy
my children my music
and most important of all the sunshine
I think the greatest pleasure
was to reach the top
I am very happy

MFH 14 Nov 2008

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

listen again

Two programs to ‘listen again’ to: the first links with our proposed project ‘Patience’ The Material World, ‘Art and Perception.

“The analytical facts of science and the imaginative dreamings of art sometimes seem poles apart. But they meet up in the human brain through the process of perception."

In Material World this week, Quentin Cooper hears from a leading neuroscientist - Professor Colin Blakemore and artist Daria Martin about the process of perception and how art can link the senses in surprising ways.”

The second program is ‘Saturday Live’ which has a moving interview on Saturday Live 15th November with Susi Linton recalling her experiences of Kristallnacht. material directly relating to our ‘Kindness’ Project, and the event for the Holocaust Memorial Day, Piccadilly Train Station, Manchester.

Morris Feinmann Home 14 Nov 2008

The big glass room is full of light and the view is tree-ringed – there are high-backed chairs arranged in small gatherings – we are in the Basso Lounge, the foyer of Morris Feinmann Home and N is being asked what she’d like for lunch – she’s tiny and frail and confused – people hiss ‘She’s confused’ if you ask – as though it is a temporary forgetfulness – but this confusion is actually enormous and carries in the wake of it a vast swell of fear – we worked with N awhile ago but she can’t settle to the sessions – cant seem to hold onto the thoughts long enough – the attendant leading her to lunch is a saint of patience – each question asked many times – would you like lunch? – can you walk? – would you like a wheelchair today? – shall I walk with you? – every movement a co-operation between the two until they’re gone, the gentle murmuring between them fading into lunchtime clatter from the dining room.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

14th November 2008 Stepping Hill Hospital

we’ve been gathering evidence and responses for our project ‘Patience’ (formally ‘Medical Dictionary’)

Prior to the session in the quiet room, Phil and I met a gentleman waiting to be admitted to the ward. We fell into conversation, he appeared relieved to have someone to share his thoughts in his time of great anxiety. He has been suffering from severe chronic pain for the last 12 months and was facing the prospect of loosing his leg- As an active and independent man, this thought for him was overwhelming.

Much of my job this morning seemed to be as a pair of listening ears, with patients isolated by disability, or lack of visitors or over stretched staff. There is a fine balancing act between my passion and commitment to facilitating the art and writing, and the patients simple need to have some human company. The most rewarding sessions are when you can achieve both….

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Stepping Hill 31 Oct 2008

J is a young-looking 90 year old, but her her legs don't work - 'Your car and my legs are the same, they're both worn out, darling' - she has that English charm, kindness in the form of good works - a life given to other people, perhaps as a makeweight for her own class-status - cups of tea and an empathy for all walks - 'Hospitals are great,' she says 'I get cross when people criticise who aren't in them. These girls work so hard' - indicates the nurses - 'getting me on my feet. When you get to my age independence is the only thing you've got left, yet you can't do what you want when you want to do it. For instance, I've just been able to get to the loo by myself for the first time in days. Very precious to me my independence' - she takes calculated risks at home, balancing the pain of falling with the necessity of movement, the pleasure of making a hot drink - 'Sometimes I go down. It's a hard floor in the kitchen and I get a black eye or something. So I try to fall on the lounge carpet, nice and soft...' - her bravery lifts me up and as I go to meet Lois by another bed I realise I'm smiling at strangers.


We're working our way towards the unique art project, ‘Kindness’ at Piccadilly Train Station, Manchester. It will mark National Holocaust Memorial Day on the 27th January.

It feels a huge responsibility and honour to be working on this project. We’re in the process of designing and animating text pieces, all the words of older people from the Manchester Jewish community.

This work investigates family histories, experiences of displacement, refugee backgrounds and direct holocaust memories. But most of all we are collecting statements from people about the joys and sadnesses that they have in living now. We are interested in the bric-a-brac of people’s lives, the tiny moments, rather than the grand history. Many of the pieces created are humorous and gentle.

Here's a link to the draft works in progress, I would be interested to hear your feedback, you will have to use your imagination a little bit, to view it on a very large animated electronic billboard- on a busy train station.

Funding for Kindness has been provided by the Clore Duffield Foundation, through Sparks: The Clore Jewish Development Fund.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Born in Bradford

I just caught the tail end of a fascinating radio four documentary ‘Born in Bradford’. It caught my ear as it has links to our ‘medical dictionary’ (working title) project.. It’s a study into children’s health and causes of ill health and utilised the poet Ian McMillian in collaboration with Bradford mums to be to create new poems. The project is being illustrated by photographer Ian Beesley.

You can find out more at

Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be one of the programmes available to listen again to on the BBC iPlayer!

Radio illustration © Lois Blackburn. for more

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

24 Oct 08 Stepping Hill

Autumn sunshine thru the wards - the smell of potatoes - there are quiet figures in beds, or sitting by - often bent over, sometimes in positions that look awkward - stilled as if frozen partway thru movement - we're a little shaken - a woman Lo worked with was in a state of confusion about who was or was not a relative - asking Lo several times if she was related - then as we left the ward we heard her shrieking in the toilet, viciously interrogating a nurse: "Are you my relative? Where are my relatives? ANSWER ME GIRL." - we're not sure if our conversation has set off this anger - are we doing good, or making mischief?

Illustration © 2008 Lois Blackburn

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Just a quick post today, thought this was a very moving poem.

Relief, yeah relief relief
very much so
a medication to ease
then you can carry on
marring the pain
a blanket over

when you get the pain
you drop right down

say your standing on a stepladder
then you drop
take the medication
and your back on the ladder

17th October 2008
(Cherry Tree Hospital Ward A10)

Illustration ‘pills’ © 2008 Lois Blackburn

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Friday 17th October

A great session, some revealing reminiscences shared, some poignant poetry made, Phil will be putting finishing touches to next week….

Our best wishes are for Joyce, who we had the privilege to interview a few weeks back. She had a fall last week and is quite poorly. We all hope she is feeling better soon.

Medical poetry

On Friday morning with Phil back from Berlin, we worked with older people at Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, creating poetry about medication. It was a revealing session, with patients terribly sad stories of pain and their honesty in regard to their experiences of their hospital stay. Below is an example of one of the poems…


It’s hard at first to take painkillers
but you get used after a while
and you take them for peace sake
and it helps you to get back to your act

You’ve always been used to not having them
you’d never been poorly at all
and then you started to be ill
never missed a day in your life

Just keep trying and trying: finally you do
couldn’t swallow them quick enough
and so you become a singer and a dancer
happy as a sunboy now

Emily Thyme
17th October 2008

for more examples please visit

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Hospital life: visual representation

I’m really enjoying being back working in a hospital, it has its challenges, but big rewards to. We’re constantly thinking about different ways to record life and patient experience visually there, such as the project ‘a wee star coming through.’ A couple of years ago I created drawings of some of the patients, as seen here.

I’m also discovering other artists investigating sickness, health and wellbeing. Yesterday I was pointed to the work of Deborah Padfield who has been finding a visual language for pain. You can find a fascinating and moving article at

drawing © Lois Blackburn please visit for more information

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Friday 10th October, printmaking

In the afternoon at The Morris Feinmann Home, I explored with workshop participants, two techniques, mono printing and foam board printing. Working on portrait images and words of hope, participants created a wonderful collection of prints.

Fennings little Lung Healers

Friday 10th October
Phil’s off in Berlin on a fact finding mission, I was back at Stepping Hill Hospital, with the intention of doing some memory drawings of medicine containers. Unfortunately finding reference material was harder than I thought (although just rediscovered my Robert Opie books which will be a help) and participants preferred to talk than draw… We had a great reminiscence session about medicines of the 30s, 40s and 50s, including Virol, Malt extract, Rosehip Syrup, Zinc and caster oil, Goose Grease, Syrup of Figs, ‘If your supposed to be stuck,
every Friday night a spoonful, called it Figgy Wigs. Wouldn’t have it unless a sweet came after.'
Bread Poultice, Fennings little Lung Healers, Yeast tablets, Dr Somebodies kidney pills, Mrs Evan’s Sticky whatever, Cod liver oil, Fiery Jack and Camphorated Oil......

Photo of Teresa Lawson © Lois Blackburn 2008, more photos at

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


On Friday we had a gathering of material for the project Bring Light Towards You. We used the Maya Escobar questionnaire once more as a launch pad for discussion about Jewishness. The answers reflected a wide understanding of the range of experiences of being Jewish - from atheism to regular observance.

Photo of Myra © Lois Blackburn 2008, more photos at

Friday, 3 October 2008

Illustrated medical dictionary (pilot)

3rd October Stepping Hill Hospital.
Today we started a new pilot project, with older people at Stepping Hill Hospital, with the working title of ‘illustrated medical dictionary’ after a late start, (due to conditions on the ward) we pitched into a creative, productive, high spirited workshop. Alice, Gladys and Violet, produced a stream of reminiscence and observation about life in hospital. From this material we selected short statements to be handwritten and formed into badges.

A truly delightful session. It opened up lots of new themes, themes such as doctors, medicines, home remedies, old fashioned medication and the attitude of survival…

Photo of Violet Gamble © Lois Blackburn 2008, more photos at

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Jewish stories of survival

Yesterday at the Morris Feinmann Home, Phil and I met and interviewed four truly remarkable Jewish people, Joyce, Gisela, Sonja and Ad. I find it hard to put into words the effect meeting them had on me. Three spent their childhoods in Germany and lived through and felt the dreadful effects of the rise of Hitler. With eloquent tales of horror, of the concentration camps, of fear, of hatred, of escape and acts of braveness and kindness, they told their stories. The events have affected all four of them so deeply, and yet they are prepared to share their stories in the hope of ‘never again’. I felt honoured and privileged to meet them.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

19th September

At the Morris Feinmann Home this week, we adapted a series of questions from artist Maya Escobar’s website
We will use their responses as a basis for poetry/text art in another session for the project 'Bring Light Towards You'. We found that asking a mix of questions (depending on the participant) a very useful starting point, the questions really got to the heart of the question of identity. As ever the responses where very broad, and triggered many fascinating, humorous, thoughtful and sad conversations.


* Define what makes someone Jewish
* What makes you a Jew in your everyday life?
* Have you ever feel uncomfortable about your (Jewish) identity?
* If you have had an uncomfortable situation regarding your identity, what did you do?
* Do you have a Non-Jewish side, what is it like?
* What makes a person culturally Jewish?
* Name your greatest Jewish moment?
* Why are you Jewish?
* What does a Jew look like?
* Have you ever not feel Jewish?
* What is it about being Jewish that makes you most proud?
* What do you love about being Jewish?
* What was your oddest Jewish experience?
* Have you ever questioned your Jewish identity?
* Has anyone else ever questioned your Jewish Identity?
* What symbols represent Judaism for you?
* What non-Jewish activities do you partake in that to you are ‘very Jewish?
* What is your responsibility as a Jew?

willow and paper lanterns

Last Saturday, I had a fantastic time with my family at a lantern making workshop in New Mills, Derbyshire. Everyone in the local community was welcome to make lantern’s for the Procession to be held this Saturday 27th starting at 7.30. The magical lantern procession goes along the Torrs, and over the Millennium bridge, ending with fireworks at Newtown Rec.

And all this activity has given ideas for future arthur+martha lantern making workshops… watch this space for more.

Community Gallery Launch

Our friends at Arc are having a launch of their new gallery space, with an exhibition showing photography, jewellery, cards, fine art, prints and textiles. The open day is on World Mental Health Day, Friday 10th October 2008, Unit 33M, Vauxhall Industrial Estate, Greg St, Reddish Stockport. 12- 6pm. RSVP 0161 480 7731

Friday, 19 September 2008

September 12th

This time was focussed around two interviews – with Peggy and Lady Barbara. The intention is to use these interviews - which discuss Jewish life and the impact of the holocaust – as material to work from in order to make text pieces later in the project.

Lois led the interview with Barbara while Philip and Myra re-edited the poem from last week and gathered some ideas for Bring Light Towards You. Peggy led the interview with Peggy! It was a very moving conversation, with a few tears punctuating it. Both interviews were powerful testimonies in their different ways, both were a privilege to be part of.

September 5th

An afternoon that was much more on the hoof , much more productive. Started with a word association game, rollicked along and read well as a poem. A bustling group, with new people and a sense of playfulness and curiosity. Lois worked intensively with Myra, on a piece which segued past and present memories. Meanwhile, Philip devised a short piece with Leon, who was a deepsea bomb disposal diver during the war. Evelyn and Victoria described their war work as Land Girls, with interjections from Nancy. All of this was transcribed by Philip, verbatim (as much as he could make it) and fell together in a good pattern.

The startpoint here was the movement from past to present, which Myra addressed in her poem – what did you do then/what happens when you do the same thing now? However, the other poems went their own sweet way – which is what they should do. The fine line between being over-structured and lack of form was the line we danced along. Easily this time, as it happens.

Support was enthusiastically given by Pat Ely, with her irrepressible fund of stories and her big-heartednes

August 29th

This was an impeccably planned session – a truly exquisite plan, which Lois and I were very proud of – however the session itself was something of a wreck. But it’s always been the way that workshops are subject to the vagaries of life – and vague is exactly what this one became. It was a hot, airless day so all around the table – Myra, Joan, Susie, Peggy and Pat – were drooping before we started. Pat in fact fell in and out of a doze. However we rallied a little and Susie made an interesting piece, a life fragment of a refugee, and Myra hit a good streak towards the end, conjuring a powerful poem about losing her sight.

The session was built around notions of containing memory – could you put your memories in a box? – what are both your memory-delights and fears? It was a derivative of a very well-known poem writing exercise, but with a twist – the tip from light to dark being the axis of the poem, the drop from heaven to hell. And the debate – can a memory be compartmentalised anyway, or is it a functioning part of the whole person?

We were ably assisted by Peter, who is always a pleasure to work with and has an excellent dry humour. We are always interested to see what his latest hair colour will be.


We’ve been working on the Kindness project over the last year at Morris Feinmann Home in Didsbury, putting together a collection of works called Paracetemol Soup, a mix of poems, artwork and recipes. This piece was launched at MFH in June 2008, as a limited edition series of giclee prints. The collection intercuts older Jewish peoples’ poems made from early memories with recipes and artworks; it is a subtle meditation on the holocaust, including contributions by holocaust survivors.

The next stage of our activities at MFH will be for Bring Light Towards You, a large digital textwork to be launched at Piccadilly Railway Station on Holocaust Memorial Day 2009. We’re delighted to say that this project will have the involvement of Imperial War Museum-North. We have begun piloting this piece, testing the idea and our approaches.

August 29th

New Collaboration

We had a very productive meeting yesterday with Arc (arts for recovery) in Stockport. ARC is an arts organisation, formerly called MAPS, with a special interest in combating social exclusion, offering free membership to people with mental health needs. There is space for up to 75 members, many of who are involved in the development of the organisation.

arthur+martha are going to be exhibiting a collection of our work in Arc’s beautiful new exhibition space next year, and are discussing more ways to collaborate. Watch this space for more news…

Thursday, 4 September 2008


We’re very excited here, Jack Hale of archways (arts consultancy and projects) has agreed to run a fundraising campaign for arthur+martha for 2009-10. We’re developing a new Hospital Arts project, watch this space for more….

Thursday, 31 July 2008

funding success

Great news for arthur+martha and our project. Funding for 'Kindness' has been provided by the Clore Duffield Foundation through Sparks: The Clore Jewish Development Fund. This will enable us to start our new project at The Morris Feinmann Home, Manchester, working with older jewish people, and intergenerational work with the Delamere Forest School in Cheshire working with children with special needs.

Last week we caught up with some of the residents at Morris Feinmann, and created text/art badges with them. We investigated the theme of aging and public & private perceptions of older people. We had a lively and thought provoking session and enjoyed the sunshine in the grounds of the home. For more examples go to

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

sculptural badges

27th June and 4th July

The last couple of weeks at the Y Zone in Radcliffe we've been working with students from Riverside school to create text/art badges. Using photocopying, drawing and writing the young people created ‘one-off’ artworks, about identity and their vision of sculpture. We viewed the work they have created so far and a collection of sculptures to inspire: Christo, Andy Goldsworthy, David Mach, Claes Oldenburg, George Wyllie and Richard Long.

The young people re-created classical sculptural poses, such as Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’, covering themselves with their badges, and photographing themselves in mirrored backdrops. As ever their energy was enormous, and resulting text/art/sculpture fantastic.

For more examples please go to

Saturday, 28 June 2008

paper squares

Friday 20th June 2008

cut ups

The lively morning lot didn’t fail to disappoint me with their interpretations of what I was asking them to try and do, though the fact that it was written based presented me with all sorts of different groans.

The first activity was one that nearly all took to well, and that was writing with either the eyes closed or with the other hand, and some opted for both. I whispered a secret word and they had to repeat what they were writing until I called their time.

However, many showed reluctance when I tried to get them to write more than just this word.

It was the lads that came up with the goods and provided some beautiful lines by collaging together words to create their own poem. Lines such as “basic insecurity is scary” and “it’s crucial to have an active way of thinking” blew me away. I was really impressed with the way their minds were processing t! hese thoughts and also not surprised, as I know all the group is capable despite reluctance to write.

The afternoon’s session was spent creating cut up poems that had been written through automatic writing for five minutes.

The choice was to write about what was going on for them right now and observe where their thoughts lead them, or to use a cut up line from a Jenny Holzer poem entitled “Truisms” to start their thoughts off. There were many interpretations of what I was asking which led to the wide range of variety in the creative work explored.

At the end of the day I was delighted that I had seen some of the student’s potential brought out and could relate so much to the hesitancy to explore through art and writing, but admired those who really tried to let go of their reluctance.

There are particular poems and moments that stand out in my mind from the session and I hope we each got something from the day.


more images at

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Verbivisivoco (word vision voice)

I picked up the exhibition from Buxton Art Gallery and Museum today, and was really pleased to get a copy of the visitors comments.. 208 of them! The vast majority where very positive, with variations on comments such as “very moving, thought provoking, excellent, educational, inspiring and interesting.” Here are a few of my favourites:

“you are (if it’s not too flowery) creating an ecology within which flowers bloom that would otherwise be unseen.”
“Am inspired to start my own last brilliant phase now before it’s to late.”
“Extra ordinary portraits of ordinary people”
“A moving and interesting and slightly upsetting portrayal of an overlooked group of people. Yet rewarding and very thought provoking.”
“Conceptual art sucks!"
and finally “Magnificent!! The most moving exhibit for years. Congrats.”

what's going on?

so what is going on with our posts? well, we used to have two sites for arthur+martha, this one, a general site and one for our walks project. I decided we should stream line it, so you can view all our projects on one blog... so I've copied and pasted all our blogs into one, hence random dates on posts below....

Working in the Great Outdoors

The sessions today were lively and enjoyable. I'm just really glad it wasn't raining so we could be outside as planned. I invited the young people to work with whatever materials there were to hand in the environment. No paper, no pens, no paint, just leaves, flowers, car tires, logs and litter. The imagination was stretched and they rose to this creative challenge fantastically.

They were enthusiastic and continued to work with themes from last of "what matters to me". Friendship and family were a recurring issues, as was music. They used their bodies again to work with, to find ways of leaving their mark, stating their own identity.

A personal scupture trail was created and left for others to see or the wind to scatter.


more images at

Football, crisps, friends and family

Friday 6th June

I worked alongside Rebecca Guest inviting the group to think about making their own piece of art using the topic of "what matters to me". Giving them limited materials of pen, paper, masking tape and their own bodies they set too with great enthusiam. Topics ranged from football to crisps, friendship to family.

We then took the budding artists outside to the sculture trail where I asked them to consider how they could use their enviornment to place their work. They showed tremendous creativity by coming up with repeated options and displaying their pieces, both using thier bodies and the locality as additions to their expression.

Christine Evans

more images

scotch terrier, bulldog and a moggy

I had a fantastic time in Israel; one of the highlights was placing and photographing these label works. The text for these pieces came from a collaboration with older Jewish people living in Manchester. We had a lively conversation about what it felt to be British, and stereotypes around Britishness. These where then applied to the labels by hand or using lettroset transfers.

In Israel I had many conversations about peace, and about the organisations, (from individuals to football teams) all trying to make their voices heard for peace. It’s a fascinating/depressing/hot/lively/scary/wonderful place to go and make art work, and I look forward to going again and developing more ideas.
Please view more images at and

sound 28th May 2008

Gareth Bibby, led the sessions at the Y Zone and Riverside School Radcliffe last week on the 23rd. Working with 20 young people, he used experiemental techniques working with the group to create sound pieces a using; voice, table football, air hockey, chairs..... investigating 'pitch' and 'volume'. We are looking forward to using some of these creations in the final sound piece, that will be played at the celebratory event 19th July.

A trip to Irwell Valley Sculpture Trail 20th May 2008

On Friday, we went on a visit to the Irwell Valley Sculpture Trail, to work with the two groups from Riverside School. The groups took Polaroid photograph portraits of each other, amongst Ulrich Ruckreim's sculptures ( which were hole punched and threaded through with string. These were then sited throughout the area - on trees, hung in mouths, wedged into the sculptures, held in hands.

Everyone was given two evidence bags, and asked to collect objects from around the park, things of beauty or of disgust. The group gathered a range of objects, leaves, flowers, sheep dung, rubbish, broken glass… these bags were placed in situ and photographed.

For more photos, please go to

Inscape: a stone walk 7th May 2008

On the 25th April, arthur+martha, started a new series of workshops with school children from Radcliffe, Bury. We started work gathering material for a
series of art/textworks that are representations of imaginary sculptures, to be devised by the children themselves;

These pieces will be placed along the Irwell Sculpture Trail at an event in July. They will be temporary works, many of them very discreet, which engage with the sculpture trail and with the landscape, the form of these works will emerge during the forthcoming workshops.

Last week we worked with Bobby, Steffan, Michael, Oscar, Jordan, Nathan in the morning and Phil, Josh, Kay, Rebecca, Sadaef, Mathew and Page in the afternoon. Activities included experimental drawing techniques, text art, photocopying, poetry and photography. We investigated issues such as, what would you leave behind? What unfulfilled dreams people have? what defines our existence? what is sculpture? and positive images of yourself and others.

Thanks to all the contributors and staff who helped.

To see further photos go to our flickr site at

a sunday gathering 7th May 2008

After a hectic gathering of materials, photos, text and sounds, on Sunday morning we arrived at St James the Less, New Mills, to form the gathering event. With the invaluable help of David Bell from High Peak Community Arts, Peter Inman and the Friends of St James the Less, we put together a exhibition event, showcasing some of the work produced in the previous workshops and walks.

About 80 people came to the event at St James the Less on Sunday, and viewed, listened and took part in the performance. The atmosphere developed as the evening brought darkness, the projected images became clearer… Reminiscence/poetry from older people in New Mills, had been laid out in the form of concrete poetry, and placed in booklets around the church. Photos taken by participants in the walks, and selected texts where projected on walls throughout the church- some distorted by the church interior itself- the physical presence of the church creating another collaborator. Occasionally a visitor or participant would become part of the projection, walking across the image, creating a moving photo, adding to the effect of layering and shadow play. This was particularly effective during the wonderful performance from the High Peak Community Arts Choir, whose song sheets and clothes became temporarily decorated with images of trees, branches and thorns.

Experimental sound recordings where played throughout the church, playfully such as water sounds hidden in the font, or more challenging sound/scapes played through headphones working with the directional signs. Sounds of children and birds floated through the church, bringing the outside in.

Candles with further text/art where placed on a window sill, bringing a detail of flickering light. The combination of sound, text, photo and perhaps most important the church itself, combined to create a unique atmosphere and experience.

Thanks to High Peak Community Arts, Friends of St James the Less, The Volunteer Centre, The 60 Not Out Group, New Mills Primary School, the Derbyshire Community Foundation, the HPCA choir, artist Simon Byford, Arts Council England and all the participants in the art/text/sound workshops.

a gathering walk

you are invited to our latest exhibition event at the Church of St James the Less, Spring Bank, New Mills, Derbyshire. Sounds, words, images and memories of New Mills, gathered by people of all ages. The evening will showcase artworks, digital slideshow, animation, poems and choir. Its free and open to all.

Writer Philip Davenport and I led a winter walk and follow-up workshops, and will be creating a poem/image installation with the gathered material. The words, photographs and sounds trace the imprints of both a winter walk and the people who went on it.

The aim is to ‘re-see’ through diverse visions of the world, to enrich people’s means of observation and to connect the contemporary landscape with its multi-layered deeper histories.

The results of all this work will be on display at The Church of St James the Less for one evening only, and will be part exhibition, part performance. The event is hosted by The Friends of St James, who will also be providing light refreshments.

Sunday 20th April, 7.30 - 9.30pm doors open at 7.00pm.
Collaboration project between, High Peak Community Arts, arthur+martha and the people of New Mills.

The workshops and the event have been supported by the Derbyshire Community Foundation and High Peak Community Arts.

Lois Blackburn

New Mills Primary School Walk

On Thursday (20th March) Phil and I went to New Mills Primary to work with 31 children from Year 3 and their teacher Miss C. Webster. Heavy rain prevented us from going out on our proposed walk, so instead we created a class room walk. We started with a soundscape walk, recording the children imitating sounds from nature, including listening to bird sound. (I was impressed by their knowledge of bird calls!) We then drew with scissors, creating paper flowers for the forthcoming exhibition. The children finished the session by creating a concertina folded book. These took us on individual journeys from home to school, investigating concrete poetry, and drawing round toes on the way!
They where a wonderful group to work with, and I hope to see them all at the exhibition!

future plans

would you like a text/art walk in your area? we'll be starting projects in Bury and Radcliff later in the spring and are currently in discussion with groups in Gamesley Derbyshire, Bristol and Berwick-upon-Tweed. Text/art walks can be built around themes such as local history, geography, dialect, folklore, healthy lifestyles, identity, green issues and biodiversity. We will develop proposals specific to the needs of your community. have a look at our website to find out more

Saturday walk 18th Feb 08

Yesterday Phil and I led a text/art walk in New Mills, Derbyshire. Themes for the collection of text, sound and image came from the Church of St James The Less, where we will be holding an exhibition in April. James.htm A group of 8 left from the New Mills Heritage Centre for a four hour walk in the sunshine, taking photos in the Tors and looking at the site of wonderful new Torrs Hydro Electric Scheme (due to start construction this March) walking by Torr Vale Farm, making sound recordings and writing at the river, walking the Canal, eating sweets at Swizzels Matlow, more photos and sound recording at Waterside and back finishing at Central Station.

We've gathered a wealth of material for future workshops, starting this Wed with a poetry workshop at High Peak Community Arts