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….