Monday, 30 April 2012

37 cakes

Thursday afternoons 'text from grandma/granddad' at the Parr Care Home, St Helens, was cake filled:

Victoria Sponge cake
teacakes hot cross buns (spice I don't like) shortbread (got to be scottish) scones and coconut macaroons loose biscuits garibaldi (used to call them archiebaldi's) coffee cake carrot cake wet nellies (each slice was moist) almond slice (got to get the right one) cream horn (haven't seen one for years) Marks & Spencer superior cakes apple slices dundee cake (ohh lovely good quality fruit cake nuts on top) malt loaf fruit loaf carrot cake ginger (a cake full of cream got to do me no good or what's the point?) genoa cake (not as much fruit in it see the sponge) lemon cake carrot cake (used in war time) banana cake madeleines parkin's (all right) chocolate cake (in war instead of eggs used vinegar) queen cakes (cut the top to make butterflies) rock cakes chocolate eclairs (have we done queen cake?) victoria sponge (the easiest to make) devils food cake iced buns (once you had the right one you stick with them) queen cake hot eccles cake fairy cake maid of honours (worse for wear)

group list poem

Alice's Honey cake
After lively reminiscence which you can find more of at the Parr Care Home blogsite We decorated iced fingers with names of their favourite cakes, a lovely word play allusion.

Marion decorating her cake

Pea Wack for 300 children

I'm coming to the end of my time running workshops for the pilot project 'text from Grandma/Granddad' in St Helens Care Homes. Our experimental approach has brought with it some wonderful new work but equally has raised questions and occasionally practical problems to overcome. Until you actually start on a project, it is impossible to predict all of the concerns or faltering points.

Karen Banbury from Mayfield Care Home described some of the issues: "text for some of the children is a bit daunting unless they know it's coming, if they get it cold, they would panic... they might think what's wrong with my mum/dad?  I'm going to text them whilst they are visiting, so they can all see what's going on and I can see the reaction. 

It should work really well with the grandchildren. On a weekend the majority of families are here. I've explained about the text, for example I've checked with Normans grandchildren, who have said they would text back if they received one from their granddad.

Our theme for the morning was food, as ever with reminiscence it spilled into other subjects, in this case school. We followed the conversations with selecting words to be re-writen onto iced fingers. The following are a few of the notes from the morning:

Margaret's decorated cake "Smell"
"My mother very good cook, excellent. Very hard working. We had fish on a Friday, loved the smell of cooking bread. One of the big days of cooking was bread- grandmother she'd take charge, baked bread all her life, an Irish woman, baked soda bread. A little woman, a small woman. I used to wonder why my mother, why she didn't bake? grandmother always took over, making bread for 50 years." Norman 

"Teachers very strict think nothing of rattling you with a ruler. Your hand or your leg. Higher grade school, College Street, St Helen's." Margaret

Ernie's Bluecoat School uniform
"Pea wack, very thick. 300 children to be fed, 100 girls, 200 boys. Porridge twice a week with brown sugar.

The younger ones got bullied a bit till you learnt to look after yourself. Thought it was tough then, you were educated. Always smart, all tailcoats aged 8 and long trousers, later on blazers. Bluecoat, Wavertree. After boarding school the army was easy for you. Go to your beds at half past 7 till you were 14 then stayed up to 9. Always had good football sides." Ernie

"I went to Sherwood Lane School, Longmore Lane, Fazakerley. Considered modern school- toilets indoors and all that. For lunch took sandwiches or went home, I went home as only 5 minutes away. I wore a gym slip, school badge, didn't have a belt wore a sash, folded down. I was very proud of my gym slip, pressed 3 box pleats at the front, 3 box pleats at the back.Some children in the school from the Cottage Homes in Frazakerley, for children whose mothers couldn't look after them. 

Barbara writing reminiscence onto iced finger
We had porridge with sugar or honey. Grandmother looked after us. Roast beef, steamed puddings, scones, vegetable dishes, good variety, rice pudding all learnt. Secret to success, right temperature, perfectly mixed, not thrown together, no lumps. We were disappointed if there was no pudding when we came home for lunch.  Tea we had sandwich and maybe a scone." Barbara.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

If you talk to others it knocks you off.

There have been many conversations at the Buddy Café in Salford, discussing the dementia that ‘service users’ and carers deal with everyday. Dementia is a curious, elusive thing. It doesn’t come tattooed on the forehead – as someone said to Lois. It hides and attitudes towards it are often filtered through many disguises.

Several weeks ago, we asked people in the Buddy Café to tell us their motto for life. The resulting statements were made into tattoo designs by Lois, incorporating the artwork and words of participants. This session was the unveiling of the designs, which people at the café were invited to wear. The tattoos were also prompts to ask how people feel they are looked at by society – and how they’d wish to be treated. What follows are a series of these mini-interviews, discussing attitudes to dementia and illness generally – what helps and what hinders.

“Take me out for a walk, the long walk. Just leave me to sort myself out. If they start mothering me, I do worse. A walk clears my head when it’s hectic. Frees up my head. Don’t keep mothering me, it makes me more confused. Slowly, rather than dashing about, helps me sort it out.” (Ray)

 “Need somebody to be there, to be there everyday. It’s all you need. Somebody you can talk to. Don’t want them feeling sorry for me. I was always there for them, because I loved them. All that chaos in hospital, caring for someone makes you stronger. Now I don’t like to ask too much.” (Isobel)

“Dementia – had to deal with it with my mum and dad. At first it’s a shock and then you get used to it. Might sound awful, but I sometimes saw the funny side. My mother did too. When she got confused, we’d talk about it together. Then on the odd occasion she’d say things that put a shiver down my spine.” (Chris, Salford Council)

“It’s just what it is. Nothing about it.” (Vera)

“Dementia? THEY can’t realise it, can’t let it go in their own head. YOU can’t write it. Other people must have the same respection for me. If you’ve no friends you’ve had it. You’ve got to think about your own body too. Then it’s gone. Don’t smoke, don’t have any men and don’t drink, except for a shandy now and again. When I’m going strong, take a garden walk. You’ve got to have some freedom.” (Alice)

Alice dancing
“I just carry on ordinary as if there’s nothing wrong. If you talk to others it knocks you off. Talking helps. If you don’t feel well and you’re on your own, you start feeling sorry for yourself.” (Sue)

“Just be there, reassure me. The right support helps, helps a lot. But sometimes it’s the wrong support. Just after my wife died I was walking to church talking to someone and a girl on the door overheard and tried to help. At that time I didn’t need or want that help and I gave her a mouthful. Timing is everything, as with a joke. And knowing when people can do with a boost… My daughter’s helping me now I’m getting diagnosed. We brought her up and now she’s reciprocating. Being there for me.” (Dave)
“People try to avoid someone with dementia, because it’s difficult to have a conversation. A normal conversation. Some try to avoid them rather than speak. I think they haven’t got the patience. I’m different, I was a nurse and also I went through it all with my dad. A lot of people think someone with dementia is a nuisance. They repeat things, it’s frustrating. But that is normal to them. Someone here asked me the same question five times this morning…” (Vera, carer)

“If I’m ill I’d like to be treated with respect, people asking me what I need. Trouble is I never have any time to be poorly now I’m a carer. Even when I’m in a crowd I feel lonely. Why is that? You can’t answer that, can you? I used to be the life and soul, enjoying life and now it’s come to a standstill. I could tackle anything at one time but now I can’t. When you get older you’ve not the strength. Once, I could join in with the best.” (Betty, carer)

Monday, 23 April 2012

closed Christmas day

On Wednesday I ran my first workshop session of the new project 'working memories'. Age UK Bakewell hosted the session, a great day full of laughter, cups of tea and memories that will inspire artwork on another day. The starting point for our conversations was 'our 1st days at work.' Flora, Herbert, Cynth and Madge share their reminiscences here:


Flora: My first job got 14 Shillings and 7 pence. The bus fair was a penny each way, so you weren’t so bad off. And 6 pence at the cinema for the cheaper seats. I graded eggs at an egg packing station. At that time they were rationed. Ashford to Bakewell threepence return, tuppence each way- return ticket you saved a penny. Were allowed a dozen a week to take home.

Herbert: My spending money was about 6 pence when I started work- a tanner- my mother gave me.
Seven shillings in old money the very first week, I showed that much promise they gave me an extra shilling the 2nd week. I were proud of that, made a good impression. Manufacturing mirrors for Ellis Pearson's in Sheffield on Corporation Street 1945.

Cynth: Working in an office aged 15, mother kept the first wage packet.  D.P Battery they made submarine batteries. Two bombs dropped right behind them during the war. They also made batteries for tractors, lorries…
Joan: Came from Coventry, went into office work when I left school, I didn’t know what I’d want to do. Mother said it would be a nice safe job, but I found it boring. Lucky if you got 6 pence out of your first wage packet. After I had my children, decided I’d go to University and become a teacher, and that’s what I did.

Some parents didn’t push the children for a scholarship, they were waiting for the children to work.

Flora: When a man had been to work, came home and that was that. Now they come home and help with the cooking. He’d fetch up the coal when he got home, then wash and shave, then down the pub! Everybody’s husbands did the same. Fridays it was darts and dominos, Saturdays as the years went on they started to take the wife- two glasses of cider and we thought we were well away.

Sometimes it was who you knew who got you into Grammar school, if you hadn’t got anything they’d knock you further down.

I went for short hand classes at night, I was still at school about 13, I came to the town hall- I never put it to use though.

Madge: Parents had a shop, a grocers shop, worked all hours in there. I delivered papers when I was 7 years old, before I went to school- went by foot, did half the village before school. A bit of breakfast before I went out. I didn’t get paid, it was part of life till I left school. After the school day, I went round with ‘The Star at Night’. A bag on my shoulder, with 20 or 30 papers, the Sheffield Telegraph or Sheffield Star on the bag. As we got older would deliver food in a big blue box on the front of a three wheeler bike, bread and all sorts in it.

Widdowson Grocers Shop, John Revel Widdowson, me father, everything in there, made the lolly pops in little egg cups, a tray with them in. Newspapers, Magazines, stationary, vegetables, shoelaces, everything you wanted to buy. Father made teacakes as well, and bake the bread. It never shut for lunch, we went to Church on a Sunday, but the shop was open. Only closed Christmas day.

Friday, 20 April 2012

when I was cold

'I’ll tell you when I was cold. Once upon a time, this is my story...' (K)

Lois writes:

On the train this morning going into Manchester for the first of the sessions of the new project 'the warm /&/ the cold.' I remember last year, being nervous about how a group of homeless people may respond to us. I have none of those concerns now, just an eagerness to start. It'll be lovely to see some of the people we got to know last year, but also sad. It'd be better to know their circumstances changed for the good.

As ever, there are lots of unknowns and untested ideas. We haven't worked with such large numbers of volunteers before. Also there is the quilt making itself - how do you make quilts with people who live such transient lifestyles? Quilts that are by their nature a time consuming, and labour intensive occupation... And the majority of homeless people being men, how do you create quilts (that are traditionally feminine) that are appreciated by both sexes? And practical issues arise, I've never made a quilt before, I love designing and making, but find it difficult to be neat and tidy finishing textiles.

And then we start and the stories come.

J at the Big Issue Office.
'Uncomfortable, unexplainable cold. A time in London when we built a fire in Hyde Park and the police put it out. We were so cold we couldn’t move. Frightening. You don’t really have any control. How Captain Scott felt, I imagine, before he passed away. Your brain tries to stop thinking, to protect you. I don’t remember much about it. Just the uncontrollable shaking.' (C)

'The first night was cold but I was dry and I found a corner out of the wind. I drank 'til I passed out. The next night, the cold got through everything. I slept on the steps of The Palace theatre. Found another rough sleeper - someone I could trust, not addicted to drugs - and we looked after each other. To me it seemed never ending, a long, dark tunnel.' (D)

...On the train home now, after a very fruitful, productive and humbling day. We've heard stories of life on the edges of society, of cold beyond my imagination. A 12 hour escape by foot from Iraq to Iran, traveling across a snow-covered mountain: 'I left at 5.00 at night and got the the village at 6.00 in the morning. Freezing, after zero temperatures, skin red, eyes frosting so I couldn't close them, I spent 3, 4 hours shaking in front of the fire, kept shaking. One week after my body still red, I kept using hot water and massage, but my body swelling up- my fingers this big- nearly dying...'

And other stories from the UK. 'The difference is you're not just sleeping on the streets, but living on the streets.'

'It’s possible to stay out in the cold if you have alcohol, knocks you out. But people shouldn’t be left to freeze. I don’t know where the first or second world is, or the third. All I know is in this day and age and place we don’t need to leave people on the streets, freezing. Now that is cold, unemotional. That’s a cold, horrible vibe. Cold depends on where you are.' (Y)

'I feel my body vibrating'  denim before embroidery
The group supported one another, leaving room for everyone to tell their story. My anxiety over the embroidery/quilt making was soon lost as majority of the group stitched with enthusiasm. And at the end of the day, many wanted to stay to carry on with their artworks, warm and in the safe.

'Be on the streets and you’ll know the cold: physical cold, cold in emotion. I hope you never find out what that’s like. Homelessness is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Not even an enemy.' (K)

I've made it this far

It was quite an emotional day for me yesterday, the workshop in the Buddy Cafe in Salford for people diagnosed with dementia and their carers felt a bit close to home. Sadly my father-in-law passed away earlier this week, he had Parkinson's & dementia. Having witnessed the effect of the disease on Gordon and our family, it makes me even more passionate to share the accounts of the people living with illhealth, reflecting lives that might otherwise be unheard.

Up the Scale I will Fail and Steady Fresh Air

I took with me a collection of temporary tattoos designed using participants 'mottos for health' collected during the previous session and playing card iconography. The imagery refers to luck and chance, particularly in reference to health or lack of it. Mottos range from humorous and cheeky statements such as 'Women they stimulate you' and 'I've no chance with my wife' to poignant lines such as 'I've made it this far' and 'my tomorrows are quite limited'.

'Women they stimulate you' and 'I'm alright'
The idea of tattoos came from a conversation I had had with a carer, she was explaining how she has been banned from a number of supermarkets- dementia makes her husband at times erratic in his behaviour, he will shout or be verbally abusive to her. Shoppers, staff and the carer herself find this difficult, there is a lack of understanding and knowledge about his condition as she said 'it's not tattooed on his forehead'.

While I took photos of the group modelling the tattoos, Phil led conversations about how the outside world perceived people with dementia. There are more photos from the day at

'I've made it this far'

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

eat em on the way home

Today I ran my first workshop session of the new project 'working memories'. Age UK Bakewell hosted the session, a fantastic day full of laughter and stories that will inspire artwork another day. Our conversations were based on work. Irene shares her experiences here:

‘A few scraps on, I’ll have em open and eat em on the way home.’ Their not the same wrapped. We had a fish and chip shop. It was spotless. ‘Bills Fish and Chip Shop’, well known, there used to be queues. 1930s/40s. They were good, ‘leave em open’ used to wait for us opening, liked em fresh and that.

I could do anything, used to scrap batter into tin, too much not nice. They were made proper. Drain em well, don’t let any fat get on them, don’t like them get too greasy. I could just eat em now. Wrapped in Grease Proof paper, then newspaper, salt and vinegar on the counter. Put salt on em as you cook em. I’ve served a few of em. An everyday food- except Sunday of course. Cod. Tail end of cod, the sweetest part of the fish.

Made our own fish cakes and rissoles, their like the crumbly part of the fish, and potatoes mixed up, beat up like. Used to enjoy it. ‘Leave it open, I’ll eat if on the way home- and a few scraps.’ Rissoles, you boil the potatoes, mash em up, parsley or sage mixed up with the fish and potato. A fish cake, the fish was boiled first, 2 slices of potato that you put the fish between. Dipped the fish cake in the batter, wiped it on the side of the pan and dip it in to cook. ‘I’ll have it open, my Love’. Lovely fish n chips an all. Only put scraps on if the want em on.

There’s dripping, there’s oil, we used both. A block of dripping in the pan to melt. A canister with hot water at the bottom to keep it hot, and peas at the top. Would ask for peas on top, and they’d enjoy em.

Vinegar in a bottle, take em home if they wanted sauce.

Counter had a marble front and top that was easy wipe down. Chips and fish or chips on their own, ‘leave em open please… served a few of them. Eat with their fingers.

Some brought a pot basin for their chips, put em in a paper 1st then pour into a basin. On the shop window ‘fish and chips sold here’. The fish man came everyday, it were fresh fish. Used to cut it up how you want it.

Me mother had the fish and chip shop at first, then retired and we took over. A bottle of vinegar and salt on the counter.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Blackpool, New Brighton etc

On my last visit to the Parr Care Home St Helens, we spent the afternoon sharing memories of seaside holidays.  Phil and I have created a simple guideline for selecting poetic lines- by trying to limit the lines of reminiscence to 12 words. These lines will be texted to grandchildren and other relatives, for the pilot of 'text from grandma' Some examples follow:

Lovely shrimps hot dogs candy floss toffee apples burgers smell the onions: Joyce

Trams click clik click clik horse drawn carriages always life guards about: Joyce

Photos of Joyce and her friends and family

house of horrors house of mirrors ghost train, put money n slot: Agnes

concerts on pier top singers & comedians & n the daytime orchestra: Yoyce

rolling pennies think twice about going n a shilling 2 have peep: Jane

going 2 chip shop down side street scraps as well in newspaper: Joyce

Joyce with a photo of her younger self

open air bathing pool New Brighton seas, water, down chute freezin water: Joyce

Photos of Joyce and her friends

Lots never had swimsuits vests in knickers big bums n everything: Joyce

Gypsy Petulengro
Gypsy Petulengro: all told the same thing and we all believed it: Joyce

head scarf n combs big dangly earrings sat n held yr hand: Agnes

Reading tea leaves always the same silly things a man n uniform…Agnes

Jane: 'me and my husband on honeymoon in Wales, a beautiful day.' 

Kiss me quick hats on n buy rock weather always nice: Agnes
Dad said tara to New Brighton see you n a few weeks: Joyce

Friday, 6 April 2012

Funding success: working memories

Lois writes: I'm very pleased to announce that my recent applications for funding from The Derbyshire Community Foundation and the Arts Development Fund (ADD Scheme)  awarded by Derbyshire Dales District Council, have both been successful in offering me a grant towards the project 'Working Memories'. These funds will add to the 'Grants for the Arts'  allocated by the Arts Council England.

I'm looking forward to my first workshop sessions after Easter at the Bakewell Day Centre, Derbyshire.

During my residency I will create illustrated reminiscence boxes for use in the host venues, and digital versions for care settings throughout the High Peak and the Derbyshire Dales.


a gentle lady

As part of the pilot project 'Text from Grandma' I've been working with residents at Mayfield Care Home, St Helens. Sadly on my last visit all of the usual group were to ill to join me. However this gave me the opportunity to spend the morning with twins, Miss Dorothy Hart and Miss Vera Hart who wouldn't normally join in. They were a delight to speak to, often sounding as one as they fondly recalled memories of their mum.

Vera's hands
"She was a gentle lady very quiet, we've got our fathers terrible temper. Always at it. Mum wouldn't harm a soul. She always pleased us never herself, lovely we still miss her. With her till the day she died, the best mother in the world.

All we have is our memories, a lovely picture of our mother, gentle woman would do anything for us. Always walked down the street with her in the middle. We were the image of our dad spitting image. Always went out early with her in the middle 'they're they go'. The old fashioned type just us and our mum. Wouldn't be seen dead without her gentle she was.

Had fellas asking us out but always chased them away. She did anything for us always there always pleased us wasn't a bit like us. Old fashioned never wore make up never had her hair done, never wore scent. Couldn't pick a better one. We're no angels, wait till my mother went out then batter each other. 

Marvellous cook, and we can't cook a sausage we spend our money on going out. She'd cook anything anything at all. Only thing we'd do is egg on toast. A lovely woman. Very clever At cooking we were always bottom of the class rather use a tin opener.

Old fashioned ones, we like sentimental songs not jazzy if you know what I mean. Never been dancing, never mixed, dont like parties at all dont ask us. Can't stand having our photos taken, in town we hide our face if we hear someone saying 'oh twins' we hide our faces.

Twins Miss Vera Hart and Miss Dorothy Hart
Cats especially the big ones tigers and lions, love them all. Spent hours in the zoo wandering around. Fluffy lovely gentle don't like dogs. Got a thing about cats run off of the house if we see them and bring them back got piles of photos of cats. Entice them in love cats especially the wild ones. Burgled stole a great big picture of tiger of the wall.

All the cats used to come and go called them all the same thing. Favourite thing was the tiger. Loved Chester zoo, when it started going dark we would come home, stayed there all day."

Miss Dorothy hart
Miss Vera hart

Monday, 2 April 2012

"the little society"

"the little society"

Visual poetry by Philip Davenport, at Turnpike Gallery, Leigh, UK. April 3-14. This exhibition questions the idea of a BIG society by focusing on the voices of the little and the lost.

Davenport’s poems APPEAL IN AIR and POLLINATORS OF EDEN erupt from the page into dizzyheaded sequences of word/space, spilling across the large gallery. Rhetoric of politicians is replaced with uncertainty.

APPEAL IN AIR is a celebration of quiet voices, the people at the fringe - and the songs of birds. Texts bend into the shape of birds and weave a city skyline. Children mimic birdcalls as a soundtrack for the space. Language morphs into code: Davenport’s poem is a song of “Liquid morse.” APPEAL celebrates the many voices, languages and un-languages that make up a world – including those that get lost in noise.

POLLINATORS OF EDEN replays the form of a child’s educational book, complete with an instructional animation of a drowning shark. The piece documents encounters with people in North Manchester, an area of stark economic hardship, and is cartoonishly illustrated by local school pupils, in bright counterpoint to the dark tone of the poem.

Much of the material in the show derives from Davenport's recent book APPEAL IN AIR, published by Knives Forks & Spoons Press, which subverts the form of the spreadsheet into an expressive tool.


Davenport’s debut was published by seminal avant-garde press Writers Forum in 1999; his poems written on apples were shown at the 2004 Liverpool Biennial. His work has been variously billposted and exhibited throughout Europe and in China. Davenport co-curated the largest survey exhibition of Bob Cobbing’s work for Bury Text Festival in 2005 and the first posthumous gallery exhibition of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s work in 2006. He often collaborates with other artists and writers, including Ben Gwilliam, Lee Patterson, Tom Jenks. His spreadsheet poems were recently exhibited in the Henry Moore Institute. APPEAL IN AIR is published by Knives Forks and Spoons press, UK whose list includes many British avant-garde poets. Davenport is currently compiling an international anthology of text artists and poets.

For further information contact TURNPIKE GALLERY (+44)1942 404420

EXHIBITION FACEBOOK PAGE!/media/set/?set=a.257496341008638.59781.208328225925450&type=1

APPEAL IN AIR isbn 978-1-907812-77-4 available from