Love this place- schedule

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Everything is now confirmed for my solo show at Gosforth Civic Theatre (gosforthcivictheatre.co.uk) It will run from July 20th to September 14th, and include other events, as below:

July 20th, 5.00-7.00 pm, drinks reception and preview evening (free)

July 31st, 7.15-8.30pm, informal gallery talk with the artist (free)

September 2nd:

2.00-4.00pm, Garden Party raising funds for the Parkinson’s Disease Society (£2 admission)

4.30-6.30, Creative Writing Workshop led by local writer and tutor Ellen Phethean, followed by open reading with invited guests (7.30-9).  Workshop plus performance £12, performance only £3.

See you soon

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Gosforth Civic Theatre- a perfect venue

Finding my way to Gosforth Civic Theatre is another serendiptious part of the story of my Love This Place show.  It’s a great setting, close to the Regent Centre and other civic buildings and community infrastructure, library, leisure centre etc.  It seems it wasn’t being as well-used as it could be, so a group of young social entrepreneurs working for Liberdade have taken it on.  Here’s what they say about themselves:

“We’re an arts venue and cafe in Gosforth, just north of Newcastle, which is home to, and run by, Liberdade Community Development Trust.  We’re a truly inclusive space for performance, music, cinema, and community activity at the heart of Gosforth that aims to break down misconceptions of learning disability while also being a space where everyone can enjoy our café, get involved in a class or go to a show.  We’re a not-for-profit organisation so every penny you spend goes back in to Liberdade and the venue.”

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I found my way to GCT via a chain of friendship connections, just at the moment when my original venue fell through.  I called by on spec and chatted to one of the team and it was on!  My proposal was formally accepted a few weeks later and I’ve had a great time working with the staff on organising the show.

There are many reasons why GCT is a perfect venue:

My grandparents looked after us in the school holidays just down the road so it resonates with my artwork about my family and its roots in Gosforth.  All the family homes are a short walk away

It celebrates Gosforth and invites local people to visit GCT, to know more and feel good about where they live, and get to know all the great things that go on at GCT

It’s a big, convivial and beautiful space, with lots of flexibility and plenty of room for my artwork, as well as safe, pleasant outside space

The staff are great- flexible and helpful.  They have created a positive and relaxed vibe

GCT has offered some great opportunities for collaboration.  There is a yoga class for people with Parkinsons which prompted me to get together with them to organise a fundraiser- a Garden Gathering on Sep 2nd (I have been caring for my Mum who has Parkinsons, for over 20 years).  There is a choir rehearsing for a performance, Sing Home, on Jul 18th.  I have been in touch with them about possible collaboration because of the obvious thematic connection.  I am going to offer an artist’s talk to follow on from one of Judith Stevenson’s ‘Talking Art’ sessions, on July 13th

They have been particularly welcoming to me as a woman and made it clear to me that they are keen to support and amplify women’s voices at a time when we are creating important shifts

I’m really looking forward to the next few weeks and getting to know the space and the people better

 

 

Talking with Mum about Gosforth

Five years ago I recorded a conversation with my Mum as part of an end-of-year project at Leeds College of Art.  It was the first time I had shown my work and even more nerve-wracking than putting on the upcoming show in Gosforth.  It consisted of a 1913 map of Gosforth which I embellished with found materials and photographs, a recorded conversation between my Mum and me about the map, and a charcoal drawing of my Mum screen-printed onto map fabric (below).

1913 Godfrey map of Gosforth embellished with 'stuff of place'

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So yesterday I searched for the recording on my lap top.  After an hour or so in technology hell, I found it and listened to it for the first time since then.  It lasts 32 minutes and I intend to make it available as part of the Love This Place show.  Still working on uploading it here.

Much of the time nowadays it is hard to have a conversation with Mum.  This is because of her advanced Parkinsons which impairs both her cognition and her ability to speak. Back then it was starting to get harder to chat but it is a fantastic conversation.  Several times her sharp, wry sense of humour had me laughing out loud.  She sounds very Geordie- as she noticed when she listened to herself.  She said she had meant to talk posh but forgot.

The map was a useful prompt for Mum’s memories of growing up, having kids and eventually leaving Gosforth for Leeds.  The Second World War loomed large in her childhood- she says that railway stations have made her feel sad all her life because of their association with saying goodbye to her three older siblings when they went off to serve in the war.  She describes how her dad, who was lucky to survive years of active service in the trenches of the First War, sat and wept when the Second War was announced on the radio.  Our chat covers a lot of ground- school, family, Gosforth, being a Geordie and her positive feelings about ‘moving up in the world’ from a council estate to our own house in prosperous North Leeds.

Over time our roles have been reversed.  I look after her now and try to make sure she is happy, safe and well, as she did for me all those years.  I’ll take the recording to her nursing home to listen to together.  Listening to it yesterday was extraordinary.  It was very moving and hugely entertaining.  It made me feel confident about myself and my work, as it contains many of the threads which I have been weaving together in my art since then.  You can hear that we love each other, sometimes a bit awkwardly across our differences.  She is cruelly diminished now, only 5 and a half stone and there is just much less of her in every way.  The recording brought her back- even more of her than I knew then.  You never really know your Mum but these 20-plus years of caring for her, and this precious conversation, mean that I can keep seeing her in new ways and have the opportunity to deepen our relationship.

Best of all, listening to the conversation did the job of a Mum- it made me feel that everything’s going to be OK. She will enjoy knowing that she can still do that for me.

Putting on a show

My solo show in Newcastle has partly been a result of my desire to take my work ‘back home’, and also been greatly helped by happy coincidence and friendly connection.  It is hugely challenging and a bit lonely to present a one-person show, especially as my work is experiential and personal.

This post is about how I have managed this challenge.  Here is the mind map I’m working to:

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In recent years I have been trying to make it a rule that I don’t work alone, on anything.  Some offers of support and collaboration arrived without me trying too hard- Alex coming up for 3 days to help me install the work, finding Ellen (via Clare) who will run a creative writing workshop and performance, my cousin offering his fundraising organisation to help with the Garden Gathering, bumping in to the local Parkinson’s UK group at the venue, and lots more connections, people who know people.

Perhaps I should trust more in this relational part of the process- the conversations.  My most effective defence against the inevitable (is it?) self-doubt is a belief in my work- that it tells an interesting story which people relate to, often quite strongly and at an emotional level.  After all it is about family, mothers, connection to place, home, belonging, separation, female identity….  So the process involves connecting to people, introducing them to the story of the work.  It has been lovely to see how people respond.

As well as lots and lots of useful conversation with friends, it was fantastic to call on support from Leeds Creative Timebank, a time-sharing community of creative people in the city. So far I have had 6 hours of (one-way, they were there for me!) invaluable support, from Nicola Pemberton and Louise Atkinson.  They have helped me draw the mind-map and gave me encouragement and technical assistance, especially with social media.  They have affirmed and supported me.

Now all the tasks and issues are on one page and are getting ticked off as I work through them.  I wonder why we (I) ever even think that we (I) have to do anything alone?

Love this place

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Everything is now confirmed for my solo show at Gosforth Civic Theatre (GCT gosforthcivictheatre.co.uk) It will run from July 20th to September 14th, and include other events, as below:

July 20th, 5.30-7.00 pm, drinks reception and preview evening

July 31st, 7.15-8.30pm, informal gallery talk with the artist

September 2nd:

2.00-4.30pm, Garden Party raising funds for the Parkinson’s Disease Society

4.30-6.30, Creative Writing Workshop led by local writer and tutor Ellen Phethean, followed by open reading with invited guests

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The exhibition expresses my personal connection to Gosforth, Newcastle and the North East.  It was inspired by my family’s journeys, from here to Leeds and back, and explores the emotional and physical spaces in between.  The work is dedicated to the women in my family, particularly my grandmother, mother, daughter and granddaughter, a ‘matri-line’ who share the family name- Eleanor.

I work as a ‘psychogeographer’, first returning to explore Gosforth, and the Northumberland coast, then setting out on a solo walk of 140 miles from my home in Leeds to my daughter’s home in Newcastle- walking the ‘matri-line’- gathering and recording images and the ‘stuff of place’.

My creative ‘communing’ with important spaces and places has produced a large body of work in a range of media, including alternative process photography, rubbings, hand-made books, kinetic traces from walking movement and wave action, and artefacts from deconstructed map materials.

My ‘moving’ story resonates across the years, with the lives of migrants of all kinds.  It explores the meaning/s of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’, and speaks of the emergence of women’s ‘freedom of movement’ and independence, our ability to stand our ground- to fully inhabit who we are and where we are from.

Bringing it all back home: latest

About two years ago I set off on a solo walk of 140 miles from my current home in Leeds, back to my childhood home, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  My mother still lives in Leeds but my daughter now lives in Newcastle with her family, including her daughter.  The walk was my project for an MA in Creative Practice- an exploration of female identity and the bonds of family especially along the ‘matri-line’ of four generations of mothers and daughters, all named Eleanor.  The 2-week adventure was recorded and re-presented creatively in a range of ways- stories and images, maps, kinetic traces, rubbings, photographic prints- everything I could gather, from river water to pressed flowers, examples of which can be seen in the Walking Home post below.

My intention was to express the deep connection I feel to the magnificent North Country landscape that I walked across- my love of it sometimes sitting uncomfortably alongside my anxiety about its future.

I also wanted to consider this experience from my particular point of view, as a 60-something solo female walker, dealing with pain and impairment from an arthritic hip.  I was exploring my emotional hinterland and personal geography, connecting with women’s stories, from the past recorded on gravestones, and the present, observing and talking with the women I met.  While wandering around graveyards it occurred to me for the first time that my mother was born before women were fully enfranchised. I became aware of how things have changed for us over her lifetime.  I was grateful for my personal freedom and agency.  I wasn’t afraid for myself as a lone woman in these wonderful open spaces at any time on the walk, partly because women were everywhere, doing (almost) everything.

Although the days were wonderfully contemplative, (I wanted to ‘disappear’) my attention was also focused outwardly, noticing  and communing with the landscape, and the history there, the flora and fauna, the new life burgeoning in early summer.  In this way I became immersed in the sights, sounds, smells, textures, memories, stories and experiences embedded in the places I passed through.

I am planning to show my work from the walk in the Gosforth Civic Theatre (very close to where I grew up) through July and August.  The show, entitled Walking Home, will include all the art work from the Matri-line project displayed together, for the first and probably the last time.

If space permits I also aim to show previous place-based work inspired by the North-East, and Gosforth, where I was born and raised.

Work will be available to buy.  Other activities are being planned to run alongside.

Watch out for further posts for dates and details.