I do love a dictionary/glossary definition and this is from Wikipedia’s Glossary of United Kingdom railway terms

Chord: A curve connecting two otherwise-unconnected rail lines that lie at tangents to that curve (Usually both lines are straight, one being at a higher level than the other.)

I commented on a friend’s post which was asking for recommendations for poetry/prose evoking clear imagery (I suggested Ted’s Hughes’ Thought Fox) and another mutual friend recommended Lydia Davis, coincidentally a train reference:

On the Train by Lydia Davis

We are united, he and I, though strangers, against the two women in front of us talking so steadily and audibly across the aisle to each other. Bad manners. Later in the journey I look over at him (across the aisle) and he is picking his nose. As for me, I am dripping tomato from my sandwich on to my newspaper. Bad habits. I would not report this if I were the one picking my nose. I look again and he is still at it. As for the women, they are now sitting together side by side and quietly reading, clean and tidy, one a magazine, one a book. Blameless.

Obviously I shared this with Vanessa and begin to research.

Another train reference:

Lydia Davis – The Magic of the Train

We can see by the way they look from behind, as we watch them walk away from us down the train car, past the open doors of the toilets, through the sliding doors at the end, into some other part of the train, we can tell by the backs of them, these two young women, in their tight black jeans, their platform heels, their tight sweaters and jean jackets in fashionable layers, their ample loose long black hair, the way they stride along, that they’re in their late teens or more likely their early twenties. But when they come back the other way towards up, after a little while, from their excursion through the train, to some strange and magical part of it up ahead, when they come back, still striding along, we can now see their faces, pale, haggard, with violet shadows under their eyes, odd moles here and there, laugh lines, frown lines, sagging cheeks, though they are smiling a little, gently, and we see that in the meantime, under the magical effect of the train, they have aged twenty years.


Here’s an excerpt of her discussing ‘In the Train Station’ with a reading https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFrdgxyFMvM

And an interview with Dan Gunn who cites Proust “There is a passage in Proust’s novel that I’ve always enjoyed and admired; whenever I re-read it, I’m made to think of your work. The narrator has boarded the train for Balbec (in Noms de pays: le pays / Place-Names: The Place), and because he is so anxious he has been given some alcohol to soothe his nerves. This causes him to experience the journey through the perception of one who is tipsy for the first time. He writes, summarizing this experience but summarizing also what he will learn from the artist Elstir and from Impressionism more generally when he reaches Balbec, that he has had to learn to present events “in the order of our perception of them, instead of first explaining them in relation to their several causes.” I find that this recommendation seems to have been followed in a lot of your work.

Lydia responds: “Yes, I do like to confront an object, an experience, directly and immediately, often accepting my first impression, as in your examples above, and allowing that to remain the explanation or statement about the thing, rather than labeling that impression, explaining it away, rejecting it. The impression itself has a certain validity, even if it isn’t “true.” It also has a certain naive purity—unclouded by prior knowledge or subsequent reasoning. I don’t mind if it is somewhat absurd—I like to be able to look at things in a different way.”


This really struck a chord with us and Vanessa wrote:

I love poetry

Especially when,

It’s clear, interesting, unambiguous

Doesn’t waste words on describing an arsehole

He said

She said

They were as pasty and dry as 2-day old bread

You see?

That’s why some don’t engage it can be exhausting

Trawling through the euphemisms

Not easy to engage

A mind filled up with too much reality


I love poetry It gives form

To feelings – and shit

Expressions, decisions, rejections

Turmoil and passion

I want a narrative

That doesn’t need a degree to understand

Though I’m not short of them


I love poetry, that

Isn’t full of exclusive language

Sending me around the spirals, of

The authors self-aggrandisement

Literary loquacious patronisation


I love poetry, that

Doesn’t give me a brain ache

Like the florid shit that pretends to be interesting


I love poetry, that gets to the point I think I’ve made mine.

Vanessa Haley


I took the kids to Sheffield for the day to see Utter Rubbish and the shows on at Millenium Galleries.

We took the train along the Penistone Line and I made some quick notes in between building lego, handing out snacks and reading them books.

Vanessa and I are planning to take regular trips on the train together to Sheffield and back as part of our research. £10.60 return and BYOB and we have a meeting/night out/research trip all in one!

Graveyards and schoolyards

Tunnels and sunlight

Houses and gardens and shops and roads and level crossings

Electricity lines

Woods and ponds and farms

Pheasants, sheep, rabbits, horses, campers, ramblers

Enormous viaducts and stunning views

A bus maintenance depot

Parks and playgrounds

Tunnels and stations, tunnels and stations

One passing train on the other side of the track

People waiting at stations, boarding and alighting

On and off

Quiet and noise

Back and forth

Start and stop.



We applied for Huddersfield Soup No.5 and sadly weren’t selected. However, on the afternoon of the event I received a call to say the reserve pitch had dropped out and therefore at #6 in the selection order we were now #5 and therefore could present as the reserve pitch if available at such shot notice. This meant were weren’t eligible to pitch for the funding but could share our project and ask for in kind support.

Vanessa and I made it to the event and heard all the other pitches, grabbed a quick chat about what to cover and then I got up on the stage and ‘pitched’ to a room full of people.  The things we asked for were:

  • Potential collaborators – people who might want to run workshops or events that would generate content (stories, poetry and art) for the newspaper, especially with ‘non-artist’ people who would not necessarily make or submit things independently, and also people who might want to link in for the launch next Spring with events such as poetry readings, performances or workshops along the Penistone Line either on the train or at stations.
  • Printing! Our main expense in producing a newspaper on a shoestring budget is inevitably the printing. Our main funder has stipulated that they would like to match fund and in kind contributions can also count. The only ‘advertising’ we want to include in the newspaper is signposting to relevant services and partner/funder organisations, so revenue from advertising is not going to cover printing costs. Therefore reduced rate or even free printing services would help us massively to redirect funds to other areas.
  • Spreading the word. One of our main challenges is getting the word out to the wider community further than our existing art networks. I’ve already contacted several local organisations and asked they share the open call and talk about it to anyone who will listen! We also know it’s hard for people to express first hand experiences about mental health even if they are practising artists/writers where making/writing is a practiced skill. We had a really good chat with a mother and daughter at the event who had multiple stories of friends’ and families’ battles with mental illness and failures in underfunded MH services. The outcome of this conversation is that they are interested in collating (anonymised) stories for publishing. Thankfully I’ve just attended a data protection and GDPR training event so feel up to date on how to make sure these stories will be truly anonymous and appropriate consent achieved.


I had hoped to update sooner but my hard drive died. I bought a new harddrive and and caddy and miraculously retrieved my data off the dead drive.

I bookmarked a load of links I’ve been reading on my phone as I couldn’t seem to copy and paste links into the blog interface without everything messing up so have stored up a few links for one blog post:

First it made sense to see what other a-n artists had written. I remember reading Alistair’s blog when it was first published and thought how refreshing his honesty was in discussing these ‘career suicide’ issues. https://www.a-n.co.uk/news/artists-mental-health-depression-neither-romantic-inevitable It’s a bit of a heavy label to say ‘this is about mental health’.

The link between creativity and mental health is in some ways well trodden, popularist ground, and google will throw up result like this: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creative-explorations/201503/creativity-and-mental-illness but to find any indepth inquiry without subscribing to academic journals seems a bit hard to come by. Maybe this is a search term issue as it’s such a wide field.

You can find google results naming names of ‘artists and mental health’ eg http://www.hungertv.com/feature/five-contemporary-artists-exploring-mental-health/ but it doesn’t give much information further than a vague overview.

As a parent, my children’s mental wellbeing is now of utmost importance and these kind of headlines catch my eye: http://metro.co.uk/2018/01/08/how-should-we-talk-about-mental-health-in-schools-heres-what-the-experts-say-7164921

Emotional intelligence and emotional wellbeing starts from infancy, but mental wellbeing is lifelong. If we don’t learn early, these skills may be lost or hard to reach. ttps://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10156247468906407&id=638951406

I also found that there’s a Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival https://www.mhfestival.com/ and they have a few video uploads, the men’s mental health one was particularly interesting: https://m.facebook.com/mentalhealtharts/video_grid/

TED talks are also a useful resource and this on resonated in relation to our project: https://www.facebook.com/TED/videos/10159946160830652/

Finally, my co-curator Vanessa Haley found this gem by Virginia Woolf on illness:

“Finally, to hinder the description of illness in literature, there is the poverty of the language. English, which can express the thoughts of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear, has no words for the shiver and the headache. It has all grown one way. The merest schoolgirl, when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry. There is nothing ready made for him. He is forced to coin words himself, and, taking his pain in one hand, and a lump of pure sound in the other (as perhaps the people of Babel did in the beginning), so to crush them together that a brand new word in the end drops out. Probably it will be something laughable.”


What: Dwell time: The time a train spends at a scheduled stop without moving. Typically, this time is spent boarding or deboarding passengers, but it may also be spent waiting for traffic ahead to clear, or idling time in order to get back on schedule.

Dwell Time is a newspaper published by Platform 1 for the Penistone Train Line in Yorkshire that seeks contributions concerning reflections on your own or someone else’s mental wellbeing. We are seeking drawings, illustrations, poetry and personal stories about real life, raw feelings and survival stories; more about the journeys more than the destinations.

The Penistone Line is a slow and scenic journey from Huddersfield to the steel city of Sheffield, through beautiful countryside and over Penistone Viaduct, plus a stop at Meadowhall shopping centre.

Almost 300 people died in suicide incidents on Britain’s railways in 2016/17, according to Office of Rail and Road figures, including on the Penistone Line. According the the mental health charity Mind: Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. 20.6 in 100 people have suicidal thoughts 6.7 in 100 people have suicide attempts and 7.3 in 100 people self-harm.

Who: You don’t need to have any experience or training. You may be a professional artist/writer or you may never have drawn or written anything like this before. You might be a train enthusiast, daily train commuter or travel on trains rarely. You may be local to a Penistone Line station or be from a completely different part of the world. Perhaps your contribution is about your own mental health or a family member or friend’s. Everybody has mental health just like physical health; whether considered in good shape or not, therefore everybody is eligible to contribute with reflections on these topics. You may also submit anonymously or using a pseudonym if you prefer.

Where: The newspaper will be distributed on the Penistone Line trains travelling from Huddersfield-Sheffield. Calling at: Huddersfield, Lockwood, Berry Brow, Honley, Brockholes, Stocksmoor, Shepley, Denby Dale, Penistone, Silkstone Common, Dodworth, Barnsley, Wombwell, Elsecar (limited stop), Chapeltown, Meadowhall and Sheffield. The Newspaper is for a general audience (everybody) to pick up and read and therefore we ask that contributors are mindful of content being appropriate for all ages. All contributions will be published on the newspaper blog so if you have something that may not be suitable for a general audience but would like it published on the blog, please do send it us.

When: The Newspaper will be launched in Spring 2019 and all contributions will be added to the blog as they arrive.

Payments/fees: There are no fees required and at this stage no payments available for contributors. The Newspaper will be printed with sourced funding and distributed free to the public.

Criteria and selection process: Images should be high resolution (300 dpi ideally) and can be full colour or greyscale. Text submissions should be up to a maximum of 750 words as a guideline and sent in an editable format. If your text requires specific formatting/alignment please indicate this in your submission.

Co-editors Alice Bradshaw, Vanessa Haley and Lenny Szrama will select contributions for printing in the newspaper. Once the deadline has passed and we have reviewed all the submissions, we will make a selection and inform all contributors whether or not your work has been selected for the first issue.

To submit: Email: avavprojects[at]yahoo.co.uk (replace [at] with @) with high resolution images or text in editable format. Please include what name/pseudonym you wish to use or whether you would like your contribution to be anonymous. If you would like a link to your website or blog please also include this.

Deadline: End of 2018 for publishing in the first print issue of Dwell Time.

About Platform 1: Platform 1 (previously known as Huddersfield Men’s Shed) is a charity based at Huddersfield Train Station that helps men living in isolation due to mental health or addiction issues. It offer many varied projects such as carpentry, bike maintenance, gardening, upholstery and upcycling, education to help with benefits and housing problems and counselling. Platform 1 helps members reconnect back within their communities.