i’ve visited the silk mill site this week – at the invitation of the museum trust’s site manager.  we spent an hour walking round.

here are a few of my highlights from the visit.




a leftover question from the last time the ground floor was taken back to a basic state during the remake stage.  there’s also a clue in the question to how new to the whole process  everyone was at this early stage.

i saw many things on the screen that eventually hung in front of this wall.

being in the ground floor space wasn’t too much of a jolt – the feel of the space is pretty much as it was when operational during the research phase.


there was a big surprise when entering the first floor space.



the elongated ‘ z ‘ in the cieling is the renmant of the front of the model railway frontage.  the windows on the right are newly exposed – there had been interpretation panels in front of them.  to the left is a doorway – here had been the model railway control area.   the barriers in the middle guard a hole.  there are currently lots of holes in the building as work has been carried out to determine the state of the 300+ year old building.

we continued.



in this picture there are some tapes around the buckton testing machine (on the right).  one of two large machines left on site the buckton was used to test things to due with the railway.  the photo being taken from what was the east midland railway study centre.  all the internal walls and dexian shelving long been removed to a temporary location.

with everything ( well nearly everything) taken out,  the size of the internal spaces throughout the mill took me by surprise.  by the time we arrived at the second floor – what was once the electricity board social club area – i was more prepared for what i was about to see.



as we walked we chatted and i got a sense for where the project was currently and what the next few stages of work are going to be.



i’m drawn to the area next to the museum that will be developed into the civic hall.  the drawings of it look wonderful and currently the space looks like a proper site about to be built on.



i was told this week that there are still details to be finalised and i got the impression that once this is done that a domino effect will take place for other aspects that need to be finalised.  this includes the confirmation or not of the next tranche of the non linear project to document the inside and progress of the transformation of the musuem of making.  i can add at this point that as this project continues its allowing me to develop and progress my practice.


i’ll leave you with an image of the front of the silk mill from march and secondly in july of 2018.






i’ve known for a while that at some point another tranche of the non linear project at derby silk mill will begin.  initial discussions are suggesting a realistic budget with good access to the building.  the when is dynamic.

last sunday while walking to join friends to relax and catch up in the sun an email notified me of an opportunity – deadline was in 2 days time.

a collaboration between york university and bbc research and development – it appeared to be within the sphere of non linear programming.

wether the sun got to me or the gin and tonic – i convinced myself i should have a go.

to help with my research i did some initial googling for inspiration for a title.  with great joy i found a blog post from 2015 by tony butler.  i got what i needed and proceeded to look through the criteria for submission.

the document was large and many things were being explored and invited to be presented.  through the google group i shared my decision to have a go and this was to prove beneficial later in the process.

since completing the submission i’ve taken time to watch a video from the re:make stage of the museum development.  i’ve watched it before.  from it i get a sense of time through how the building and people look within the video by owen davies.

monday was spent adding words in answer to everything i thought needed some sort of response.  tuesday began with contact from sue – the google group alerting her to this surprise submission.   with word of support proofing the draft i sat back down with determination to get something together.



to help me i did something i’ve not done before – i wrote down all that i thought there needed to be answers to  and used these scraps of paper to start to build a structure for my submission.

i looked at the pieces of paper – i saw a submission in non linear form.



with sue’s help i got the submission into 2 sides of a4 and sent it in with about 2 hours to spare before the deadline.

reflecting about the method i adopted to construct the submission – non linearly to begin with – it occurred to me, why have i not used this approach before ?  it might be that the criteria and information required was so wide and many that maybe in the past the submissions haven’t needed such handling.

my decision to use the non linear approach was good because i knew i was struggling to hold and visualise how to put the blocks of words i had together.

in my tired state afterwards i did get a little down about my disability with handling words – i wonder even after 10 years of knowing about it i’m still not fully in a state of acceptance about it.



knowing the submission needed to be in two sections i was able to assemble the non linear components into a structure that i felt would work.  i also get some interesting pictures of pieces of paper for my blog.


since submitting i’ve been more in a head space to consider the third tranche.  i’m closer to wanting more speaking from those involved.  the building will still feature – documenting how it evolves – i do feel that i want to capture people who are involved in the project in a manner that allows them to share about them and their involvement in the project.

how might we represent the people within the project through giving them space to tell us about about themselves and their relationship to the project ?

the third tranche also presents me with an opportunity to to push my my own practice.  there still remains the possibility of the third tranche being funded through the submission and it’ll be interesting to see how using the bbc’s experimental authoring tools the third tranche further evolves from where the second is.

in the event of an unsuccessful bbc / york bid – i will get to push myself with the platform i already know to create a third tranche.

little did i expect upon leaving the house on sunday to have done so much work on the third tranche  by thursday.







spring is in the air, the clocks have gone forward and there’s been some movement within the non linear project.  i’ve done some more filming and been able to present the work so far to the arts and heritage group at the mill.



going back into mill over the past few months has been exciting as each time the ground floor is packed with a new array of objects waiting to be decanted to the offsite stores.  i’m told there are 1000’s of objects, all have been wrapped and packed and moved, an incredible achievement in the time.



i love the idea of presenting projects and have dreamed for years of doing it more regularly.  past experiences involved spending weeks agonising of how to tell the storey and making appropriate slides to accompany the script i write for myself in my head.

when sue ball invited me to speak at the arts and heritage group, i took one step back and took time to consider what i would do in response.

gathering together the resources i had to illustrate and demonstrate the project so far i realised that the majority of them were browser based.  i thought “how might i use browser based resources in a presentation setting ?”

in preparing for previous presentations i have to admit to slightly tying myself in a knot as i try to remember what to say with each subsequent slide.

using the browser resources i saw the opportunity to talk about each one as we got to them.

i’d arrived at a non linear presentation method.



the group meets in the blue room of the silk mill.  its a lovely space and the number of the group works well in it.

through the google group this blog post will be shared with them and i take this moment to say hello to members of the group arriving here through the google group link.

i’ll add i really enjoyed sharing my journey with the nonlinear project and really appreciated the positive comments/feedback and ideas of how the project might evolve as the work towards the museum of making at derby silk mill progresses.


yesterday i was at the mill with my equipment and have been through the space with both stills and video cameras.

it took me a while to find the feel necessary to drive the recording.  in the east midlands railway research centre space i found the feeling.

the key was the window.  as the space evolves in the coming months and years the windows are going to remain.  i wonder if the frames are going to be updated ?

this morning i’ve collected all the files together.  looking at the rushes it strikes me how important the collections are and the amount of work put into keeping them safe during the works at the museum.

with the spaces empty i saw the amount of space available and had a small insight into the process of how that space is utilised for both the public and the collections once the museum of making is fully operational.

reflecting about yesterday i sense the shift/turning/movement/progress/progression – i struggle with the words to describe my observations of a process the staff are involved with.

after all the months of planning – its time … day by day … to move towards the museum of making at derby silk mill.

for the volunteers of the arts and heritage group i’ll add that whatever you feel towards the project at the moment that will evolve and alter as you get to know more those taking part.  making can be difficult at times  – thats why its so rewarding when you stand back at look at what you made / help to make.




i’m getting there – finishing this tranche.  thinking about submitting to doc fest has been a good thing, it’s pushed me into creating a linear trailer for the project.  i’ve spent time this afternoon editting and tweaking and i’ve ended with something i feel good about.

one small detail will feedback into the project – so i now have my tuesday morning work schedule tied down.

to be honest making a short linear trailer for the project with a link in the description makes so much sense.  would i have thought of it ? yes – eventually !

its certainly something to take forward into the third tranche.



so the last question and possibly the “biggee”.  answered over several attempts this answer evolves very much in the manner in which this commission has.

so sitting comfortable with minh-ha’s essay as company ….. question 4 ….


4) What ‘artistic’ elements/formal features (sound/darkness; the artist’s hand; the camera on the train etc) did you explore in the last round of filming? how might you take these into the next round of filming in the decant phase?


i like this question, it sets out an opportunity to comment, review, reflect.

minh-ha states there is no such thing as documentary(1).  a great start and so we can state whatever we want to be documentary – so my non linear project is a non linear documentary and this fits with the concept that documentary is a continually re-emerging form of practice.(1)

minh-ha continues that documentary exists due to the response to cinema and the control over which this has of narrative.  documentary being an independent voice for informing the viewer of something.  i love how minh-ha describes cinema as a means of indoctrination and comment because of its capacity for ‘observing and selecting from life itself'(2).

the formal feature of non linearity is an emerging narrative form (at the time of writing) and borrows from the cinematic tradition of observing and selecting from life and challenges the tradition by extending this through to the viewer.

my foundation artistic element is the first person view.  made by my choice of recording equipment it gives me the ability to be present with those in the shot in a manner that doesn’t impede their natural actions within the activity.

the project can define itself as documentary as in creating the project i’m making selection, elimination and co-ordination of natural elements that are factual(2). – they happened.

there’s a caveat though – it’s a non linear documentary – an emerging documentary form.

it sits well with how the museum wants to see itself once it’s open – social, democratic, using the past to inform the present and inspire the future.

reading on into minh-ha’s essay he covers ‘honest’ and ‘manipulative’ in documentary.(2)

i get how a linear documentary has the potential to be honest and at the same time manipulative because of the methods and intentions adopted in the production of the work.

minh-ha examines the methods of recording and using sound in documentary.  in shimmering place the sound is synchronised (when there is accompanying video) as for me this is an absolute essential component of the final work.  the sound is recorded binaurally so when listening on headphones the listener will hear exactly what i heard – it’s more than likely that there is spatial information included in the sound recordings – i’m vague as the hearing in my left ear has reduced spectral range which makes stereo imaging compromised for me in a particular frequency range.

an artistic decision made with the second tranche was to set the angle of view from the camera as fixed.  so instead of having a static camera and using zoom as a means to get closer or further away, i’ve physically moved to create a dynamic shot.  the majority of shots are presented in real time.  occasionally i have used editing to shorten the shot to make it easier to watch.

the video content for the most part has had only a light touch of post production on it to get as close to the original colours as possible. (bounded by my production screen.)


a formal feature of the project is the choice to use only sound recorded in the space – there is no additional voice over.  we hear what happened, we see what i saw(3)

The lift is fab … It really works as you feel like you’re in it – I guess that’s the link with the hand closing the door : )

complimenting the observed are the artist moments – observations and interactions with the building placing the viewer into the action, making a phycological connection for them.  these are carefully managed within the project to give a balance to the observations.

the lift is special. i chose to focus the viewers attention on the sound of the lift in this tranche.  it reminds me of the lift in steve mcqueen’s western deep.


“truth has to be made made vivid, interesting, it has to be dramatised….”  trinh t minha-ha(3).


what emerged for me while putting the project together was the feeling of calm in what i was observing.  this realisation came to me in response to being involved operationally in the museum elsewhere.  so artistically i’ve tried to convey how being involved in the activities in the silk mill has a benefit to one’s wellbeing.  its subtle so i look forward to hearing what your reaction to this is.

the museum promotes means by which one can become involved with the museum.  the project speaks of this through how the documentary becomes viewable through the involvement of the viewer.(4)


i’ve not commented so far on the sound extensions.  these are sound files that run after the video has finished.  they extend the experience of the project.  they are set to loop so in an exhibition setting will punctuate the ambient state of the space.  the silk mill museum is a place of very diverse sound.   the extensions are an experiment based on feedback from the first tranche.


“reality is more fabulous, more maddening, more strangely manipulative than fiction.”  trinh t minh-ha (5)

its about technique  – aesthetics of documentary.  i’m documenting the museum as a place to be with people, making, doing, talking – informed by the collection, being done now, watched in the future present.


in rewriting this post i’m arriving at a different conclusion from the first version.  i chose to rewrite it as i felt i could do better.

minh-ha’s essay lost me from about half way through.  the essay seems to end around the notion of how documentary balances out injustice.  i’m a realist.  if you don’t look you won’t find.

for tranche 3 i’ll use all the artistic / formal features from the first two and as its tranche 3 there will be new ones too as the space will be saying something new.  a question for me to answer is as well as listening to the building who will be present to listen to ?  from what i’ve done so far i haven’t set anything up to film – its all what has been there to observe.  how might this be different in the coming months ?  it felt unknown beginning the second tranche and the third feels even more so now.

maybe the third version will be more about the dialogue i have with the building as i encounter those working there.  that statement fills me with calm – its simple, to the point and understandable.

it infers using the same technical set up that made the second.  it infers being present at progress meetings within the space.  it infers needing to research being onsite during the building work.   this is a shift from thinking about tranche 3 preceding today.


and it feels good.





(1) stallabrass: documentary page 68

(2) stallabrass: documentary page 69

(3) stallabrass: documentary page 70

(4) stallabrass: documentary page 71

(5) stallabrass: documentary page 73