Last week was a thoroughly busy and enjoyable one. I gave my talk on Thursday evening and then on Saturday I was carrying out a live excavation at Norton Common’s Pudding Basin, in which I invited people to come along, see one of my own ‘excavations’ first hand and help if they would like to. It also gave people an opportunity to be in one of these places that I have been so busy talking about.
I had a better turn out than I thought, 11 people in total and two that actually put on the gloves and got stuck in. It was a busy excavation with a high density of finds in a small area. I had chosen an area over the east side of the Basin, next to the rabbit burrow and covering a patch of charred earth that was most likely to be the remains of a bonfire. Most of what we found was
broken shards of glass bottles, burnt newspaper fragments and the occasional piece of some unidentified plastic. It was a little disappointing that we didn’t manage to get much further than the first few metre square sections and start to find more of a variety of objects. (It was the problem of too many finds!) and I was stopping regularly to explain what was going on, with new people arriving.
I really enjoyed this activity, at the Pudding Basin. Being out in the places I am making work about, out of the gallery and able to walk people around the site and talk through some of my previous encounters and hear their stories too. Two people that came had yet to go to the exhibition and I thought this was an interesting way round of experiencing the work.
I was pleased with how the talk went too. It’s not the most comfortable thing for me to do… stand up and talk in front of a sea of expectant faces, but once I got over the initial nerves, I just got on with it and actually thoroughly enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed the Q & A at the end, a time when you start to get a bit back from the audience of how they have connected with the ideas. We had some interesting discussions about the objects found, childhood innocence, the romanticism, the threats posed by these places, the contradictions and challenges.
An interesting and unexpected subject that has surfaced a few times now through conversations about the work and the places it is about, is a connection with the recent proposals put forward by the council, for new housing developments surrounding Letchworth. None of my sites fall inside these proposed areas, but many people have bought this up with me. I wonder how people’s relationships to ‘edgeland’ places change when they are suddenly places under threat. It seems a new consciousness and sensitivity arises when something is about to be lost. I think this anxiety is a really important clue in trying to understand more about our intriguing relationship with our edge landscape.