I should have known from previous experience that blogging in the middle of a big intense project wasn’t going to happen.
I’m looking back, 6 or so months on, at my last posts and my intentions to write here about the Wur Bradford Arts Council England funded project ‘We Are Here’ at Oastler Market in which myself and Wur artist colleague Chemaine Cooke set out to work with market traders, BCB Community Radio and the public to celebrate and document the people, communities of this traditional market at a time when it is due for demolition and relocation (more here www.wearehere.co.uk). We did this through a series of public guided walks and then two programmed celebration events in April.
We soon realised after starting the project in January that it was going to be about doing – each idea, action and conversation generating more ideas, connections, collaborations and actions, more often than not involving others – traders, other artists, members of the public. We found that time for our own planned artistic collaboration around walking and mapping (exploring connections between my visual arts practice and participatory walking projects with Chemaine’s movement/dance background and participatory practice) was squeezed as we focussed on delivering the guided walks and planning for the events. Lots to learn here about capacity and time scales (double the length of the project!) and also about being more disciplined about ring-fencing our own artistic time.
Although there were moments of creative frustration in not getting (or making) enough time for Chemaine and I to develop work in the way we intended – with some time and reflection, we can see there were so many valuable experiences to take and learn from and to develop.
Our 7 guided walks around the market, which we did both as open public walks and also with children teachers and parents from the local Midland Road Nursery, were sensory, playful and connective. Feedback from participants was that what they liked best was meeting the market traders and learning about them and their stalls. It was wonderful to work with the traders on these walks, and see how they interacted with the audience/customers, telling stories about their own journeys to the Oastler as market traders, and hear them talking about their produce and products. The personal introductions we were able to make have resulted in people who came on the walks having confidence to go back and chat further with the traders, ask about produce and recipe ideas and generally use and visit the market more.
Now the ACE project time frame is over, we are planning out next piece of work in the market; exploring collaboration possibilities with BCB Radio (http://www.bcbradio.co.uk/) EHRC University of Leeds project ‘Understanding and Enhancing the Community Value of Traditional Retail Markets’ (https://trmcommunityvalue.leeds.ac.uk/) and Sarah Spanton, Director of Waymarking (http://www.waymarking.org.uk/people4.php) which whom I’ve worked with over the past 13 years in a number of different ways.
The next project will look very different, we sense – as we explore our role as artists and possible co-working with the market traders with whom we have built trusted relationships – to addressing what we can do together in the next three years as the market moves.
Walking and mapping will still have a role, as a collective means of connecting people with this fantastic market; exploring its many sensory joys and the communities who work and shop here, and also helping to understand it’s significant community and social value in Bradford. Onwards!
To see a short video and photographs from the ACE funded WE ARE HERE project, visit