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Where did January and half of February go?
The last six weeks have passed in a blur of activity.
We got the fantastic news at the beginning of January that our grants for the arts funding bid to Arts Council England for our Wur Bradford project ‘We Are Here’ was successful – brilliant news!

Myself and my Wur Bradford artist colleague Chemaine have been developing work in Bradford’s Oastler Market for the past year in collaboration with market traders involving walks and maps, poetry in a market cafe, and a Market Shrine. Last year we devised a project that would enable us to further develop this work and to work with the traders more deeply. We are utterly delighted that the project has been funded – it feels very important that WE ARE HERE happens now, at a time when the future of the market as it is now (targeted for demolition and relocation)  is uncertain. The project will involved a number of guided walks, an exhibition and two events in the Market in April which are all about documenting and celebrating the history, stories and communities of this beautiful vibrant market.
The project also gives Chemaine and I an opportunity to collaborate to create walks, mapping and movement in the market, and share our respective practices of dance and visual art. To have dedicated and funded time to develop this work together makes us VERY happy – often our work is focussed on  engagement and facilitating the creativity of others, which we love – but we also need to feed our artistic practices separately from this.
Last week we did our first public guided walk ‘ Getting Lost on Purpose’ a lunchtime walk which was about exploring the market in unusual ways to defamiliarise ourselves and to experience it in different ways. I made a zine to give to people which contained a walking game (First Right, Second Left, Third Right, Repeat for 10 minutes) and Chemaine led a walk which involved a word game.

We were excited and a bit nervous about our first walk but it turned out beautiful. We met in the iconic Fountains Cafe and were delighted to have 12 participants join us, some whom we knew and others we didn’t. We began with asking people about their use and experience of the market, and then off we went on a word and getting lost adventure, bumping into traders and stalls along the way.
There was lots of laughter and participants really entered into the spirit of an adventure. The feedback at the end was really valuable – people had different entry points and valued different things:

(photos by Dipak Mistry)

The market is fanastic.. the getting lost game definitely got me lost! Did that feel ok? Yes that felt nice! It was great

 There’s more variety than there used to be.. some of the food is really interesting.. the Middle Eastern stall.. a friend told me about it and said it was really good, and unusual.. so I thinkI’ll come back for that..

How did you find the games? They made you stop and look at things that you would just walk past…

Laughter with people, meeting the stall holders.. and… I have spent time here photographing but I’ll definitely be coming back and trying to get quotes.. The one thing I really loved was the man about the plastic head and it used to be Elvis till someone took the chip out his back.. and I thought I’d love to get pictures… and little vignettes of what I’ve overheard… So I’m going to come back and do that!
I’m going to make more of an effort to come up and do my shopping.. I had my first cannoli!

The general response and feeling was that the market is wonderful and people would be coming back to spend more time there and to shop, discover and eat there.
We are now thinking about the next guided walk on on 1st March and other ways we can playfully explore, map and celebrate this wonderful market with others.

As part of our professional development for the ACE funded project we planned in  some critical/evaluative discussion events with one of our partners, Gallery ll at University of Bradford. Andy Abbott, curator at the gallery, who we have worked with both as individual artists and as Wur Bradford for a number of years, has been helping us host and frame these discussions with selected artist peers and other selected arts professionals working in socially engaged practice to support us  in thinking through the project at the beginning middle and end points.  The first of these discussions was this week, where we invited asked the question

‘What are the questions we should be asking ourselves?’

Over a lunch of fresh produce sourced from the market, we had a very fruitful (excuse the pun) and convivial discussion with artist Toby Lloyd, artist/curator Caroline Hick, academic and researcher Rebecca Senior (currently working with AxisWeb),  artistic director of Theatre in The Mill Richard Warburton and writer and activist Stephen Pritchard. Having the opportunity to share conversation and reflections with this bunch of people was invaluable at this early part in the project, and the discussion generated has been giving us much food for though in looking at how we meaningfully evaluate the project with all involved. These kinds of occasions and opportunities, to have focussed discussion on our projects, are so rare as we often are so busy with delivering – so we really appreciate to have this time which funding from the Arts Council supports.

We also had the opportunity to spend some time separately with both Stephen and Toby in Oastler Market showing them around and talking to traders – again, getting the chance to share live projects with artists working in the field was invaluable.

WE ARE HERE is supported by Arts Council England, Bradford Council and Bradford MarketsMore about the project here https://wurbradford.wordpress.com/2018/01/24/announcing-we-are-here-in-oastler-market/