Photo: John McCormick
My photographer friend John (with whom I recently submitted the first piece of Murdoch-McCormick collaborative work, ‘Creps’ for the Harts Lane gallery open call) spent some time with me in my studio at the end of last week, helping examine, select and photograph the various music boxes that I had taken out of storage. I hadn’t actually had a really close look at them for ages and was pleasantly surprised that I have at least five intact, with working ballerinas. This will be sufficient for my proposed plans for the short film I’m creating with Henrietta (Thomas) and it was good to establish which were still in working order, in advance of film making which starts this coming Friday.
John has now sent through the images he took. There are some very special ones amidst them and I feel so lucky to have been introduced to such a great photographer via another mutual friend. John is very generous with his creative work and is happy for me to use as many as I like of the photos he took; I’m very grateful to him for this and include a couple of my favourites here.
Photo: John McCormick
Another of those moments when I’m so glad that I’ve held onto certain things; so happy to have a stack of annuals from the 1970s/80s close at hand, picked up for pennies in my teenage/early twenties years.
I’ve spent the afternoon thumbing through them, thinking about the week ahead and the inspiration behind the working title for ‘I Always Wanted To Be …’
From the personal to the political, there’s so much of interest to read, still – tales of a defining British class system and a sense that it was only the privileged who could make it as a ballerina. I recall so many of the stories depicting ballet stars arriving in chauffeured cars, accompanied by wealthy parents – haughty mothers, dressed in fur, fathers in suit and tie and hat.
And yet, despite knowing that I was never going to fit in or indeed, ‘make it’ in a dance world, there was plenty to draw me in and encourage me to dream. Judy and Princess annuals, nearly always found amidst my presents on Christmas mornings throughout my childhood, fed into my fantasy – stories about young fictional characters who against all odds, went on to be ballet stars.
I have more to write about, but it’s the end of a lazy sunny afternoon and I have other things to get on with. I spent a good part of Friday in the studio with my photographer friend, John who had kindly agreed to take some images of the music boxes. It felt good to start the process of unpacking and examining them in preparation for the start of filming next Friday, 19th. There are inevitable signs of wear and tear – hardly surprising considering some of them have been around since the ’60/70s, possibly even earlier. And if my own experience is anything to go by, music boxes like these were often played with, and frequently heavily handled. But more about that in due course …
‘ I Always Wanted To Be … ‘
Found image, 2016
Found image, 2016
I have collected so much in my life time that I find it hard to justify accumulating more. Storage, while it continues to be as expensive as it is, will always remain a problem and while I’m relying on a friend’s goodwill in letting me use the space in her garage to store the mass that already exists, I’m conscious of not wanting to keep adding to the pile – to keep the space in her garage as tidy as possible – carefully curated, in fact, because that’s what I do to spaces.
But it didn’t take much hesitation to decide to buy this item over the weekend – vintage ballerina items are hard to come by, I know that.
After a bit of discussion with my sister about whether I could justify it or not, her words: ‘but it’s what you’re working on’ were the deciding factor – enough to convince me that I should buy it. I’ve just this minute unpacked it – it’s beautiful! – and it’s clear already, it will tie in so well with the work for ‘I’ve Always Wanted To Be…’
I’m really glad now that I bought it – would have regretted it if I hadn’t, I think, as things as unique as this don’t hang around for very long. It’s as if it was there, waiting for me … even the label appealed, because it is the ‘sweetest vintage child’s tutu.’
It’s brilliant timing for me as well, as I’ve been speaking with John who I did the recent collaborative (Murdoch-McCormick) work with about the possibility of taking some photos of the music boxes. He contacted me last week about being around over the next week or so – I’m already envisaging the tutu nestled amidst the music boxes. Images, I hope, to follow …
I have a tendency to overthink things and this comes to the fore particularly when I’m in the early stages of creating a new piece of work. Overthinking around this new piece (working title: ‘I Always Wanted to Be …’) has been exacerbated by being awarded a-n professional development money to make it. I’ve been going round in circles, feeling slightly paralysed by the pressure I’ve imposed upon myself.
Having put aside August and September as key months for making the work, it’s now a case of carving out blocks of time and getting on with it. Time means money however, and I’m slightly anxious about that. I haven’t had sole responsibility for a budget in this context before and want to strike the right balance between producing film footage of the highest possible quality and ensuring that any collaborators I work with are paid fairly for their skills. It goes without saying of course, how grateful I am to a-n for the bursary – any worries or concerns are really only about wanting to get things right!
Though slightly apprehensive, I’m also very excited about this opportunity. Working with film maker Henrietta Thomas will involve learning skills that are completely new to me. Bearing in mind that I’ve often felt that I’d like to animate and bring to life many of the objects I’ve worked with over the past few years, I’m delighted to have been given the chance to do so. ‘I Wish’ was one of the first pieces of work I ever made. Because it represented dance and ballet, I always felt that the installation would benefit from having some sort of movement. It all seemed rather static somehow, and I remember considering bringing an electric fan into the studio at one point to create movement to the dress itself and to the dancers printed on it.
My longstanding love of dance and the fact that throughout my childhood, I always wanted to be a dancer, means that I’m keen to build upon this particular body of work. I met Henrietta yesterday afternoon to talk through how we’re going to proceed with getting the making of the film off the ground. We now have two confirmed dates in our diaries for meeting up and will see where we go from there. I already feel much more relaxed about the project – there’s something concrete to focus on – it’s the abstract thinking that ties me in knots.
I’m looking forward to reporting back from these meetings but in the meantime, will continue to sift through folders stuffed full of found images of ballerinas and various dance and ballet scenes, some of which have been in storage for years. I’ve also been looking through the 1970/80s ‘Bunty’ ‘Diana’ and ‘Judy’ annuals I’ve collected over the years in which there was almost always a picture story about a ballerina/dancer included. Stories featuring young girls, living privileged, charmed lives added to the fantasy for me – you had to be pretty special to make it as a ballerina; no amount of wishful-thinking over the years ever got me there!