Another show came and went.

I wasn’t sure at first how it would work in the Toffee Factory as the room is much smaller than Hartlepool Gallery . That fact made me join five of the video pieces together into one longer video, and to concentrate the other installation artwork too. It’s a more intimate space and in many ways suits my subject better.

Major difference number two is that here I could black out the room. It meant that I had to employ a couple of people with giant ladders to reach the very top windows and to hang my two banners from the girders, but as they also loaned me a box full of little spotlights it was an expense worth factoring in. The projector was excellent and my HD video (shot 1080p) looked like it was shot 4k… in fact I was asked that question a number of times. Even I, having gone through this material more times than I care to remember, found myself sitting down and watching it with fresh eyes.

Funny how circumstances can lead you into pastures not previously considered. For the preview evening I was (against my better judgement but hey, I was being informal about the whole idea) going to sing my Rink Ballroom duet with another lady whilst the (music only) record played out on the gramophone. After a rehearsal (was it something I said!!?) she dropped out due to work commitments. At that point it all made sense…

…One aspect of the piece that is increasingly important, an idea still in development, involves my composite character Jack Brunel. He plays the trumpet and is a fan of Wagner’s sense of the EPIC. There are references to opera all over this narrative and I have been musing how to incorporate this element in another piece. I also had an opera singer in mind – an ex Scottish National Opera soprano called Dawn Furness. She has an amazingly powerful and commanding voice and it seemed serendipitous that I now needed a singer. Sacking myself from the job was a relief, and it freed me up to link the idea together.

Ever since I won my first church eisteddfod diploma for bible reading, I have been quietly confident about reading prose aloud. In contrast to my confidence in any other public speaking it has to be said. I decided to read an abridged version of the Jack Brunel story on the night.. leading into Dawn doing her thing with my song. It was a much more joined up idea. The narrative talks about ‘Norns’ … mythical female beings who control the destiny of gods and men.. so Dawn – stood on a flight case with her skirt down to the ground, towering above the audience; a powerful presence to match her powerful vocals; made the idea real.

Oh and there was SPAM! Arts sponsorship made real ha ha. Via my friends at East River PR, SPAM provided a selection of nibbles which were actually delicious. Yes I’m sorry to offend any vegetarians, but there was a relevant reason for it. During the war, and in the dour years following, SPAM featured in many of my interviewees lives. It seemed to fit… for one evening only anyway.

On the night we had quite a few people turn up and what was most encouraging was that everyone I spoke to seemed to get it. I had lots of great conversations about the piece which is really what these things are all about. So much time is spent making the work that sometimes it’s just great to get feedback.

I wasn’t sure if many people would come to the show the following days as the Toffee Factory is not so much an established art gallery, being more know for digital media and events, but in fact quite a few people made their way down over the next couple of days, and it was good to get some more constructive feedback.

All in all I’m glad I did it. Going forward, I hope it will show other galleries how this piece can be shown effectively in differing spaces.