My ohyoiw work since June:

Despite my vehemently anti-commemoration feelings, when I was asked if I’d like to curate the WW1 research of 6th form students of the Simon Langton Grammar Schools in Canterbury, I was keen to do it. It seemed to me that here was an excellent way to learn more about a subject that appalled me. Unlike an art project I couldn’t go in with strategies to develop the students’ creative responses to the war. There were crucial exams looming, and the long summer holiday. The students had worked closely with the Gateways to the First World War project at the University of Kent’s School of History, and with the team at the Heritage Museum in Canterbury , and they’d also dipped into the Cathedral archives. They’d researched archive material that related specifically to Canterbury, and people who lived here at the outbreak of war. At our first meeting the students looked at the Beaney Museum’s Front Room gallery, and came up with ideas about how they thought their research could be interpreted. They chose three strands of importance: the differences between the experiences of men and women of Canterbury during the War, the development of the War and how it was reflected in the daily life of Canterbury, and their discovery that memorials to the dead were often inaccurate; they wanted to create a memorial of their own.

‘Canterbury at War’ interprets their research.
I’ve made a large map based on a contemporary Ordnance Survey map, on which I’ve indicated events and places of significance, and the people whose documents are in the Museum archives. I’ve also designed a timeline to chart significant stages of the war against events in Canterbury. A cabinet contains archive material that the students used for their project: letters, identity cards, medals etc… I was keen to involve the students in creative activity themselves, and some have made their own ‘artefacts’: a ‘zine about women and the war, a book of authentic wartime recipes, a poem, and a soundtrack to a short film I’ve compiled, featuring popular war-time songs by members of the school choir.
The exhibition also looks at the value of remembrance, and the un-remembered: 306 soldiers who were executed for insubordination between 1914 – 1919.

This leads in to my installation ‘Flight’ in St Marys Church in Lower Hardres, nr Canterbury, from October 18 – Nov 2, which tells the stories of some of the men ‘shot at dawn’.
Now the Beaney exhibition is open, I have two weeks to complete the preparation for ‘Flight’: all the objects are made, but I’ve found so much variation between ‘official’ lists of those 306 men, that I’m double and triple checking now.


28 June – my birthday
100 black balloons released in a clear dawn, above the Kentish countryside. Did you see them, floating delicately, ominously, on the cool air?
They signalled the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, by a 19-year old Serbian man. It was the event that catapulted the world into four years of warfare on an unprecendented,industrial scale. It was an excuse used by power-hungry politicians and leaders to make new allies and predate on other countries.
What is different today?
What have we learned from remembering for one hundred years the tragedy and loss of life that was ‘the War to end all Wars’?

Today is 2nd August – Monday is the 100th anniversary of Britain declaring war on Germany. Everywhere there are arts-related/war-related events, commemorating the centenary. My local church has a small exhibition of details of the lives of the men from the village who lost their lives. They have added ‘Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow’ to their display. Will it encourage people to do more than shake their heads and say ‘tut’ ‘tut’? I doubt it.
We feel there’s nothing we can do,as each new atrocity unfolds before our eyes today: the killing of civilians in Gaza, the shooting down of a passenger aircraft over Ukraine, we protest quietly. We could be on the brink of a third World War, and there are some that would welcome it, just as in 1914.


It’s 9th June and I was unable to make a war piece for May – partly because I lacked time, partly inspiration. But my film ‘Salient’ was part of the Whitstable Biennale Satellite Film programme, so that’s travelling a bit further.

I’m amazed and intrigued by people’s attitudes (or lack of them) to the prospect of war. Are we so protected and confused by the media that there’s no original thinking going on any more? Most people I talk to about it fall silent, or ask How else could it be? when I talk about imagining different ways of organising politics and power. I probably seem ‘woolly-minded’ – a bit ‘new-age’ and idealistic.

Where is the place for nationalism, colonialism, patriotism, fundamentalism, and all the other isms today, in an increasingly fragile world (fragile in the sense of it supporting human life) ?

At the moment we don’t even know how to deal with war criminals who destroy their country, their people and still demand the respect and privileges due to the leader of a nation.

If people see the possibility in something, if people imagine change and re-organisation, reality follows. But in the West there are some very negative dominating imaginings – mainstream narratives that always involve conflict – very few in comparison are enlightening or uplifting, and by the nature of their medium are seen as ‘entertainment’ -a thing apart, something to be consumed rather than considered.

For OHYOIW June – I will release 100 red balloons on my birthday, which happens to be the anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Hapsburg empire – assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serbian nationalist in 1914. It precipitated Britain into war – a ‘War to end all Wars’ as it was bombastically described!



Today is 2nd May – I’m surprised that I haven’t been able to visit my blog for a month – until I think of all the commitments, distractions and ephemera of life.

Two days ago the Assad regime in Syria was supposed to give up its stockpile of chemical weapons.

Today Russia stands with its big feet on the borders of the Ukraine.

In Nigeria, schoolgirls abducted two weeks ago on the eve of their exams, have not yet been located.

In the Arctic countries fight over resources, regardless of the delicate balance of the environment.

And so on and on…

What is wrong with the governments who are supposed to be managing their countries? They have not developed, they do not think beyond today. They have no imagination, and even less humility. They are, on the whole, in-human.

In Britain over the next few months there will be electioneering, and where are the people with moral fibre, character, presence? Politics world-wide seems to have boiled down to a game in the playground between bullies. If they’re not arguing about the economy, they use religion. ‘They’ tend to wear grey suits and some, ethnic headgear. ‘They’ make decisions that we have to live with, or die for, it seems.

We are not without power, but we’ve been conditioned to be afraid of using it.

I found it difficult to make my ‘war-piece’ for April, and finally settled on using a painting I’d abandoned temporarily, and an aerial view of Kiev. It’s called ‘Is this what we died for?’ and commemorates eight Ukranians killed on 20th February this year.

How many more are about to die, for the sake of flimsy ideologies, and rampant greed?


It’s the 1st April today: beautiful sunshine, warm – it has been a long winter. I

I have been asked to design a book cover and characters for a fantasy novel. The subject, warfare and battles, set in a vaguely classical context.

Technologically we are so advanced, but our minds and imaginations are tiny and circumscribed by our social context.

Stephen Hawking suggests that we go and populate other worlds – having outgrown this one. Doesn’t that sum up something very wrong with so-called intelligent thinking?

The Syria crisis is appalling: we stand by and watch as a country is ruined and people annihilated – just as villagers living near the death camps turned a blind eye and a deaf ear. Afraid.