This Thursday will be the official start of my 3 months residency at x-church in Gainsborough. And I am truly excited about it! Not least because I have a beginning but can’t quite imagine what will happen during the three months. Residencies to me are usually full of ‘the unknown’ with partly predictable tracks and trails that only open up whilst being on the journey. But this one is different. In part this might be because I will try to collaborate with people and at the same time I also want to achieve a tangible and lasting outcome not only for me but also for the community. A lot to aim for in a short period of time.

Yet coming back to my starting point. It is simple and consists of a set of questions that go as follows: What does it mean to live in this particular neck of the wood? What does it mean to be a resident in general? As this is abstract yet concrete I will try first to get to know most of the people that are connected to x-church. Who knows? It might spiral out and end up mostly to be about what goes on outside the parameters of this lively hub in the community. I also indicated that I want to achieve a tangible outcome that functions not only for me as an artist but also for everyone who care to become part of this what I try to do. The idea I have at the moment is books. Printed books, one off books, zines, books for an audience of one or books to be viewed by many. This all depends on how it pans out, how many want to be involved and on what level. An unknown quantity. And that makes this project truly exciting too!

As some of you might know, I am not a book artist or publisher but an artist who works with photographs, moving image and sound. But, I have to confess, I suffer seriously not only from a love of seeing but also from an addiction to the printed matter.

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Last Thursday was the beginning of my residency with x-church and more or less the first thing that happened was that Marcus Hammond and his helper Lee installed a rope for the children’s project. I should add that every Thursday between 4 and 10pm, there are three groups at x-church. The first is for kids up to the age of 11, the next is till age 15 and the last one is for teenagers and young adults.

Installing a rope sounds pretty harmless. Yet, in case I have not mentioned, Marcus as the creative director, likes a challenge. When he said that he needs to fix the rope before having a chat with me I of course offered to help. Yet entering the main space of x-church I began to understand what this actually meant. It entailed climbing on a at least 10 meters high scaffolding tower, then leaning a long ladder against one of the beams, and climbing up on it. The next step involved putting a protective sheet over the beam and then gradually pulling a thick rope over it. This was a task by itself as the rope is very long and heavy. Lee was also on the scaffolding tower and helped pulling the rope whilst holding onto the ladder. Making a knot into this rope so that it is secured was no mean task either as it is at least 30 meters long.  You might wonder what I did. I also helped though with my feet firmly on the ground. I passed the rope up for a bit but mostly gave moral support. And I took images to steady my own wobbly knees whilst looking up. As you might have gathered, I chickened out seeing how high up this is and neither climbed the tower nor the ladder.

Once, installed it was rather beautiful I must say. There is a big knot at the end and kids sat on this being pushed by each other. The more daring definitely tried to fly with it! This was definitely one of the highlights of the evening for them. I hope to take some images with some of them on it soon!

The nave of the former St. John the Divine is probably one of the largest in the country and likely to be the only truly accessible ‘public’ indoors space to run and roam freely for the kids in Gainsborough. Even though Gainsborough is in the countryside housing in this particular area is dense which does not only restrict the indoors space but also what is left as public space.

During the late afternoon and evening I had plenty of opportunity to talk with the wonderful helpers of the children’s project: Carol, Angie, Izzy, and Richie, and with some of the kids and young adults. There are definite plans in place for my next visit and I will start drawing maps with some of the kids and look at what some of the older ones do as part of their art practice. Later in the evening when I escaped the cold of the nave to the café, we also hatched exciting plans involving ‘Chateau Marcus’. About this I will write in another blog.

I also must say that watching the rope being fixed with such commitment proved to me not only the worthiness, a word I rarely use, of the project but it also revealed some of the essence of x-church. That everyone engages with each other despite the large space being so cold also shows that people in the project are not only hardy but truly engaged.

A mental note to me for the next time though is to invest in some thermal underwear!

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