Threads between words, music and a bundle of old clothes.

(Audio versions of these posts are available upon request)


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I know I don’t usually have such a gap between blog posts, but if you have read the previous one, you will probably understand why I haven’t written!

It’s great, being given funding to realise an idea, but getting the “yes” is also a bit scary! Scary because I feel we have an obligation to deliver… not just for ACE, but also the team we have gathered around us. If you’d like to follow the project please visit :

https://museumforobjectresearch.wordpress.com

Sonia and I have spent the last couple of weeks, as well as getting over the shock, plotting and planning, writing lists of jobs, arranging meetings, visiting venues… there’s lots to do, but at least now we have the money to do it. Thank you Arts Council! We are discovering new ways to work harmoniously, and it feels good. We are an effective partnership I think!

meanwhile…

In another part of my brain is music.

The Sitting Room – my glorious band of songwriters, singers, musicians, and all round lovely people to be with – are recording four songs for a small cd/ep type thing. Having honed the songs by performing them as often as we could squeeze in, we chose four to record with the equally marvellous Dan Whitehouse (you may remember his part in the whole nine women thing?)


We had two days in the recording studio, with the highly sensitive and critical ears of Dan. Each song was looked at in detail, one had a significant rearrangement, and is all the better for it. And THIS… this exploration, critique, play, delving and diving in, this careful, detailed listening and discussion to me is worth the world. I know that other artists and musicians will understand the brilliance of such scrutiny? It can be exhausting, is completely absorbing and leaves no head-space for anything else. But I feel the love in the room… laughter, joy in the art of making something the best you can make it. Singing in harmony, both literally and metaphorically, is just fabulous. There is a light-hearted seriousness here in this group of people, born out of respect and kindness and a common goal. I feel humbled and privileged in their company.


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The spirits have been lifted these past couple of weeks by art-related events, topped off with icing and cherry by the Arts Council saying yes to our funding bid for The Museum of Object Research.

By “we” I mean Sonia Boué and myself…

The original Museum blog was on a-n and gathered a conversation about it, a bunch of artists contributed to the discussion and the short story is, over a very long lunch in Leamington Spa, Sonia and I decided it would be great to make it real.

The funding is to research and develop the idea so that we have the tools, information and all the nuts and bolts in place to make another bid later on. This is a large undertaking, larger than either of us first imagined over the carrot cake and tea that sustained us from lunchtime through the afternoon…

Anyway… a few days later, the enormity of the task before us has sunk in. But I tell you what, I am so excited! This feels like a proper thing! We have gathered an amazing team of artists around us, who will make it meaty, meaningful, and most of all, REAL.

We have already started transferring the blog to a more accessible, trackable, website, so please do join in as the conversation progresses.

This “yes” also means I have a few successful bids under my belt now, either as partner and co-writer, access support person, artist, and advisor. 100% in fact. A fact I find truly astonishing. It appears I am quite good at this. Those years of writing for so many formal and informal reasons has stood me in good stead it seems. I can write succinctly and I can tell a story. The news of this success has reached many ears, and a couple of people have asked me to help them in their bid.

So here I am, weirdly, setting out my stall in a market I didn’t expect! Yes, I can help. But my time is my livelihood now, so I must charge. My attitude towards this is conflicted… of course I must charge, artists must be paid for work, skills and expertise, in whatever field they can. But also, I know that artists are not paid fairly, so they are not always in a position to pay for help… but it has to start somewhere, right? And I know that this service is actually valuable. A well written bid can make the difference between paying the bills or not. I know this because that is how I live myself. It is worth putting hours (days, weeks, months) into an application for funding, because then I can work on what I want to, what is important to me, knowing I am being paid, rather than hawking myself about for badly paid work I don’t really want to do… anyway, you know what I mean.

So… among the preparatory work and researching and developing, I am now available for helping with Arts Council Funding Applications. I have a diary, I can do planning, me!


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So…

After being packed in boxes for 18 months, the bras are hanging in the exhibition space, the songs I wrote are playing into the air around them. The work was finished, the installation complete.

But actually… there could be more.

I hang the bras in a certain formation, in small groups, or a couple individually, in a certain way, and they talk to each other. They all now have distinct characters, and I have their back-stories in my head.

The conversations I have had about the work with gallery visitors, and workshop participants has opened up the dialogue though. There are other women, other stories, ideas for other songs. The configuration of these women is currently, pardon the pun, quite uplifting. I genuinely feel there is a positive vibe going on, and if you’ll pardon another pun, an element of triumph. There is scope here, perhaps, for the dark(er) side. I have affection for these nine. But there are women in the world who do not leave you feeling good. I think, when I made the work, I needed the positivity. I needed to feel hopeful. There might be room then, given that little bit of distance, to be more honest, to poke at the truth that sometimes, we women do ourselves no favours. I think there is room in this installation for a little reality, balance… I could get a bit nasty. I am stronger now than I was when I started. The world view has changed. There is a battle going on. I think therefore, this installation, with a little tweaking, and a couple of additions, could get more political. It could become a protest.

I could push it more.

I am also looking at myself with a little strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. Have I at last identified my own comfort blanket? Am I at last able to be a little more objective and critical (given a little time) about my own work? If this is the case, Bo will be proud!


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I know that as I am typing this at 4:30 am that there will be someone else I know, doing something similar.

Someone mentioned my “insomnia problem” the other day. I don’t know that it is a problem to me, although it may be an inconvenience to my husband. If I lived alone then the creeping about thing wouldn’t happen. I would just start my day twice.

I did lie in bed for about an hour, just to give sleep a chance to come back, as it sometimes does. But not today. The thoughts start to swim, and I know that it is pointless. So as is the usual pattern, I get up, come downstairs, make a cup of tea, sometimes a bit of toast… and usually I write. This morning I have finished off one lot of lyrics that weren’t quite flowing properly yesterday, and started another. Sometimes, this is all it takes to make me feel ready for another snooze, so I go back to bed (often as Mike is getting up) and get in another couple of hours.

When I had to get up at 7 to get ready to go to work I would start the day bitter and twisted and would have to make constant adjustments in order to do the job properly, and prevent myself from getting fired.

These days I rarely have to do that. I am happier myself, but I do think I have rendered myself unemployable by “giving in” to the fickle nature of my mind and body. Occasionally I complain that I am broke. It’s true, I don’t earn much these days, but I consider it the greatest luxury and privilege to have this time to think about things I want to think about. (And have the occasional afternoon nap in the chair. This sounds awfully old doesn’t it? But I am overwhelmed with the inability to keep my eyes focussed, open…)

This morning my thoughts have ranged all over the place. The new lyrics were inspired by those ants that drown alone, but cling to each other to make rafts that float over floods until they reach land or vegetation and can roam alone again. I find this also has a connection to my work, always about people clinging to each other, rubbing off on each other, irritating each other because they haven’t had enough sleep… but holding on to each other, because what else can we do but keep our loved ones close when we don’t understand what is happening in the world, when everything seems so cruel?

The Sitting Room are having a trip to Liverpool on Monday to do some recording. I have of course got a cold and can’t reach the higher notes. This concern seems ego-centric and diva-like. I protect my voice, steam my head, self-medicate…

I am also thinking about the workshops I’m doing, allied to the nine women exhibition: I lead them, and find that as always the artist~tutor gains more than gives… the topics and conversations of the participants steer my thoughts, inspire and affect… rubbing off…

I’m considering doing more of these workshops in my own space over the summer, with and for other artists: The nature of text… unwritten and imagined narratives… remembered and manipulated.

(Do let me know if you’d like to join in!)

Meanwhile, in my studio there is The Awkward Chair waiting for me. I have covered it in the soft, cream, brushed cotton fabric. A blank canvas. It waits for me to decide what will affect it. I look forward to the time (mid May?) when I can immerse myself in making my marks on it.

Also, breath baited, we wait for the Arts Council decision that will decide our fate over the next six months, possibly the next couple of years if all goes well…

Everything is connected…

If you’re drowning on your own

Then cling to me

I’ll grab your sleeve, and pull you close

We’ll make a raft


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Oh My!

Where to start?

Last night’s private view of nine women was fab.

It’s one thing to have a great night out, full of friends, music, art, humour, deep conversation and thought provoking ideas…

It is one whole world away to be in the midst of it and realise that they are my friends, it’s my music, my art… that both the humour and the thought has been provoked by my work…or some of it at least.

It could go either way… either I could be full of myself and thinking how amazing I must be…

or… as has actually happened, I am bemused, confused, flattered, and thinking that someone must be mistaken, and that I’m a huge fraud and I’ve pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes.

But this is kind of the nub of the thing isn’t it?

My statement in my last post about ordinariness. It is precisely that which is appealing, certainly to me when I look at objects, garments, art, music… that ordinary, human voice.

Over the last two and a bit years since the Arts Council gave me the money, I see enormous changes in myself. I am certainly more confident. I do see that I have something valid to say. I no longer care tooooo much if people disagree. Is that arrogant? Possibly.

….or is it the opposite?

I used to be so conscious of myself, how I looked, presented myself to other people.

I have seen some photos this morning, which I will post here. They show me to be exactly what I am: a middle aged, overweight, face pulling woman who waves her arms about. I laugh a lot.

After my mother died, I hardly had any photos of her really, she was the one who took the photos, she hated photos of herself. That is a shame, because we would have loved to have more. So part of my reaction to this is to not care. The people looking at them that love me, will carry on loving me. I don’t care about the rest.

Also, I really feel they give you a flavour of what the night was like.

Oh man I had a good time!

Thank you so much to those who came, and those who couldn’t that sent such lovely messages.

Thank you to Dawn Harris of ArtistsWorkhouse, her wonderful gallery space!

Thank you to Dan Whitehouse, without whom it wouldn’t be very musical at all! I borrow him, and steal his skills, to make me look so much better than I am!

And thank you to Matthew Rea of stinkingdaisy.co.uk who took this batch of photos… I expect there will be more from others later on…


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