There are times when the weather cannot deter me from travelling to and being in the studio. I am a woman on a mission and things need to get done and I need to be there to do them. 

And there are times, like this week, when the weather is just an excuse that keeps me from the studio because I’m not really that sure what to do when I get there!

So, in a fit of probable madness, I have decided to open my studio to the public.  After the end of the project and before Christmas, when it is all an absolute TIP… yep that’s just perfect!

But it sort of IS perfect. It will make me tidy up for one thing, clear the decks and so on. It will make me hang some work on the studio walls both as a sales platform, and as a way of reviewing. If I sell a few things it will make space and a bit of cash. I am conscious that while funding is marvellous, it does not create a sustainable model. The costs involved in putting on events and exhibitions are enormous, and unless you are sure of selling loads, they’re not recovered. 

Also, the Open Studio is a bit more laid back. It doesn’t matter really if people come, I’ve got plenty to do if they don’t. If they do it gives me an excuse for a tea break and a chat. The chat then is more wide ranging too, I don’t feel the need to keep it focussed on the project, and neither do my visitors. I shall hang work in a higgledy piggledy manner, not curated as much as arranged on the hooks that happen to be there. 

I feel as if, now Drawing Songs is “finished” (more of this later?) that I am a bit rudderless. I do need to spend time in the studio, but it will be of the tea-drinking, feet-on-the-table sort of time… maybe with a book… maybe not… it might just be time spent scrolling through instagram, looking at pretty pictures. It will be a time to soak things up, let the words and images filter through a little, remember comments, reactions and feedback. 

Formally, of course, I will have to evaluate the project for the Arts Council, and I do intend to get this in before Christmas. That doesn’t hold any fear, I just need to do it. 

I suppose I’m not quite finished, in that Laura Rhodes and I need to sift through all the photos and video and make a story of it all for a short documentary video. I like to do this because it does round things up nicely, and gives me something to refer people to when they ask what the project was about. Hopefully that will be done before Christmas too.

So… back to the bit about Drawing Songs being “finished”… the funds have been spent, the events have happened, the book and CD have been published and the songs have been sung, the drawings drawn. But there are remnants that linger. I have had conversations, been recommended bits of reading and there are artists I need to look up that people have mentioned. I need to go and see art other than my own… And I need to listen to some music other than the 12 songs that were produced for this! There are threads that need to be picked up and followed, and work that can be done, when I am in the right mind to do it. I do have some new paper and ink to have a go at, smaller pieces to try out some new ways of working, to check out new interactions between materials.

I also have some new lyrics… so I need to think about whether they are band songs, or me songs…

Lots to do then, but I think I will wait until this little bit of snow thaws, and until I’ve finished this pile of ironing…


There’s much talk about at the moment about funding artists to just be artists.

There was an article in the Irish Times  saying that Ireland were going to pay a select number of “creatives” around €300 a week https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/it-s-a-game-changer-for-us-artists-welcome-guaranteed-basic-income-plan-1.4699820

And wouldn’t this be just marvellous? To be able to just get on with it. To be honest I’d be thrilled with that amount per month… but to have an amount you could actually live off while you get to grips with building your body of work and your audience in a meaningful way would be mind blowing. It has an immediate impact on the artist, but an incredible effect on our society too, that artists are valued, and contribute to the way we live our best lives.  A couple of days later I saw this cartoon on Facebook and snorted my tea.

There are so many justifications one has to make about audience, and community participation when applying for funding, it’s a real skill writing the bid for art work that doesn’t immediately engage people who don’t usually encounter contemporary art. You know what? I’m 60 years old. I have spent my entire working life engaging children in and out of school, students, rich middle aged women, poor single parents, people with mental health issues, old people in hospitals… I’ve done my community time thanks.

The work I want to make now is mine. I want to intellectually and creatively engage with other artists in order to develop myself. I no longer feel the need to explain my work to an eight year old. I just want to get on with it.

I am extremely fortunate that I can just about financially manage to do this, with occasional very welcome support from ACE, and ongoing support from my family. But a universal basic income would be terrific for my state of mind, my sense of independence, and would extend my scope- I could travel more, and work with the artists I would love to work with, who happen to live in other parts of the country, and the rest of the world. I have these contacts, but am unable to access the opportunities fully.

I somehow doubt this current government would even consider UBI, and as I get older I doubt I will ever see such a thing before my own state pension kicks in. But I can dream right? And keep writing to my (Conservative) MP, and sign petitions…

I’m old enough to remember the one good thing Margaret Thatcher did… the Enterprise Allowance Scheme… which gave self employed people an income to develop their work – including artists, comedians and musicians… maybe I’ll write another letter to my MP, she might listen to a Thatcherite proposal, but I never thought I’d be recommending one!


The exhibition has come down now. It went well. I expect I will write more as I spend the next month or so evaluating and collating and putting together the images and video for a short documentary.

The making of the drawings is a solitary task, writing lyrics is a solitary task. Putting the exhibition together is a solitary task mostly… I had guidance and help yes, but the responsibility and decisions are mine alone.

So taking it all down, spending time to carefully wrap and label the work is an act of self care… saying thank you and goodbye for a while. I turn off the music, and look forward to listening to things other people have written and made decisions about.

The antidote to this solitary creativity is collaboration. Throughout the project I have been buoyed by the creativity of Michael Clarke, and the way he receives my offerings, it can make you feel very vulnerable, putting the early roots of ideas out for review and consideration. Trusting the person you give these things to is crucial.

So after a couple of late mornings and lazy starts to the days, still rather tired, I head for a band rehearsal last night. Working on things with the band is a different beast altogether. I feel held up, part of something bigger than my own ego desperate for attention… ha!… what becomes important is the whole… more than the sum of its parts. Harmony, a counter melody, rhythm, and the vibe of it all. How does this song make me feel? Small changes can refresh, make one song sit happily among the others… building a set… perfecting the small things that make something magical.

With the permission of my co-writers and musicians Andy Jenkins and Ian Sutherland, I’m posting this rehearsal recording of Long Grass. It’s a song I wrote about my long childhood days in rural Worcestershire. Andy took it and gave it this evocative, gentle melody that also hold a tension that we know this idyll can’t last forever… it’s one of my favourite lyrics, and one of my favourites to sing. It’s a deceptively simple little song, that carries a lot of weight I think…







Remember The Tenth Woman?

The Tenth Woman was a concept conceived in the times after my Nine Women project. The Nine Women spoke (unheard?) about loss, loneliness, life, love and lust …and invisibility…

The Tenth Woman came into existence as a way of dealing with these things: patience, stoicism, strength, speaking out, taking up a space in the world, pretending to be confident until you were. The Tenth Woman became a bit of an alter ego. If Elena feels too small to do something, too timorous, then The Tenth Woman can do it.

I am sure both Nine Women, and Drawing Songs have told a tale entwined with my life, from working in art education, to not, from having my youngest son go to university, move away, come back and move away again. My oldest son through career changes, marriage, and more moves, through my husband’s retirement, illness, and my move from employed to self employed and into independent, funded, freelance professional artist… and a difficult acceptance of a certain level of my own disability. It has been quite a time, and The Tenth Woman has assisted to greater and lesser degrees through it all. She is a powerful force (you can borrow her if you like). 

There is much talk recently about menopause and its effects on women, families, the work force, mental health, physical health, and the breaking of the taboos surrounding it. As a menopausal woman… I feel I am sort of coming out of a decade of inner turmoil, into a state of “I don’t care if anyone thinks I’m too old, too fat, too white haired, badly dressed, I’m no longer scared of you, and I’ll do whatever the fuck I want, I don’t need your approval!”

And I have to say I’m happier for it.

The Tenth Woman then… needs some more thought… I believe her to be a personal philosophy rather than a project, but she will accompany me as I close up this project and consider how best to use what I have learned in the process.