The problem with being a prolific maker, and rare seller, is storage.

My studio isn’t huge, but it’s bigger than some. There’s room for me to make large drawings on the table, and also for a music table in the opposite corner, and for about four people to drink tea and eat biscuits (or rehearse) without anyone having to sit on laps. It’s great, and I’m fortunate I know. But anyway, in the day to day accumulation of work, it becomes smaller.

This week, after many conversations with friend and fellow a-n blogger Kate Murdoch, (we talk about the stuff often), I realise that my stuff isn’t stuff I work with, like Kate’s is. Most of it is work already done, that probably won’t ever be shown, and much of what has already been shown may never be shown again. I also think back to the words of another friend, Sarah Goudie, who asks of her work “Has it done its job?”

So I look at the Giant’s Causeway of paper rolls in the corner and I ask the question. The answer is, I have no idea what it all is… let alone whether it has done a job!

I also think that I’m not quite ready to dump it all. It’s good quality paper that I feel sure can be used again. And I would like to have some sort of record of all these lines I’ve drawn. But I realise I am actually not that bothered about them being complete drawings… so that’s one good decision! 

I have decided that what I would like to do with them is make books. When the books are made, I may draw onto the reverse of the drawings, on the blank pages, or write, or maybe not. But now I can see how a row of books might be rather more useful and interesting, and easier to peruse than a load of paper rolls. And so I begin. 

I unroll and weigh down a few sheets on the studio floor and spray mist them with water and go home. When I come back into the studio the paper is flat enough to cut into pieces. 8” x 16” ready to make into 8”square books. A friend is coming over in a couple of weeks to help me start. So I am trying to get as much cut and flattened as I can. 

In addition to the sheets cut to size are a pile of offcuts. And actually these are also more interesting now they can be handled with ease. Maybe collage? Maybe just the ground layer for future drawings? I’m going to take a pile home to play with while I watch tv. Quite often letting my hands do the fiddling while I’m not really thinking about it, I come up with something I might not have thought about at the studio table.

The corner of the studio is already looking better. I do have a few rolls I am keeping, and at least I now know what they are. I have a couple of pieces I would like to work on, and a bigger pile of stuff to cut up. I’m feeling pleased with myself. The studio is a workplace, not a glorified cupboard!

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Had another evening with the Radio Public bunch yesterday.

I am finding it reassuring being in company during the moments of “What the hell am I doing?” Trusting my own process in my own studio is one thing, but having launched myself at something different it’s great to feel I am in good hands and they know what they are doing, or at least they also trust their processes, and I’m ok to follow that.

Last night, after a brief catch up and a tussle with some technology, we embarked upon an evening of making. We talked quite a bit at first, about the words: radio, broadcast, transmit, long wave, short wave, medium wave, ocean wave, sound wave, shock wave, pocket radios, radios that were walnut and bakelite and pieces of furniture. Bill recorded proceedings, including the story of my childhood budgie that would repeat the shipping forecast from his position in the window next to the radio. Helen did a 3D wire drawing of a wonky RKO radio tower that brought many smiles. A trumpet jingle sounded. Collages, poems and other wire drawings made… and then the quiet of making descended…

I cut speech from The Radio Times and stuck it to layers of layout and tracing paper. The darkest and biggest on the bottom, could still be seen through the layers, using progressively smaller print.

I have had this idea about using overheard speech, as people go past in the street. But it’s not an idea that engages people, and is a bit sneaky, possibly borderline unethical, capturing their words for my own purposes without permission. I am not good at approaching people in the street or anywhere really… I prefer the hiding in the corner thing. But this project is called Radio PUBLIC so I have to shove myself out into it a bit more.

All these thoughts provoked a small panic attack as I pasted my collage of layered overheard words and tried to think of a way around it. Helen just said “it’s ok, we will think of something that works”. And so my panic dissipated and I began to think about how I could use the words and sounds once captured/recorded/written…

I’ve also been talking to Bill about extending my “comfortable” length of sound from the 3 minute 42 second song, to a more immersive piece maybe 40/45 minutes long.

It was only while working with these layers of paper and words that my thoughts started to coalesce. The loud words being heard from a distance, the smaller, quietly whispered words only being heard up close… how these words could weave amongst a pattern of sound until you start to invent your own narrative when you hear it. But then, at certain points, that narrative becomes more real, sentences, stories, songs start to appear, they might be spoken, or sung, poetry, prose or song, or a mixture of all. There is a slow breathing through the piece, a rise and fall of clarity and obscurity… now… my first thought was that there would, at some point in this 40/45 mins be a song. But there doesn’t need to be. If I feel the need to write a song it can stand separately. It can follow all those structures and habits that I have come to rely upon. But the longer, immersive piece can be different to this. It can be looser, free from such shackles!

(photos courtesy of Helen Garbett)


I’m rather enjoying the freedom of my art-life at the moment. I have no targets, no deadlines, and apart form the wrapped twigs tangent, I have no work that “needs” to be done. I am revelling in being able to just respond to what comes along.

One of these things is I have signed up for a songwriting residential course, led by one of my favourite singer-songwriters Kathryn Williams.  I have been a fan for many years. Her writing comes definitely from the feminine. It is insightful, imaginative, full of texture and emotion. The Small Elena sat on my shoulder is interested in the fact that I now feel confident to do this. I think it is precisely because it is Kathryn that I do feel able to sign up with a level of confidence. I have a fair few songs under my belt now, and I am no longer hugely apologetic about not being able to play a proper instrument. I can make noises either with the technology or with my voice, so that will do to start with. I am also looking forward to being alone, for a week, immersed in this task, with no responsibilities for housework or catering. I will not be able to escape or excuse myself. I have a load of stuff that I can take with me, and I look forward to learning from someone I admire and respect.

The other thing I am doing away from my studio is I am taking part in a project called Radio Public, led by my friends Helen Garbett and Bill Laybourne. When they asked if I was interested, I just said yes because I like talking to them. So spending time with them, working towards something sounded like a fun way to spend my time. I don’t really do social art or community driven things any more, so it will be good to dip a toe again after many years. I was cautious about working collaboratively though, as in recent years I have not had good experiences, and the fingers still feel a little burned by them, and I still smart a little. Collaboration can be amazing or it can be awful. My collaborative experiences with musicians have been terrific. Those with artists not so good. The difference with Bill and Helen though is that they are very experienced. They know what they are doing. They have ground rules, expectations, boundaries, and also, they have an open and accepting attitude to whatever their collaborators bring, and enjoy the emergence of the unexpected. I do not feel that I will either be steered where I don’t want to go, or indeed taken advantage of. Both of these things have happened before. Dangerous, as I can be a bit of a pleaser… then become resentful of my time being taken, and control over my work being usurped.

Anyway… I’m older and wiser now, and pick my projects carefully. Radio Public has the potential to make a difference, maybe a small difference, maybe bigger… but it’s better than doing nothing. I am becoming more openly political in my work and this I think is another manifestation of that development.


My work has never been overtly political. I often touch on issues almost accidentally as I go about processing my world, and those issues fall more easily into social statement rather than political activism. 

A few posts ago I wrote about the rhizomic way my work seems to develop. Sit on an idea for a while, then it might connect with another and then up sprouts the work, whether that’s a song or a drawing or whatever.

It’s happened again.

I often sit with a cup of tea in the studio, doing the scroll of doom through twitter. Sometimes I have to stop myself, because I just get really angry/sad/frustrated that I can’t do anything to make a change or even deal with things as I would want to. 

The other day I was scrolling through and found an article saying that up to 48% of children in some areas of the town I live in are living in poverty. WHAT?? 48%. I am incensed with rage that this government, in this country that is supposed to be one of the richest in the world, has allowed this to happen. It is time we stopped measuring the country’s richness by how much money the richest have got squirrelled away off-shore, paying no tax on. We should look at how much the poorest have got and take our measurements from that instead. Because this situation is a disgrace and shows us up as merciless, morally bankrupt, selfish idiots.

I then went down a rabbit hole of statistics… looking at the Child Poverty Action Group https://cpag.org.uk/child-poverty/child-poverty-facts-and-figures

And at the 2021 census for my area.

2452 children between the ages of 0-17 years old

31% of all children in the UK live in poverty. That’s 760 children on my doorstep.

49% are in lone parent families. That’s 1,202 children

46% are from black and minority ethnic groups (their terminology) compared to 26% white British. That’s 1,128 compared to 661

75% of those living in poverty are working households.

As I read these figures and work out these percentages I am becoming more and more enraged. 760 is equivalent to a very large three-form entry primary school.


Back in the studio, laid out before me is that increasingly large pile of wrapped twigs. The wrapping I see as an act of care and protection. I have already mentioned here that I see them as families…

I am spurred on to make a huge piece of work. I want to wrap 760 twigs. I have no idea how long it will take, or how much space they will take up, or where I will exhibit them. But it has to be done. I am stating it here, before I even start, just in case I forget the anger, or lose confidence, or get cold feet.