As usual when I have had a break from blogging – I think about two or three weeks? – it takes a while for me to decide what to blog about.

I have just come back from a week at Lumb Bank, formerly the home of poet laureate Ted Hughes. It is now owned by Arvon, a company that put on workshops and residential courses for writers of all kinds. I did a songwriting course, led by my heroes Kathryn Williams and Michele Stodart. Two excellent songwriters. Kathryn in particular has been a huge inspiration to me. It took a huge gulp of courage to enable me to sign up to do this. All those imposter syndrome questions reared their ugly heads: “Am I good enough?” “ Will I be able to do the work they set?” “Will it matter that I don’t play an instrument?” “Will I be the oldest there?” “Will I understand what’s being asked of me?” You get the gist… anyway, after asking a few people I admire and trust for a bit of feedback on the work I’ve done, I decided to do it.

I have to say it was marvellous. Of course I was good enough, of course I could do the tasks set, of course it didn’t matter that I couldn’t play an instrument, and no, I wasn’t the oldest, and yes, I understood perfectly well! The group of my fellow students were lovely, supportive, encouraging. The culture of the group was set as a safe place to play, collaborate, experiment, and show each other what we had done. Apart from a small hiccup in proceedings, ultimately solved by Kathryn and Michele, the week was inspiring, interesting, full of imagination!

So I have come back all fired up with enthusiasm, but completely exhausted. I think it will take me a while to recover, and to get to a point where all I have done has been digested and contemplated and possibly written about too. Maybe here, maybe not…

Having slept better than ever on Sunday night, and Monday night, and after having extra top-up naps, this morning I felt the need to visit the studio. Having spent the week inside my head, I felt a great need to draw, large, arms reaching, making marks as far away as I could. And so that is what I did, I only lasted about three hours, but I spent it making large marks on large paper. I used coloured soft pastels on watercolour paper, then spread them with a little water. The paper is crumpled and creased a little, and my marks follow those contours. Next time I will draw over them, probably in ink.

It’s good to be home.



For the Radio Public project on Dudley High Street I have been working with a group of six artists, which then became eight, except working with isn’t quite right… we worked alongside each other, helping, overlapping when needed, but mostly doing our own thing. I wasn’t sure what this was going to be, but as the weeks went on I found myself working with words. A recurring medium: found, collaged text, overheard words, volunteered gossip and secrets. I’ve used different forms of this in drawings, and also as a prompt to my songwriting. So I suppose not unusual in itself, but the method of gathering and putting together was different. I took photos of text around the high street, then edited, printed and cut the images into separate words, (I supplemented with headlines from the Radio Times) from which I could construct surreal, and nonsense sentences. On one of the Tuesday evenings this became a spontaneous, focussed activity for the whole group, causing great merriment! The smaller phrases were turned into badges to give out, and they were very popular. However bizarre, people did seem to find something daft to identify with, and claim for themselves as a thank you for participating in the activities and giving feedback.

While reflecting on these last few weeks of convivial making, I realised I have missed having Louise around at General Office. Just knowing she was there was a tangible comfort. I’ve had other neighbours since (three) but not that relationship. We didn’t work together, but we did work alongside. Even if it was down the corridor with the door closed. That might seem weird, but I know what I mean! A mutual coffee break or chatting over lunch was always welcomed.

I have decided that following on from Radio Public, I should seek out opportunities for this alongside business. I think it is good for me, and good for my practice. I am less isolated. Even though I like my work to be separate, a close and allied group is supportive.

Having returned to chopped text, I find myself looking at a couple of drawings in the studio, thinking they might benefit from a small amount of collaged text. I’ve not been completely happy with them, and they were rejected by the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize, so I lose nothing by reworking them slightly. I might then enter one or both for the RBSA Prize exhibition.

All this will come after my songwriting retreat though. I shall leave the studio tidy, then come back to it refreshed.