Having had three days away from the studio attending to the domestic and the social, I’m feeling rather more balanced and rested.

After my last post, I had several messages of support. These gave me a real boost. My emotional energy was really low, and I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. (HaHaHa… I’m far too pleased with that). Huge thanks to all those who sent emails, messages, and zoomed… they worked.

Discussion followed concerning the role of the artist. My job was to absorb the material, consider, and respond. I am loath to use the word inspiration when it comes to statistics of child poverty. I’m not inspired I am enraged. My job is to communicate that feeling, in the hope the viewer also responds. The important thing to me with this body of work is to get it seen. The RBSA has afforded me that opportunity, for which I am grateful. So, as I said previously, I’ve never made work so overtly political: in addition I have never made work that from the outset needed to be exhibited… the whole point of it is to be shown to others. Early on in the process of wrapping, I knew how many I was going to wrap, and how they would be displayed. This is rare.

I have been driven to make this work. I was intensely emotionally invested in its creation.

But from the moment it goes up, it’s got its own life. We shall see what happens next. I’d like it to travel elsewhere to be seen more broadly. So, if you are reading this and know a space it would fit, invite me in, let’s talk!


The purpose of this blog is (has become) to map not just the process of the work and where it goes, but also a voyage of self discovery. What sort of artist am I?

My artist statement talks about the relationships between people, that I observe. After discussions recently I come to realise the observation is only the first part.

I observe, yes, and I respond. But the most important part is that I respond because I care. I care about what I’ve witnessed. And the way I make things is with care.

Love is all you need, right?


I sat in the studio for about five hours today, stitching the hanging rings onto the wrapped twigs. I have done 740 out of the 760, but by 4:30 my eyes had gone blurry and my hands were sore, so I decided the last 20 could wait until tomorrow. The rest of the work is ready, other than some mirror plates and hanging devices. So I do feel prepared, and ahead of the game even. The remaining tasks won’t take long.

As the task of wrapping and stitching progressed, it felt like a marathon, I certainly hit The Wall with it, two or three times I think. But since discovering the statistics, I made a commitment to represent this obscene percentage, these 760 children, in this way. The act of wrapping becoming an act of care as I carried on. But because there are so many, it is also a task that has been tedious, physically and emotionally painful… and this I think, is all part of the work. It has seemed relentless. But the relentlessness of creating a work of art cannot be compared with the relentlessness of living in poverty, trying to bring up your children with little or no money, in times when the cost of living just gets higher, and the political situation seems to get more hopeless with each passing day. 

As this pile of twigs has got bigger, I have started to question it. It is a pointless, futile gesture, by someone who is comfortable, middle class, warm, well fed… my privilege bites me at every turn. I have never been so aware of it. I’ve never felt so useless. I have a vote, and I write emails to my useless MP. I share things on social media and I sign petitions that get ignored. 

I have 20 twigs to do tomorrow. I will do them. I can’t let the last 20 defeat me. 

But I am wondering if it will even make the slightest difference to anyone at all. I am kidding myself if I ever thought it would. It has made a difference to me. It has exhausted me, and made me ache, and made me cry. But what use is that?

This is the first piece of work I have done that is directly, overtly political. It might be the last.



I write from North Devon, having made a journey yesterday that in many ways was more difficult than the one I made to America. The weather was stormy… a bridge-closing gale-force wind, and driving rain. The motorway was thankfully not as busy as it sometimes is!

So I arrive, white-knuckled and achey, to a warm welcome and a beautiful house. This is not a beige house. This is a house full of colour and life, lived in and loved. It is calm, but there’s plenty to look at. Good art, interesting books and music collection… and that’s what I am here for.

It’s the home (and studio) of Michael Clarke. I’m here to first of all bring together the collection of sounds and words I have been amassing over the last few months. This piece will be played as part of the Five, Six, Pick up Sticks installation at RBSA next month. It feels good to get it sorted, and Mike has done a sterling job as always, as I knew he would. He is good at interpreting my weird non-musical descriptions and gestures.

That came together remarkably quickly, and listening to it fresh this morning, there are only one or to minor tweaks I think.

Then the real fun starts… I love writing songs with Mike, I dump a whole load of words on the table (or in his inbox) and he reads and noodles about until he finds a fit, and then we wrestle the words into shape, do ridiculous things, make daft sounds, and out of the fun songs emerge… some sad and tender, some funny, sung with the voice of Springsteen, or Rufus Wainwright, or whoever Mike feels the urge to mimic… we share and borrow and steal and adapt, playing each other selections from our own collections and tastes, which inform and steer the writing. When an idea is sorted and done, we leave it and move on. This is not the time for perfect production, recording is done quickly on phones, just to document where we got to. Then start on another. 

This group of lyrics – about six songs I think – I have been saving for this occasion. They are loosely themed around water, and most of them inspired by Tania Kovats’ book “Drawing Water” that I bought after her exhibition at New Art Gallery Walsall a few years ago. It is a book I dip into frequently. Thank you Tania!

I am now sat at the kitchen table, eating breakfast while I type. We have this morning to work some more, and then after lunch I will do the return journey, hopefully in better weather!


Even though this work is not yet finished, even though I have still to work out how it will be installed, and indeed how much of it will be installed, there’s a little voice in the back of my brain yelling “WHAT’S NEXT???”

I am fully aware that this is ridiculous. I’ve not stopped working since autumn 2020, when I got the ACE funding to do Drawing Songs. When that finished, I was exhausted, and satisfied that it had gone well. I then became an associate member of The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists on the back of it. I was the first artist to have submitted a sound piece as part of my application. Of this I am very proud, and will continue to tell people for years to come. So get used to it, it’s a big thing for me, and whatever else happens, I will always be the first. 

After that, I decided I needed a break, and started doing some very pared down observational drawings of twigs I picked up in the park. This was supposed to be the work that fed me, levelled me, and got me to a place where I could think clearly. I’m still not sure whether this is unfortunately or fortunately, the work that turned into the next Project, that I am going to show in May. Fortunately because it has become a body of work that really means something to me, and will be my first solo show at RBSA. Unfortunately because I am beginning to feel like I’ve not had that rest yet.

And yet there’s still that voice asking “What’s next?”… 

We live in an age when artists are posting on Instagram and twitter weekly, daily, even hourly… what they are making and doing, what’s going on… what’s NEXT?

Well. I’m going to need a break. This year so far has been astonishing, amazing and wonderful, full of opportunities and meetings and conversations and achievements. But that level of artistic activity is not sustainable. There needs to be down time… slow time… thinking time…

and I’m really looking forward to it… maybe in June?

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Did I tell you I’ve been to America?

After the last time I went in 2014 there were ripples… extra exhibitions, extra connections, for years after. And then remarkably the invitation from Debra and the pull back…

I’m starting to feel that happening again, and I’m so glad of it. An existing connection strengthened. I am a firm believer that these connections make the world a better place. It might just be little old me, doing a bit of art, but it is important. You’ll not convince me otherwise. 

While Deb and I talked and worked together, and for the ten days lived together, a bond was strengthened.

While Colin and I rehearsed my Drawing Songs, and figured out new and exciting arrangements for guitar player with blisters, we swapped stories of bands and songs: those we had played and those we knew… some in common, and some new, a friendship formed. Hilarity ensued.

I casually dropped into the conversation that I might write some lyrics about my trip… and if I did, and if he was interested I would send them to Colin if he’d like to write the music.

Well I did. He did. And yesterday he sent me the first draft recording.

I love it… it actually sounds American. Whatever that means. I don’t just mean his accent. I don’t know what we will do with it, but we will probably record it properly, with some harmonies and maybe a violin. 

What better way to document my stay?



I had ten days in Jamestown
To get to know myself
I saw my lives hung on the walls
My loves placed out on shelves

You built for me a small house
So I would feel at home
Flowers grew up all the walls
But I sat inside on my own

Every line I’d ever drawn
And every stitch I’d sewn
Laid out bare before me
My tears, my blood and bones

I sang songs that felt like family
You played songs I’d never heard
They sounded pretty and sweet to me
But I don’t remember the words

I owe so much to so many
I couldn’t pay it back in full
I could count out all my pennies
And I’d still owe you some more

 Every line I’d ever drawn
And every stitch I’d sewn
Laid out bare before me
My tears, my blood and bones

If I had ten more days in Jamestown
I might stay till I die
Because every day I spend there
Is like I’ve only just arrived

Because every song I write there
I take liberties with rhyme
Because every friend I make there
Is like I’ve known them all the time