SATURDAY 6 APRIL 2019
Rocked up to Artlink, one of my favourite arts spaces in Hull. The morning was quite heavy, but I really enjoyed it. Vikkie showed a Powerpoint explaining all about the City of Culture (C0C) in Hull – it’s amazing how I had already forgotten about half of the stuff that happened. That’s quite bad isn’t it? It led into a big discussion about both the benefits and criticisms of the management and delivery of CoC, to which the Hullians gave their perspectives through discussion and within a carosel type arrangement. That morning, Franco Bianchini, Director of the Culture, Place and Policy Institute from the University of Hull, came to visit us and gave us a presentation on the statistical analysis of CoC. It was heavy and the facts and figures we’re fired like a machinegun but were REALLY fascinating; I found Franco himself very interesting and if I were in a better place mentally, I think I would have liked to have a natter about it all.
After lunch, the Hullians took the group to various people/places within the city as a bit of ‘field research’ about the impact of CoC to learn of some different perspectives (and in turn, how that relates to personal practice). The group were invited to choose between going to:
- a studio in town to see a local artist, with Ailsa – I forget exactly who and what it was exactly!
- a big community graffiti event down Preston Road, with Steve
- an activism event/performance at Bean and Nothingness, with Hannah
- to the Park Ave art studios to see local (community/) artist Sharon Darley, with myself
I had a good group come with me to see Sharon – we were there chatting to her for about an hour. Shaz is my studio neighbour and in the ~4 months we’ve been in there together, we’ve become pretty good mates and seem to be quite good at lifting each other up; Shaz is great and I have a lot of time for her. Before recently focusing on her own practice, she worked with the Goodwin Trust in developing community arts in Hull. She did a lot during CoC and is very involved with arts and culture in the City, so I asked if she would be happy to share her experiences to the UNIONites as she would have a very unique perspective on CoC and would be very insightful and honest about sharing her experiences. And wow, she didn’t fail to deliver! Sharon, if you’re reading this, you certainly made an impact.
She spoke about how CoC changed her life and gave us answers to questions that we went to ask, but it was the other more personal, meaningful stuff that I (and I’m sure the others) remember the most. Shaz was relatable and reassuring to literally everyone who came to see her, and made us all feel very positive and optimistic about ourselves as artists and change-makers.
After heading back to Artlink, we relayed what we had found out to the rest of the group. Some of the most heard phrases that afternoon included ‘Shaz is amazing’ and ‘We love Shaz’! It was great to hear what the others got up to though – the Preston Road graffiti event seemed to have made an impact on those who went too. I would have loved to have gone to Bean and Nothingness but I’m glad I went to the studios! It felt strange having others in my studio space though – there’s something quite vulnerable about it.
The following task involved mixing up the groups and coming up with some idea about how we would respond to a CoC event landing in our home town, using the information we’ve learnt and the criticisms raised of CoC from Vickie, the Hull UNIONites, Franco, the cities artists and our own practices as inspiration. Living in Hull and experiencing CoC, it was a bit tough to think what I’d do in response to a megaevent ‘after the fact’ (if you know what I mean), especially since I’m already responding with The Critical Fish.
It’s been almost a month since the residency, so I don’t remember all the presented ideas, but my groups idea involved inviting the city’s artists (as a critique of CoC was that local artists weren’t involved/consulted/supported or raised on this platform) to work collaboratively with the community (as much of CoC felt ‘done to’ instead of ‘done with/by’) on the back of already-scheduled buses (simple way to bring culture to diverse communities whilst promoting environmentally-friendly transport). The back of the bus could host performances, gallery spaces, drop-in workshops, poetry readings, conversations… whatever reflects the resident artists practice. Artists could sit in residence as part of an organised programme of bus residencies, or randomly, or both. They can choose to stay on one bus, or bus hop. In addition, bus fare would be included in the booking of tickets for organised cultural events (as transport costs are often a barrier for everyday folk to access arts). On the buses, there would also be a way of displaying a real/digital community notice board, which people could post offers of car shares or proposed shared taxis to cultural events to further reduce barriers. Art on buses. I reckon it’s a corker of an idea. I’ve got a thing about buses as a tool for community cohesion – I’m already trying to get a Recovery College bus!
We did a bit of reflection in our journals before ending for the day at 5pm. We went over to PAVE for a coffee before heading to a nearby Thai restaurant for dinner at 6pm. The meal was lovely. Some went out partying/drinking/socialising after the meal, but I weren’t feeling right in the head so I felt it would be best for me to head home and have a chilled night. Which I did!
- I am genuinely ashamed of the racist alt-right attitudes apparent in Hull. Obvs, not every Hull resident is like that, but it reared it’s ugly head and it made me angry and sick. I also acknowledge that this may paint Hull in a negative light, but you can’t dispute that it happened.
- We love Shaz. And everything she said.
- The concept of artists being a target for violence in society had never occurred to me. I know it goes on all over the world, but surely not in the UK? Naive, possibly, but it did shock me a bit.
- Authenticity is king.