All Things are Connected – Multi-Artform Event, Birmingham City Centre
It’s a bit of a coincidence I’ve come to this, all these years later, at this time – All things are connected ! I started the blog to share my work, as I struggle a bit with social media activities and wanted to share my creative journey, the various stages of projects and commissions – So much more goes in to creating the work than just the finished article – and there’s always a story behind it.
I started writing this blog shortly before the Corona Virus outbreak. The message of the project seems very pertinent to these times. I think this global experience we’re sharing is showing us how much we are connected, in every way, perhaps more than ever before.
The concept for ‘All Things Are Connected’ came about when I heard a lot of money (£100,000) was to be spent by a Birmingham mainstream gallery, to celebrate the Quincentenary of Columbus ‘discovering’ America, organising a procession carrying a ring through the city. I couldn’t believe it. Columbus didn’t discover America as we all know. It existed well before Columbus got there ! I wanted to create a counter-celebration; one that focused on the growing interest in Native American philosophies in the west. To bring Native American poets and performers over from America and Europe. I put a call out in the Artist’s Newsletter, advertising an exhibition opportunity to Visual Artists in the UK, who were inspired by Native American philosophies and there was a lot of response. I selected eight artists to exhibit in the visual arts element of ‘All Things Are Connected’ Through the British American Artists Association, I went down to London and met Michael Lapointe, a Sioux Indian who was on placement with them for a year.
The experience of organising an event like this was more than I bargained for in many ways. It was difficult to get funding with no real track record. I had performers and poets in America and Europe who wanted to take part, but not the funds to bring them which was so disappointing. I had to focus on what we could achieve within the budget and with many favours! A huge thank you to The Princes Trust, Foundation for Sports and the Arts and the Arcadian for their support. What we did achieve was a multi artform event, the visual arts exhibition ran for four weeks and showed contemporary documentaries to raise awareness about Native American politics at the time. It was held at the Arcadian in Birmingham City Centre and we had an amazing one day event to open it, with a range of music and performances arranged and written for the event, free workshops for children with Jim Morris based on traditional Native American stories. One of the cafes even created traditional Native American food. Survival International, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth took stalls in the marketplace, alongside stalls selling traditional crafts. The Centreland Singers also demonstrated traditional dance. The sun shone and the venue was packed ! During its development, I was contacted by The American Indian Alliance who wanted to know what my aim was with the project and rightly raised issues of potential cultural appropriation. I was really frustrated we couldn’t fund bringing the Native American performers over. Despite this I hope we raised general awareness of contemporary issues with our audience. It’s a shame these were the days before the internet, there are no recordings. Two ‘students’ came and filmed the event, but disappeared afterwards, I couldn’t get hold of them again and it was all very mysterious! I’ve dug deep in the attic and found some photos which gives you some idea. So many people were involved and helped because they believed in the project, a huge thank you those that gave their time and energy to the project. I’ve uploaded photos of the programme, which includes everyone involved – It really was a brilliant experience!