Covid 19 and everything has changed ! I was going to continue sharing and posting more of the Arcadian mosaic project with Maureen and Bec – What an amazing collaborative project it was! How it lead to me meeting and working with the amazing Sally Imbert for several years (aka Sally Dove of Paper Plane Bristol ) but I can fill this all in at another point, there’s lots to share …….
Covid 19 has hit us all in the most unexpected and surreal way hasn’t it ?! I started writing my blog literally a week before the lockdown began. It was really synchronistic I thought, to be talking about the ‘All Things Are Connected’ project just before this international crisis hit us all. Initially it seemed to throw all of us back to the past, perhaps because we have no idea what the future holds. Certainly for all self-employed artists who work like I do, on commissions and projects which involve a huge degree of public participation, Covid 19 has hit hard. The reality of the situation and the impact of all of it began to dawn. The personal situations of friends and family have been hugely variable and everyone has had to find ways to cope in this new climate haven’t they ? Some have had better experiences than others, depending on their situations. I’m glad to say that I’m lucky in the sense that so far, everyone I know has good health and are getting through it and adjusting – I hope that’s true for you too.
Just before lockdown I’d been commissioned to work on a project for The National Trust and Canal and River Trust, the first of a collaboration between the two organisations. The community driven project, ‘Community Routes’ was commissioned for the opening of Roundhouse Birmingham. I was really excited to be involved in the project (still am of course!) Fortunately, I had the chance to meet and consult with a few key people before lockdown, which has inspired ideas for the exhibition.
I’ve met with Friends of Edgbaston Reservoir, Carol and Eva ,and went through their amazing archive of its history. I met with Norman Bartlam, local historian, teacher and author of Ladywood Revisited, Broad St and In At The Deep End, to find out more about local heritage. I also met with Sarah and Jim of West Midlands Photo Collective and have loved seeing the collective’s talented range of photographers and their work. We met up with local residents of Ladywood at one of The Real Junk food Project’s meet up at Ladywood Community Centre. It was amazing to see what they do. I’d heard about them, but there’s nothing like witnessing the impressiveness of what they do tirelessly for people. When we arrived they were packing food parcels for local residents, all donated food to help people that are struggling, things must be even worse now as a result of all of this. Once they’d packed everything, food was collected and they turned the space into a dining room and provided an amazing three course dinner for local residents all for donations. We had a chance to chat to local residents asking them if they were showing a friend around the area for the first time, where would they go, what would they show them ?
And then everything stopped. Chris Mayer, the Creative Producer who commissioned me and his intern, Charlotte were furloughed and apart from a couple of Zoom meetings, everything has been put on hold. It’s been a strange experience and I was really disappointed to not be able to continue in the way we’d planned – We have had to drop working with two other groups as we were unable to meet under The National Trust directives and of course, governmental advice.
To explain the project further, the five groups we were working with were creating five independent self-guided walks, all routes from Roundhouse to the various localities. Each group were to create ten stops local to the area and each point would have an audio track, with interesting information for people about its local heritage ; facts, people and places. For now, this has had to stop. I’ve gathered all the information and imagery we’ve collected to date and have had to change my whole approach. I’m now creating only three art works inspired by the routes chosen and these will be on exhibition for the opening of the venue. When it will open now, I’ve no idea ! I’m sure key decisions will have to be made and I’m unsure what way this will go.
Birmingham Central Library Archives are closed and getting permissions to use some of the heritage imagery I’ve collected is impossible right now, so it’s tricky to design on this basis. What materials should I use for the artwork, I’m thinking, the budget is quite limited so creating mosaic or using metal isn’t really achievable, will anywhere be open to produce anything ?
Lots of questions have been thrown up with this and the way I’d thought of approaching the project seems no longer viable.
My membership for STEAMhouse Birmingham was up for renewal and deadlines were approaching for this. My private course teaching mosaic at Martineau Gardens had to be cancelled, talks on other commissions have stopped for now. My work in production on live music events was also not a possibility, the industry been dealt a huge blow and not likely to recover for a considerable time in this climate. I realised then, after over 27 years of working as a self-employed artist was in real jeopardy and it’s been pretty hard to get creative at all !
I’m sorry if this may come across as doom and gloom – Covid 19 ! It’s been a harsh reality check on how I’m going to move forward in the future and whether it’s sustainable to continue at all. On this basis, I applied for the Arts Council England Emergency Funding and I’m really happy to say I received the funding, which gives me a little time to regroup and for that I’m extremely grateful !