Sunday, 15 September 2019

Something New This Way Comes

Something new this way comes.
I haven't posted in a while. I have been busy with what I call "other" projects, but now I look back at my Handless Project writing is obviously the same project. We are in the third phase of this exploration and, as we have learned before, third time is the charm. It is the completion of something, where the magic happens. This third phase is manifesting as the Humanise Project. It is an exploration of what it means to be human that started with a look at the ways in which we de-humanise ourselves and others.

You can find out more about it on my company website and on our Facebook page so like and subscribe to stay in touch. At the moment we are in our community engagement phase so look out for ways to get involved in our events. We are leading towards a performance in 2020 (possibly a solo, but maybe not).

I just want to express gratitude to everyone who has been a part of the journey so far. I want you to know that whatever your contribution, even if it is just a little bit of your precious time and attention, you have been a part of the evolution of an artist a company and a community.

Much love to you and if you have received anything from me or the project please pay it forward. Wash hands ask people what is important to them, listen to others.


Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Ritual object(ive)

I got out the map today.

Five tiny multi-coloured beads skittered across the table.

I put on my apron.

The apron smelled of fire and is covered in drips of wax.

I got out my beautiful bowl, my jug and buckets.

They reminded me how they sing. Beautiful things to hold.

We are going back to the Cathedral this time during the sleepout in aid of the Whitechapel Centre on 6th April. Something meditative while money is raised and we all think about what it is not to have a home.

The process of making these objects and this action meaningful is complete. There is no pretense. I expect something to happen.

Who will I meet? What will we share?

I have butterflies in my stomach. I am excited. I feel connected. I feel inspired.

I can't wait.


Thursday, 23 November 2017

Manifesto for being here

I was going to write this blog post as a defense of those artists who choose to work outside of London. It was also going to include a defense of those who choose to be rooted in one place rather than searching for a way to be internationally relevant. Then I decided that instead, what I wanted to do was not write from a defensive position at all, but to articulate the strength of the reasons for being an artist working in Liverpool. I think it's important to do this now because recently I have encountered the faint whiff of disdain towards the city's artists as if the community we have here is a kind of remedial space offering excessive support, encouraging satisfaction with unambitious under-accomplished work.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Where you can go when you listen

Imagine this: a long dead relative, maybe one you never met, leaves behind a recording. The sound is of them having a cup of tea in silence. They perhaps, do not realise they are being recorded. The recording captures sounds like their teeth on the rim of the cup, a creak from an armchair, a breath.

I would give so much to have a recording like that, of my grandmother. I never met her though my family say I am like her reincarnation. I have one of her jackets and two photos of her (one of which is a photograph of a passport photo). I want to hear what she sounded like, just breathing or moving about.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Limits and numbers

"150 people."

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival 2016 Migrant Stories Event
Photo credit: Julia Thorne
Robin Dunbar is smiling at me from my laptop screen. His smile is one that says "I can't believe all this is happening". It is the smile of an Oxbridge anthropology professor, suddenly popular because his ideas are now cool. 

I first heard of Professor Dunbar when reading Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point". In the book Gladwell describes a the perfect size for human groups. The number 150 is Dunbar's number and somehow relates to the size of our brains.
Apparently our impressive primate brains can really only relate meaningfully to 150 people at at time. More than that, Gladwell argues, and problems start to arise. He describes how the company W.L. Gore and Associates - makers of Gore-tex fabrics and 52 on the Fortune 100 best companies to work for 2017 list - started subdividing it's operations once it reached more than 150 employees.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

When it all changes-change

You may already know this, but the part of the Handless project that was to happen at the Unity Theatre is moving. It has to move because the much-awaited renovation of the building is taking its own time (as it should). This has unseated a lot of events, not just ours and we are in the process of being folded so kindly back into the Cathedral's events.

It will be fine, but today I had a wobble. Not least because I am currently in Brighton performing at the Festival in Summit, by Andy Smith, a play I am really excited about being part of, but which has taken me away just in time for this delay. So now there are hours of Light Night for which I must arrange new actions.

So, The Handless Project, once again asks more of me and my colleagues than we were prepared for. And, once again, the story gives both wound and remedy. When you don't know what to do set out into the unknown seeking compassionate people. Begin, put your foot on the path. So that is what I am doing and I know it will be ok. More than ok because I will have grown and will have to trust myself more. I have also had occasion to trust my colleagues more so it is time for gratitude. Thank you Deb, Vicci, Joanne, Phil, Rachael, Ellen, Paul, Matthew and Anthony for your kind readjustments and care.

Here is another story of someone who Wanted to try, faced disaster, and then was gifted a greater victory. I am listening to the unthanks singing it as I write. It's a true story.

The King of Rome
By Dave Sudbury

In the West End of Derby lives a working man
He says "I can't fly but me pigeons can
And when I set them free
It's just like part of me
Gets lifted up on shining wings"

Charlie Edson's pigeon loft was down the yard
Of a rented house in Brook Street where life was hard
But Charlie had a dream
And in nineteenthirteen
Charlie bred a pigeon that made his dream come true

There was gonna be a champions' race from Italy
"Look at the maps, all that land and sea
Charlie, you'll lose that bird"
But Charlie never heard
He put it in a basket and sent it off to Rome

On the day o' the big race a storm blew in
A thousand birds were swept away and never seen again
"Charlie we told you so
Surely by now you know
When you're living in te West End there ain't many dreams come true"

"Yeah, I know, but I had to try
A man can crawl around or he can learn to fly
And if you live 'round here
The ground seems awful near
Sometimes I need a lift from victory"

I was off with me mates for a pint or two
When I saw a wing flash up in the blue
"Charlie, it's the King of Rome
Come back to his West End home
Come outside quick, he's perched up on your roof"

"Come on down, your majesty
I knew you'd make it back to me
Come on down, you lovely one
You made me dream come true"

In the West End of Derby lives a working man
He says "I can't fly but me pigeons can
And when I set them free
It's just like part of me
Gets lifted up on shining wings"

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Why are we walking?

I started The Handless Project because I needed to heal (physically from thyroid cancer and emotionally from a lot of other things) and this weird old story about a girl who heals herself was so helpful to me that I wondered whether it would help other people too. The walk is further exploration of what has been story medicine for me. I have no idea what the out come will be, just like the Handless Maiden who leaves home at dawn and wanders through the forest, until something unexpected happens.

We will be walking through Liverpool on 20th May to simply see what walking can do for us. Maybe it will do nothing, or maybe everything will change. It is an experiment built around a fairytale so we are free to believe it or not. We are also free to invest it with the power and meaning of a pilgrimage, a race for life or a trip to see what we can see, for adventure or even to heal a city.

Walk with us.

Here are a few quotations to think about:
"I was coming to America, I said to my little niece, who was seven, I said, “What will I bring you from America?” She said, “Uhhhhh.” And her father said, “No, ask him or you won’t get anything.” And Katy turned to me and said, “What’s in it?” [laughs] Which I thought was a great question about America."

John O'Donohue - OnBeing Interview
"Land is a story place. Land holds the stories of human survival across many generations. Land shapes people, just as people shape their countries."
Judy Atkinson: Trauma Trails: Recreating Song Lines, the transgenerational effects of trauma in indigenous Australia
"It is healing for any person to hear the priceless heritage of our stories and find a contemporary translation of their prescriptions applicable to his or her immediate circumstances."
Robert A Johnson: The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden 
Some further reading/listening about walking and landscape:

John O'Donohue OnBeing episode: The Inner Landscape of Beauty

Strayed, Cheryl. Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found. Atlantic Books.