Update from the writing desk

I have reached a turning point in my Southampton residency. After 10 months of visits to the gallery in its old and new homes, the Highfield Campus of Southampton University and now the new Studio 144 building in the centre of Southampton, I have finished with writing.

No, I’m not being dramatic, I just mean literally that I have managed to complete the sequence of poems that I set forth to write back in December, a sequence that samples a chain of events, encounters, conversations, meetings, empty spaces and all the other things that make up the life of an arts organisation making its way through changing contemporary contexts. My sequence, called Moving Gallery Notes, is now being prepared for publication with John Hansard Gallery, Artful Scribe and designers so sympathetic I actually envy myself for working with, Daly & Lion.

With the publication more or less off to print, I am making my push towards a goal I set myself at the start of the project, a final challenge of the residency, which is to make a set of film-poems using the Moving Gallery Notes poems. John Hansard Gallery and Artful Scribe have supported me with this slightly unusual addendum to my writing duties, sending me on a film poem course back in January, and recently giving me access to a professional voiceover sound engineer, Matt from Untapped Talent Studios in Southampton.

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With Matt from Untapped Talent Studios, recording my poems as audio, September 2018.

I am delighted to find myself now possessed with one hour and one minute of beautifully recorded audio, which will make the basis of the films. I have collected footage throughout the year at the various events I have written at and about, and now I’m having unchecked fun matching and mismatching it in a verbal and visual celebration of the year I’ve experienced.

At the start of November, I will be presenting the films at two readings, where I will read along with the silent films, and also in a looped version in the gallery, where the pre-recorded audio will accompany the images and hopefully allow people to spend time thinking about re-establishing of the gallery in its new site, and all the changes and adaptations it’s staff and communities have been making along the year.

It’s been a pleasure to have my eyes open through the unfolding of such interesting real life, and I’m going to enjoy savouring the year and its lessons through this editing process as much as I can, for just a little bit longer.

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Impromptu writing perch at Studio 144, John Hansard Gallery, in between exhibitions. April 2018

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Poole filmpoems and Southampton plans advance

I got back late last night from my 2nd residency visit to the South coast, this time fitting in a visit to Poole for a film poem course over the weekend before more time in Southampton with the John Hansard Gallery folk.

The film poem course was put on by ArtfulScribe, who are organising my residency, and was tied in to a film poem competition that’s part of Light Up Poole. It was taught by the patient and encouraging duo of Helen Dewberry and Chaucer Cameron. They share a joint practice as film poets and brought many examples of the genre to inspire us before giving us time to work on our own projects. I felt I had a double head on to think with as I’m conscious that I’ll be leading workshops and events as part of my residency and was happy to learn from their deft way of reading the dynamics of a group and making sure everyone was heard and looked after. It was a pretty diverse group! I met some interesting poets from further across the region and I hope I will have the chance to spend more time with them. Poole itself won me over with its piratey charm – so many olde world dockside pubs that I felt I was in a film set from something swashbuckling. Recommended.

This visit to Southampton was characterised by a closening of relationships with the John Hansard team. I’m blown away by their trust and the access that they’re generously giving me to the workings of their organisation at a very busy time. We had some interesting discussions about organisational voice in relation to my voice as a writer in residence – I think we’re all getting used to the unusual dynamic of having an ear in the room whose job is to document in some way. We laughed at parallels with sensationalist journalism or fly-on-the-wall documentaries, but I have a clear sense this is a very different remit and I’m looking forward to getting on with more writing so that we can all see how this time might be captured in it in some broad, outward-looking way. It’s possible to overthink things, so I think ploughing on is the way forward, then reviewing how it’s turning out.

The project I pitched is called Art Talk Notes, but since the circumstances I’ve found to write-in so far have been more in the administrative context, in the lead-up to other events, I wonder if I’ll change the name for this iteration of it. Art Notes might be a more accurate title – I noticed Woodrow, the John Hansard Gallery Director using that, and he might be instinctively one step ahead of me there. Or maybe Gallery notes? I’ll be thinking about it.

I’ve also been getting on with meeting partners I’ll be working with to deliver events and the aformentioned workshops. Stair/Slide/Space are a collective who are delivering something called a Conversation Station during a pop-up week at the Gallery’s new building in February, and we’re planning to team-up for the first public sharing of work from my residency, so there was a meeting with them and the John Hansard Gallery team. I also caught up with Asten Holmes-Elliott. They work with Breakout Youth, an LGBT youth organisation in the city, and we’re hoping to run a writing workshop together around identity and concealment during the Gerhard Richter exhibition that the Gallery is opening in May.

I’m going to be learning a lot from these generous people over the coming months. It’s great to feel the plans firming up.

Here’s the film I made in the film poem workshop:

 

 

It uses a similar format to previous Art Talk Notes films I’ve made – footage of audience coming and going at a Gallery accompanied by loosely connected text – but as I was on a course, I let myself play more with the fiddly possibilities of editing. Not sure how this sits in relation to the overall project, but it was fun to do and has made me feel even keener to keep a film element to what I’m doing in Southampton having learned some new tricks.