Englishness / England – Keep’n it shabby.

Is this a uniquely English pursuit? Nature tamed and tormented at the local flower show.

Is this a uniquely English pursuit? Nature tamed and tormented at the local flower show.

Over the last few months I’ve encountered a range of ‘stuff’ – exhibitions, books and articles – that has English written through it like seaside rock; some are featured here, more may follow in future. It seems there’s been increasing debate about this elusive quality of Englishness going on for a while now (centuries really), and clearly there’s been some specific focus on the topic lately – the forthcoming Scotland vote on independence is churning up an awareness of the UK nations; the wild aspirations of our national football team had some people’s blood up for a while in the summer and much was made in the media of the Commonwealth Games a few weeks back – I was intrigued to discover that the English ‘national anthem’ played at the Commonwealth Games was ‘Jerusalem’ – but it’s only now that I seem to have become attuned to the recent output on Englishness.

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Oporto photo shuffling

Porto montage 1Ten years ago, I was commissioned to create a poster to help mark the 20th anniversary of Bristol’s twinning with Oporto/Porto in Portugal – one of the nicest commissions I’ve ever been asked to do! I had proposed the idea to the Twinning Association way back in the 1980s and it lay dormant for a long time, but the anniversary provided an opportunity that I jumped at. Continue reading

‘Umbra Sumus – We are but shadows’ (or, Down Brick Lane)

I started writing this last summer, not long after a visit to Spitalfields in the East End of London but since it was no more than a record of a day out it seemed a bit pointless. However, it was a very intense and stimulating day that’s stuck in the back of my mind, and since the visit last year some intriguing information about my own and my partner’s family histories has emerged that is closely, and unexpectedly in my case, tied to the locations we visited.

sundialClearly ours are not the only families to have relatives whose circumstances have sucked them in to London in search of work in difficult times; ours followed the Rivers Lee and various tributaries of the Colne in the late 19th Century from the city’s rural fringes 20 miles away during an agricultural depression, but others came to this London village from 17th century France, 18th century Ireland, 19th century Russia, and 20th century Bangladesh.

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Sticks, signs, leaves – the book, again, but smaller

SSLmini-6up

Playing with the idea of place portraits – I’ve returned (thanks to stimulus from friends) to an almost abandoned book project in the new year, now (with great sense of satisfaction) completed. It’s a miniature version of the book/artwork you can see here. I like the idea of having something you can carry around in your pocket that could be reminder of Continue reading

School photo-surveys 1950s Bristol housing estate

Another Local Journeys project (see previous posts on World of Small and Kite making at Brean), this one was commissioned through the English Heritage Schools initiative to work with Year 3 and 4 children at Frome Vale Academy in March 2013 as part of their Community History project to investigate their Continue reading

Pop-up studio in Weston-super-Mare

Brue-Close-montageThere’s a small oval green space amongst some houses on an estate in Weston-super-Mare that needs some additional love and refurbishments so local residents can get the most out of it. Knightstone Housing Association along with other partners have commissioned an artist to devise some ideas for decorative railings that will add a sense of playfulness to the area, help to re-define its use and Continue reading

Curzon Cinema, Clevedon – photography workshop

The wonderful Curzon Community Cinema in Clevedon has won some funding from The Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts to run a film-making project with some lucky primary schools in Clevedon as part of the Start Programme. It’s a big project that runs over several months working with the excellent Bristol-based production company Calling the Shots. However, not every child will be able to take part in the film-making process so the Curzon’s Education Officer, Cathy Poole, arrived at an ingenious solution to ensure everyone has a chance to participate. The solution was to create a team of project documentors who would track all aspects of the project with photographs. Continue reading

National Trust – ‘Tyntesfield through the Lens’, September 2010

Tyntesfield-schools-artwork-section

A section of the montaged artwork created from photographs taken by young people from Westhaven and Aschcome schools for the ‘Tyntesfield through the lens’ project.

I worked with the National Trust’s learning officer at Tyntesfield (in conjunction with the North Somerset Find Your Talent initiative) to devise and deliver a workshop over 3 sessions at the house and estate. The participants were Year 6 children from Ashcombe Primary school, and GCSE Photography students from Westhaven special needs Secondary school who were to mentor the younger pupils. The older students came on their own for a first visit to see the house and gardens, learn about some of the history and take photographs of their own, but with our support they also planned how they would guide the younger pupils round the house and estate on the following visit and help them to use cameras to create a ‘portrait’ of Tyntesfield. Continue reading

Bristol Floating Harbour 200 school photography project

harbour-visitIn 2009, Bristol Bristol’s Floating Harbour marked its 200th anniversary with a number events and activities. Local Journeys contributed to these celebrations by working with schools and artists and through them I devised and delivered a photographic project for students on the highly regarded AS Level photography course at St Mary Redcliffe 6th Form college, led by enthusiastic teacher Sharman Jupp. Continue reading

The Woods – ‘Sticks, signs and leaves’

sticksAnother facet of the continuing Woods project (see two previous related posts here and here): a book created as part of an MA in Fine Art / Photography at the University of Plymouth, completed in September 2007. The notes below provide some context – the title of the project is a multi-layered play on words, explained in the report produced for the MA – you can contact me if you want to know more! Continue reading