Wednesday, 9 July 2014

BENEATH THE PAVEMENT - The Participant's View - SIOBHAN MCALEER


How ?
Hanley as a city centre, something that it never was before.
It has become a strange place, modelling itself on much bigger cities that are not separated between 6 towns.
Confronting the idea of it struck me as a particularly exciting venture and working with fellow artists was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. When I was offered a place on the project I was so excited to see what would happen and who I would meet.
I was not disappointed.
The Lead artists, Anna FrancisEmily SpeedS Mark GubbDan Thompson, were extremely interesting and informative, followed on the second day  by  Jennie Syson,  the curator and writer. All powered by   Appetite.   
We were welcomed on our first day by a map of Hanley and confronted with the question that would go on to lead the project “what would you change about Hanley?” It was interesting to see the answers that people came up with and the widespread changes we would make throughout the city- were we given free reign.
Over the two days we were working together we were privileged to have four varying and inspiring talks from our lead artists and J. Syson. I found there were several similarities with these artists/curator that made me feel excited:
There is no fear with these artists, they make their work and exhibit their work in any way they feel is appropriate/possible, they seem to have no self-doubt about the quality of the work,  and no doubt of what the audience want and finally, no doubt about whether the works they are producing is art.  (These are things that plague me as an artist)
I found this feeling of confidence totally empowering. It was so exciting to see people who are working and surviving as artists. Amazing.
It was also so invigorating to be in a group of like-minded people. Having studied fine art at University I mourn the loss of seminar groups and crits, so being back in a group of people who are open minded and outspoken was really something that I enjoyed.
On the first afternoon we were taken on a tour around Hanley showing us the town from viewpoints we may have never seen before. I was intrigued by the differing view points of all of the people and to hear what they had to say – in particular with relation to the Central Business District which is having a huge new building being thrown up in Hanley just now.
We were also invited into spaces that aren’t generally open to the general public and this was an interesting thing to do, aiding with cohesive feel of the programme, we had all been to the beach underneath the pavement.
Later on that day we had a couple more walks around the town. I was invited into Anna Francis’ team where we went on a blind walk. This was a totally extreme experience it was simultaneously terrifying and unifying, and intimate. Myself and the other members of my group (Michelle Rheeston-Humphreys, and Morna Lockie-Anrig) held hands and Anna pulled us through whilst we had our eyes closed. We talked about how it felt when we had our eyes closed and Anna noticed how hard it was to pull us through, doing something we weren’t sure of. I feel like this is actually a brilliant physical metaphor for working in partnership with the planning committees that will change our city.
At the end of the first day we were charged with the notion f change and were asked to think about an intervention that we could do on day two.
My mind rushed with ideas and I felt very excited by the prospect of being able to do something quickly and with the support of the programme. After long consideration about what was really needed and after a quick conversation in the morning of the second day we decided that we would all work together. That we would make a small intervention that would compromise a picnic space, a sort of café, and a planning permission sign, all in order to start conversation.
We had decided that the most important thing was that ‘the people’ got their say about how they want Hanley to be, and about what they love and dislike and would change too. 
We headed into town armed with cakes and tea and pens and paper and wild flowers, and set up or space. We had a few people talk to us, but unfortunately I’m not sure where we set up shop was the best place it had changed from when we had settles upon it that morning. It had become loud and there were lots of inebriated people around there making it quite and intimidating spot in some aspects.
However, I felt that this was a good thing, as a challenge is always encouraging.  It’s always going to make the achievement that little bit better.
There was so much packed into the two days and so much that could be talked about, but overall I want to say thank you to appetite and Airspace for an amazing opportunity. Thank you for my sketch book and Lunch, and thank you to all of the Artists who were so inspiring and amazing in every aspect and so encouraging.
I’m nervous about writing my proposal, because I want to make sure that it lives up to all it could be, but also so looking forward to seeing what everyone else does and comes up with!

Here’s to artists!

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