In an image saturated world, it is sometimes surprising to find a strong connection to landscape that can translate to the viewer so effectively. Warwick-based Caitriona Dunnett answered a few questions about the creation of this series, which has been exhibited widely – interview by Christiane Monarchi for Photomonitor
We spoke to Faye Claridge about her recent residency at the National Trust’s Dudmaston Estate, and a new project at Ripon Prison and Police Museum.
You have recently finished your work at the National Trust’s Dudmaston Estate. How did you go about working with visitors, volunteers and residents for the project?
The project has been so good to work on, the word ‘journey’ can be overused when talking about experience or development but it genuinely was designed as – and delivered – a journey. I started very openly, introducing myself in an exhibition and using a comments board and meetings to ask visitors, staff, volunteers and residents what they’d recommend to explore or research. I then created a pairing activity, asking everyone to link some of those areas, and any other unexpected objects, places or people connected with Dudmaston. I made a film of pairing suggestions and gathered more with specially-designed comments cards and a shocking pink post box (using that colour as “the opposite of National Trust brown” as one participant put it). After much negotiation and consideration of conservation issues, some of those ‘pairings’ were then able to be made physically, with us moving objects, restaging some of the rooms and creating signs for outdoor pairings. The next stage was asking for responses to the pairings and analysing those to find the most impactful. The top two were very close but the ‘winner’ was suggested by two young visitors, aged 6 and 10.
This was the two objects ‘Two Unknown Girls’ and ‘The Boxing Ones’ that went on to inspire the final outcome: ‘If Pairing Were Power’?
Yes, they said they made that pairing because both objects reminded them of living as brother and sister, “always fighting or in harmony, with no middle ground”, which was relatable to so many visitors. It also chimed with lots of themes of interest at Dudmaston, from the current residents’ family links (especially as twins) and the duality of the estate being National Trust owned and family-occupied. I was really excited to be following children’s perspectives on the property and its history and was able to expand this by creating an artwork that involved their participation as collaborators and models. We decided to bring the children from the painting ‘Two Unknown Girls’ to life, so I made costumes that were part 2D (as if still part of the flat painting) and part traditional costume so they could be worn. With these we made a series of portraits linking to more Dudmaston stories, bringing together children from a local boxing club, the family that nominated the pairing, my own children and the two children that live on site (a National Trust gardener’s son and a descendant of the original Dudmaston-owning family). I placed the photographs among the family pictures throughout the hall, inserting fictitious relations, and created two mannequins so visitors discover one dreaming in a twin room (surrounded by birdsong and soft whispers) and the other high in a tree beyond, with her head and hands transformed into tulips from the original Dutch painting.
The final room in the visit contains contextual information on the project (like a behind the scenes video and reading area) which is also summarised in a small exhibition booklet. I was keen to strike a balance between creating mystery and sharing research, which is not always easy. The gallery room also continues to invite responses and some of the reactions have been extremely touching and heartfelt as visitors share feelings and memories inspired by the artwork.
You have experience of working within many heritage sites. What advice would you give to an artist starting their first collaboration with such places?
It’s not for everyone, but I love the complexities of heritage sites. It takes skill to balance the myriad of needs in a project at a special site, or with a collection, without losing sight of the artistic integrity at the heart of why you’re there. It’s also vital to build really effective relationships because negotiations inevitably have to be made by both sides at some point during development or production and the more trust and understanding you have, the easier it’ll be for any concessions to be worked out. Humour, tea and cake are also must-haves for any project involving people, of course, and nowhere is fuelled by tea and cake quite like the heritage sector!
Can you tell us a little about your upcoming work with Ripon Prison and Police Museum?
The work for Ripon Prison and Police Museum has so far been extraordinary because I’ve been able to take their archives to present-day prisoners, to explore similarities and differences in their lives and prison experiences. I’ve been organising workshops in HMP Askham Grange so inmates ‘adopt’ a prisoner from the Edwardian and Victorian charges books, I then record them talking about their comparisons and make portraits with them (where possible) to link with the archive mugshots. The results from these workshops will be compiled as a film installation for one of the Victorian cells at the museum.
I proposed working with the prison because it’s really important to include the voices of those most affected by the public image of crime and punishment: present-day prisoners. The museum is part of that public image and the project gives the prisoners a way to share their perspectives and for museum visitors to consider the individual lived experience of justice systems. It also really matters to me that Askham Grange is a women’s prison, for the museum to reflect the complexities of how custody affects families, children and the perception of women’s position in society.
‘If Pairing Were Power‘ returns to Dudmaston from March – September 2020.
‘Prisoners on Prisoners‘ at Ripon Prison and Police Museum opens in February 2020.
Both projects are supported by Arts Council England.
You can follow all of Faye’s projects through Instagram and Twitter via @fayeclaridge.
‘Humour, tea and cake’ – Faye Claridge discusses her recent residency at the National Trust’s Dudmaston Estate, a new project at Ripon Prison and Police Museum, and gives advice on working with heritage sites.
Joyride is a new work being developed for Staffordshire’s Cannock Chase Forest by West Bromwich-born Keith Harrison. As the winning entry of Jerwood Open Forest 2016, a collaboration between Jerwood Visual Arts and Forestry Commission England, Harrison has received a £30,000 commission to develop Joyride throughout 2017. The project will draw upon the distinctive context of Cannock Chase Forest and the industrial legacies of Birmingham’s former Longbridge car plant through sculpture, light and a performative procession.
Harrison’s practice prioritises material and making processes, often developing work that can be physically engaged with and that pays acute attention to its site and context. Now based in Plymouth, the artist has shown in exhibitions at the V&A, mima, Camden Arts Centre, National Museum Wales and internationally in Japan, Denmark, Spain and Canada.
We spoke to the artist to find out more about the project.
What drew you to the Jerwood Open Forest commission?
When I was first shown the open invitation to apply by a fellow studio holder at KARST, the statement noted that the forests were open to ideas. This was compelling. I had also previously been part of Jerwood Makers Open 2011 which led to a whole new series of experimental large scale works involving sound and clay, so the possibility to work with the same organisation again in a new and challenging setting was a big draw for me.
Can you tell me more about the development of your initial proposal for Joyride?
I immediately had a place in mind – Cannock Chase – which I knew as a child, driving out in the family Austin Maxi from the housing estate in West Bromwich where we lived. I arrived at the subject of joyriding which had begun when, on the way to my studio in Plymouth, I came across a burnt out vehicle. The driver had tried to leave a car park through an underpass but had not seen the bollards blocking the way. Shortly after, I visited Cannock Chase Forest again for the first time in a number of years. The size of the car parks around the visitor centres in the forest and the ‘no cruising’ road signs in the surrounding area confirmed a complex relationship with the car. Initially, I was thinking of ways that an alternative route might be taken through the forest, including the production of a series of BMX mud jumps using a local mud/clay mix but on my first visit it was clear that these bike trails already existed within Cannock Chase and clay was not a material found in the area. So, in the period leading up to the interview stage for the final shortlisting it was the combination of a car, a ramp and a launch that took hold and I hoped it might be an exciting and unexpected proposition in the context of a forest.
The idea of connecting the car to the end of vehicle production at Rover became an increasingly strong element of the work and led to a research visit to the British Motor Museum at Gaydon to see the last car, the Rover 75 saloon, to come off the production line at Longbridge in 2005. My mother and grandfather worked at the Longbridge car works and my first car was a gold Rover 25, so there were multiple personal connections.
I wanted to link the two places together so I proposed that using a locally sourced clay, a full-size replica of the last Rover 75 would be built on the site where the car factory once stood and then processioned from Longbridge to the Tackeroo site at Cannock Chase. The Tackeroo site was about finding a combination of a flat stable ground within the forest to construct the ramp with good access by car and foot. Ideally the event will take place at dusk and, like a drive-in movie, the public will be invited to witness the event through and in their vehicles with the attending cars illuminating the event through their headlights.
From the interviews with the Jerwood Open Forest organisers myself and four other artists, Rebecca Beinart, Magz Hall, David Rickard and David Turley, were invited to develop our proposals further over a six month period. These culminated in a final panel interview and a show in and around our proposals at Jerwood Space, London.
How has your upbringing in West Bromwich permeated your work? How does ‘the forest’ fit with this very different kind of landscape?
I think the experience of growing up in West Bromwich on the Bustleholme Mill estate has influenced a number of more recent works, including the collaboration Bustleholme with Napalm Death at De La Warr Pavilion in 2013. The estate I grew up on was a place hemmed in between motorway, canal and railway, and Cannock Chase was the nearest wilderness that we could get to by car. I was only six or seven years old and in my head it was all a bit mixed up with West Midlands Safari Park and tigers and grasslands but it stayed with me as a special place. The forest was the antidote. I think it still has this role as a place, sanctioned and unsanctioned, for people to go to escape in all manner of ways and the car is often the means to that end.
Your proposal has been selected as the winning entry. What does this award mean to you?
The award is hugely important to me as it provides the financial means and institutional support to realise the most ambitious work I have proposed to date at a place, and from a place, that have a strong personal resonance with.
How are you approaching taking your work from a proposal to what sounds like a complex and relatively experimental public sculpture and series of events?
The transition of the work from proposal to realisation is undoubtedly going to be a huge challenge involving two main sites and the co-ordination of numerous people and simultaneous activities. But the chance to bring all these elements together in a public arena provides the energy and impetus. It has already resulted in a number of very inspiring meetings with individuals and organisations who will be involved in the production of the event and I hope the subtitle of Joyride, a ‘collective action for a new perspective’ reflects a willingness to allow the pooled knowledge and resources of volunteers, participants and audience to inform the project in unexpected ways.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently developing a proposal with Stoke-on-Trent Libraries for the next British Ceramics Biennial and also plans for a nationwide tour of a ceramic sound system.
Joyride will launch at Cannock Chase Forest this autumn. Jerwood Open Forest was established by Forestry Commission England and Jerwood Charitable Foundation with support from Arts Council England.
Joyride is a new work being developed for Staffordshire’s Cannock Chase Forest by West Bromwich-born Keith Harrison. We interview the artist.
Birmingham-based artist Jonathon Harris has a practice he describes as inter-medial. Working across sculpture, installation, writing, and still and moving image, his artistic concerns are centred upon our increasingly digital lives.
Fresh from a recent curatorial intervention at artist-led space Stryx, Harris is about to undertake his first large-scale curatorial project for the 2017 edition of Fringe Arts Bath titled Diegetic Life: Ghosts of the Putative. The ambitious exhibition takes as its starting point, identities that are specifically constructed for screen-based dissemination. Works for Harris’ exhibition will be selected via an open call. Anneka French finds out more.
Is the curatorial project an extension of your artistic practice?
In a word, yes. I’m trying to place ideas I’ve been working with as an artist into a wider context and, for me, that entails a necessary expansion of my artistic practice into curating. I see curating as a way to encompass a plurality of perspectives more effectively than as a solo artist making a single artwork. This has arisen, in part, from researching Jean Baudrillard’s ideas about hyper-reality. I’m interested in what happens to visual art, which has developed in much less visually-saturated times, now that we live in this visual hyper-reality and see more images per day than some of our ancestors saw throughout their entire lives. I was recently asked to stage a ‘curatorial intervention’ as part of #sorrynotsorry at Stryx and, in that process, I found a parallel with the way component parts are brought together in an installation piece – perhaps for the first time, I began to think concretely about the exhibition-as-artwork.
Diegetic Life: Ghosts of the Putative is your most ambitious curated project. What drew you to working with Fringe Arts Bath?
I’ve been involved with the West Midlands for enough time that it has a pleasantly familiar feel but there’s always the danger of that quite quickly becoming hermetic. So I’m keen to work outside the region partly because it’s outside of my comfort zone. My experience has been that the West Midlands is supportive of artists and many people here have been generous in sharing the benefit of their experience. Now, I want to take that knowledge and experience elsewhere to see how it sits in other contexts but also be able to bring something back to my peer network here. Establishing a solid base for ones’ practice is valuable, but so is having dialogue with other parts of the country too.
Fringe Arts Bath are friendly towards the type of high concept programming that I think my exhibition fits into – that can be seen in exhibitions they’ve previously programmed. The organisation tends to take over a mixture of art venues and other kinds of sites across the city. I’m awaiting confirmation of where my exhibition will be held but also looking forward to the possibility of working with a non-standard space. The festival offers lot of support to early-career curators which I was keen to make use of and, of course, Bath is a beautiful city in which to work!
How did you arrive at the subject of the exhibition?
It has largely grown out of my artistic practice. I’m slightly obsessed with surveillance culture – how, as a society, we have been entirely complicit with the exponential growth of public surveillance over the past few decades, and also the ways that process might have primed us to be enthusiastic about the way we now conduct a ‘social media surveillance’ of our own lives. I have exhibited work which played with the dynamics of surveillance at both Friction Arts and mac birmingham’s Cannon Hill Art School. Those works were about protest, politics and civil freedoms – topics which, for me, very much underpin some of the issues that are thrown up by the concept of hyper-reality. In the early 1980s, Baudrillard described hyper-reality as the point at which we can no longer reliably tell the difference between reality and fiction – a quick glance at what’s going on with politics suggests that we’ve now very much reached that point. My first degree was a film degree and I find documentary film theory helpful in getting a handle on this hyper-reality situation. ‘Diegetic’ refers to the narratives we create when we make images and videos. I’ve always thought that ‘putative’ is an ugly word but in this context it refers to the actual reality that is there before we start making images and creating narratives about our lives. This exhibition questions whether there is any difference any more between the reality of our lives and the narratives we create about our lives, or whether we are so far into the hyper-reality that we can no longer tell the difference.
What kind of artworks are you hoping to show?
I’m selecting via an open call and I’d like to have works in the show from both new media practices and more traditional art media. The ideas around the show feel very digital but the approach to them doesn’t have to be. An ideal scenario for me would be a counterpoint in the exhibition between still works and ones that either move or have a sense of movement, so I would definitely encourage submissions that use sound or performance. Even though there is an obviously political way to think about this exhibition, I’m also quite interested in more personal, perhaps more subtle, observations on the exhibition’s themes as much as works which have a statement to make.
How can artists apply to be part of the project?
Submissions are welcome in any medium that respond to the ideas outlined above about diegetic/screen-based life. The official call for artists can be found here and artists should email their proposals to email@example.com by Monday 27 March 2017.
The exhibition opens with the festival preview, from 6pm on 26 May 2017, and will then be open daily from 11am to 6pm until 12 June.
Jonathon Harris is preparing to curate his most ambitious exhibition to date at Fringe Arts Bath. Anneka French finds out more.
A body of new work by Hardeep Pandhal is the subject of a current solo exhibition at Eastside Projects titled Nightmare on BAME Street. Programmed as part of the two-year project Production Show, his work is manifest via animation, comic, knitwear and music.
Pandhal now lives and works in Glasgow, having graduated with an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art in 2013 with the support of a Leverhulme Scholarship award. He was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries (2013), the Glasgow International Open Bursary (2013), the Catlin Art Guide (2014) and the Drawing Room Bursary Award (2015). Recent shows include a solo show Hobson-Jobson at Collective Edinburgh (2015) and groups shows The Vanished Reality, Modern Art Oxford (2016) and Nothing Happens, Twice: Artists Explore Absurdity, Harris Museum, Preston (2016).
Anneka French spoke to the artist to find out more about his practice and influences.
Your work is deeply invested in issues of identity, social realism and translation. How did your early childhood in Birmingham shape your practice?
I went to an all boys school made up mostly of Afro-Caribbean and South Asian boys. The bouncers on the school gates during lunchtime were agreeable, so it was easy to truant. I used to soak my conkers in vinegar and heat them in the microwave because I thought this would make them stronger. I used to play snooker after school, I got a 33 break when I was 13. Teachers got punched in the face, my best friend got stabbed right next to me over a dispute over a girl. It was a distracting and disorientating experience.
I hope the language in my work can communicate being un-cocksure or a state of undifferentiated chaos. It’s like the idea of being caught between conflicting values at home and at school, or like having a double consciousness.
One formative moment was my first family trip to India, which we recorded with our first camcorder. I have been editing some of this material into my moving image work in various ways. I am thinking about the work of ‘Cultural Studies’ on mimicry and acculturation when I look back at my personal archive.
At the moment I am trying to convey the effects of cultural repression. There’s also something to be said about the role that poetic irony and parody play in performing acts of reclamation or empowerment as part of my method to making.
How is the city of Glasgow shaping your practice?
Glasgow feels like a secure place to live and make work. There is a nice community of artists based there and lots of influential people visiting. It also gives me the necessary distance to undertake the subjective thought-work in my work.
Can you tell me more about the collaboration with your mother? How does she feel about being part of your work?
When I think about making work, I try to start from an uncomfortable place. We share a language barrier so I cannot be sure how she feels about being part of my work. The knitted garments have images of heads stitched onto them. The effect of the stitching leaves the garment ‘puckered’, the heads bulge outwards in a manner that I thought was fittingly jarring, considering the nature of the collaboration. The relationship is forced in some ways but can also feel seamless too. It takes place in the domestic setting of the family house. It seems to make better sense as artwork upon reflection, retroactively. There is very little instruction or discussion surrounding each piece. Unlike the processes I undertake in other media, knitting and stitching in this way is linear – we set out to achieve what we initially decide and then the finished thing emerges after a couple of months. In that time I’m usually making other work away from home. Figuring out the distinction between being ‘performative’ and doing ‘performance’ also becomes hazy and therefore useful to think about. In a way, the meaning of the artwork is located in the production process – the exhibited object and exhibition scenario signifies the death and need of renewal of this process.
I am learning how to stitch my own designs on to the garments. Hopefully this activity will lead me to other threads
The phrase ‘Nightmare on BAME Street’ brings with it a whole host of direct political and social issues. How did you arrive at this title?
‘BAME Street’ is an imagined place based on Dudley Road, the main road near the house I grew up in. My idea for the title did not arise in any clear systematic way. I wanted it to sound like a title for a rap mixtape. Also, I haven’t finished it! I often find myself in situations where the title for a work is required or made before actually finishing it or thinking through the ideas properly. It’s like a way of covering enough of the bases that I think are important or challenging for me to pursue in my work. In this case, I am developing my ongoing collaborative work with my mother by adopting some of her skills and I am reflecting on the area of Birmingham that I (somewhat reluctantly) identify with, which is largely made of migrant communities. Perhaps this ambivalence is a symptom of being socially mobile, or practising participant-observation in my work, or perhaps it’s a sort of perverse fantasy that has something to do with my own self-preservation?
What can visitors to the exhibition at Eastside Projects expect?
Visitors can expect to see some knitted work and a new animation, with my own music in it.
It feels more experimental or less pressured. The framing of Production Show has encouraged me to pursue some of the more overtly propositional aspects of my work. There’s multiple starting points, improvisation, half-sketched ideas and lots of unresolved thinking at this stage. Once the animation is complete we will edit the still frames into a book to take stock of what it is.
Pandhal’s solo exhibition Nightmare on BAME Street is showing at Eastside Projects until 22 April 2017.
A new body of work by Hardeep Pandhal is the subject of a current solo exhibition at Eastside Projects titled Nightmare on BAME Street. Anneka French finds out more.
Ampersand Projects’ Co-Directors Matt and Kate Andrews and artist Justin Wiggan discuss the aspirations and impacts of Green Lungs, a community-engaged participatory project that took place in Autumn 2016. Working with refugees in Birmingham, Green Lungs sought to highlight the importance of Birmingham’s green spaces to the wellbeing of some of the city’s newest community members. Anneka French finds out more.
The Green Lungs project introduced over fifty refugees living in Birmingham to the historic Cannon Hill Park through a series of creative workshops that took place in Autumn 2016, led by artist Justin Wiggan. Many of the participants have recently settled in Birmingham, seeking sanctuary in the city. This project is a symbolic welcome to Birmingham’s green spaces: havens of peace and quiet in the urban, post-industrial landscape.
A key aim of Green Lungs was to build meaningful and prolonged connections with the parks that will hopefully last beyond this project, creating a legacy that participants can share with their family, friends and community. The project culminated in the planting of spring bulbs in a secluded part of the park – a small yet lasting intervention for each individual involved that they can return to next year.
What were Green Lungs’ starting points and aspirations?
AP: When we started discussing setting up Ampersand Projects in late 2015, we knew we wanted to focus on projects that introduced people to the positive impact art and heritage can have on their wellbeing, aspirations and outlook. We also knew that we wanted to work with people who don’t normally encounter art in their everyday lives.
Green Lungs came about through discussions with sound artist Justin Wiggan, who Kate had previously collaborated with on Advance with Feathers, working with patients at St Andrews mental health facility in Stirchley. We knew he was experienced at delivering activities that engage participants irrespective of language, circumstance or background. We have a shared belief that Birmingham’s parks are very special (and endangered) places and we wanted new arrivals to the city to experience them. Justin was also interested in exploring the relationship between nature, sound and memory.
As a new organisation, we were keen that, as Green Lungs is our first project, that it delivered on our aim to enrich people’s lives through contact with artists and green spaces. It was also really important that the project worked well as a pilot; we want Ampersand Projects to deliver sustainable work that can be developed and impactful over several years.
What are the project’s political implications?
AP: From the outset, we didn’t want Green Lungs to be overtly political in nature. Above all, we wanted to create a safe environment for participants to experience and enjoy Cannon Hill Park and encourage them to revisit – it was critical to us that the participants weren’t ever made to feel like they were being used or exploited to push a wider agenda. However, we hope that the project and exhibition reflect the individual voices and humanity of people seeking sanctuary in Birmingham and perhaps shift perceptions around refugees and asylum seekers, if only in a small way.
The legacy of Birmingham’s parks as free, democratic spaces that are for everyone is also important to Green Lungs. Many new arrivals to the city don’t realise that it has so many parks and green spaces, and that they are free. We’re keen to promote just how green Birmingham is as a city in our projects.
What do you feel is the importance of connecting art projects with wellbeing-focused activities?
AP: We believe that people can significantly improve their wellbeing by becoming invested in the public spaces that surround them, such as local green spaces. We feel that we have an opportunity with Ampersand Projects to provide people lasting experiences that will encourage them to see these places differently and take ownership over them. By working with artists such as Justin, our participants have opportunities to have new, creative experiences, draw on their own lives and gain confidence. We feel that we have a responsibility to improve the lives of the communities we work with.
You have a number of partnerships on the project. How did these develop and how were they selected?
AP: Green Lungs is our first project working with refugees and asylum seekers. We worked with the support of St Chad’s Sanctuary who were vital in brokering the relationships with this audience, making this project possible. So much of their work is focused on the vital services needed by those seeking sanctuary: food, clothing, housing and language classes and they were very receptive to us providing this additional experience for their users.
We have built a good relationship with mac birmingham as freelancers over the last few years through Kate’s various Next Gen projects and they were incredibly receptive to our proposal of Green Lungs last year. We were also very grateful to draw on the in depth knowledge of the Park Rangers service, who were a joy to work with. We look forward to continuing to work with their staff in our future projects.
You have worked with a number of young people too. How has this scheme been developed?
AP: For three years Kate has led the Creative Agency project at mac, which was an opportunity for young people to build and learn new skills in all areas of creative arts marketing and audience engagement. For Green Lungs, we worked with mac to recruit five young producers to collaborate with us on the delivery of workshops, documentation, curation and exhibition design. We’re keen to create voluntary and paid opportunities for emerging creative producers in our projects. Through Creative Agency, we’ve seen the positive impact this kind of experience can have on young people embarking on a career in the arts, particularly in securing employment or starting their own projects. The project benefitted hugely from their involvement.
How have you shaped the format and activities of the project?
JW: For me as an artist, what was interesting about Green Lungs is the fact that it allowed the participants to experience being an explorer instead of a tourist. It enabled them to translate their own experiences of the past, present and future by making connections through the workshops with the sky, the horizon and the ground. This also allows the participants to be quite philosophical and make connections with the mind, the eyes and the mouth. These were grouped together by means of association. By allowing participants to see these connections through a series of specifically designed worksheets, we generated collaborative material over a series of workshops and walks. Working with the participants has impacted on my artistic practice by allowing me to think about their role as more of an active partnership rather than translator. It also challenged my preconception of how ideas, sounds and places can change in meaning because of tiny cultural differences and huge personal experiences but how, in the end, we as humans need the same things – to be loved and respected. We all need to reflect on our own current circumstance and situation, and to think about how we approach the current changing climate where more and more people are finding themselves displaced, escaping and lost. The world picture now indicates that everyone needs to rethink their purpose and reaction to other humans. The model of the Green Lungs project, is a simple, sustainable model which shows how creative individuals and arts organisations play a very specific role in the integration of the human family.
What opportunities has the project offered for its participants? Have you faced any particular challenges?
AP: Many of our participants find themselves in difficult circumstances; some are still dealing with the trauma and implications of freeing oppressive regimes and leaving family behind. Therefore, their safeguarding was paramount above any artistic outcomes. We were very lucky to have the experience and expertise of St Chad’s Sanctuary to guide us.
We also had to be flexible and allow the workshops to take shape organically, due to changeable circumstances the participants are in, as well as levels of English spoken. We encouraged participants to write and share their experiences of the park in their own language if they were more comfortable.
Although our time with the participants was quite fleeting, St Chad’s have told us that many of the participants have spoken positively about the experience and many were keen to revisit Cannon Hill and their local parks following the workshops. Many of the participants came back for the exhibition launch, which was preceded by the private planting of spring bulbs in a secluded part of the part of the park.
What legacy do you hope Green Lungs has and what are its future plans?
AP: Green Lungs is a pilot project that we hope to grow from this year onward; working with more participants, artists and environmental and outdoor organisations. Long term, we also hope to produce resources that allow Birmingham-based organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers to lead their own arts and heritage activities in parks.
Our wider aspiration for Ampersand Projects for us to build on this area of work, becoming a leading organisation which brings together the arts and the outdoors for the benefit of communities across the West Midlands.
An exhibition featuring sound artworks by Justin Wiggan and documentation of Green Lungs is currently on display at mac birmingham until 28 February 2017. Green Lungs is supported by Arts Council England Grants for the Arts and is in partnership with mac birmingham, St Chad’s Sanctuary Birmingham, Birmingham Ranger Service and Birmingham Wellbeing Service.
Ampersand Projects work with communities and artists to create accessible and empowering engagement experiences in public spaces. Based in Birmingham, UK and founded in 2016, they work to improve wellbeing, develop skills and give opportunities for people to create and experience special spaces, enriching art and share heritage.
Ampersand Projects’ Co-Directors Matt and Kate Andrews and artist Justin Wiggan discuss the aspirations and impacts of Green Lungs with Anneka French.