Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Waaaggghhhh it's been ONE HUNDRED YEARS since I last wrote a blog and quite frankly so much has happened I'm going to employ the bullet point system method (BPSM) to catch y'all up.

  • I'm in Texas! So I'm allowed to say y'all just for the duration (I think) and because they actually say this, all. of. the. time.
  • I'm on a 3 month residency at Habitable Spaces in Kingsbury, a small town in between San Antonio and Austin, it's a pretty special place.
  • my Head's been blown on a daily basis by MANY things
  • like, Creatures - I didn't research the creatures aspect before I came out and glad that I didn't as I would've been a gigantic scaredy cat - I'm learning slowly that they don't all want me to die and have to come to terms with the fact that I'm on their patch and they're not hanging out outside my tent to frighten the be-jaysus out of me and give me a heart attack, but to catch their smaller dinner
  • Saw two snakes on my first night
  • Tent - looks gorgeous, is gorgeous but down to the fact that it was an exceptionally hot first week and monsters found their way in one night we decided to change my accommodation
  • Butch and Laura, locals from up the road very kindly offered their place to stay while home number 2 is being fixed up back on the farm. Butch and Laura are ace. I've had the opportunity to get to know another family alongside the one at the farm so actually feel quite lucky and will always be grateful to them
  • Gifted the rattle from a rattle snake killed by Butch in his shed
  • Animals - there's loads of them - I've grown especially fond of what I think may be a stray in Downtown Kingsbury, a tortoiseshell with one eye that I've named Tortilla, she was really weary at first but yesterday came right over and sat with me while I sketched, which broke my heart as I couldn't stroke her because I had something in my mind about myxomatosis but have since learned that's just a rabbit thing - going back to see Tortilla in a bit with a more animally minded person to advise!
  • Took a spin in an 80's Alpha Romeo with a neighbour whilst listening to Tom Jones Greatest Hits
  • Visited the local Aerodrome (doesn't every small town have one?) and have been invited to fly in a tiny plane called Miss Piggy with Charlotte the pilot who's part of the Ninety Nines Club
  • Met the local Deputy Sherrif who thought it was odd that I was walking full stop but especially in the rain
  • Watched the match against City around Butch and Laura's place in Spanish
  • Met Jerry Hall's cousin, Kay totally randomly in Luling, seems that's where her family comes from, backed up by video evidence on, 'Who Do You Think You Are' - surreal

There are four artists here including me. Adam, Connor and Justin, I'm ancient compared to them but we're all getting on well and enjoying taking the piss out of each others accents! I'm sure we'll have our bumps but that's normal - more info on their projects here: 

My project is essentially to bring Dead Pigeon Gallery to Texas, alongside North End Sketch Club. How madly wonderful is that? Stupidly excited to see how this rolls out here...

Working on DPG and North End Sketch Club alongside Walton CLP (Constituency Labour Party in the UK) I've become really interested in working out ways to bring people together, particularly from outside of both the political and art communities. I spoke in the last blog about why I joined the Labour Party because of Jeremy Corbyn and how that developed organically into working with Lena Simic, Political Education Officer for Walton CLP and Ian Byrne, now councillor for Everton and office manager at Dan Carden MP's office, resulting in a wonderful night of art and performances called, Getting to Know You - Walton CLP. 

Bouncing off that Dan Carden, MP for Walton then agreed to host Dead Pigeon Gallery at his office in Anfield, Liverpool 4. It was genuinely a highlight in my art practice because of the sheer variation of people coming to see the work. I've always found that both art and politics have suffered from alienating people with the language used and top down elitism, so have always tried to break down barriers with my art practice. Since joining the Labour Party I was and still am confused about our political system, but slowly it's making more sense, and more importantly I'm not worried about not knowing the ins and outs, trusting instinct and gut feeling is just as valid and we can't all be politicians or want to be.

But, we do want to be part of it. 

I felt like having an art exhibition at the local MP's office killed two birds with one stone, even the thought of it still excites me, and I intend on building on it when I get back to Liverpool after Texas. In terms of the Labour Party and accessibility I think the recent party conference held in Liverpool proved without a shadow of a doubt how much it has opened up, especially to creatives and that politics doesn't have to be one way, embodying community spirit by inviting all talents/interests/passions and finding a way to include them into campaigns is now an accepted norm in the Labour Party. And that in itself it truly remarkable. 

Since I arrived here in the States I've found I've probably talked about Corbyn more than anything else, sharing that hope and confidence he instilled in all of us that joined the party in the last three years is a really positive thing. Obviously the political climate here is equally dire as in the UK. In local elections there seems to be some hope though in the Texas candidate for the US Senate, 'Beto', from what I've said about Corbyn, the locals here tell me that resonates mostly with him. Haven't enough knowledge on him yet to say either way but the people who I've spoken to who's moral compass seems to point roughly in the same direction as mine all seem to be looking to Beto. 

The Liverpool arm of Dead Pigeon Gallery will remain at Dan's office until I get back late December, so if you want to visit email me and I'll arrange for one of the other artists to show you around:

The Texas arm is in development along with sketch it.

I'm in flippen TEXAS - ha! And, Friday we meet the horses! Can't wait and hoping to learn to ride, or at least have a go!

We went to a 'Swing Dance' too the first weekend, now that was gorgeous to watch and be part of. All set out in the street, lit up by lights in the trees, stalls selling handmade cowboy/girl boots to the back drop of Lockhart, a really nice looking neighbouring town. Cowboys and gals everywhere.

I'll be updating more regularly while I'm here so going to leave you with some interesting snaps of spiders, snakes, cats, goats, tents, aeroplanes, cars and other Texas-ness's

Ultimately, all is well. Texas is both fascinating and terrifying my eyeballs!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Ever since DPG

Ever since Dead Pigeon Gallery I've thought about having my own gallery, I mean, I keep coming back to that particular project and that moment in time. Some projects can have that effect but this is stronger and ongoing and doesn't look like it's going away. But in the meantime...

Having had this time to reflect, half a year on, I can now see how much of a positive impact it had, not just on my own mental health but a continued sense of camaraderie with those of us involved. The space itself has gone on to become somewhere that houses art as the norm, something that wasn't on the cards initially. But, it doesn't belong to us, it has it's own proud owners, and it did make me think again about what it must feel like to actually own our own building.

It also made me feel incredibly proud of our Dead Pigeon Gallery for trailblazing the way for other artists to get involved and take over the space which is now a beacon in the newly emerging Fabric District in Liverpool.

Infographic produced by the Arts Council based on key findings from evidence review study: 
The Value of Arts and Culture to People and Society

Full report: The Value of Arts and Culture to People and Society

WE all know the minute an artist steps their foot inside a building it adds value, but quick fix development schemes haven't the patience for it, yet they all want 'one that looks like that', once an area has been given time to build and flourish with creative businesses at the heart. Recognising the value of artists and how they're so often the first to take on spaces has to be addressed. The majority of the time doing it on our own time, without being paid, but for the love of what we do and knowing 100% for sure that we can be catalysts for regeneration. I found the above infograph by The Arts Council valuable as a 'go to' when constantly asked to justify what it is you do as an artist, a sure sign I had to fill out too many forms lately. But, worth sharing with my peers as we're mostly all in the same boat and always somehow end up with no long term solution to our own aims which is to remain and continue being conductors for culture, social well being and economic growth.

Back to reflecting, most of the time my work simply develops from who I'm spending time with. I think being open to see what develops regarding the chosen medium (in art terms, painting, sculpture, film etc) is something I realised I actually like and gained through various residencies. Allowing yourself to not know what you're going to do, because you're going to respond to this next group of people, within a whole new parameter is where the idea will come from. Every single idea can't be developed. There's too many. Then one day you get one that takes you by surprise almost, they're the stayers, the ones you can't sleep at night over until you've followed that line of enquiry.

Dead Pigeon Gallery is still very much one of those lines of enquiry.

I've learnt the hard way to follow the paths that connect with what you're already doing, what you're about, your natural instincts, interests and passions. I often get asked or told I should be here or there, or doing this or that, it used to wind me up, but now I think maybe it would be worse if nobody had any thoughts or feelings as to where they thought I should or shouldn't be. But I have to take my thoughts home with me at the end of the day, and I need to be able to sit well with them. I want them to be my mates.

Since I decided to actively feel ok using the words 'no thanks' plus leave facebook, the noise and constant chatter has begun to settle down and given me some space for new ideas.

I've got three projects coming up, all based on the above theory, in that they've come along naturally from day to day activity, helping to both ignite something and ease something.

Jeremy Corbyn, Yoga and Sketching.

The timing of Jeremy Corbyn's emergence in 2015 was fate as far as I'm concerned.
A few weeks after losing my Mum he was speaking at The Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, I didn't even really know who he was but his name had filtered through at time when nothing else was and I just had to be there. The hotel was packed, more people outside the room than inside where he spoke, I was spellbound. There before me was this normal fella, just speaking...normally. He talked openly and honestly. Slowly and calmly, no drama. I found this both inspiring and endearing. I thought, he's not arsed about being popular, he cares about us.

After he'd finished speaking I was having a drink with my Dad and a friend, the friend had got up to go the toilet and I was having a scan of the room when my heart skipped a beat, 'Dad, there's Jeremy,' pointing behind my left shoulder. My Dad who isn't phased or that impressed by anything or anyone to be fair said, 'Yeah and? You going to talk to him?' I still have no idea where it came from but it's like someone else stood me up and plonked me directly into his path. Literally plonked. He stopped immediately and then proceeded to stop everyone else around him from moving me on, they were just trying to usher him through the crowd. Understandably I must add as it'd been a long night. Within about 5 seconds we were having a full on conversation, it was one of the most poignant moments of my life and will live with me forever. I began telling Jeremy Corbyn, a complete stranger all about my Mum and what had just happened, the rest of the conversation is special to me, so not for a blog post but needless to say I'll always be grateful for what he said, and it helped. A lot. In all that noise and chaos going on around us, he just shut it all out and let me speak and listened.

Merseyside TUC Rally at The Adelphi Hotel, August 2015

Yoga was something I'd always wanted to try but never quite got around to it. Then last summer up popped Positivity Inc's Summer of Yoga, an opportunity to try out free yoga classes held outdoors in North Liverpool parks. A chance conversation with my friend Angela led to us heading down to The Rotunda's urban garden for our first session in the baking sunshine around a tree.

Positivity Inc's Summer of Yoga - The Rotunda, 2017

Eve, who delivers the sessions and I got talking afterwards and pretty much never stopped. That was almost a year ago now. I think she took me under her wing a bit to be fair, little bit like Corbyn. I think people who are sensitive enough know when someone needs a bit of TLC.

So, these two paths had opened up at the same time I'd had an urge to start drawing and sketching again. I hadn't done it for years and not really ever with any continuity. It'd always simply been a tool to help explain an idea to someone or something, I thought I just didn't have the patience for it.

I took some time out and went on an artist residency in Corris in Wales for two weeks. That was it, I got over my fear of it, and probably most importantly what the 'art world' would make of it, over thinking my urge to draw for drawings sake. I think I realise now that sitting there looking at nature that way, intently, forcing myself to sit still and just look gave me a bit of an anchor in the world for an hour or two. Highly recommend this residency too if anyone's interested,

So that's the context I suppose and the lead up to where I'm heading.

North End Sketch Club is first up, I'm super happy about this as sketching was key to my personal well being, as was the yoga, so to be supported by the same company, @Positivity_Liv to run the sketch club is kind of perfect.

All details here on this flyer but basically, every Wednesday, for 6 weeks, 1-2.30pm from 23rd May we'll go and have a sketch together. It's that simple. All welcome.

flyer front

flyer back

The next project developed out of wanting to not only do something for Corbyn but find other ways to engage in local politics and ongoing chats over the years about art, politics, footie and our shared local community with Ian Byrne.

I met Dan Carden, MP for Walton now in North Liverpool (who Ian now works with), during the 2017 general election campaign when myself and Sally Anne Watkiss from Homebaked dreamt up PiesForCorbyn (essentially asking people to sponsor a pie that we could take to our nearest marginal seats to provide proper sustenance for the door knockers.) It was an absolutely brilliant election day, we raised over £600 for Homebaked, our local community bakery, and door knockers had full bellies, it was a win win. But most importantly it highlighted that when heads come together from different walks of life that creative spark can lead to such positive engagement in politics, which for many still remains a scary and complicated entity. I liked that Dan was also approachable and open to it, and also paid for lots of pies!

Political Education Officer, Lena Simic of Walton CLP (constituency labour party) organised an event earlier this year at The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool for local Labour Party members to visit shows by Lubaina Himid and The Singh Twins. She asked if I'd lead a discussion afterwards about art and it's relationship to politics generally and what we all thought about the work. This led to thinking about what skills/talents we have within the group and how it would be a great resource and platform to stage an event to find out what each other does, a great way to get to know the community and be supportive of it. It could also lead to finding alternative ways to engage people who belong to the Labour Party but as stated before, are not sure how to get involved or interact with it.

The thought developed into a CALL OUT to all Walton CLP members, this covers the districts in Liverpool of, Everton, Anfield, Clubmoor, County, Fazakerley and Warbreck.

As before, all details on the flyer but essentially, GET IN TOUCH and simply tell us what you do. That's it, from the responses we receive we'll develop a way of sharing this information to each other, it maybe a new business you've set up or that you have a boss collection of model airplanes, doesn't matter, it's just about finding out what's out there, in the community, in the Unknown!

flyer front

flyer back

I think it's a good job I only write blog posts about three times a year, I'm fully aware of making peoples heads fall off and I think that's me done for now.

I'll pick up on the third project when it's all been boxed and confirmed. But needless to say it involves art in the community.

Here's some photos to give your head a break from words.

Thanks for reading.

Lubaina Himid, The Walker Art Gallery, 2018

Lubaina Himid, The Walker Art Gallery, 2018

Lubaina Himid, The Walker Art Gallery, 2018

The Singh Twins, The Walker Art Gallery, 2018

The Singh Twins, The Walker Art Gallery, 2018

And, one last pic for The Mighty Reds.

Before the City game en route to Kiev, 2018