Saturday, 29 September 2012

Watching the Tide in Another Place

Feeling a little lack lustre at the laptop, I braved the rain and headed out today. Crosby beach is one of my favourite places. I find the Antony Gormley installation here, Another Place, fascinating.

 Originally the iron figures that stand staring out into the Irish sea were only supposed to be in place for a short period, but local people campaigned to keep them permanently on the beach.

Some of the figures appear to be sinking into the sand, others ride up out of it on their little pedestals, where the contours of the beach have altered over time.

This a place where metaphors seem to come easily. There is something redolent about the figures. The manner in which they just stand gazing.

I find sea landscapes evocative. The way the elements turn all that stand in their way vulnerable. The sun, sea, wind and salt minerals bash the hell out of everything, taking it all right back to its reality. It destroys all that is superficial, all that can't withstand it, so what is left is something hardy; imperfectly honest. You can see this in the weathered iron men. There is something grotesquely beautiful in the pocked rough-smooth of the ironwork. The tones and textures of the metal.

 Sometimes, at a distance, it is hard to tell human from iron man.

 There's something of the Kuleshov Effect about the figures. A whole spectrum of emotions and perspectives can be projected onto them. I find it incredible how specifically emotive their neutral, naive posture can become.

What are they looking at? who, or what, are they waiting for? Why are they each on their own? What effect would be created by positioning them differently - in pairs or groups or facing a different way? If they were turned around, would they appear to be positively looking at Crosby dunes and town, or negatively turning their backs on the sea? Would it seem like they had just emerged from the water?

The figures appear and then disappear under the receding and encroaching tides. They stand ankle, knee, thigh, waist, shoulder... deep in the water, unmoved by the danger that surrounds them. Obliviously lost in their meditation. Or brave in the face of it. I would love to see them under the water, to see if they look different in an alien element. A bit like Jason De Caires Taylor underwater sculptures.

 And as wistful as they can appear, if you put a bit of knitting around their ankles, they can even look mildly embarrassed, like they lost their drawers and now don't know whether to pretend it isn't happening, whilst giving a small embarrassed smile.

Or did he drop them on purpose?
There is always the danger when you take small children to the beach of what they will find and pick up that's been washed up on the tide. Tampon applicators, used condoms... and while I wish there was no rubbish to wash up on the tide line, I still find it morbidly fascinating. This flotsam of natural, sea creature remains, shells, weed all tangled up, wood bleached and rounded by its long journey, rubbing up next to the raw human rubbish of plastic caps, containers, unidentifiable components that all have the same water beaten look. There is something indiscriminate about it. Sometimes it is hard to tell which bits are designed by humans or the sea. 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Narrative Dance

I have run a couple of creative dance sessions this last month, covering for my friend, Katie Whitehead who set up the group. Katie runs a fantastic organisation called Divine Days, making the Arts available to all, working with both individuals and community groups. Do check out her website for more details.

Katie and I used to run a youth Arts Club together a few years ago, so it is nice to be collaborating again. I absolutely love working with her Creative Dance group. Members are a very varied collective of people living with addition needs. Each person brings something unique and marvellous to the ensemble and the variety of perspective and experience adds another dimension to the work they produce.

When Katie asked if I could cover a couple of sessions for her, I asked what she would like me to do. Anything, she said. The group relish and adapt to creative challenges. I took her word for it, and went with an autumnal theme as it seemed pertinent. I had this idea for a narrative dance, so we explored the idea of a landscape in autumn, firstly, choosing our music (we plumped for Puccini's 'Humming Chorus' from Madama Butterfly) and started by listening to the music and considering what we might feel or experience as we move through an autumnal landscape. We pieced together a strong piece of narrative dance, telling the story of our journey through the autumn scene. We decided we wanted to end the piece with a physical sculpt, drawing all of our stories together. The finished performance is something we hope to add to the dance showcase which will be happening soon.

It has been a real privilege to work with the Creative Dance group and I'm looking forward to collaborating with them again soon.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Word at Astley Hall

Astley Hall by socialBedia on Flickr.
On Saturday I was at The Word. An event set up by a group of wonderful writers from Chorley, it was a day to listen, learn and share, with a lovely lunch, book swap and writerly tour of Astley Hall all thrown in.

Award-winning blogger Kate Feld spoke about blogging for writers, so expect a few improvements here in the near future, while I implement some of her advice. (...faint sighs of relief from my committed yet tiny group of readers...)

Ra Page from Comma Press spoke about how to approach publishers and agents. It was lovely to catch up with Ra briefly afterwards. I'm very excited about the release of Bio - Punk next month; their latest science into fiction anthology. More on that soon.

Claire Massey spoke about the short story, and her approaches to creating short fiction. I feel exceptionally lucky to be working with Claire on the Litfest Landscape project. More about that soon, too!

The feature interview was with Kerry Wilkinson, author of the massively popular Jessica Daniel crime series on ebook, who has just got a deal with Pan Macmillan. I was caught between awe-filled admiration for a guy who has achieved such brilliant literary success, and then wondering if a lynching was going to happen when he indicated he didn't really read books himself. I couldn't tell if he was being deliberately provocative, or if he was a tiny bit embarrassed about how easy he finds it all. Either way, I've bought his first novel and I'm really looking forward to reading it. He was a brilliant guest speaker.

To sum up, I arrived with that sensation I sometimes get that I'm on the edge of a ridiculous precipice of literary failure and should give up and get a proper job. But I left feeling inspired, in admiration of brilliant writerly friends I'd spent time with that day and with a clutch of fantastic new books to read.

If The Word team plan another day, I highly recommend it. I will see you there.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Card Carrying

I've just spent far too long agonising over business cards. And I feel silly about it, so what better way to salve that than tell the world at large about my general embarrassment. Somewhere in my psyche, telling people that something embarrasses me makes it feel less embarrassing. Confessional.

I'm going to The Word, a day for writers in Lancashire, in a couple of weeks. I am really looking forward to spending time talking to and learning from writers I really admire. We are encouraged to bring, amongst other things, business cards. I've been meaning to make some up for ages, in an attempt to offer something more slick than the ripped out biro'ed details I find myself doing when requested that will almost certainly fall into that black hole of ripped out biro'ed papers as soon as we part ways.

In the past I've got as far as researching designs online, and maybe playing with fonts. The emotional block comes with the assertion, under my name, of putting 'Writer'. It just feels a bit too sure of myself. It's not that I don't think I'm a writer. It's what I do all day every day. It's what I am making a (limited) income from now. But it's what I worry other people might think of me, which is stupid; when I see other people's business cards, I think; "Oh, that's really useful. Nice logo..." and that's about the extent of it.

The thing is, I love to do, make, write, create, build, lead groups, I think I'm okay at it...(cringe), but something terribly English prevents me from pointing it out. And making a business card is the ultimate in self promotion. It assumes people will want it, or that I would be so bold as to offer it.

So. My tack has been to produce a card I think is so utterly lovely that I might give it out simply to share the image on the front. "Yes, it's nice isn't it? Oh, that, on the back? That's just my contact details, should you need them."