Archive for the ‘Art’ Category
As part of the Writing Squad, I was asked to write a new story that had to begin in Wykebeck Woods for East Leeds FM, and perform it alongside a second story that would act as an introduction to my writing. The two stories were broadcast on ELFM on Tuesday 19th June as part of the Write Place show during their radio festival.
My introductory story, Root Ginger, was recorded in the Artspace at Leeds Art Gallery by ELFM and my Wykebeck story, Cow Parsley Heart, was recorded and produced in my home studio with my sound design incorporating field recordings made by me in the woods.
This is the cow parsley heart:
Photographs I took on my phone in Wykebeck Woods when writing and recording for Cow Parsley Heart:
On Tuesday, I went to London. I am an Ambassador for the National Autistic Society, and their latest campaign, the Undiscovered Workforce, is about adults with autism and employment. I have Asperger Syndrome and do not have a job. Neither am I on benefits. I was invited to a reception at Parliament to launch the campaign.
The reception was held in Dining Room A at the House of Commons. I got there early, and was treated to a short tour by Anthony of the NAS, who used to work for an MP. I also got to see the Queen’s new Diamond Jubilee stained glass window, for which all the members of the Commons and Lords chipped in. Just like a birthday club at work. Apparently Her Maj did not bring buns in for everyone, but we spotted where the red carpet had been and chairs from her morning speech (school assembly, come on) were being cleared away.
When we got into the room, information packs, canapes and drinks were available, but I was more interested in the comfortable green leather chairs with House of Commons logo. Sadly, it would have proved impossible to stuff one in my handbag to take home. Soon, peers and MPs began to arrive, along with other people with autism, employers and more NAS staff. I met a lot of very interesting people and spoke about my experiences.
I met with my MP, Rachel Reeves, recently – details here – to discuss this very campaign, and she came to the reception. We had a little chat about furthering the campaign in Leeds and had some pictures taken, both officially and by her team.
With Rachel Reeves (photo courtesy of Rachel’s Twitter):
I was introduced to a Guardian journalist, and was interviewed briefly – apparently she will be back in touch – before being asked if I minded being filmed for BBC Breakfast. No guarantees that it would be used, etc. Four of us spent quite a long time outside the Commons, as nobody could film in Parliament, first being interviewed and then doing what I call a “Phil and Kirstie”. This is fake but purposeful walking down the street, to use as a kind of framing device.
Of course, having spent ages doing the Phil and Kirstie, that bit wasn’t used and nor was most of what we said. But despite the pressures of time on Budget Day, we still made it onto telly on Wednesday morning. I was asked if I wanted to do the live on the sofa bit, but I hadn’t got any more nice clothes with me or my hair stuff for the next day, so to be honest (and shallow) I turned it down for that reason. Fellow person with Asperger Syndrome and London dweller Katherine did a great job.
While we were out of the room, I missed being able to natter with plenty more MPs attending the reception, such as Louise Mensch. Damn. I also missed the speeches – the text of Lord Freud‘s speech can be found here.
On our return, I did get to meet NAS President Jane Asher, and thank her for the role that her book Quick Party Cakes played in my childhood, and for her performance in The Sarah Jane Adventures. We talked briefly about Lis Sladen, and a family anecdote surrounding a mix up between Janes Asher and Austen, and she was absolutely lovely.
Yesterday I went to the Hayward for the Joy In People exhibition by my favourite artist, Jeremy Deller. I had a whale of a time, and bumped into Jeremy as he was scurrying around checking everything was OK. We have met before, and it was great to chat again. Photography was forbidden in most areas, so I didn’t take many. The exhibition lives up to its joyous, humanist title. I did see the David Shrigley exhibition that was on at the same time, but that mostly left me cold. I’m not keen on his sculptures and the whole layout of the exhibition left me with unpleasant sensory triggers. Liked some of the pictures, though.
I’ll never get in any lifestyle mags, but check out how my Christmas tree is both classy (strict colour scheme for baubles and tinsel) and also mum-baiting (chock-full of Doctor Who and Star Wars figures).
The theme is continued throughout the room. The height of glamour.
Why not watch the slideshow and pretend you live among such rarefied surroundings?
So, here we are at the end of August. It hasn’t been much of a summer for me, all told, due to the amount of work I’ve had to do for OU and for my other projects. Here’s a chance to catch up on a few things.
The Open University are having to put their fees up, along with everyone else. Their page on it is here. The current student finance programme is also disappearing for new students, and being replaced with the same loan system used by brick universities. If this had been the case back in 2008 when I started my BSc, I wouldn’t have signed up. Couldn’t have. Having dropped out of two well-respected brick universities in my teens due to mental health and other issues, including my undiagnosed-at-the-time autism, I don’t think they’d have let me sign up for another loan. Getting full financial support meant I felt able to take the risk of starting a third attempt at a degree – even if they had let me borrow the fees, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing it based on my past. I’m now three years in, getting excellent marks and hoping to do a Masters if I can get the funding. I have one year left – starting in February, as my modules mostly run Feb-Oct. Wish me luck in my October exams…
Damien Hirst at Leeds Art Gallery… I was lucky enough to go to a preview of this exhibition while it was still being installed. I therefore avoided the crowds and the alarms. I loved it, though those of us present who did seemed to be a minority. Many had problems with Hirst the man, and the fame and money. Whereas I think those things are part of the work. I intend going back to the exhibition soon, when the school holidays end, and writing the more reflective piece I had in mind. It’s funny, when I was younger I was utterly fascinated by his Pharmacy restaurant in London, but could never afford to go even when I lived down there. Now a recreation of it is practically in my back yard. But you can’t eat or sit down or hang out there. It’s like a strange living museum. Reminded me in a way of the Pre-Fab at Eden Camp. More about this later, when I have time.
I am skint, so I rarely go to restaurants without a Clubcard token in hand, but I’ve eaten a couple of interesting meals lately…
Divino in Adel was a strange experience. Along with various other Leeds Guide competition winners, I was invited to try their new Italian tapas-style (or rather size) dishes. The welcome was non-existent, service poor, drinks overpriced (my pop also tasted terrible, off tap) and they hadn’t thought to ask whether or not anyone had any dietary requirements. So I (no red meat) and some others we spotted missed out on one course and were given a dodgy substitute for another. The food itself was a mixed bag. My companion enjoyed his parma ham and what he thought might be duck – at no point were we given a menu or descriptions or even names of the dishes – to start. I had nowt. Then came whitebait with deep fried strips of courgette/zucchini. Ingredients fine, oil not really hot enough, so somewhat greasy and under-seasoned. Homemade filled pasta with pumpkin, sage and chilli was OK if a bit thickly-rolled and uninspired, and topped with too-large and soggy crumbs of amaretti biscuit. I’ve seen Rick Stein do this before, but it was a lot less heavy-handed. My companion enjoyed his freshly-made lasagne. The veggie option was an elderly portion of the restaurant’s usual spinach and ricotta cannelloni, bizarrely topped with Cheddar cheese and bearing the hallmarks of being reheated in the microwave – floppy, far too hot, bechamel sauce coagulating strangely. The final dish was an okay but rather cheap-tasting portion of tiramisu. Nobody asked if we’d enjoyed our meal or said goodbye when we paid for drinks and left, so I don’t feel that bad about criticising a free meal.
I’ve also had the pleasure of visiting Fish&‘s new “beach hut” on Commercial Street in Leeds city centre. I have written about their food before, and last time I tried their fish & chips with a twist, I felt they showed promise but a few things needed tweaking. Now they get a solid 9-9.5 out of 10. Extremely fresh fish, batter not too thick, oil a good temperature and they’ve sorted out the chips. They would get a 10 if they let the chips get a little bit more colour, for aesthetic purposes. Taste-wise they’re great, just a little pale in real life. The hut’s in town from 11-6, Tuesday to Saturday. I had my portion following a tough tutorial session, and it sorted me right out.
This blog is super-quiet at present as I’m ridiculously busy with Open University work and other projects, but when a festival is happening round the corner from your house, it’s almost rude not to go.
Here are some pics:
I took part in this short film about the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds, which is a really lovely venue to which I was proud to lend my support. It’s funny, I wore a beret because it was windy that day and my hair was everywhere, but in the video I look like an authentic artponce as a result.
Saturday 15th January, the Artspace, Leeds Art Gallery, 2-5pm. See my previous Jelly Tales post for details. It’s an informal drop-in session, not a three hour “taught” workshop, so do come along…
Also, my co-conspirator Sarah did an interview with BCB Radio this week, and you can hear it at the Jelly Tales website.
I’m involved in this…an all-ages drop-in writing session at Leeds Art Gallery on 15th and 22nd Jan (Saturday afternoons), based on the characters in Lubaina Himid‘s shortlisted Northern Art Prize entry, Jelly Mould Pavilions.
If you remember, when I went to the preview of the prize exhibition, I was really excited about the little people in the exhibit and my mind went off on narrative-based tangents. So that became a crazy idea to get everyone to write flash fiction and very short plays – because surely other people would be thinking about what those people were saying/doing, too…? Then the Art Gallery said my friend Sarah and I could run a session. So do come. Bring your kids. Bring your nan. Bring your sulky cousins and your charming friends.
Come and tell us a Jelly Tale* at a creative drop-in session in the Leeds Art Gallery Artspace, just after you’ve seen Lubaina Himid’s Jelly Mould Pavilions (part of the Northern Art Prize exhibition). We’ll be there from 2pm-5pm on Saturdays 15th & 22nd January waiting for your dazzling wordplay: write some flash fiction (super short stories) in 100 words or less or try your hand at some dialogue for a mini play based on the characters in the Pavilions. The best five pieces will be recorded and showcased on our website. Suitable for all ages.
There’s something of a running joke with a lot of truth in it; that I know very little about comics and yet know so many people involved with them that it’s almost wrong that I haven’t tried to make one. It’s not for the want of trying, I’ve never invented a good enough story to tempt me into finishing even the most basic strip in order to tell it. You only get one first comic, after all. Drawing isn’t a problem, we’ve all seen xkcd and I can, er, do a bit. Plus I know lots of good artists. Back to the first sentence, there.
I do know and love some comics, of course (Ghost World, Phonogram, Love and Rockets, lots of online ones), but it doesn’t stop me feeling a little out of place in geek conversations at Thought Bubble. And yet this is the third time I have attended. I went to the very first convention, in the crypt of the Town Hall, and it was very hot and rammed to the gills. I went last year, where it was enormous and crazy and so unlike the first one it could be an entirely different thing were it not for the same welcoming atmosphere and lots of familiar faces. The only one I have missed was the second, the first in Saviles Hall, because although I had a ticket, I won a competition to meet my long time heroine Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane in Doctor Who and her own titular adventures) and have her read me and a select group of kiddywinks stories, and I couldn’t miss that.
So, this year. Even bigger than last year. I check Twitter before I go, and friends working the convention say there are huge queues outside long before the opening time of 10am. I revise my plans, dropping the idea of going to a couple of panel discussions, because I can’t stand for long in queues. Later, Jamie McKelvie tells me they had to hold back the first panel by twenty minutes because people were struggling to get into the building. One issue with not posting out ANY tickets (all collecting on the door) and so many people coming from out of town.
The cosplay element has ramped up to the point where I’m constantly falling over young kids dressed as obscure manga characters I can’t even begin to identify, along with zombie rollergirls. My little Doctor Who fan heart jumps with pride at the number of Eleventh Doctor cosplayers. Matt Smith’s costume may be a little less casual than David Tennant’s, but it’s considerably easier to pull together something recognisable from charity shops and Ebay, as well as the more dedicated fans pooling knowledge to get something screen-accurate. Anyway, a joy to see fezzes and tweed galore. It’s a long way from the cons that are purely aimed at selling people overpriced signed photos and “limited edition” merchandise. In fact, most creators here will happily sign stuff for free, and the queues to meet writers and illustrators at their own stalls are long, but good-humoured. I spot Bryan Talbot, John Romita Jr and so on with their mobs fairly quickly. There are also plenty of small press stalls, stalls where people of all ages can do an activity (painting Momji dolls, designing aliens and creating comics with Gillian Rogerson and Sarah McIntyre, live art, the Hexjibber installation etc) and lots of chat going on.
I meet up with my mates Lou and Mike and stumble upon many other friends (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Paul Cornell – new novel out next year and I can’t wait, Geof from Fetishman and his crew including my chum Mavis Cruet, Mark from OK Comics and so on) and end up buying all my stocking fillers from small independent producers. Not bad.
All the experienced convention exhibitors and attendees tell me Thought Bubble is their favourite UK con, and I can totally see why. I love being able to support writers and artists, hang out with friends and see the enthusiasm of hundreds of fans. The one issue this year is that it has almost become too busy. I struggle with crowds at the best of times, and is hard to stop too long at stalls or ask about getting sketches done (many artists will oblige) when you’re blocking a thoroughfare. I also didn’t take too kindly to being pestered by a flyerer from some big company, it didn’t feel in the spirit of the show. Sure, many of the creatives work for e.g. Marvel and DC, but to me the event should be about the creators and the small press and to a certain extent the independent shops. Big flashy books and commercialism can stick to the high street and Amazon.
If I could make one change, I’d put the shops into one room, the creative activities into another and the writer/artist stalls into a third, or at least into separate areas of a much bigger room. Browsing stalls, talking to/watching the activities of artists and getting involved in art all require their own spaces and go at their own speeds. People who can’t afford to go to restaurants need a friendly area to eat their lunch that isn’t sitting on the floor of the foyer, worrying about getting in people’s way. But that’s just space and people management, and Thought Bubble attendance has grown exponentially in the past four years. I still love it, sign me up for next year. I might have made a comic by then. Or at least read a few more, having bought some and been given more for free this year…
I, along with a fair few other Leeds bloggers and social media tarts, was invited on Wednesday to go to a behind the scenes preview of the Northern Art Prize exhibition at Leeds City Art Gallery. I have to admit, I enjoyed looking at the tins of paint, scissors, bits of paper, boxes of screws and ladders and things in a state of not-quite-readiness (and yet lit beautifully) generally as much as some of the art. Mind you, if it were at the Henry Moore or Tate Modern, some of it might have been the art itself.
I want to go back and see it properly (exhibition runs from 26th November to February next year), which I suppose is rather the point, because it’s hard to judge a lot of it for now when it’s not all there. I found with some things I preferred form to content – couldn’t be doing with the typography or poems on little glass bottles, but liked the bottles. Same with the poemy rock, but it tasted nice, and added to the intoxicating chemical smell of the room. Paints and artificial flavourings, a good mixture.
I liked Lubaina Himid‘s stuff best of what I was able to see, but then I’m a sucker for things in miniature and her painted jelly moulds (which I liked aesthetically, even if I didn’t understand it) were part of scenes involving the tiny model people from model railway sets, and trees from same, and I could look at that little lot for hours. It isn’t even all up yet, there was a table covered in bubblewrap and more little figures. There was a narrative, because of the placement of the models, their poses and their individual characters and props. I found that spoke to me, in a way, because my brain was telling me the stories of what they were up to and what they might be talking about. I’m rubbish at explaining, but it made me think of Peanuts comic strips and, even more so, the Charlie Brown animated films.
I want to see Haroon Mirza‘s work, as that’s more my bag generally than most of what was on display, and he’s a Sheffield lad. His stuff needed plugging in. I liked David Jacques‘ industrial photos, but what I saw of Alec Finlay‘s art on the whole left me cold. The one thing I liked by him was a neon rock/paper/scissors light installation, which I think I mostly enjoyed because it was fun to photograph. As a work in itself, it might as well have been an advert for Coca-Cola or a Christmas decoration for all it made me feel. Maybe that’s what’s intended.
Hopefully I’ll be able to go back in the next couple of weeks and see the finished exhibition. It’s worth popping in, anyway. It costs nowt to look.