Defining the Margins

AR YR YMYLON / ON THE EDGE
National Eisteddfod 2016

 

On The Edge, Peak’s fringe programme of cultural talks from border land, celebrated the National Eisteddfod of Wales in the county of Monmouthshire and involved over 150 people across 7 days (30 July – 5th August) of events that considered the artists and writers of the Black Mountains. The talks took place in the intimate surroundings of The Cabin of Curiosities, an antiques and collectables shop in the heart of Abergavenny, a short walk from the Eisteddfod Maes.

From the comments book:

‘Fascinating and very lively!’
‘Very interesting – especially the cross discipline aspect.’ 
‘Thank you so much for organising this cornucopia of events. Diolch.’ 
‘Inspired me to pick up my camera.’
‘Borders are a state of mind rather than a physical reality. Very thought-provoking.’ 
‘Highlights the valuable cultural life of the region.’ 

(Images from Paul Cabut’s talk about photography in Newport.
Photo credit: Toril Brancher)

 

Five writers – Emma Geliot, Rhys Trimble, clare e. potter, Cari Barley & Siôn Aled Owen – respond to each day of On The Edge.

 

05 / 08  y ffotograffydd Paul Cabuts yn trafod dylanwad ffotograffiaeth ar Goleg Celf Casnewydd

05 / 08 photographer Paul Cabuts discusses the influence of photography at Newport College of Art

——————

Pe meddwn dalent plentyn
i weld llais a chlywed llun …

so wrote Gerallt Lloyd Owen in 1974 about the way a child can see a voice and hear a picture. And as Paul Cabuts took us through some of the ways he has used and developed the craft of ffotograffydd – photographer, I too began to wander back and forth along that tingling border between the visual and the verbal, rhwng y gair a’r darlun.

Ac wrth iddo ddweud ei stori, a sôn am ffotograffau’n adrodd stori, mi welais innau stori. And as he shared his own story and spoke of photographs telling their story, I saw a story.

Saethiad lleoli – establishing shot

Dau ddyn ar stryd y Fenni
yn rhannu sgwrs funud

Two men in an Abergavenny street
sharing a minute’s chat
Gadael y camera i mewn i fywydau pobl
Letting the camera into people’s lives

A minnau’n aros yn ddig’wilydd wylio a gwrando
fel petawn yn anweledig saff

And I stopped, unashamed to watch and listen
as if safely invisible

 

Saethiad portread – portrait shot

And they were all coming out down there
and they were all saying shw mae

Yea? What’s that?

Hello. Something like that. And me, I started saying shw mae back

Ok, were they?

Oh, yea. That’s how they talk all the time, I s’ppose

S’ppose so. Yea

Nice though, in a way

 

Saethiad anffurfiol – Informal shot

Wynebau, bywydau’n rhyw betrus groesawu’r tresmaswyr iaith, o Gymru arall

Two faces, two lives, welcoming, somehow, these linguistic trespassers, from another Wales

 

A throais, wedi lladrata rhyw foment fach o fywyd dau,
a gwasgu’n fwyfwy Eisteddfotaidd tua’r Maes
heb wybod pa Gymru sa i mi’n well cynefin

And I turned, after thieving a moment from two lives,
to join the faithful funnelling towards the Maes
a little confused about where, which Wales I want to be
Paul talked of his tutor tearing two of his early photos in half and putting them together – “That’s what you want.”  Maybe that’s the photo I feel I have to make as well, of y Fenni and Abergavenny, the Maes and the gossiping street, Cymru and Wales.

Siôn Aled Owen

——————

04 / 08 yr awdur, cynhyrchydd a chyflwynydd, Jon Gower yn trafod gwaith Raymond Williams
04 / 08 writer, producer and presenter Jon Gower discusses the work of Raymond Williams

 

By Measuring the Distance

‘The only landscape I see in dreams is the Black Mountain village in which I was born.’ – Raymond Williams

If anything has the spiritual uplift of Sufi singing [1], it is Jon Gower’s offering; his words swell and swarm and settle in the cabin where curious minds have come to learn of path-treading, love of land, and how extraordinary things happen when idea-sharing. I think of my inner landscape, the women who gather behind me, an endless thread—and my father who walks and understands what is meant by measuring distance and coming home.

I

You are Sarah of Annie with the 18 inch waist

who once threw a stale bread at the vicar,

raven-haired Sarah with the malachite eyes

who does not yet know how histories of hangings

and beatings line up with their collective nudge

to be heard in the DNA of you;

not Sarah of Welsh spoken

and Eisteddfod winning uncles, or political picnic speakers,

or of dry stone wallers, or the county’s best sheepdog breeder,

 

but Sarah of, Sarah of, Sarah of

with no idea why your neck hurts

and your temper burns and why you always break into song at night.

 

The only landscape you’ll see in dreams is the undulating black heaps

which seep their way in and cover you, smother you.

 

II

In the dayroom by the window, a town away, a time away,

The prettiest meadow I ever saw was on an old coal tip,

she keeps repeating

the meadow I saw,      the pretty of it,           the old coal I saw,

how pretty I was,        the old cold sore tip,    the coal

all over the meadow    spoiling pretty.           In her dreams

 

there are no oxeyes, yarrow, campion, no grasses

sending patterns of shivers at her feet. In her dreams

she hears her father speak over the spitting liver, she

fears the belt coming off and her back braces for its slap.

 

III

A dyna chi, fy nhad i, yn hapus gyda’ch milltir sgwâr,

yn fodlon teithio’n ddwfn yn lle yn llydan.

Dim angen i chi freuddwydio am eich tirwedd,

chi sy’n symud ar hyd ei chromliniau,

yn grwydro’r hen lwybrau claddu,

bob cam yn dod â chi’n agos at eich mam chi.

 

A’r bwys y giât mochyn, er ebychynod,

tra mae’r barcud coch yn gleidio dros eich tafod.

Yn eich cerdded ac ystyried, mae’r gorffenol

yn cwrdd â’r presennol, ac yr ydych chi

wedi mesur pob cam dwyfol

gyda chyffwrdd uniongyrchol.

 

Translation:

Here you are, my dear father, content

with your square mile, content

to travel deep, not wide.

No need to dream your landscape:

in daylight you move along its curves

wandering the old burial path, each step

brings you closer to your mother.

 

By the kissing gate, the gasp

as the red kite revisits the sky.

 

Through your walking and pausing, the past

meets the present, and you have measured

each divine step, with a true touch.

clare e. potter

(‘Travel deeper rather than wider’ in reference to an interview with artist Frank Auerbach on Front Row, Radio 4)

[1] Jon Gower

——————

03 / 08 yr awduron Christopher Meredith a Tom Bullough yn archwilio ffiniau a chyrion mewn llenyddiaeth
03 / 08 writers Christopher Meredith & Tom Bullough examine borders and peripheries in literature

 

The First Duty of the Artist is to be Free
– Raymond Williams

This has been a difficult task, responding creatively to a reading of works that were poignant enough. Chris Meredith and Tom Bullough shared their process of writing poems, and a novel, addressing, thematically, how each was inspired by, influenced by, conscious of knowing the land, heartland, headland, addland, Y Gororau, yr ymylon, y ffiniau, it’s people, it’s language; the process by which over time those slip away, unless . . .

Stuck.

I’ve not been able to articulate anything. I suspected this would happen the moment the audience in the Cabin of Trugareddau, clapped, bought books, hesitated to leave.

Trugareddau: ‘mercies,’ ‘odds and ends’, not quite curiosities: ‘chwilfrydeddau’, the things we are looking for. When seeking an exact word, sometimes an unexpected, unknown word arrives as a gift . . . .

In the garden, afterwards, a juvenile song thrush with scrawny feathers beat its wings less than a foot away from my table (            ). I watched it hover. Felt the rhythmical wafts of air, heard the inexpressible sound of its pause-in-flight. That took energy, bravery. This little one wanted crumbs, briwsion (fragments) from my plate. Or did it? I have never before encountered a non-captive bird so . . . intimately. Was I breathing? Our eyes conversed and immediately, there was no bird-self, or me(?)-self, no teagarden, teacup, no pressure to respond; it was the infinite moment between moments.

At home, tongue-tied, bound to distraction, I read The Hill of Dreams:

I had a horrible todo with my sentences . . . [They were] a mass of erasures,
corrections, interlineations . . . I was to start afresh, then, to get a style of my own . . .[1]

 

I saw my task clearly; not to capture what was said by two fine writers firmly established in the literary canon. My words, their words, no match. I knew I must be true, in my plain clothes, to my own tongue, to where my mind went as they spoke. It’s no insult to them, there is time enough to re-read their pages and re-immerse in their meanings yn y gogoniant o’u eiriau.

 

 

Return Journey

 

We’ve slow-trekked the edge, seeking

the rocking stone where you played. He’s warned us

of fissures, heather-hidden, some 30 foot deep,

which run through this hill’s heart.

He says it’s the natural movement and splitting

of rock, the land still going through its process,

that maybe it has enough of what it is and breaks

away from itself

(and all its definitions).

Did you fear them?

 

At the spot where we overlook your valley, I open the box

hurl you at last to the vast grey. But you swirl

with the wind’s gust which sends each grain of you

into my eyes and mouth so I’m blind

and crunching bone-grit between teeth;

 

all your joy coming back to me.

clare e. potter

[1] Arthur Machen

——————

02 / 08 yr artist a churadur Anthony Shapland yn sgwrsio ag enillydd Medal Aur Celfyddyd Gain yr Eisteddfod
02 / 08 artist and curator Anthony Shapland in conversation with Eisteddfod Gold Medal Winner for Fine Art

 

Anthony Shapland is an artist who works with moving image, while Richard Bevan, the winner of this year’s Eisteddfod Gold Medal for Fine Art, is more sharply defined as an artist film–maker, working specifically with 16mm film, which has often been made in direct response to a particular location.

Bevan, from Maesteg, completed a BA in Fine Art at Cardiff School of Art & Design, where he was based in the Printmaking department, where he had the freedom to begin his investigations into filmmaking. This continued during his MA at The Slade and he now lives in London. One of his first exhibitions was at g39, the artist-led gallery in Cardiff, of which Shapland is a founding co-director.

For that show, Richard Bevan (the artist doesn’t like titles), in the gallery’s original home in Mill Lane, he filmed the window frames and surrounding woodwork in the original baby blue. They were then painted black. The film was projected, upside down, onto the wall inside the gallery, a topsy-turvy echo of the view through the gallery window. He also filmed a hidden Victorian spiral staircase within the g39 building, having first painted the steps in the colours of the rainbow, and this was projected upstairs in the gallery.

Bevan doesn’t like interpretive texts or press releases, wanting his audience to work at what they are looking at. For the g39 show he produced a series of publications, each in a rainbow colour containing texts and responses by other artists to his work.

Understanding the framework that Bevan creates for the ways in which his work is seen is crucial. He won’t submit films for show reels and he rarely shows his work in a screening environment. His work is intended to be seen in a particular way and his four films at Y Lle Celf underline the dynamic between the projector, the projected image (“light and shadows” as Bevan describes it) and the viewer. This is the first time he has shown so many works together – three in one space, one in its own room. Bevan is clear that although 16mm film is expensive and time-consuming there is a physical quality to it that can’t be replicated digitally.

Knowing what the subject matter is isn’t important – Bevan doesn’t talk about his intentions. The films are loops, sometimes very short but with each loop something new emerges. There is little action, tiny shifts or small gestures, which intensify with meaning after each loop.

Shuntaro Tanikawa’s poem, A Personal Opinion About Grey, is a touchstone for Bevan, talking as it does about white and black and how one becomes the other. He says, “ I’ve had criticism for relying on the beauty of the image. The beauty comes from the aesthetic beauty of film and light”. Shapland adds, “There’s a seduction, like stained glass is seductive [because] it’s light”.

Emma Geliot

——————

01 / 08 artistiaid preswyl Llwyn Celyn, Jamie Lake a Toril Brancher yn cyflwyno’u hymatebion creadigol
01 / 08 artists in residence at Llwyn Celyn, Jamie Lake & Toril Brancher present their creative responses

 

Rain pattered on the corrugated roof, birdsong suddenly erupting from the garden surrounding the Cabin of Curiosities, the antiques standing as silent sentinels to the human crowd gathered safe from the Welsh weather.  Tyner were the speakers and listeners that day, as Llwyn Celyn’s memories, inspirations and dreams swelled in that small space.

Light and darkness. Lake took his audience on a walk through his images of Llwyn Celyn.  He placed golau in the fractures of the buildings’ walls, and shone light through time, the disintegration of man’s creation.  The still buildings, we saw, were no longer llonyddwch, but walls were yawning away from each other, moving outwards to llithro down the gradient of the valley.  The eiliad llonydd was a myriad of movement, caught in the periphery.

Gall y glaswellt cofio?  Could the grass remember when the farm was hustle and bustle, the medieval hall filled with roaring people?  Brancher brought our focus to the plants of the area and what they had known and seen of people’s histories at Llwyn Celyn: we saw the sloes in the hedges, the elderflower that people of the past had perhaps mixed with honey, the llwyni that housed a plethora of plants.  She took us inside the farmhouse and we saw the floral wallpaper blistering in the awel from the fractured walls, yn hel atgofion of families fighting against the tide of time and elements.  We saw the medieval sedd where many had rested, a bridge between the generations of people who had lived there.  The windows and their curtains gave us views over the valley, the Welsh mountains with their woodland, the defaid in their caeau.  All those who had woken each morning and peered at the tywydd – was it the day to cut the hay?

Then we were returned to the Cabin of Curiosities, the promise of the Landmark Trust to conserve this history, this Welsh landmark.   We saw the photographs of high fences, diggers and trenches healing the tired walls, patching the fractured surfaces, teasing the nant that loves to run through the house to play away once again.

Tyner – tender
Golau – light
Llonyddwch – stillness
Llithro – slide
Eiliad llonydd – still moment
Llwyni – hedges
Awel – breeze
yn hel atgofion – collecting memories
sedd – seat
defaid – sheep
caeau – fields
tywydd – weather
nant – stream

Cari Barley 

——————

31 / 07  y cyd-artistiaid Penny Hallas a Caroline Wright yn arwain taith gerdded amgen drwy’r Fenni
31 / 07  collaborative artists Penny Hallas & Caroline Wright lead an alternative walk through Abergavenny

 

EXILE OBJECTISM BLUES

TRUGAREDDAU’R ALLTDION GLEISION

 

entrope blue symbolism in art raw west

is left of that blue dress mark

of a boundary animal schematic of duration

 

Trugareddau is chattel. In this walk arranged by a binocule of artists Penny Hallas and Caroline Wright’s guided walk

 

urine ego bad ways trust brass space rehoused

dereliction edging        glaucous

promotion & religiose  (yr angel)

 

Here we are invited to walk around small details, the personal, everything is Blue I’m reminded of the three-colours documentary on BBC 4

 

invited disturbance barracks lath &

plastered migration interior wilt soil powder

frequency is penniless

 

I cut every line from the air and reposition and curate it, much as items are arranged in the cabin of curiosities

 

eight three access elite hubris wound

complete insect eye becoming context bury

remembering in sum’r a book of adjectives

 

Things are dexterously placed by Lyndon about town. Boundaries abound. Welsh is outside us and inside

 

ci glas elastration reminder circle grave

middle blueness status transgression sheeptrod

commode coupling androgenise blue

 

Dwi’n cynnig y geiriau canlynol: Trugareddau (Trugaredd) Alltud (Exile) Bregus (Brittle)

 

cyd-destun claddu cofio

mewn ha’ gerdd o waddol

fregus trwy dant glas

 

cylch medd wrth ymyl

meddyliol cerdded penglog

ochrog yr un llinell canol duwch *

 

Caroline knows the ordinal position of every object via an ap

 

Y Skirrid – drawing binary googlewalking

radial tinting outside of route

compatability of relics positioning

 

The feminine psychogeography is suggested by Rebecca, more lineated, shared, discursive, focused, attuned

 

show flatlands testbed constrained in approval

glas venturing talisman blubaby barrier

mynydd flipside dwyfol ego

 

We all bring our own wounds and pieces, they sit in space as stanza’s are rooms and poems are

 

afar urine resilience yellow separation

walking placed foetal attributed

bias in truism remit scrotum used in bind

 

Collaborative voices wing the narrative to edge the parking space in chalk and later Skirrid soil ritual

 

plastic hand on our landscape cycle beam feminine name

alley for trash               girders automobile gaps

who composed herself conglomerate rivers

 

I point out that “human hand on our landscape” is cynghanedd lusg as I look at a little plastic hand

 

superheating dead verbiage eruption jenever quotidian

number nerves ego       flesh secret moaning

stutters feminine with teardrops adroit of

 

A brass band strikes up and is carried up on thermals to were we stand near to a sheep’s scrotum

 

infork line binary flock of emission dreams

interregnum riffing on cell death into untitled

his cant audeation

 

Later I am stuck on Abergavenny train station for two hours, I get into an adventure – they make a special announcement for me on the train “will the owner of the bicycle be advised it is blocking the signal-gate and will be removed”

 

indigenous artery whittling grazing rites

basal spectra infrastasis navi(gagors

convoluting breath                              blues.

Rhys Trimble 

——————

30 /07  yr artist preswyl Rebecca Chesney a’r daearegwr Alan Bowring yn trafod celf a’r amgylchedd
30 / artist in residence Rebecca Chesney & geologist Alan Bowring discuss art and environment

 

Rebecca Chesney was the first Peak artist in residence for the Black Mountains in partnership with the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, where Chesney had met Alan Bowring, one of the National Park’s geologists. Bowring provided rich material for her research into the area, which in turn informed Snapshot, the colour chart that she produced at the end of her residency.

While Chesney responded to the colours and visual stimuli above ground, Bowring’s insights produced an alternative understanding of how the local topography had formed. Their conversation covered an enormous amount of ground in two hours.

Bowring talked of his love affair with red sandstone rocks and the stories they reveal. He described the formation of the South Wales coalfields, created by a fold in the rocks which forced coal into seams, transforming the South Wales landscape forever. Had this geological event not occurred the Brecon Beacons National Park would have covered a much greater area, there would have been no dense settlement of the Valleys and the history and culture of Wales would have been dramatically different.

Chesney’s residency was an antidote to the over romanticising of landscape. Snapshot offers a realistic palette of land use, from Bale Wrap Green to Cagoule, – referencing all the walkers on the mountains, She – a bright pink that is one of the limited colour choices for women walkers’ weather wear, and to Shot Fox and Dog’s Breath. In Early January Celandine, Chesney also notes the effects of climate change on local flora.

The language we use to talk about our environment is often revealing and as a fringe event for the biggest celebration of Welsh language culture of the year, it’s worth introducing some Welsh words to encapsulate the two-hour conversation.

Y Byd – the world. Bowring described the journey of the current British landmass as it broke away from Pangaea and the reconnection with Scotland as over millennia rock pressed against rock to force up a mountain range.

Y Ddaear – the Earth, the product of heat and shifts far beneath our feet while we live on the surface.

Creigiau – rocks. Moving repositories of minerals and the earth’s history.

Cerrig – stones. As big as monuments or palm-sized episodes.

Hanes – history but also story.

Llên gwerin – Folklore. The stories to explain what is not understood.

Y Tir  – the land. A more prosaic description of location, often subjective.

Y Milltir Sgwâr  – the square mile. Our personal terrain.

Yr Amgylchedd  – the environment. Reaching beyond territory and connecting/affecting everyone.

Y Bobl  – the people. Our time is being called ‘The Anthropocene’, it is now humans that are shaping the world far more radically than geological events.

Plastig  – plastic. The audience asked how we would be remembered. Would our geological layer be defined by plastic? Would future civilisations create explanatory myths around our fetishisation of the dog excrement sealed in plastic bags?

Amlddisgyblaethol  – multidisciplinary. Fossilised excrement is called ‘coprolite’ and brings together two ‘-ologies’, geology and anthropology. As the talk wound to a close it was clear that different specialists are more collaborative than we might think.

Emma Geliot

——————

Ar yr Ymylon / On The Edge

(scroll down for English content) 

AR YR YMYLON
Rhaglen ymylol o sgyrsiau diwylliannol o dir y gororau

Eisteddfod Genedlaethol 2016

Sadwrn 30 Gorffennaf – Gwener 5 Awst 2016
Bob dydd 11am-1pm

 

The Cabin of Curiosities
15 Stryd Nevill, Y Fenni, NP7 5AA

£3 awgrym cyfraniad wrth y drws. Lleoedd cyfyngedig. Y cyntaf i’r felin.

Ystyried artistiaid ac awduron y Mynydd Du, ddoe a heddiw:

 

30 / yr artist preswyl Rebecca Chesney a’r daearegwr Alan Bowring yn trafod celf a’r amgylchedd

31 / y cyd-artistiaid Penny Hallas a Caroline Wright yn arwain taith gerdded amgen drwy’r Fenni

01 / artistiaid preswyl Llwyn Celyn, Jamie Lake a Toril Brancher yn cyflwyno’u hymatebion creadigol

02 / yr artist a churadur Anthony Shapland yn sgwrsio ag enillydd Medal Aur Celfyddyd Gain yr Eisteddfod

03 / yr awduron Christopher Meredith a Tom Bullough yn archwilio ffiniau a chyrion mewn llenyddiaeth

04 / yr awdur, cynhyrchydd a chyflwynydd, Jon Gower yn trafod gwaith Raymond Williams

05 / y ffotograffydd Paul Cabuts yn trafod dylanwad ffotograffiaeth ar Goleg Celf Casnewydd

+ Gwener 29 Gorffennaf 6:30-9pm
Jeff Nuttall: Yn sydyn iawn Mae dy Wên yn Bensaernïaeth
Achlysur agoriad yr arddangosfa yn cynnwys barddoniaeth a chyhoeddiadau Jeff Nuttall
Broadleaf Books, 16 Monk Street, Y Fenni, NP7 5NP
Arddangosfa’n parhau tan Sadwrn 30 Gorffennaf- Sadwrn 6 Awst, 10am-5pm
Cynhyrchwyd gan Melissa Appleton a Joanna Chambers

Ymddiheurwn nad oes mynediad llawn i’r anabl yng nghaban y Cabin of Curiosities. Cysylltwch â: rebecca@artsalivewales.org.uk / 01873 811579 i drafod gofynion mynediad.

——————–

ON THE EDGE
a fringe programme of cultural talks from border land

National Eisteddfod 2016

Sat 30 July – Fri 5 August 2016
Everyday 11am-1pm

 

The Cabin of Curiosities
15 Nevill Street, Abergavenny, NP7 5AA

£3 suggested donation on the door. Places are limited. First come first serve.

Considering artists and writers of the Black Mountains, past and present:

 

30 / artist in residence Rebecca Chesney & geologist Alan Bowring discuss art and environment

31 / collaborative artists Penny Hallas & Caroline Wright lead an alternative walk through Abergavenny

01 / artists in residence at Llwyn Celyn, Jamie Lake & Toril Brancher present their creative responses

02 / artist and curator Anthony Shapland in conversation with Eisteddfod Gold Medal Winner for Fine Art

03 / writers Christopher Meredith & Tom Bullough examine borders and peripheries in literature

04 / writer, producer and presenter Jon Gower discusses the work of Raymond Williams

05 / photographer Paul Cabuts discusses the influence of photography at Newport College of Art

+ Friday 29th July 6:30-9pm
Jeff Nuttall: Quite Suddenly Your Smile Is An Architecture
Exhibition opening event featuring the poetry and publishings of Jeff Nuttall
Broadleaf Books, 16 Monk Street, Abergavenny, NP7 5NP
Exhibition continues Sat 30th July- Sat 6th Aug, 10am-5pm
Produced by Melissa Appleton and Joanna Chambers

We regret that the Cabin of Curiosities does not have full disability access. Please contact: rebecca@artsalivewales.org.uk / 01873 811579 to discuss access requirements.

 

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Landmark Trust

ACW_logo_CMYK_portrait

WG_Sponsored_land_col

Lottery_landscape_CMYK

 

 

 

 

West Is Best (part 1)

Rebecca Spooner, Arts Development Manager reports on her ten-day research residency at Cove Park, on the Rosneath Peninsula, Argyll & Bute, Scottish west coast.

The residency was supported by the Arts Council of Wales.

PART 1 (of 2)

Thursday  5th November 2015

Abergavenny to London

The ticket inspector said there was a bull on the railway line, the biggest he’d ever seen (naturally). It took four network rail engineers and a farmer with a stick to shift the beast for the train to pass, resulting in a half hour delay to all services on the Hereford line.

Stop over in London. Artist Film conference at Whitechapel Gallery.

——–

Saturday 7th November

Euston to Glasgow

6am train. Very dark. Rain streaming across the windows. Milton Keynes, Stafford, Warrington, Wigan, Preston, Lancaster, Penrith, Carlisle. Glasgow still another hour away from the border.

I haven’t been to Glasgow for over ten years. There’s an energy and confidence to the city. So different from London, which never satisfies – a promise that doesn’t deliver. I wait for my connecting train. Smart, stylish people, skilled in dressing appropriately for the weather. Tartan scarves, corduroy, tweed caps, tailored wool coats.

Glasgow to Garelochhead

Sheep, cattle, wading birds. Dark green fir trees. Tower blocks. Tenements of brown stone. Ferns. Water everywhere.

My taxi driver, on the 10 minute journey from Garelochhead to Cove Park is a Bristolian who’s lived on the peninsula for 30 years. This is where the Trident submarines are stationed. If I keep a look out I may see one in the loch, a hump backed whale shape flanked by military RIBs. There is a peace camp on the peninsula, people from all over the world join it to protest against Trident. My driver doesn’t think much of the camp, the protesters cause a lot of problems for the residents, his children missed exams because of a road block and once, a fire engine was unable to get through to a house fire. The protesters maintain their position but weren’t so gracious when the residents held a protest against the protesters.

Sound Artist, Cathy Lane welcomes me to Cove Park, she’s heading home tomorrow after a period working in the Highlands and a few days at Cove. I’ll be on my own until Monday when the staff arrive.

I unlock the door to my ‘cube’, an adapted metal shipping container, which blends perfectly into the site.

Heavy rain clouds at night rolling in from the west, dim light reflected in the pond and the loch.

——–

Sunday 8th November

Sleep for 12 hours, 8pm – 8am. Get electric heaters on. Cup of tea in bed looking out across Loch Long. Grey still mist on the tops of the mountains. Occasional headlamp in the village across the water; a red break light.

Any reservations I may have had quickly fade and I start to enjoy the cube. My eye continually returns to the views beyond. There is a merging of inside and outside.

I try to relax into the silence. I’m reading Raymond Williams’ The Country and The City and reading becomes more intense, as if Williams is there with me, a trusted voice, ‘the signalman’.

The calm weather of the morning shifts dramatically and I’m confronted by energetic sound and movement all afternoon. Heavy rain clouds sweep through. Wind in the bare trees, waves on the loch, the sound of water dripping all around and the background roar of the streams tumbling downhill, new rivulets of mountain water birthed over the grasses, the wind knocking wood against metal and metal against metal, a horse neighing long and loud and a donkey braying in response.

The cube becomes a personal study space. I use this solitude for research, writing funding applications, reading guidelines, writing project proposals, rough drafts, timelines.

The days are short. Dark creeps in by 4pm and Sunday has dissolved.

——–

Monday 9th November

After a rough night of heavy rain and gales I wander over to the main ‘Oak Pod’ and office to meet Assistant Director, Catrin Kemp for coffee.

The staff team is busily fundraising to secure Cove Park’s new building development on the hill above us. A scaffolding structure grows steadily each day and the new site is due to be completed in Spring 2016. Catrin shows me the architectural plans, which include a large communal space with wood burning stove, floor to ceiling windows, substantial kitchen and dinning areas, studios, office and residency accommodation. The new site will provide a flexible space, particularly for theatre and production companies. The team is developing a new public-facing programme of regular events and is consulting with local people about replanting woodland in the grounds. This week the staff are making a research visit to a community poly-tunnel scheme at Kilfinan Community Forest.

The main CP site is 13 years old and was built in phases as funding allowed. The Oak Pod featured in the BBC Castaway 2000 series and was relocated from the Scottish island of Taransay. It takes considerable finance and staff time to keep on top of maintaining the site, in places the cubes are showing their age, they’re basic but warm and comfortable. This seems appropriate, CP is a place of work and it’s situated in a practical landscape of mainly agricultural and military uses.

From May-Sept CP hosts a well-established programme of funded residencies for practitioners of any discipline. The organisation receives 700 applications from across the world. The summer months provide long days, more predictable weather and ferry services. The residencies bring together practitioners with diverse backgrounds, interests and nationalities. Catrin feels people come to CP for the tranquility (there is only intermittent mobile reception) and the concentrated focus and reflection that this offers. Catrin makes an important point that nothing is imposed on practitioners at CP. The organisation has no curatorial ideology and individuals direct the content of their residencies. In autumn and winter CP opens out the programme to allow self-funded residencies.

I’m interested to know if there are any artists in the area? Ross Sinclair, Christine Borland, Ross Burell (who teach at Glasgow School of Art) and photographer Ruth Clark live nearby. One thing I hadn’t anticipated is my personal need for contact with other practitioners. I’m on my own the majority of the time and while this is extremely productive, I realise that I may need the company of my peers more than I first thought.

——–

11th November

Patches of blue sky when I wake this morning. After three days sheltering indoors I take my chance for a walk to Kilcreggan on the south of the peninsula. A three hour walk in all. I step out on to the Barbour Road.

Mud and water, metal and rotten wood, broken fences, dumped transit van, fungus. There’s no point photographing this stuff, it needs to be drawn by hand to pull the energy through – raw, muscular, physical, sensual. Something that pixels don’t understand.

I consider the differences of PEAK’s location in a national park, in which the landscape is heavily managed, protected and promoted. The land here is less regulated, the farms and houses are sensible and economical. Derelict buildings, tin shacks, workshops, make shift garages, containers. At times I’m reminded of the windswept commons on the heads of the South Wales Valleys.

Two military planes fly low overhead. Bungalows, lodges, neat wood stores in gardens, septic tanks.

The sheet rain arrives earlier than forecast as I hit the tarmac on my return journey.

More project and funding research this afternoon.

Gnat. Leech. Wren. Singing in the gorse bush beyond the round window.

——–

To be continued…

Rebecca Spooner
November 2015

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Diana Heeks – Black Mountains Project

Artist Diana Heeks, based in Llanrhystud, West Wales, is developing a project in the Black Mountains inspired by Raymond Williams’ un-finished novel People of the Black Mountains.

The project is funded by a ‘research and development’ grant from the Arts Council of Wales.

PEAK is a project partner, supporting Diana through mentoring and promotion. PEAK will announce an open studio day with Diana to conclude the project in the autumn.

Read the blog posts from Diana’s project:

1st visit:  16-23 March 2015

2nd visit: 15-22 May 2015

3rd visit: 4-11 September 2015

www.dianaheeks.com

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