First encounter with the Duddon

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog:

I travelled up to the Lake District for a preliminary meeting at the Wordsworth Museum. Having a bit of time to spare I thought I’d take a detour to check out the valley that will be the main focus of this project.

Visibility was somewhat reduced and it was quite squelchy underfoot, but after 10 minutes strolling around on the banks of the Duddon near Ulpha I could understand that this place is a little bit special – I’m very much looking forward to having a proper explore.





Free Longbridge Art Service

Yesterday I joined forces with Hannah Hull to provide a special, for-one-day-only, free public art service for Longbridge as part of our commission for EC Arts.

We struck out down the Bristol Road and found a parade of shops that seem to have been passed by by all the regeneration efforts several hundred metres away and decided it would be nice to give them some attention.

We went into several of the shops introducing our art service and offering to provide creative services, be it drawing, painting, sculpture, performance or socially-engaged interventions.

After more or less discussion, some of the shopkeepers came to the conclusion that they were not in need of our services. We asked them to fill in an entry in our receipt book to certify that “no art is required today”.

For some, this was because they saw no need for any additional art in their life, or because they did not feel qualified to be able to make the decision themselves, instead asking us to return when other family members would be present.

For others, this was because they were more than capable of being self-sufficient in their art requirements. As soon as we introduced ourselves to the staff in the tattoo studio, one man immediately dashed out to a back room and returned with these paintings that he had done:

Next to him was sat a young woman sketching out a Jack-Nicholson-as-the-Joker portrait for what we think was going to be a calavera sugar skull.

We were quite envious of her pro pencil kit and putty rubber.

Of the 8 shops we visited, we ended up being commissioned for art services from 3 of them, and we had such an interesting conversation with a woman in a 4th that we were moved to make an uncommissioned artwork for her:

Next time you’re in a shop in Longbridge, have a think about the person serving you and wonder if they’re really a secret artist.

Of the official commissions we received, there was a strong signage theme. The man in the electronic cigarette shop is unhappy with his boring black front door and wants to paint it up so it’s more catchy.

We measured the door and then sketched out a few different approaches he might consider. Unfortunately we didn’t have much in the way of paint with us, but what we were able to do was set up a potential link with a student at Bournville College who’s interested in doing some graffiti-style work. We all thought this could be a nice pairing!

The man in the tool hire shop requested some designs for a mural on his outer side wall in a style not entirely dissimilar to the signs that could be seen around the shop counter. With added tool-based word play.

We suggested that this might be a bit sexist and sketched up a few variants on the theme that were more encompassing of other types of relationships and gender identity.

Perhaps our most successful commission was completed for Mandy in the convenience store. After a bit of a chat we discovered that she was quite frustrated at always having to direct customers towards the bread. Finding the milk often seems to be problematic too, but we really liked the signs she’d made for the fridges and so we decided to concentrate our efforts on bread wayfinding.

After checking how the sign could be hung from the ceiling, Hannah used her stencilling skills to put together a rather eye-catching three-tier bread sign.

We’re rather pleased with the results – here’s the sign being installed:

Hannah also took this rather nice portrait shot of our happy customer:

Bread, sign, portrait. Photo: Hannah Hull

All commissions were documented via report sheets detailing client details (name, age, ethnicity); description of art services provided; duration of art service; venue of art service and whether the art service made people happy.

We had a 100% success rate with that last one.

Art service recipients will also be entered into a free prize draw – more on that later…





These events are part of Longbridge Public Art Public (LPAP) conceived by EC Arts for and on behalf of Bournville College. For more information visit

A Road Trip for Longbridge – dates announced

Austin Park, with Bournville College in the background.

I’ve been working with cultural planner Jenny Peevers to find a way to harness the Road Trip I’ve been developing as part of my Longbridge Public Art Project commission so that the conversations catalysed though it can be more effectively turned into actions.

As a result, we’ve linked two of the Road Trip events to two Supper Club meals that Jenny’s organised as part of a larger series.

Here’s how she describes the Supper Clubs:

…an exchange of food, stories and future possibilities. We bring the food, you bring the stories.

Through your stories we will map collective hopes and aspirations, getting more local voices heard as the new Longbridge grows.

So, on the 5th and 26th of April, you can spend the afternoon with me touring different corners of Longbridge and the surrounding areas looking for new angles on the theme of community, and then segue smoothly into a meal and some activities designed to identify what changes people would like to see taking place in Longbridge over the next few years.

Both events are free, but you will need to sign up in advance via these eventbrite pages (NB ticketing closes the Monday before each event so Jenny has time to prepare all the food!):

Road Trip + Supper Club combination, 5th of April, starting from Reaside Community Centre.

Road Trip + Supper Club combination, 26th of April, starting from Longbridge Methodist Church Hall.

For those of you who would like to take part in the Road Trip but not the Supper Club events, there is a Road Trip only taking place on the 29th of March. Sign up for your place on the minibus here.

Our conversation (although not necessarily the journey itself – check the sign-up pages for starting locations!) will start at Austin Park where the River Rea has been ‘realigned’ to look more natural. Our effect on our surroundings and our surroundings’ effect on us will be a recurring theme throughout the day.

Join us and add your feet and your voice.


These events are part of Longbridge Public Art Public (LPAP) conceived by EC Arts for and on behalf of Bournville College. For more information visit

Tell me something about… Frankley Services and St Leonard’s Church

As part of my research for the A road trip for Longbridge guided tour, I’m keen to hear your stories, anecdotes and interesting facts about places on the route.

First up are two locations over Frankley way…

Frankley Services

Photo credit: Robert Soar

Apparently one of the oldest service stations of its kind (opened in 1966) Frankley Services must have seen some interesting things. Have you? Can you tell me about something that happened here?

St Leonard’s Church

St Leonard’s Church at Frankley – click through for location on Google maps…

A rural church a stone’s throw from Frankley Reservoir. I hear it’s really popular for weddings. Can you tell me anything about it, or perhaps describe why you chose to tie the knot there rather than anywhere else?


If you’ve got something to share, please add it to the comments for this blog post.

A road trip for Longbridge

As I mentioned recently, I’m one of a cohort of artists and other practitioners involved with the Longbridge Public Art Project (now with its own website).

Following those first explorations on foot, Colin Corke (vicar at St John the Baptist, former chaplain at the Longbridge car plant and general Austin/Rover aficionado) was kind enough to give me a motorised tour of the area.

We talked about communities, places to gather, places to get away to, landmarks, things that aren’t there and, yes, maybe a bit about cars too!

I found this a really eye-opening way to think about Longbridge and, as a result, I’ve decided that my main project for the residency will be to develop a guided tour taking in a selection of locations that relate to the themes of community, roots, travel and flows. A road trip for Longbridge.

I’m working with local residents and staff and students of Bournville College to pull together the content for the tour. See this post for my first request for stories about Frankley Services and/or St Leonard’s Church.

The draft route is currently weighing in at about 25 miles, so I think I’ll be researching mini-bus hire in the near future too!

Welcome to Stirchley (Take me; I’m yours)

Limited edition laser-cut plaques for those who know where to find them.

Welcome to Stirchley

Welcome to Stirchley

Traces of doings with Ikon and BIAD

The Northfield work I was involved with for Ikon Gallery is being showcased over the next few days. Their publicity seems to feature a photo of me pulling a jib rather extensively, but I hope that’s not reflected in the content of the exhibition.

11am–6pm until the 3rd of February
Events Room, Ikon Gallery

Hopefully some of the Mum Signs may leach out into the surrounding area, too…


I’ve also done a few more days with the second year students at BIAD, helping them refine their ideas and builds for the Mis-fitting project.

There will be scaly coats, stilt-walking sculptures, spongy red men, shopping bag costumes, generous plant pots and more, all making their appearances around Birmingham city centre over the next week or two. If you spot one of the happenings, feel free to join in and get involved!

The street and you(r artwork)

Rue et Vous

I’ve spent the last week or so in Paris hosted by a gang of wonderful creative people.

At some point after talking about Parisian and Tokyo galleries with Orie, I challenged her to take her work and site it out in the city somewhere rather than waiting for a formal exhibition.

The next morning we set out to do just that, asking ourselves a) where needs some art, b) where would we like to put some art and c) where do we feel we can put some art? Yet again, I was struck by how powerfully having a task to accomplish can frame your experience of place and foreground details within your surroundings.

We were fortunate enough to dodge the rain, but strong winds and bitterly cold temperatures made it hard to work with Orie’s tiny radish seed musical notes and her delicate leaf frogs. We still managed to install a few subtle interventions, though…

Frog Fountain

Fountain Notes

Notre Musique

Notre Musique

Notre Grenouille

I was also amused/bemused by how we could set up with glue, scissors and thread on a major throughfare and not have anyone pay any attention to what we were doing. A laissez faire metroplolitan attitude, or just a blind eye to tourists doing odd things?

Notre Musique

Notre Musique

Where the heart is


I’m interested in how we connect to distant places.

A lot of my work prompts people to consider their immediate surroundings, but what of those places we feel some part of us is in, even when our bodies are elsewhere? Are you homesick? Do you long to travel to a particular place? Are you missing someone you can’t be with right now?

When a GPS Orchestra workshop seeded sleepless imaginations of being able to harness bee power, it got me thinking about the waggle dance bees use to communicate the location of good sources of pollen with other bees back at the hive. Since then I’ve been working on developing an object that signals to you your relative location with these significant places.

I want something that feels special.
Something that feels as precious and as fragile as the emotions and memories the person holding it has invested into the process.
Something that makes you slow down, something that encourages you to be contemplative.

I want a conversation that lets me spend time thinking about the places that are significant to me.
I’m curious about the places that belong to other people. The people that belong to other places.

I want to be stood on the deck of a sailing boat at dawn and have it remind me where home is.

A city kind of a moment

I’ve been going back through my notes from the Guggenheim Lab events and workshops I was involved in last year and following up on various references. Currently I’m digging deeper into triangulation.

A sign of a great place is triangulation. This is the process by which some external stimulus provides a linkage between people and prompts strangers to talk to each other as though they were not.[source]

The video below is an extract from William H. Whyte’s ‘The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces’ and at 42m29s there’s some discussion and examples of triangulation. The whole video’s worth a watch if you’ve time, though…

William H. Whyte: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces – The Street Corner from MAS on Vimeo.

I’m thinking of some of the urban spaces I encounter on a regular basis and wondering what sort of triangulation + mayor combination it would take to inject some social life into them.

I’ve been tempted before to adopt a non place and make it the subject of my projects until it becomes adopted by a wider community, this film has added fuel to that fire.

What space would you target?

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