Poetry Exchange

tpeFiona Lesley Bennett of the Map Consortium has set up a wonderful project called the Poetry Exchange.

The Poetry Exchange is a way of sharing our enjoyment of poetry by inviting people to nominate a poem that has been a friend to them. The person who suggested the poem then has a conversation with an actor about what the poem means to them – either one to one or as part of a larger audience – and in return they receive a unique recording of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation.

I nominated Adrienne Rich’s poem ‘Song’, which has long been a favourite. The discussion took place at the Wise Words festival in Canterbury and I was thrilled with the recording by Jacqueline Kington and Michael Schaeffer.

You can hear some of the recordings or nominate your own poem by clicking here.

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Kings Hill revisited

IMG_0820Kings Hill is built on the former West Malling airfield, which was the most important base for night fighters during World War II and was subsequently home to US forces, Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin, the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and much more. From the 1990s it was developed as a new town and in 2013 I was invited to help to gather material from local residents and schoolchildren for a series of text-based artworks by artist Richard Wolfströme that would commemorate the site’s history.

It was a long journey from talking to people and gathering their memories and dreams to the finished art. But at last the works are installed and it was wonderful to see them and to remember the many conversations and workshops that inspired them.

You can read more of the memories we collected and some of the poetry we generated by clicking here.

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Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy

SS_Cover_proofreadIt was great to see the Sensing Spaces exhibition after spending several months working on the catalogue. I feel as if most of my time for the past weeks has been spent listening to hours of tapes of conversations between the curator, Kate Goodwin, and the architects (Kengo Kuma, Grafton Architects, Li Xiaodong, Pezo von Ellrichshausen, Diébédo Francis Kéré, Eduardo Souto de Moura and Alvaro Siza) and trying to then make them make sense to a reader – as well as all the general editing, caption writing, and other things that go into making a publication.

 

ss1Having seen the exhibition and the fabulous finished catalogue, designed by Isabel Duarte and Simon Esterson of Esterson Associates, I can say it was all worthwhile. A really brave step by the Royal Academy and hopefully – given its appeal to a younger audience – the harbinger of more major architecture exhibitions in the future.

 

Songs and poems with Nine Below Zero

ghostThis was a wonderful project organised by Future Creative in Minterne Community Junior School in Sittingbourne.

Musician Dennis Greaves of blues band Nine Below Zero and I worked in all twelve classes – I went in first and encouraged the children to write poems on the themes of memory and identity and then Dennis followed and helped them transform the poems into lyrics and set them to music.

At the end we produced a book of poems and illustrations and a CD of the songs, called There’s a Ghost Under My Bed.

VickyDennis2013 023It was really interesting for both Dennis and I to observe each other’s creative process and to think about the difference between what makes a good poem and what makes a good song. The most successful poems for me were with a Year 4 class where we did cut up poetry – I gave the children an A4 page of words to do with the sea and they rearranged them as they wished.

Here is an example:

Calm clouds disappear
Shimmering waves whisper
Rippling pools roll
We walk on the golden sand
Violent cliffs towering up
We plunge into the deep
I shout to the dark
Rocks, sharp and solid
Alone under the pebbles crabs scuttle
Shimmering moon sings
Droplets surf among the tide
Sunrise, sunset over rain

Dennis and I were reunited for the retirement of headmaster Bill McGrory when Nine Below Zero performed and I read a poem I had written sourced from comments and memories by of pupils and staff. Here it is:

million dollar bill

Canterbury Valentine’s Trail with Prosper

MOiseax15I can’t resist posting this image of the Valentine’s Trail which I created with Pat Wilson Smith and Adam De Ville as part of the Prosper intitiative.

The wonderful life-size wooden people were designed by Pat Wilson Smith, and as you can see from the photograph, they certainly succeeded in attracting the attention of passers-by.

Each board had information about a local business and local initiative and each led the viewer on to another further along the trail.

We learned a lot from the experiment, and next time could certainly do it bigger and better. But rather than praising what we did do to the skies, here is feedback from one of the shopowners, which I hope speaks for itself:

“The general idea of setting up trails of this sort to guide some people off
their beaten track and their comfort zone is very good for the city centres
(a bit like ‘google something with your feet for a change’). Giving visitors
(and residents) a real authentic experience of a place and its unique
products and history in a broad sense is what will be the future of City
centres I believe, leaving the cheap and standardised shopping for on-line.”

Watch this space!

Prosper Valentine’s Trail

prosper valentine's trailOur Prosper project has gone through many permutations since we started back in October. But our thoughts on a living tourist information station have now coalesced into the idea of an installation containing information that links community and commercial, history and stories, themed around a specific event.

It’s probably easier to see it in practice than explain it in writing, so why not come along to our Canterbury Valentine’s Trail on 9 February? For those of you unable to attend, it will consist of a series of life-sized wooden figures outside businesses with a link to Valentine’s Day, each of which gives information about both a current community project and the history of the part of Canterbury it’s located in. Each board directs you to the next one to form a trail, with the journey beginning and ending at the Beaney where you receive a small prize for solving a riddle. Enjoy!

You can find more information by clicking here, or on the Prosper website.

Prosper with Canterbury Festival

prosper adam de ville vicky wilsonI am excited to be part of a team working on the Prosper initiative, a scheme to build cultural capacity in East Kent by offering support and investment to discover how working together and the power of the arts can enable East Kent and its people to thrive. It is backed and run by Workers of Art, The Map Consortium and the Canterbury Festival. There are about fifteen other investigations within Prosper, ranging from using virtual technology to explore Ramsgate Tunnels to producing a mobile museum to make public the Beaney’s stored collections.

For our investigation, I am working with artists I had never met before – Pat Wilson SmithAdam De Ville and Reece de Ville – to explore the possibilities of a living tourist information station that will give residents and visitors an alternative view of the city from that provided in the usual brochures and websites.

We will be holding a day of action to gather stories and information:
Bean Head cafe, Burgate, Canterbury
15 December, 11am to 3pm.
Please come and join us to tell us your Canterbury Tale!

Wise Words with Sarah Salway

wise words image future creative vicky wilson sarah salway canterbury festivalCanterbury Laureate Sarah Salway has launched a programme called ‘Wise Words‘, in conjunction with the Canterbury Festival. The project links four community groups in the under-18 age bracket with four in the over-60s bracket to produce intergenerational creative writing. I’m hoping to be involved in producing a publication of the results, but meanwhile there’s a public forum where you can post your own ‘wise words’ and read others’.

I’ve just posted mine – drawn in part from the responses of pupils to the Future Creative Pass the Passion project, which I’m sad to say has now finished. The idea was to use the Olympics as a stimulus to encourage pupils to think about their aspirations and to create messages for the future. Here are some of my favourites:

We hope the future will be chocolatey.
We hope you have cars that fly and a robot to clean your houses.
We hope you have a rocket that can mend holes in the ozone layer.
We hope you have books that create pictures from your imagination.
We hope you find a magic touch that cures all illness.
We hope you can regenerate the forests with your footsteps.
We hope you have an underground world to visit when you are bored or sad.
We hope you are careful where you step – the earth could be breaking.
We hope everything will be flowers and butterflies.
We hope you have dreams, and can make your dreams come true.
We hope everything will be… just charming!

We come from… with Dean Atta

We come from edited Dean Atta and Vicky Wilson World Arts PlatformI was thrilled to receive the first copy of We come from... this morning. The book is a collection of poetry written by students from three Hertfordshire secondary schools in response to a series of workshops delivered by the wonderful performance poet Dean Atta. All the students have English as an additional language.

Dean and I organised the project together, chose which of the students’ poems we wanted to include, then I edited them and Categorical Books did the book’s design and production. The book looks great, and the poems within it are moving, funny, original and well worth reading.

The poems tackle three key themes – ‘We come from…’, ‘We care for…’ and ‘We stand for…’ – and are published alongside some of Dean’s inspirational writing on the same topics. In ‘We come from…’ the students evoke the key experiences that have shaped them (‘crime classics and Russian literature’, ‘beautiful Ząbkowice Śląskie and dull, noisy Hatfield’); in ‘We care for…’ they investigate their feelings for members of their families; in ‘We stand for…’ they describe the kind of society they wish to be part of.

The student comments we got from the evaluation forms testify to the project’s success: ‘Even with difficulties you can achieve whatever you want…’; ‘I can be confident in front of everyone…’; ‘I’m better at writing poems and more encouraged to read…’; ‘No matter where we come from, we can work together.’

I’m really looking forward to the launch at Beaumont School in St Albans on 9 July. And, of course, you can buy the book on Amazon or from bookshops: We come from… Write from the Heart 3, edited by Dean Atta and Vicky Wilson.

The project was supported by Hertfordshire BME Achievement Team, Hertfordshire Music Service and World Arts Platform. Many thanks and congratulations to everyone involved.

Prosper out of the storm

prosper out of the storm collaborationCollaboration seems to be the new buzzword, whether to enhance creativity and provide inspiration, to explore new possibilities and artforms or to find solutions and means of survival in difficult and philistine times.

Prosper Out of the Storm is a collaboration between Canterbury Festival, The Map Consortium and Workers of Art to foster creativity and innovation in East Kent – as well as to help find ways to keep the area’s artistic community afloat.

I’ve worked with all three founding organisations and am a great admirer of their ideas and input, so I’m really keen to see what their joint expertise can produce. Also, the idea feeds right into my own current preoccupations with ways of expanding the reach and ambition of my work and having fun doing so!

For more information and to sign up, go to www.prospertogether.co.uk. I’m looking forward to meeting you at a creative gathering soon!

This Is Brent

This Is Brent Brent Museum and Archives Vicky WilsonI’m really proud to be part of a new publication, This Is Brent. It’s the result of a project at Brent Museum and Archives during which a group of young people were invited to become cultural researchers, gathering information, taking photographs, conducting interviews and generally exploring the borough past and present.

The publication includes the poem ‘In Brent I’m on top of the World’, which I wrote while I was Poet in Residence at Willesden Green Library. Artist Alex McIntyre and I wanted to find ways of animating our exhibition space so we created a writing wall where the public and young people involved in the project could leave comments about their environment using prompts and questions we provided. The poem was formed by rearranging their comments, with sometimes surreal results. It’s called crowd-sourcing, I think!

It’s great to see it combined with the young people’s own discoveries. To see the whole book, click here, then click on the book cover to flick through. You can also find the poem in an easy-to-read version on the page about my collaborations with Alex by clicking here.

Creative Partnerships and the future of collaboration

Brent Museums and Archives Alex McIntyre Vicky WilsonCreative Partnerships was an Arts Council-funded scheme that placed artists in schools to boost pupils’ creativity. The idea was that by working with artists from any discipline, staff and pupils would experience at first hand the risk-taking, lateral thinking, communication skills, collaboration, flexibility and open-mindedness that are key to any creative endeavour – and are also the skills and mindsets needed to succeed in the modern world.

The scheme was axed in 2011 – despite research showing that it significantly raised pupils’ attainment and motivation and boosted staff skills and morale. It was also an economic lifeline for many an artist (including me!).

Personally, I found that working within the programme developed the same values within my own practice as we were trying to instil in the young people, in particular risk-taking and collaboration. Many of the projects I have embarked on since would never have happened without the confidence to ‘have a go’ that I learned through CP and the many creative people I met.

My former colleague, Martin Heaney, has just written about the CP legacy for Arts Professional, using my collaboration with Alex McIntyre at Brent as an example of its impact on artists who worked within the programme.

To read his conclusions, click here.