Being a writer, it’s not hard to imagine that I tend to be rather word-focussed. I count myself lucky to have had exposure to - and experience working with - experimental and visual works in my time, but I have never had much experience of what you might consider to be ‘other’ disciplines. Well, not since art class in high school. Through the Launchapd process, though, I’ve been really happy to mix with other creative people, who have many different skills and focusses.
Photography by Rebecca Samuels
I was always keen on the idea of having a quite traditional exhibition, as with paintings, but, as a poet, I would clearly need to think of things a bit differently. In initial talks, the ideas of community spaces and the people that make up that community were at the forefront. I knew I wanted to write for the community here in the West End. It’s a relatively diverse group of people - certainly diverse in tastes, interests, passions, and skills - and wanted to be inclusive and positive, which led me to thought of accessibility, i.e., how can I have a space full of poetry that anyone in Morecambe can come in and read, and if not enjoy necessarily (I mean, I hoped they would enjoy it!), then at least connect with, or over, and have a chat about, some reaction.
My talks with the other artists made me want to use ‘art’ (painting, more sculptural elements etc) and ‘poetry’ (as if it is separate…) to bring it, not ‘off the page’ exactly, but away from simply black ink on white paper. Also, Talking with Cerys underlined the importance to me of ‘physical accessibility’ to a community, and I explored sensory accessibility most strongly in ‘Louis Braille’, a haiku that used Braille writing. Another Launchpad participant, India, helped me see, by her talking about class (the system thereof) that there are other ways to explore the topic, i.e. through the lens of people’s educational and cultural experiences, which are ingredients of ‘class’ as it is widely understood.
Photography by Rebecca Samuels
One big change to my initial idea, which was going to be purely about my work, came from involvement in the talks that have been built into the launchpad. One particularly salient talk was about art, site, and interaction, which saw us meet with current LICA students from Lancaster University. Their ideas were amazing, but so was the natural and easy way that they gathered feedback. It was inspiring to see how people opened up when asked what they thought. I wanted to give people the opportunity to feedback to me on pieces of paper, while I, the creator, would watch from a distance and ‘not get in anyone’s way’. A chat with Beki after one of these sessions, however, made me think that, actually, being close to the viewers was another opportunity for connection and feedback, and one that I would like to take. These two elements ended up being, to my mind, the biggest successes of my exhibition, and would not have happened without this interaction with other Launchpadders.
On the day, getting up to, and chatting with, the brave souls who suffered the cold was thoroughly rewarding (one participant even composed some verse to me on the spot, which was a fantastic reaction). I was so pleased that there were positive reactions: curiosity, questioning, and sharing. In a way, the ‘feeling’ of the exhibit changed from accessibility to a wider sense of community in these moments.
I realise, however, the many improvements I could, and would, make if I were to do this again on a larger scale. I did not include foreign languages (I could’ve translated the poems into Polish, at least, to help make them more accessible to the Polish community resident in the area). I did not specifically address neurodivergence (which a couple of my respondents raised as possibilities when sharing what accessibility meant to them). I feel I could have addressed the nature of accessibility itself in a piece, rather than having the whole exhibition rather nebulously exemplify it. Also, I know that my technical skills with respect to, for example, painting are poor. I knew that I wouldn’t be particularly proficient in time for the exhibition, but it’s an area that could be worked on (or even improved by collaboration), another time. Another positive, though, is that I know a lot more about how to use exhibition space now than I did before.
I am grateful to everyone who took part and helped me see things from a wider perspective. Lastly, it is great to see how lovely the market as a whole was, and our place in it. I saw Hollie’s exhibit on the Friday, and was delighted to be able to take part in that. Thanks to the monumental efforts of Jo, Beki, Glen, Jill, and many others, I was able to set up easily and enjoy my time in that space. Here’s to the next one.
The LICA x GTC Launchpad is funded by Santander Bank and Creative West End, as part of a programme with Lancaster University encouraging responsible and innovative enterprise. The participants, a mix of Lancaster fine art BA graduates and Good Things Collective members, get studio space, their first art commissions, business support, and professional mentoring over the course of 12 months.