What a strange and depressing view, waking in the mornings to throw open the curtains of Honeysuckle Hotel and gaze across to the Workhouse. I can’t imagine any but the hard-hearted wishing to stay there. If I’ve read the map right it is now a Tesco express and the Workhouse long gone, even Union Lane is no more. But in 1873, the walk from Union Workhouse to Central Library (let’s say Shipcote House – the library being a relatively late arrival) would have been through fields and along tree-lined country paths. I will be recreating the route on March 7th as a ‘hidden history’ walk if you’d like to join me.
Waving is infectious it seems, as we received a huge array of responses: the happy wave, the guilty wave (just about to use an illegal shortcut), the vague ‘I don’t know why I’m waving’ wave, the thumbs up, and best of all, the both arm cheer.
The wave-effect was brilliant, by the second day people who’d clocked us already were coming over to ask: “What’s it about?”
Our response: we’re gently reminding drivers – who use the estate as a short-cut during the road works – that this is a residential area, and also alerting children and dog walkers to be extra vigilant crossing roads just now.As nothing was written on the pop-up artwork (created by Highmoor residents), the curious needed to stop and ask. Their follow up comments were generally along the lines: “that’s really important”, “well done!”, “that’s really cool”, “excellent scheme”, “it’s really needed round here”.More unexpected was “how can we donate?”
But it felt good knowing that our presence was so valued.
On a cold and snowy Monday morning, we cheered up early commuters with the first outing of our pop-up art installation. Twice a day for the next 5 days, will find us somewhere on Cowgate with life-size road sign including children, dog and flowers; gently reminding drivers to take care around the estate and handing to passers-by our blingy medallion packs to make and wear.
Languishing in the back of my car is the completed Blaydon Races artwork. Today it’s been ‘on tour’ (to Central Library and back) in a bid to figure out whether we can swap from battery operated to mains.
Regardless of power source we should be able to include it in the end exhibition at Gateshead Library (see new end exhibitions page).
There aren’t many sessions left to run now – all the big making is done – but there’s some fun sessions billed for Blaydon Library during half term, and – building and borrowing from the archaeological street walks through Blaydon – we have more planned for the streets surrounding Central Library, these (plus up and coming events in Cowgate) now feature on the new events page of the blog.
Cal – a dapper looking dog at the best of times – seems to be holding her head a little higher now her collar is trending some be-seen-in-the-dark ‘bling’.Following on from school sessions, there’s now some proto-type ‘diy medallion packs’ being tested out. They still need some tweaking, there’s a chance the clip could come loose (if a rabbit were spotted). But it really feels like progress is being made towards our January launch (which will include a group dog walk).
Way back at the beginning of the residency one of the first groups I met with were the Blaydon Reading Activists: a group of 14 to 16year olds who meet weekly in the Library. I asked if they’d like to have a go at making something with lights and indeed they did. At that time super-heroes were a theme for them so we mused on making a recycled bottle super-hero ‘book’ sculpture for their section of the library. We settled on a type of bottle (apple juice) and style of cut and I’d drop by – drop off more bottles – from time to time, joining them occasionally for sessions. Yesterday we finally brought all the elements together and installed. The lights at the moment are battery operated but I’m hoping to swap to mains early in the new year. We all agreed it looks rather festive (I saw the odd ‘super-hero snow-man’ has worked his way into their designs). Their lovely ‘leader’ said: “I think it looks lovely, warm and welcoming and cheers up the library. Enjoy, and many thanks to Karen for keeping her cool in the face of a bunch of over excited teenagers consuming too much sugar!”*
As the nights draw in we’ve been thinking about being bright and – giving away my age here – looking snazzy. The class we were working with yesterday understood (phew!) We were making bright/reflective ‘clothing art’ to wear alongside snap-bands and other reflective apparel to: be seen, be safe.So yesterday was our ‘road test’ of the idea; whether our ‘bling things’ were too tricky to make and how the making might be tweaked, and I feel we’re off to a cracking start.As well as school workshops the idea is to make up packs so that anyone (living on Cowgate) can have a go at making their own. Perhaps introducing a competition for the most unique…
I’m warming to this… we’ll be awarding points and you know what points mean?