Practice, Place and Purpose

I was delighted to win a bursary to report (as both a journalist and poet) on a symposium at Exeter University on 28th June 2018, about something very close to my own heart (and work) - place-based arts commissioning. Key representatives from the National Trust, Forestry Commission England, Canal & River Trust and Churches Conservation Trust, and a wide range of speakers and delegates discussed issues such as funding, innovative new projects, who they connect with, and evaluation, both in the lecture theatre and out under the trees during an artist-led picnic lunch. Great day, and lots of food for thought on the important issues surrounding contemporary arts projects.

In her presentation, Dr Beverley Hawkins compared doing a jigsaw, where the process is formulaic, to making a quilt, where joining together the pieces is an entrepreneurial act. Here I have joined together disparate phrases from speakers and audience in the lecture theatre - each line from a different source - to give a non-formulaic taste of the day's discussions.

The narrative is about numbers
and the politicians like stories
but data loses the small details.
We know we can't solve the problems
but we want to pollenate,
start a conversation.
You don't need figures and figures
to inhabit the forest of the future.

What does your neighbourhood feel like?
A stage of sequins
where people come and be themselves?
An essential little green lung?
The proud past?
Look through all three to get a rainbow
to foster and build civic unity
at the heart of everything we do.

We are the temporary occupiers of the space -
it's all about finding connectedness.
Everything is in a state of change
and there's room for debate
and a series of acts of radical shift.
A speculative journey together
has an impact on what is possible.
The question is still in the room...

Dawn Gorman