Who Are You? Conversation at Woodend Barn.
While meeting the folk at Woodend Barn I found myself telling the story of a coach tour in Turkey a few years ago with my sidekick Martin. Having dreaded the prospect, it turned out to be a fantastic mid winter holiday in the beautiful old southern city of Antalya and the magical cave landscape of Cappadocia. By alchemic good fortune, this random gathering of mostly older crocs gelled really well. A shared sense of humour was a key ingredient, as was our friendly and knowledgeable young guide who charmed his way into our hearts as well as our minds.
So much so that towards the end of the tour, I found myself caught up in the ‘Let’s show our appreciation to Piruz’ project.
A poem was composed on the long drive back to Antalya, by passing scribbled notes up and down the bus. Presents for the baby of the guide were sourced and generous contributions were wheedled out of the captive tourers. In the midst of this heightened few days, I realised I was calling on my ‘community art’ skills in a refreshingly effortless way – facilitation, participation, just being there…. Then suddenly, at the award ceremony, I found the poem thrust into my unsuspecting hands. Being in the spotlight is definitely not my strong point, but such was the camaraderie of the occasion, I took a deep breath and gave it my best – it worked and I enjoyed it!
Afterwards over a drink, a fellow traveller who I hadn’t had so much to do with, looked at me and asked in a puzzled tone, “Who are you?”. I knew in an instant where he was coming from. I’ve asked the same question of two people – one was Jon Phillips of Paddington Printshop, London who helped us set up a silkscreen press in Craigmillar Festival in the mid 70’s. The other was Alan Ross who I first came across as the wild fiddler in 7:84, “The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black, Black Oil”. Turns out they had both studied sculpture, then expanded their practice, each in unique ways – John into community printing and activism, Alan into music and theatre, often calling on his engineering ingenuity. I wonder if a sculpture practice, with it’s fascination in material processes, can lend itself to a multifaceted approach which is difficult to categorise – that almost has a Will o’ the Wisp quality.
Postscript: Since that experience in Turkey, I’ve been pining for a project which feels as effortless. Alternatively I can use that experience to inform design and approach to future work.