Tag Archives: St George’s

Hidden Stories: hiding in plain sight

Carol Leeming performing at the Hidden Stories launch, the Phoenix 31 March 2015

Carol Leeming performing at the Hidden Stories launch, the Phoenix 31 March 2015

Reading Marginalia, by Pamela Raith Photography

Reading Marginalia, by Pamela Raith Photography

Schmoozing the launch, Pamela Raith Photography

Schmoozing the launch,
Pamela Raith Photography

The culmination of a significant multi-media project (Affective Digital Histories: exploring de-industrialised landscapes from the 1970s to the present), Tuesday, 31 March saw the launch of an anthology of the commissioned pieces, Hidden Stories, at the fabulous Phoenix arts centre, in Leicester’s Cultural Quarter – the focus of much of the new writing. I visited it about a year ago to begin my research – and now I was returning as one as the published writers. I felt honoured to have been included in such an excellent collection (which first manifested as the very cool App), to be rubbing shoulders with eight distinctive and accomplished writers. Gathering at the Phoenix on the final day of the project was Divya Ghelani, Carol Leeming, David Devanny, myself, Pete Kalu and Fereshteh Mozaffari, and Mark Goodwin and it was in that order that we performed to a full auditorium of over a 100 people. The evening was introduced by Dr Corinne Fowler, who has led this project alongside Dr Ming Lim – both from the University of Leicester. It has been a team effort from beginning to end, and many talented people have been involved – from my supervisor, Harry Whitehead (who suggested the commissions should be in different forms), special collections librarian Simon Dixon, designers Gino and Matteus, who between them crafted the app and the anthology, Sarah Vallance at the Phoenix, who co-ordinated the launch, and of course all the writers. To hear extracts of six of the commissions reinforced their diversity and excellence. These are really high quality pieces – each flourishing within its own format, whether its flash fiction (Divya’s glittering ‘An Imperial Typewriter’), choreopoem (Carol Leeming’s compassionate soul-song for St George’s (‘Love the Life you Live, Live the Life you Love’), play (Pete Kalu and Fereshteh Mozaffari’s ‘5 Glossop Cats’), or poetry (David Devanny’s ‘Crow Steps in the Quarter’; and Mark Goodwin’s ‘Mist’s Rave’) – the latter crafting it into an immersive soundscape and impressive short film which ended the performances in spectacular fashion. Afterwards there was a chance to schmooze, chat to Radio Leicester, pose for photos, slap backs, sign books, but most of all to celebrate our collective achievement. In a quote for the Leicester Mercury I summed up my feelings: ‘I feel delighted to have been part of such a fantastic project – it has been a real cross-fertilization of art forms and disciplines, with talent from near and far. Such a polyphonic expression of voices sends out a strong message of creative excellence through diversity – more important than ever in these troubled times! Thank you to Corinne, Ming, the staff of the Phoenix, and all involved.’

Carol & Kevan at the launch

Carol & Kevan at the launch

It is healthful for a community to hear its stories being told, being celebrated. The narratives of the Cultural Quarter and Glossop show the fascinating, life-affirming weaving of multi-cultural and transparadigmic threads which offers a strong message in these challenging times. Britain is what it is because of its rich rainbow heritage, a blending of many voices, many cultures, many colours, faiths and traditions. Our project, offers in its modestly localized (but non-provincial) way, a microcosm of how bold vision, decent funding, inspiration, ingenuity and skill, can create fruitful collaboration. Bravo!

Kevan & Harry at the launch

Kevan & Harry at the launch

Dr Ming Lim and me, at the launch, Pamela Raith Photography

Dr Ming Lim and me, at the launch, Pamela Raith Photography

 

Now Available from http://www.phoenix.org.uk/hidden-stories-book/

Now Available from http://www.phoenix.org.uk/hidden-stories-book/

FFI: http://affectivedigitalhistories.org.uk/

 

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Scribbling in the Margins – Writing Marginalia

***This exciting project culminates in the launch of the App on 27th November. Here is a piece describing the evolution of my commission***

When I first read the brief I must admit my eyes glazed over. Recreating De-Industrialsed Places? What could be further from my field of interest? But then the stubborn streak which makes me a highly-motivated writer kicked in. Two principles of mine rang out: I am a writer and I can write about anything. And, wherever you live is interesting. Then I re-read the brief and I realized (sound of penny dropping) that it did intersect with my own interest in psychogeography and narratives of place. I had just completed two collections of folk tales, recording obscure stories of Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, and that illustrated to me that there are treasures everywhere waiting to be unearthed. They are not just in picturesque villages. I was all too aware of that, having grown up in a depressingly de-industrial Northampton (where I was to write my first novel, inspired by my research into the history of the town). I had taught myself the history of where I grew up because I wanted to know why it was like the way it was. Its architecture, its town-planning, its genius loci, had a very real impact on me, growing up, as it still does on all who live there. Phenomenologically, it influences quality of life on a daily basis. It’s the Affect, stupid.

There was something about Leicester’s red-brick factories that reminded me of my ‘dirty old town’ – so that, in itself, was a way in.

I can’t recall when or how I first alighted upon the idea of exploring the graffiti-culture of the Cultural Quarter, aka St George’s. It probably happened, like a lot of my ideas, in the white heat of a black coffee-high, in the snow-storm of my daily online work. I probably read the brief while scanning emails in a coffee-break. I must have let it digest while I munched on a chocolate digestive and then, ping, like a microwave ready-meal, there it was. I would write about marginalized voices – graffiti artists – those who ‘write in the margins’ of our urban landscapes, below the radar of the commerce-mainstream, out of sight of the CCTV cameras.I quickly wrote the proposal, while the fire in the head was with me, and fired it off.

It got commissioned. So all I had to do was write the thing. Gulp. But, trusting in the powers of research, all things are possible (or writable), I set to work.

Initial field-research went thus: I simply walked around St George’s with my eyes and ears open, oblivious to its history, avoiding any apps or maps, or guidebooks. Next, I went round it again listening to the excellent St George’s app. This revealed to me many things I hadn’t noticed – and re-framed the ones I had. Then I walked around some more until the walls began to speak. I pressed my head to the brick and ink oozed out…

I followed this up with a visit to the Leicester Mercury archives. Housed in the University’sRaiders of the Lost Ark-like special storage warehouse, they would prove invaluable. I was helped enormously by Simon Dixon, Digital Humanities and Special Collections Manager, who quickly located the relevant files amid the acres of musty shelving. I scanned the clippings about the city’s graffiti subculture, noting how its reporting turned from depicting it as a ‘problem’ to a source of local ‘pride.’ To bring it up to date, I visited Izzie, the proprietor of HQ – the fab Graffiti ‘centre’ on Charles Street. She told me of ‘official sites’ and sent me links of some recent photographs.

Armed with a whole wadge of notes, photographs and photocopies I retreated to my bat-cave to turn the chaos into some kind of sense. I came up with a framing narrative that pushed the boundaries of the creative and critical modes of writing. This was ‘historicalnarrative non-fiction’ after all, so I felt behoven to tell a story. And that is what I set out to do – placing myself in the picture, as the wide-eyed researcher exploring the zone with the help of a ‘Trickster’ guide figure, in the form of Elephant Head, a Ganesha-esque skateboarding graffiti-artist … and that’s when the fun really began.

Originally published here:

http://affectivedigitalhistories.org.uk/blog/2014/11/scribbling-in-the-margins–writing-marginalia