Art, Line, Stitch, Recycle, Re-imagine

update, 1/11/22: this is the last post here, my now-old blog, my new (well, new-ish, it does have older occasional posts on it as well), is here:

COP26, the big climate conference is upon us, and the urge for climate action has

inspired the development of more art. So here’s some alternative growth: use up plastic waste, before it goes to landfill and clog up our beloved Earth!

So I had been making lines around and between trees, to show how they are connected through their vast tree network underground – if I had draw this, those lines would have been dots, and I would have taken them for a walk. But I didn’t draw this, so those lines were rolled together in skeins and in balls of wool, and I had taken those lines for a ride, a line-work, a network, a web.

Take a line for a ride: what else can I do with them, and how else can I do eco-art?Climate-friendly art, what could that be? Using up what we don’t need (anymore): the stuff that gets thrown away: packaging, plastic! There is so much plastic, and it all gets thrown away! And then there are those lines of wool, of yarn, that I’ve been using: is there a way the two could go together?

This is where what I have called ‘Stitching to Connect’ comes in!

There are three main stories behind these little artworks:

1: ) We are drowning in plastic, and even if we recycle, the system does not: the mountains of recycling that we make, which in themselves are overflowing, join the landfill, filling up more and more spaces with plastic and taking living spaces. To save ourselves from plastic, let’s take it out of circulation, and transform it into art!

Make art not waste: take items of rubbish, packaging, everything that gets thrown away, and use it for art. Make it pretty but also expose ourselves to looking at our discarded items: plastic tubs, lids, bottles, empty pens, pen tops, cardboard, chocolate wrapping, and other discarded items. – see more photos also on my instagram feed in the gallery.

2: ) I’d been wanting to join pieces, and foolishly used glue. Until it fell off, and then I used needle and thread instead. It was like I discovered a whole new old way of working!

The idea to put things together by a needle and a thread, a piece of yarn, of wool, is kind of revolutionary: to go against glue (which is yet more plastic: the glue itself, and the tube it comes with), and to know things joined together by a thread cannot fall off each other!

3: ) There was this item on the news about plans to transform plastic into food! What a dangerous idea! Before we are made to eat our own plastic, let’s take it away, divert it, reuse it, buy less of it, and make the rest into something. My little tiny contribution to take away from our growing plastic mountain is one among quite a few artists who use recycled material, but there are always more of us needed, to get on top of our vastly excessive plastic. And we don’t want to eat it, so make art for thought!

To see at Studio Pixel in our very own Solway sea-side town of Maryport – four stops south of Carlisle on the cosy little Cumbria Coast Line Train. That’ the same scenic train that also goes through St. Bees and Barrow, and from there goes down to Lancaster, or starts there!

Here is one with a limpet bit! , taking place in.

So my ‘Stitching to Connect’ pieces can be seen here, but there is more:

Exhibition News:

I have got some pieces in the big group-show at the Rosehill Theatre. My star piece here is little canvas in which I worked a photo of mine of a rose. Now that it was coming to Rosehill Theatre, I called it ‘Rose of the Hill’ When travelling to the theatre by train, go on the same Cumbria Coast Line Train and get off at Parton (one stop before Whitehaven)..

Somr of my line-art works – which now is “Stitching to Connect” as well as the lines I layer around trees and “Yarn and Branch” – willl also form a part of ArtCouple’s exhibition at Basement Arts in Leeds, which was scheduled to start at the end of September and continue until the middle of October. As we had been dealing with time issues in relation to this exhibition (which had been postponed due to lockdown) and our art in general (place- time-based) and then found a time-related notice on two of our local railway stations, we called the exhibition ‘Compressed Time Frames’ – only for its own time to be postponed again due to Covid at the gallery!

So now that Compressed Time Frames are being rescheduled again, they will also be re-framed, and the story of the ‘Boat of Inverness’ will be part of it. What that is, will be revealed…


Trees of Life, Worlds and Stories!

next tree-sculptures: August 21st in Vulcan Park, Workington, and 27th at Harraby, Carlisle …and this is my latest tree sculpture in Chances Park, at Morton Park Community Centre (park double!).

I’ve had them in and out-doors, on their trunks, their roots and their branches, an have taken them with me on the train: doubling their exhibitions: for every exhibition I took them to, I had another exhibition on the train with them – with my ‘string orchestra’!

When I I started taking my yarn to the trees and their branches, as a way of highlighting their importance, I came a little closer to their world, and whilst working yarn all around, I found my fingers to be derived from their branches, – whilst they were holding me, and a dialogue, an embrace ensued.

I was yarning networks around their branches, like little tiny temporary and symbolic echoes of the rich network systems that they create and uphold around them.

Eacn tree is a network, a world in itelf, a life, a complex of lives! The network i have woven around this tree is a Trees come and go, yet they stay, if we let them! They come out of the earth, and go into the earth, carrying on a constant exchange. Whilst we are on the ground-level, they operate on three levels: three is tree!

I learned a lot about mutlifolded-ness, both in nature and of us: I found that there is an ancient traditional festival in India, where trees are worshipped in quite a similar way. How interesting I started doing something that is akin to a practice elsewhere! We are united in our tree communion! A sign of our common origin and heritage.

Maybe the spreading roots of the trees reach back into our DNA, to our multicultural genes, and the branches take them forward. A tree as a junction, a place of encounter.

The trees tell our story then! It is, however, more tragic when our story becomes tragic: I had the opportunity to exhibit at the Rum Story Gallery in Whitehaven – a gallery that lays bare Whitehaven’s slave trading past. It is from the Caribbean, after all, where rum originates – forming one of the points into which the slave trade was abhorrently conducted. Behind the shop of rum is the museum of this our tortured past, in which we might find ourselves as oppressors, or as oppressed, or somewhere in the middle, more or less attached to oppressorship by family roots, family – yes: – trees!

And here we were, artists, responding? Art – history! (article to follow) I felt the need to respond, out of a concern for the stories within our history, herstories, and their legacies. How can we displace the impact of these bitter legacies if we don’t talk about them. So here I was, with my branches for me art – and these branches had fallen off, or been severed from, and they have roots. And so have we! Roots! Me using branches is telling a story of our origin in reverse.

May this too, be a story of healing, with colours for our diverse community, and a conversation between us. This then, would be peace, where we acknowledge each other’s stories. If we did, we wouldn’t harm each other anymore, so we thereby making justice.

On the first pic you can see the tree sculpture I did in Chances Park, Carlisle. Give peace a chance!

Growing, Weaving, Reaching

CurrentINDOORS: at the ‘Rum Story Gallery’. Whitehaven. until 18th July. (previously at: ‘Viola Tricola’ exhibition, Carlisle 18 – 27th June (flyer: ART-icles, Sculptures

Next OUTDOORS: change of date:/ place: now on the 25th July in Morton (the one in Brampton, Harraby and Longtown have changed dates due to the lockdown extension) previously at Bitts Park on the 30th May at the Plant, Food and Wellbeing Fest, before that at Vulcan Park (10th – 16th May) – As trees branch out, I do likewise. Like a mycchoriza, rising, my art runs like a red thread, and of other colours too, and trees and places.

Look out, look through: the view from here is amazing: Here is my ‘tree of the week’, lined up, alongside several yarn-bombing works of art, in Vulcan Park, Workington, for Mental Health Awareness Week, alongside several other amazing yarn bombing artworks on trees and on benches in the park – with thanks to Amy and all!

The tree journey continues: next stop will be in Bitts Park, Carlisle, on the 30th May. Then each Sunday throughout July in a different place around Carlisle: starting in Brampton on the 11th, Longtown on the 18th and Morton on the 25th: and the Harraby date (used to be on the 4th July) will now be on the 27th August, with a tree, or other kind of sculpture popping up amidst lots of other lovely pop ups and things to enjoy: more details coming soon.

There’s more info too coming on what will be happening in June, regarding tree threading and all that, and in August – a route along tree roots and around trunks and branches is underway for each month, and more.

Updates on other art projects will be happening soon too, but for now I will end with these notes I wrote down just after I finished doing this my Tree of the Week pictures above in the park:

Tree thread text (after finishing my ‘sculpture’ in it): ‘the thread turns over and over, gets on top of itself and into itself in various expected accidental knots. Every now and then an anomaly in the way I lay the thread, loose ends develop, and I tie them to each other. I tie more knots than anticipated, establish with more than just linear connections. A network develops, a web without a spider but a tree. The tree I thread turns from a trunk into three branches, like a tree-nity, the yarn makes it look almost knitty. But I keep to the lines, and don’t know how many I have got in the end. They all add to the view, and ways of seeing develop, including ways of noticing the spaces between the branches too: one is pointed, the other one is round. There is so much variation, so much to notice. Tree-mendous!’

Vulcan Park is now full of art for this week, trees pointed out with yarn. Vulcan park has erupted like a peaceful vulcano, bringing up our wishes and visions, in a quest to grow, like a trees do, with their branches and networks working all around, reaching out, to each other and ourselves.

Threads: Connecting (the) Dots and Trees

It all lines up: art keeps on growing, as ideas keep on sprouting. In March (below) I didn’t even list everything, and April is becoming a thrilling time table.

Much centred around the 21st March, just after Equinox, World Poetry- and World Tree Day. And there was more: I had a tiny role in the film ‘Myth’ for Victoria Rance’s ‘In Real Life’, a project which is currently on show, and there is a finissage on the 14th May: Victoria Rance : In Real Life – Cable Depot (

In the film for Victoria’s project I am with Esther Bunting and Steve Ritter – I had played a little part before in Esther’s ‘Girl in Suitcase’ play, and Esther had resurrected it recently and recorded bits of it, including the two poems I wrote for it then, about the Goddess Kali and about Blood and our cycle. I felt inspired to record it as well then, so here is Esther Kali on Vimeo, then me Ursula performs KALI & BLOOD on Vimeo and here we are together on her blog: Kali – Esther Bunting

My ‘threading technique’ developed, from tiny ‘threads’ at the local church yard – which is pretty much our local park to the current layering practice I now do, spontaneously for a little film I did for IWD, (8th March) where I performed an imaginary unveiling around our local obelisk, to dedicate it to Mary Fleming.

Then the opportunity arose to do a performance for the Becoming Tree Festival: this would also be an opportunity to combine my tree-threading with Simon Bradley’s sculpture that arose out of our Pylon111 project for ReDrift. So this combined performance will take place on the 24th April online, live art on a livestream, and the link is here: Be-coming Tree | Facebook

Threading a tree is a great way to reenact our lost connections to trees, to nature and to (tree)roots – and to help us try to imagine how many roots they have between them. So as World Earth Day is coming up on the 22, I’ll do another tree thread ‘sculpture’ for that – probably this one on the banks of the river Ellen.

Maybe we need reminding of our (tree)roots more and more: I imagine too, how a threaded tree might protect it from being felled, or harmed otherwise – if only symbolically: at least its threading might highlights it for the little time duration that I let it be on it. My intention is to raise awareness of it as too precious to be damaged. Pick up this thread, think about the tree, and about us. Damage to our environment also means damage to ourselves: a significantly shocking example here is the disaster in Chernobyl, which will be 35 years ago exactly on the 26th. And we have Sellafield here, as our local reminder. I pointed to this link (two power stations – two accidents) – in the Ukraine exhibition, which is now on show in Enger, Germany. Another exhibition, ‘Europe and the Bull’ follows soon.

And of course I have been writing as ever, and I got published in the amazing Purple Hermit, issue The Haar / Behind the Mask, a wonderful literary journal coming out in the far north, edited by writer Lydia Popovich. It’s here: Behind the Mask – The Purple Hermit xxx

And more. coming…

C/lock/downtime !?

Time has changed, clocks went forward, summer time has began…

(in the beginning there was time, and then it changed)

Lockdown continues…. – – – downtime anybody? – – – Spacetime? – – – how

might things relate in a different way?

Covid, how much we would like to cut it: and I am thinking how nice it would be to take the ‘C’ out: then we are left with Ovid! Ovid was a Roman philosopher – if we could have him instead of Covid, if only…

It’s been over a pandemic year now and still no end in sight. The virus is virulent, causing more havoc than we think we ever did to the environment – but didn’t we? Not us individually of course, but we are part of the same world where we have to endure what is being done to us. Now we are trapped, and are we learning from it? Did you know that deforestation can cause a virus like that? And factory farming?

Are we offline?

It’s time for a change then and ‘downtime’ says it all: on wikipedia its definition reads: “The term downtime is used to refer to periods when a system is unavailable.

The unavailability is the proportion of a time-span that a system is unavailable or offline. This is usually a result of the system ‘failing to function“. How well this applies to the virus then, and the problems it has caused for our system not to function as it normally does.” (end of wikipedia quote)

And how are our little personal systems coping? Those inside ourselves. Time has played a big role for me, This period has brought not only the present into focus but it has brought up my past for me – and imaginations of the future. Things I have done in the past, and how surreal it sometimes now feels, which is augmented for me by my relocation. Much of my past is in London – and the beginning in Germany, so there is a melange of times and spaces, and now here at the coast, where I am now, is my third spacetime (and not always on a continuum…).

Art projects I have been involved with and things I have done. It feels now that it’s time to bring this all together. Things I haven’t followed up, when I should have done. Now that we are our public life has been so reduced, and public spaces are so empty, it all becomes more urgent. Hence my steps into film-making and tiny theatre. A way of telling the story even beyond words. In the telling new stories arise too, and lost stories are found.

World Days make their appearance on my stage once again. There is International Women’s Day of course, and then this year I got very involved with World Poetry Day – with a poem network of my ‘Poem up to the Edge’ which went over edges and the border, by starting in its German version ‘Gedicht bis an den Rand’ and hung up, along with other poems, on the market square in Weiden, Oberpfalz, an initiative by the ‘Landestheater Oberpfalz’. Responding to this, I had the poem in English hung up at my local theatre, the Kirkgate Arts Centre in Cockermouth, and also I hung a copy out in the’wild’ on a lamp post on my local town square here in Maryport. It’ the same square where I had done my tiny film for International Women’s Day, shown below – with film link to follow.

There is more news: the launch of the Ukraine exhibition in Westphalia – East-West (!), and before that my publication of on of my an egg-story for Easter! To be continued…

‘Sea Too’

play premiered at Spirited Bodies 10!

There are so many stories when moving, especially when this is not your first move, when even your first move amounted to a migration, and when you move to what seems a far flung part of the country from where you have been. I had been thrilled to disentangle this exciting conundrum of story lines, points, crossings (of borders) and junctions (of stories), and had written posts about this on my blog and beyond – for example in ‘From the City to the Sea last year From the City to the Sea | ColourCirclesite ( Tracing, outlining, grasping, internalising, communicating and art-making the vastness of this new location, that was my big topic of 2019, and 2020 the whole Lockdown story-box has given it yet a further dimension – and I had the urge to perform it, articulate it, have a discussion, a conversation about all these aspects. And so my little play ‘Sea Too’ developed. It’s a lot to do with geography, the co-ordinates of place: where am I? So the play looks at that.

Then Spirited Bodies turned 10. For all those who don’t know, Spirited Bodies is an organisation, run by my dear friend Esther Bunting, about life modelling, body positivity, feminism and personal empowerment. Have a look here: Spirited Bodies – activist life modelling and life drawing And here my play found a home for its premiere! Below are photos of the event, taken by Esther – and my dim reproduction of them.

I was totally overwhelmed by the performance and thanks to all for your lovely comments!

I had made maps to illustrate where I am. Maps, I like making them, describing where I am. It’s like tube lines on a larger scale, instead of ‘change at Finsbury Park from the Victoria Line to the Piccadilly Line (changing is easy at this stop, just run through, the other line is right opposite, through the little arch in the wall – except when you are coming from the other direction of the line, then you have to go up and down the stairs), and then get off at the next stop’ – it’s across the country, at the seaside, but not the East Coast, near Scotland but not quite, beyond Wales, in fact beyond Morecambe Bay, but it’s that side, that coast. You can take a train from Carlisle, 4 stops down – first you pass through Dalston – which sounds just like in London but isn’t – then Wigton, which sounds quite ordinary – then Aspatria, which is an amazing name! – and then Maryport, little stop, easy to miss. So that’s some of the description, but then there is the story with the sea too! It’s Irish Sea here but not quite Ireland. The mountains you see on the horizon are of Scotland. Then in the distance there is more land, but it’s not Ireland yet, it’s the Isle of Man – just half way across the Irish Sea. So you can see up until the half-way point, after that the distance takes over.

So this is how the play had developed. Articles I had written from which it developed in particular are my piece called ‘Bodylands, published in Haus-a-Rest’: Bodylands by Ursula Troche — HAUS-A-REST (

Sea to Sea – North and Irish’ published in Morimaru – North Sea Thinkers:

and also ‘a psychogeography of where I grew up’ , published in Particulations:

I am still reeling from the premiere of my play and then realised i have to record it and to make a little tiny film of it. I am so totally unprepared about catching up doing this – but can’t wait mention it already! So here it will appear in the next week.

and here Sea Too will appear.: in three parts: 1: Map, 2. Body, 3: Now.

– so more coming very very soon, after the zoom…

Space Open

Tell a revolution: – I must comment on this amazing, transformative moment we are in: Black Lives Matter has opened up a space for us! A suppressed space, unheard, unspoken, unwanted, neglected too often.

There was the power of the black square, then I put the black frame on. Now at last it emerges more widely and more publicly (once again since the civil rights movement) what had to be brought to attention: inequality, some of the conditions of blackness.

This too gives rise to the space between black and white. Where is the line between us, and why draw it? Why has it been drawn anyway? It’s very much like asking: why slavery, why colonialism? Why have we been divided?

And then there is the amnesia, or the denial about these events, the lack of understanding about the trauma these events lay upon us as a society, which divides us further.
Now is a time when we could all become aware.

There’s a space that speaks a thousand volumes. Other things come into that space which complicates the space, before we can get rid of it as a vacuum. Fill it with understanding, fill it with stories we have to tell.

Can this be the answer, to tell more stories against inequality, mere stories against colonialism? At least it’s a starting point, from which we might be able to go all the way, not just half way. Speak a revolution each, and then it happens!

Black and White, Blackness and Whiteness, where are our spaces and how many are there – and what’s between us? Maybe we realise that we don’t want a space which is to do with our colour. So let’s go deeper! Let all of us take any space!

How can we grow together without being torn apart over and over again by unequal treatment?

The Black Struggle is so meaningful because it’s always been at the vanguard in showing the way for emancipation and equality on so many levels. It accounts, for example, for the historical dimension, and shows how an economic system had been set up in a way that produces inequality on a structural level. There is a lot in there, dynamics of disadvantage which are problematic not just on one level but on many different levels. Therefore we have all benefited from the black struggle, this is my contention. Let’s go on. I don’t mean let’s move on but let’s go on. Let us go deeper, until all of us understand more.
So this is to be continued. Let’s take our stories out, let’s go for an equality walk and say: Black Lives Matter, to all of us, equally.

( please see also ‘It’s Lit with PHDJ’ for my contribution on the wider context:

Water, Earth + Us in the Lockdown

This is a video I made for World Water Day on the 22nd March, at the beginning of our long lockdown. One month after, on the 22nd April, is World Earth Day. So there’s a stretch of a month between these two elements, and this year that stretch falls into a unique period, where we are in the virus-induced lockdown, but where our natural environment has a unique opportunity to get better! This fact of us suffering versus nature healing, that’s not an awkward association but one with a message: we have to stop damaging the environment in order to prevent another crisis, another virus. Now we find out that the farming of animals for human consumption is unhealthy, deforestation can lead to viral infection, and so on. Scientists think there will be more crises to come if we don’t change our ways. So here is is, in other words: capitalism kills.  So we have to take World Water Day, World Earth Day, and all these initiatives to protect

our environment more seriously, Disrespect can be deadly, of people and of place, inequality and robbery of raw materials, consumerism: these have to stop. Some of us have said that decades ago but now we have reached a new level of emergency. It’s a climate emergency, and an inequality emergency now. The rat race that capitalism has produced, and still reproduces, over and over again, is biased towards a small global minority who, despite being cogs in the machine, are ‘privileged’ – for being largely oblivious to the damage they are doing. This ‘not-being-aware’ that we are too often exposed to in the West, is clearly dangerous, a colonial mentality that does not consider others – or even ourselves. (if we knew who we are!)

This lockdown is like a legitimation crisis for capitalism, and our version of modernity. The virus is a dictator: it’s not democratic, it’s seeking revenge. But maybe now, after extensive damage to the earth and our global brotherhood and sisterhood has been done, with divisions implemented like prison-sentences, we deserve nothing else but being forced to change. It’s bad enough that we are once again unequal in our suffering, and the privileged among us get off relatively lightly. But nevertheless, with the virus and the lockdown we have reached a level of alarm we haven’t had before. Now that all of us are more of The Wretched of the Earth (see Fanon) in one way or another.

At ArtCouple, we have put up our Out-O-Space Gallery:, and above is some more art I made, in my ‘art at home’ series, which started with my ‘shells in bed’ series, of which one, Outside In/ner Circle, was published in Gaada’s ( and another, an “Olympic Assemblage” in ‘Art in the Time of Virus: Isolation’ (  excellent Quarantzine (see also last post, and more on Instagram) – and which is now branches out into placing shells and pebbles on old exercise books from school, like this one, or other things from the past, my childhood, the pesticides and the good times, of which only the ethical ones count. The exercise book – let’s do our homework!

And then there’s the (bar) code-breaker (see also on my Instagram, link on Gallery page): 20200415_144901

Lockdowning – inside up!

The art of enduring the lockdown: lockdowning. So here is our exceptionally weird time, let’s all stay put, stay in. I replace the blue of the sea with the blue of the bedsheet, and let my found sea-shells on it. Then I turn the picture upside down – with the shadow on top –

that feels about right for this weird time-home-space.

Just before the lockdown took hold, I made a series of interesting interventions at a local bus stop that had a cone in it, and now, at ArtCouple, we have set up our new Out-O-Space Gallery. More information to follow! Watch this (interior) space…

Herstory around the Irish Sea

Like Leap-year-2020, my IWD post took one day longer: I am in Maryport. Port of Mary. Not Mother Mary but Mary Fleming. She is one of the women I want to talk about today,

on the 8th March, International Women’s Day. Maryport is a little known coastal town on the Cumbrian coast along the Irish Sea. I will take that sea as my orientation and talk about Women’s History around it – thereby centering the sea, not the land, though the two go hand in hand. There is plenty of women’s history here, especially in the middle of the sea – to which I will come later.
It’s been a vision of mine to establish an ‘Irish Sea Circle’, to communicate across the boundaries of the lands that lie next to it. It’s good for a change to disregard the established borders (and hard border) and go swimming. We could use the sea as a roundtable, it’s not even as big as, say, the North Sea (my erstwhile ‘home sea’ which I have crossed to get here), or the Baltic Sea. So let’s get to know each other a little bit more.
So I will start with the country that the sea is named after, Ireland. Here I think of Mary Robinson, and the impact she made when she became Ireland’s first female president, back in 1990, 30 years ago from now! She was so successful in her job that her successor was a woman as well! Mary McAleese. After pioneering in her job, she became UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and presided over the courageously organised UN Conference Against Racism and Xenophobia, in Durban in 2001. The conference was much forgotten about as it was followed by the September 11 attacks. Listen to Day 1 of the conference here:

Next in the Irish Sea line I am going to Wales – to Ynis Llandwyn, a small island off the coast of Ynis Mon (Anglesey). This is where the setting of the short film ‘Red Sea – spring tides and menstrual cycles at the full and new moon’, from 1982 by Judith Noble –Higginbottom, member of the London Film-makers Co-op.  This film inspired my artwork on ‘Blood Tides’, where I was looking at the state of the tide when my period

starts, and found that it seems to start around high tide. So the film inspired me 38 years later. I had already written about ‘tides in the body’ before, coinciding, , unknowingly then, with her ‘Body Tides’, but what her film did in addition, is to inspire me to look at the time of the tide in relation to my blood tide. Back then, two years after the film was made, in 1984, Sue Butterworth from nearby Llandudno, co-founded the Silvermoon Feminist Bookshop in London, now folded and dearly missed.

The creative distance from Ireland to Wales, and its impact for literary writers, has been highlighted by the conference ‘66 Nautical Miles’, written about by Lleucu Siencyn in ‘Seeing Literature through Irish Eyes can teach the Welsh’ – about the Celtic nations’ commonalities in the literary world:
So here’s the idea as well about the round-the Irish-Sea forum that I, too, am envisaging. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘Celtic nations’, perhaps because I am a foreigner, but I think that everyone who lives around here, is, or should be part of this forum – if you feel the pull and the connecting energy of the sea. My erstwhile ‘home-sea’ was the North Sea, but I am holding them up both, as they too, are connected, and I, on this island, am surrounded by them both! What seas have you been surrounded with? Let’s connect our seas up, like a liquid League of sea-sided Nations.

Our forum comes alive when we respond to our environment. One of Lubaina Himid’s works, first black woman Turner Prize Winner, is ‘Swallow Hard – The Lancaster Dinner Service’ (2007), an installation to respond to Lancaster slavery past,
Very close to Lancaster is Sunderland Point, which was once a slave trading port too, and close to it is a grave to a ‘dark-skinned cabin-boy or slave’ called Sambo – who has been buried alone as he wasn’t admitted into the Christian cemetary. ‘Brit born Bajan’ London poet Dorothea Smartt wrote a moving booklet of poems about him, which I had bought but now cannot find – when I do, I will put a photo of it here, as it seems to be a largely forgotten book, about forgotten history. So we are getting into‘twice forgotten’ territory, so I am mentioning it here to try and redress this.

Lancaster and Sunderland Point are all at the southern end of Morecambe Bay. On its northern end, opposite Morecambe itself, is Barrow-in-Furness, with its own Walney Island. Its on that island where women’s history was made in 1975, when the island’s lighthouse got a female lighthouse keeper, Peggy Braithwaite. She was one of only a handful women lighthouse keepers, and the only one during her service, until 1993.

Moving out of the bay and going much further north to Scotland (skipping West Cumbria to which I will return), discovered a feminist feeling statue on my latest trip to Dumfiries.

It was of Jean Armour, wife of Robbie Burns. She was the inspiration behind many of his poems, was known in as the ‘Belle of Mauchline’ and had 9 children with Robbie Burns, of whom 6 survived – how hard times were then.

Now let’s go back down the Irish Sea a little bit again, to the border, go down around 25 miles (25 milefortlets down from Hadrian’s Wall, see previous post), and arrive in Maryport, where we started. Mary is who this town was named after! And I am just thinking that now that we need a statue for that! It’s Mary Fleming, wife of Humphrey Senhouse, who built this town as a new town in 1749 – it seems old now but it has that typical very straight and square grid pattern that new towns have. No wonky roads, no curves, so that’s a bit dull – though the houses are pretty! Humphrey Senhouse was pretty emancipated too, to dedicate this town to his wife, but sadly, his pretty-ness stops there. Coming back to the harrowing topic of empire, he was a major player in it, and owned plantations in Barbados, where he was born, because his father was already in the business! So here’s an early example of a kind of intersectional (feminist) problem: its not gender and ‘race’ here as such but gender and racism – where we might have been able to celebrate him as an early feminist, his record on the side of (and in the service of) empire was so dismal that he isn’t useful as a feminist hero at all. Sad case really. Mary seems to have been complicit in all that, as she did not speak out against her husband’s involvement with the empire. So a bit of unsettling women’s history then. I still think we need a statue of her in town. The most feminist marker we have is a café with the intriguing name of ‘Her Citi’ – you can buy clothes and things here as well.

It’s here, in Maryport, that I did my art work for International Women’s Day: I’ve cut out our women’s sign from a mushroom box (so as to creatively reuse material that would otherwise be discarded), and placed a whelk in the middle.

On this day, too, I found out about a new old feminist: Sal Madge. She was a well known character in Victorian Whitehaven, (two towns down the coast from here), and she acted very much like a man, and thus carved out an approach towards emancipation in a context of poverty and gendered expectations, also wrestling with men:

From here I go to the spectacular centre of the Irish Sea, where a world record has been achieved. That’s on the Isle of Man. Here women got the vote in 1881! I wrote a poem that mentions this (100 – 10), which was published in the E-List, Walthamstow’s amazing culture and art mag. (in E17, London, where I lived then), when we on the mainland celebrated a 100 years of women’s vote at most! It amazes me how this has not made more headines – even here on the west Cumbrian coast, where the Isle of Man is within eyesight, the news of the women’s vote has not spread. So from now on, let’s remember the best kept secret at the centre of this sea!