Author Archives: ursulatro

About ursulatro

writer, photographer, performer, life-model, live-artist, poet, activist, spiritual cosmologist, experienced foreigner, critical thinker, singer

Revolution and Time

Suffragettes – Magna Carta – Windrush. Revolution and Time: This was the perfect day for me to wear my self-made (a first!) Votes for Women T-Shirt, which I made on the occasion of the centenary of the passing of the Votes for Women Act on 6th February. I didn’t wear it ,but it was a good day. The day I mean was ‘Processions’, organised by the art organization Artichoke, to celebrate 100 years of Women Voting in Britain!

 

100 years – not for every woman, as it’s had no effect if you didn’t have property – so voting was tied to how ‘well’ you do in the capitalist system! – but still I honour this achievement, as it was not easy to get this far! If it hadn’t been for Emily Davidson throwing herself in front of a horse, how much longer would it have taken? So when I saw the horse manure in the middle of the road, not too far from the Houses of Parliament, I was absolutely touched!

 

1918 – 2018, so these are the years! Powerful years, 1918 at any rate: war had ended, women got the vote! Absolutely magic! And, right in the middle of this centenary, directly half-way through, was 1968! Wow, so there’s a kind of revolutionary rhythm going on. What a sweet half-time that was! Then I find women on the march who are celebrating women in the NHS, and that started in 1948. One magic 8 after another, it seems. And that wasn’t even the only revolutionary event of 1948, there was the Windrush as well! The ship that put African-Caribbeans on the map. It wasn’t the beginning of African-Caribbean presence in Britain, but it was an amplification! Through the years, the 8th wonder continues: 1958 the first CND march to Aldermaston took place. And then there was 1928, when women’s suffrage was extended to all women in Britain. And then, long before this, there was 1848, the year of social revolts across many countries!

 

On the march, we borrow from each other’s liberation struggles too. They plaid reggae and it was great, for these are the sounds of liberation par excellence. But then they played less fitting tunes I thought, going hip hop, a bit pop. I would have loved to have heard more Greenham Common song.

There were hundreds of banners, very good ones, and they reflected some more snapshots of feminism. I saw ‘Your silence will not protect you’, a favourite of mine by

 

Audre Lorde. How I wish it were true! I think that before that standard will apply, we might have to make it into: ‘Your silence should not protect you’, or it must not protect you. But we are not there yet, it still does. It may be challenging enough even to think that speaking out is not just an act of courage, (though it certainly also is!), but also an act of responsibility!

As the march made its way through Piccadilly, the Royal Academy had banners out, to commemorate 250 years of painting! So we had 100 years of Votes for Women, they had

 

250 years of painting! Now we know which came first, the chicken or the egg! I say ‘us and them’ but who are ‘they’? We know who ‘we’ are:  us previously disenfranchised cannot rarely be mistaken, or diluted.  But ‘they’: painters, artists, including ‘us’. But then did it? Did they include ‘us’? Perhaps yes, perhaps a woman could paint before she could vote. So much for our rights then! I want to paint, vote and more.

Magnu Cartu

So this is about the Magna Carta, but I am putting my own spin on it, so I’ll give it an

 

independent name and call it magnu cartu – and to include those in its making that have not been acknowledged. I am here to visit an art installation called The Jurors, which is

 

doing this too, brilliantly: acknowledging the activists for justice, and so it revealing many bits of history we don’t know, we have forgotton, or we don’t remember, or we are not aware of – or some of us are. The Jurors puts together the rebellions and quests for justice across the centuries of the magna carta, the grand card of rights. The Jurors are those who have judged injustice to be unfair: judgement leading to activism. The Jurors, here, are not the judges, and the powerful of the system, but those who are leading rebellions, the people, the dispossessed! Power, and judgement, to the people! There have been struggles for justice at every time in history, but only some have been recorded, and most of them once again forgotten by too many of us, if it wasn’t for public sculptures like this one. The sculptor of The Jurors is Hew Locke, British-Guyanese artist from Brixton. Locke has done lots of great and deep art works, such as For Those in Peril, and other victims and activists, enslaved or otherwise forgotten, in need of declaration.

Getting to The Jurors is not easy. On the way I saw there were several sculptures and murals about it, all around Runnymede, where it all happened, the big charter, the magna documenta! I want to go back and look at the other artworks as well, but The  Jurors was the longest to walk to, so for that reason alone, I wanted to make this my priority. As always, relying on railways for travel is interesting, for what you find out along the way, or before you have even started travelling. First of all, despite Runnymede’s significance, I find that there is no railway station called Runnymede. I then found Sunnymeads and Wraysbury on the map, two stops on the other side of the river Thames, but it doesn’t help getting off there because there is no bridge across the river! Very peculiar I thought, because the whole area is so exquisite, so why is there no bridge across the river? But maybe that’s why, maybe a bridge would make one’s access too easy? Magna secret! Don’t spread the word of justice, don’t mention the charter! The secret is as big as the charter itself! What a magnificent mystery.

 

Magna magic land. Big land, magnus, grande, great, massive.  I take the road to this land, I take the road as a pedestrian, walking on the side. It’s a big road, many cars, no pedestrians, so I am alone, walking. From here, the road is bigger, and louder, than the land. I walk by the edge of the road, along the edge of The Land, with cars as loud and threatening as thunder and lightning! The land: it’s old and magna: magnificent. The road: it has more voice than history, more volume at laest. It’s a bit tedious and dangerous, it’s as if history has been taken over by the road.  At least the road has surrounded history, side-lined it, overtaken it like a car with an arrogant driver inside it. No respect for history, this is the road! As if it’s more important. If the car is on the road, I am on history.

A road instead of history! History is a road, of course, but not that kind of road that’s filled only with cars and lorries, and the noise they produce. Apart from the road, Magna Carta land is surrounded by the houses of well-to-folk. Nobody, who I asked, knew The Jurors, to start with, and when I did see them, I recognized them by a group of people who were moving around the chairs, which make up The Jurors. So now everyone can play juror! That’s just amazing! Now is playing juror enough to generate consciousness?

I am still by the river, on the other side of the road. The chairs formed a circle. Getting there, approaching the chairs, was like finding your path to some ancient stone circle –

 

the type I last saw with the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney!  And that was a great appearance, and a great entry I thought!

When getting there, I found it was a school class, and the teacher told me, how much schools have been involved in getting to know the great work. What better thing to do then to show children works about getting justice!  Each chair is intricate, and tells more than just a single story, in itself. And all the chairs together is a great conversation! Struggles for justice across the centuries, making stories which sit side by side here, with

 

a common denominator: making this world a better place. Where would we be without or advocates for freedom and equality. Let these stories not just be told, but also be seen. So go into the field, go to magna carta land, go right through to the end, along the river, and then see the inscriptions of the stories of revolution, time after time, for our benefit.

Addendum dum

I cannot seem to finish this, there is never enough time to list all the revolutionary moments we have had, or there have been – because ‘we’ never had all of them. Here I have passed by London Bridge, and remember I had mentioned 1948: so here it is, a new artwork on the wall, about one of the big events of that year: the Windrush. Now 70. The artwork is by Deanio X. “Empire Windrush”, they call it, and I say: let the empire go, but let the people stay! mobilepicsOneThirtySeven ut 339

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Discoveries in Belgium’s East End

::: Side-puzzles — Mine Magic — Flat to Hill.  (a – e)

 

a. Which side are we on?

Ghent is a well-known destination in Belgium, but I didn’t go there: I went to Genk instead – to start with! Yes, Genk, not Ghent! Genk is in the east-end of Belgium. So if you go from the middle of Brussels, Ghent is to your left, and Genk is to your right: only it’s a bit further in still, the country extends much further into the continent than you might expect: it is not so small after all!

 

Left, right, west, east: as you internalise that you are in Belgium’s East End, and that the whole country has an East End due to its long kind of horizontal shape, you start wondering about directions as you find that the famous seaport Oostende (ie. East End) is in the West End! So how come that? It’s clearly an East End from the English side, but why would it be called East End here in Belgium, where it seems wrong by 180 degrees? I found out that it’s because there was once an island! An island off the coast of Belgium, and this island had a West End port and an East End port. What happened later though, is that the West End port side of the island sunk into the sea! Whereas the side of the island where the East port was merged with the mainland! So that side remained and became the Oostende that we still know. Whereas the west end is deep inside the water!

That old lost little island was called Testerep, and it’s not up now, it’s down, deep down! So give a little thought to what we have lost. Testerep, in itself, was a relic of the earlier bigger Doggerland, too, the land that famously connected Britain with Belgium too – when the channel was a river. So it was Doggerland, then Testerup, and now just Oostende in the west end. Changing of the elements! Pay homage to this past island!

So when I am talking about east and west sides here, I don’t mean Flanders versus Wallonia: that’s another issue, that’s a north-south issue – I am talking about this east end, or These East Ends! And in the east, there’s pretty Wallonia too, and more and more of it too! So I’ll talk about it later.

N.B: totally complicated directions: and I haven’t even mentioned that the province of East Flanders is not in this East End of Flanders, but between the province of West Flanders and Antwerp and so, almost in the middle of the country. The peculiarities of the positions of east and west don’t easily cease to amaze.

 

b. Triangle, Mine

Genk: how it became a destination, and discovery, in the first place is because it was the meeting point for the European Mining Heritage meeting I was attending! So the idea was to deepen the ‘mining work’ I had done – not literally but literarily – and look at other mines, and more mines, and i found there was more to them and in them, even now, in their ‘retirement’ when they are no longer working.

 

I stayed in a place called Tongeren, to the south of Genk.  Tongeren turned out to be the oldest town in Belgium. To get here from Genk you need two trains: there is no direct line, I have to change in Hasselt. So here my triangular travel between Tongeren, Hasselt and Genk came in, and, as so often in my travels, I have found myself again in a triangle-correspondence between three towns.

Genk is full of former mines: coalmines mostly. It’s an absolutely industrial area – this is a region of seven mines, spread around itself and Hasselt, making up the Limburg Mine  region. Tongeren, because I stayed there, became my daily starting-and end-point. It is itself outside the mining region, and instead is the oldest town in Belgium, evoking the medieval age! It’s also on the southern end of Flanders, edging on Wallonia, so this is where my edge-adventure, too, began!

Tongeren is old-monk-Trappist, city-walled, cobble-stoned, ancient city-walled, with medieval magic. Famous also for ‘Ambiorix’, ambitious leader of the Eburones, which is not a reggae-band (nothing to do with the Heptones!) but an old Gallic tribe!  I stayed in the youth hostel in the street with my name: Ursulastraat! In ‘my’district was the famous ‘Moerenport’ too: like Moorgate, maybe older.

 

The medieval character of Tongeren is not just in the buildings but ‘in the air’ too: as if it unfolded secrets and stories of the past, interminglings across centuries and influences, impressions, inscriptions. I felt home in a way that cannot be easily described, and need poetry and excavations in order to pinpoint the kind of space I encountered there.

c. Meeting, Mines, Machines, Magic

Then the mine meeting: I went here to do my presentation of the Mine and Yours – a mining and twinning project, which I have written about back in October (also on this blog), and added part 2 of this project too. Also I was curious of course to get more insight into mines. Then what I saw completely overwhelmed me: these mines of eastern Belgium were big, very big!

 

There were seven mines here alone, 7! And each of them was not just a mine, but what I didn’t anticipate that they also had a lot of machines in them! And many gadgets, and individual showers for the miners, hundreds of them! As if they lived there somehow, and like a whole world is in a mine.

Mining magic! Machinations! like putting the whole world into a structure. Industrial structure, mega mine, megalith! But infinitesimal order prevails, perhaps. Hundreds

 

upon hundreds of machinery in one mine. A kind of Myopia, too, seems to threaten: press the wrong button, and you could blow it all up! Danger of industrial progress? It could be either you, or more. How safe you are depends on which machines you use. There’s a machine called ‘widow-maker’, it’s not safe! Miner’s sacrifice, for our supply.

Knowing that other mines faced the same situation and the same struggles is so comforting and liberating. It’s striking too, miners’ strikes happened too, miners of all countries, strike!.

 

Surrealist magic with a little bit of horror mixed in. Industrial superlative! Machines to last a lifetime!

I got so absorbed in the mine’s belly, its bundle of stories, its work and meaning, its symbols and signs.

 

The last mine of this complex of seven was closed down in 1992, but it looks fresher than that. Some of those mines had been transformed into sites for creative business, museums, pubs, art-spaces. Belgium seems to really appreciate its mining heritage. Industrial heartland with a heart!

 

Heart indeed, soul, spirit: our group was shown miners’ churches, and miner’s villages, modelled on the garden city model in England. There’s a kind of war-and-peace side to this too: men who worked in the mines during the war in Belgium were freed from fighting in the war. This was the case in Britain too, but there wasn’t the prestige associated with it as it was here in Belgium. The  story of the boss of one mine I heard was particularly moving: he was so disgusted with the war that in the middle of all this tragedy he ordered his miners to build a church instead! A church against the war, even in the face of aggression, worry and large-scale multidimensional existential scare. An amazing act!

 

d. Lim-Lux – another word for this edge-crossing

Tongeren, apart from being in the east end of the whole of the country, is also at the southern boundary of Flanders-part of the country. If you take a train from here southwards, you reach Wallonia immediately, because Tongeren is the last stop before the boundary.  Like Genk and Hasselt further north, it is in the province of Limburg. Limburg also exists as a province in the neighbouring Netherlands, but this is Belgian Limburg. From here I went to Luxembourg! Like Limburg, Luxembourg is also a double: it’s a little country of course, but also it’s another province in Belgium! So I went from

 

Lim to Lux, and each of those has a double, and each is on the respective other side of the division between Flanders and Wallonia. Doubles and divisions, geographical mirror-images and double LLs! Just to add on to this, between the two provinces of Lim and Lux, there’s Liege! LLL then…

My destination in this Luxembourg was a place called Barvaux-sur-Ourthe. I had chosen this little town with this long name for two reasons: one is that it is close to Durbuy, which is known as the smallest city in the world -and there is something exciting about going from the oldest town in this country to the smallest city in this world! Secondly, Barvaux is the closest railway station to reach the remains of this regions’ ancient stone circle. A tiny bit of Stonehenge here then, a rare site in continental Europe. When I got here, I found it’s still a bit far to go, and a bit difficult to find too, so I just went to the river instead. But to my amazement and delight I found another ‘stone circle’: not a circle, but a place of worship made of stone! It was at the far side, and low side of a hill leading to a chapel. The far side, the hidden side: how wonderful. Here is the energy, the spirit, survival – mixed in with Christianity but not stopping there, going beyond spiritual boundaries, traditions, edges and taboos.

There’s a lot more to say on the way. Literally, on the way, as there is something you notice which happens as you get there: here in Wallonia it’s not flat anymore, as in Flanders: it’s hilly! Before you reach Liege, hills come ‘rolling in’, and they ‘roll on further’, the more you move down south. With the rivers in the middle of them all – first the Meuse, then the Ourthe, it looks like West Yorkshire around Hebden Bridge. These hills are the Ardennes, but they could be brothers and sisters of the Pennines!

 

From mines to mountains and back again -from flat to hill, and back – from Flanders to Wallonia and back -from one pretty place to another.

It’s funny, then, how not only the language changes between the two halves of this country but the geography too: Flemish for the flat land and French for the hills.

 

e. Back to the other side of the Tunnel

I had seen and found out a lot but far from all I wanted to see: I hadn’t even made it to the labyrinth at Barvaux, and not even to the Gallo-Roman museum in Tongeren! I had to take two trains home: first to Brussels, and then to London. So I set off in Tongeren, arrived, in the end, in‘ Tottenham, and passed under the tunnel under the channel with the Eurostar between these two Ts. Taking the  Eurostar also meant a stopover in Brussels, specifically Brussels-Midi rather than the centre. So I had to discover what was to be found on location around here, which I enjoyed with unsurprising psychogeographic curiosity: Brussels as seen, and walked, from here!

I found: a park, and in it a ‘porte’ (‘ Halle Gate’: a grand old tower which was part of Brussels’ second city wall), a market, and some interesting art-galleries. It’s called St. Gilles around there., not quite like St. Giles over here, but really interesting, more cozy, multicultural, arty: like Walthamstow in, but not too much inside, London perhaps.

Then Eurostar time came and I went for it. Land, tunnel, then land again, this time England. It’s only the second time I’ve ‘eurostarred’, and the first time from and to St. Pancras and I loved it. Arriving at the centre of London rather than at the edge, where the airports are, is great in this case: you just walk into and inside central London: from the platform to the centre! St. Gilles, St. Pancras, Salutations, and the east side I had just come from. This is the (east) end I had enjoyed on both sides: on the Flanders side, and on the Wallonia side. They are both beautiful ends: belle, Belgium, bellissimo!

 

 

 

 

Perambulations for Peace:

1. In Shropshire, 2. Around Newcastle, 3. To Aldermaston

 

 

Perambulating is a very typical psychogeographic word for walking wildly, and widely, radically, and consciously. The book “A perambulation of Kent”, however, was written in 1576 (by William Lambarde)! How about some Shakespearean psychogeography then? We would certainly enjoy the comedy of walking ‘errors’ when walking somewhere wildly, then finding something unexpectedly, and thereby coming to a point – or an edge, or a boundary, as the case may be.

The triple trip I did, however, was far beyond Kent, more like a perambulation of England almost, walking into Wales, and close to reaching Scotland. I covered tiny bits of the West Midlands, the North East, and the South.  Criss-crossing country, ‘triangulating’ places. Not walking all the way, by far of course, but taking trains in between places, which went much further than I did on my own. Trains, indeed, and the lines they run on, the network they make, are always important to my travels.

So here are the three chapters of my trip – two of them ‘tripped’ together, and the last one later by itself.

  1. In Shropshire:

I had been collaborating with Andrew Howe, who is involved with VAN – Visual Artists Network – in Shrewsbury. We had met at the Psychogeography Conference in Huddersfield last September, and had exchanged ideas since then, which led to my participation for the Encounters exhibition, which is about putting words and images together – i.e. poets respond to artist’s work and vice versa. More on his blog here: andhowenow.wordpress.com. Andrew also worked together with Kate Innes and Paul Baines as well, and there’s a lot of other artists and poets in the exhibition, so there’s a lot to see and read, so definitely worth a visit: a must-see, a must-read! The exhibition is still on until the 28th April, so go to Shrewsbury and see it, it’s in a great converted sort of warehousy space but it’s really centrally located, just past the High Street So if you have the railway station on one side of the High Street, VAN is on the other side – but they are all in a straight-ish line too! VAN is definitely the vanguard of Shrewsbury!

 

 

Topics that Andrew and I got talking about were the river and the border. The river Severn makes an amazing impression with its many looping circles, and the border is an interesting to explore because it’s so nearby: Wales is not far, and the border is soft.

 

 

I had been to Shrewsbury only once before, and remember that I was curious as to which of its two bridges I would reach first without looking at a map: the English Bridge or the Welsh Bridge. And I reached the Welsh Bridge first! Ha, enter the dragon (me too!), and it’s a sweet one!

 

 

This time round I discover much more: the Quantum Leap sculpture ,in honour of Darwin, hadn’t been there before, and now I see the round church, St. Chad’s. It amazes me: it’s the only church I have ever seen which is round! This very unusual design was built apparently by mistake, when one design was confused with another. That happened in 1792, which makes me smile: the fresh air of the French Revolution at that time causes new, innovative things to happen!

 

 

Now I go back to it, and more, entering Shropshire via Birmingham, from where the Shrewsbury Express runs, via Telford, Shrewsbury’s interesting counterpart, and partner on the (train) –line. Here the train is advertised as going to ‘Shrowsbury’ whereas in Telford, it will be ‘Shoesbury’, like an inverted turning of the linguistic Shrew, where it gets better, the closer you get.

Place Names

Looking at a map, Shrewsbury Is surrounded by places with intriguing, and past-is-looming, sort of names. As the swinging Severn loops out of town and into Wales, about half-way there, its biggest loop is called ‘The Isle’! So ths might have been an island down the ages, closer to the time of Lake Lapworth perhaps, which spread in England and Wales during the Ice Age. There’s a little tiny lake (Isle Pool!)still there inside the loop, and the whole loop could almost pass as a peninsula.

Then there’s the legacy-of-conflict-and-border’ place names: ‘Battlefield’ and ‘Loggerheads’. ‘Trench’ sounds like it too, but apparently a trench used to be a clearing in a woodland; wow! Then there’s funny names ike ‘Nobold’ and ‘New Invention’. There’ also ‘Little Ness’, making me think of Loch Ness, and there’s ‘Great Ness’, making me thing of greatness! Then there’s ‘Wem’, ‘Grimpo’ and, most spectacularly and historically ‘Ruyton of the Eleven Towns’! And then there is, quite apart from the famous ‘Ironbridge’, also ‘Isombridge’. Isom!

 

 

Telford

Then there was the Telford experience: I stayed near Oakengates, which has its own railway station, but I missed it and so got off at Telford Central. This turned out to a unique experience. It’s a station you cannot get out of! I mean, as a pedestrian it is impossible to walk from the station into town. This is odd. It’s a New Town, but an extreme version of a new town. Pedestrians have a hard time and you cannot even walk to the bus station from the railway station! The station is situated by two motorways and four roundabouts! They encircle you, and so all you can do is take wait for one of the few and infrequent buses that stop here, or take a taxi. Surrounded by streets more than anything! It all sounds very well: Telford has three train stations! The other two, Oakengates and Wellington, are fine and ‘normal’, in that you walk to and from them like to would to any other train station, but Telford Central is like an closed centre, unreachable, unlike the edges, which are much more centrally located than the centre in terms of pedestrian accessibility. I think that when this New Town was created, the plan was too ambitious: the little towns that it is supposed to hoid together, are too far apart somehow.

 

Apparently, Telford Central railway station, and its car park, was a siding to an industrial estate, so that automatically put the station at the side of things. It was, then, off-centre, and industry-purposed, from the beginning. No wonder pedestrians have a hard time then! There is a tiny, almost wonky, bridge that crosses on of the massively noisy motorways – it moves when you walk across it! – but it leads to another industrial or business complex. Only behind this complex is the shopping centre. Difficult! Complex!

In the end I see the famous Ironbridge, the first of its kind. I have seen other smaller bridges, in Oakengates too, which fascinate me. Industrial awe overcomes me, even

 

when things are simple. Even when things are dire: if you don’t know how to make use

 

of the town, it can eat you up, abuse you, or someone will. Life, in this locality, seems under-resourced too – an all too common feature of course. I believe that with art we can overcome. So turn to art for change!

 

Border Moss

The day after the opening of the Encounters exhibition at the VAN-guard, Andrew had organised a group of us to walk to the border. There were poet and painter Ted Eames, potters and architects Ruth Gibson and Adele Mills, Andrew and myself, and our very knowledgeable guide was Mike Crawshaw. We chose a moor-and moss-region rather than Offa’s Dyke, the Welsh kind of Hadrian’s Wall.

Wall types of border: Offa’s Dyke differs from Hadrian’s Wall, in that it is built entirely of earth, not using any brickwork as territorial demarcation, but the earth itself. That can be a harder thing: the earth itself will tell you who is King… on top of that, unlike Hadrian’s Wall, Offa’s Dyke is a double-wall, and so has a ditch in the middle. What a hard border that was!

So to the borderland, so to the edgeland: the bit of the border we went to was to the right side of Offa’s Dyke, which was England at the time of Offa. So Wales has moved on, especially in this area, where the Welsh border makes a semi-loop, like the Severn, no longer keeping to a straight line but curving, carving up the land. Nowadays this curving carving is so soft and gentle that it is harmless and interesting to go here. The past is concealed, invisible even, and it is hard to imagine that there was once suffering here, over the right to speak the Welsh language, and assume Welsh identity. How important peace and understanding is! Enter the dragon, please, and don’t be afraid, it brings peace!

 

It’s called Whixall Moss where we were, now a conservation area, recovering from former border disputes and some industrial use, and missing a railway line, which had been closed down in the 1960s. Nature has won the day here, and the mosses are so varied and special around here, one of Britain’s biggest Raised Bogs, and of international

 

interest: it’s a European Conservation Area. There are miles and miles of dense and fully-fledged open space here, of a kind of atmospheric emptiness that’s full of nature and rich in fullness. It’s like a moss-desert, for its wide and far views of the most beautiful monotony at first sight, and wonderful diversity when you look closer. And so now there is wonder at the border!

The border as a mirror

What amused and moved me deeply is that the occasional border-markers were low poles, saying ‘England’ on one side and ‘Wales’ on the other. Only that when you read England or Wales, you look at the respective ‘other side’. So when you read ‘England’, you are actually looking at Wales, and when you read ‘Wales’, you are looking at England. It’s all the same though. The moor and its animals wouldn’t have a clue which is which, and neither would we, if there was no marker to tell us. But when we read the name of the country we are in, we are looking at the country where we are not: the border as mirror!

 

We had amazing discussions on the moor, as we were walking: about pottery, earth and architecture, moss and words, psychogeography, work and story. It was so conducive, the density of the land, yet so open and free, nourished our creativity, and we will all take this back into our work, art, and artwork. It’s still in progress and there is more coming. It’s been a dip into Ombrotropia, I might say, for this is an ombotrophic meaning that it is apparently a cloud-fed – moss!

  1. Around Newcastle:

From Telford then to Newcastle, amazing cross-country stretch! And it’s the big Newcastle I am going to, not the small one! That is, not ‘Under Lyme’ but ‘Upon Tyne’: I am going over, not under, leaving Shropshire shrubbery: from one industrial heartland to another! And the weather didn’t turn colder, but sweet spring-sun came out.

Industrial areas both then. I have found another similarity between these distant places. To the west of Newcastle there’s Cumbria, of course, and to the west of Shropshire there’s Cambria, the other word for Wales! Cambria to Cumbria then it is, almost.

 

The towns I pass to get there from here: there is Wolverhampton, which fascinates me always. It may sound or look like nothing special at all, but it is one of the very few towns founded by a woman: Wulfruna. So here is a potentially feminist town! Then there’s Birmingham again, the underground station which always reminds me of Brussels, which is also situated slightly underground, just like this one. From here goes my train to Newcastle. My ‘mission’ here is to meet my good friend there, and to visit the new Miner’s Art Gallery in nearby Bishop Auckland. Arriving at Newcastle railway station is always an exhilarating experience for me. I love this station. It just looks good, a great peace of architecture, homeliness and arrival, all in one, all in all.

 

In Newcastle’s  great Museum of the North, ‘The Heart of the Matter’ had opened: an eye-opening exhibition about the heart. It exposes you to the heart’s ‘parallel forms’, like forest, corals, and ocean. Then from The Heart of the Matter we come again to the issue of borders, and our concern for their softness: an EU rally was on, decamping afterwards to the Tyneside Irish Centre, where a border-poem, I had written, came in handy for performance (thanks to Bill Corcoran!). It picks up ‘borderline’ issues, and their currency has arisen anew. How do we stand up to and against borders? Train lines through borders! Another idea, and thing, I am interested in. To cross the line of the border with another line!

Next day Bishop Auckland was on the agenda. Sweet little town it is, through Durham-land. The first thing I want is a cup of coffee. I pass by a Café with a Soviet hammer and sickle, and I am thrilled, intrigued! It’s called Red Square Café. I go in and find a love

 

story is behind this. The owner’s mum is Russian (well, Ukrainian by current developments), dad is English, and they met in Red Square, all the way in Moscow! What a unique place/story! I said how I grew up along a train line that went to Moscow, despite being in West Germany at the time. And here it is: a train against a border: my poem/my idea, comes back to me and reasserts itself. Anyone who visits Bishop Auckland, go to the Red Square Café! It’s on the main street between the castle and the railway station! It ‘s amazing too, how things make you see other things, and parallels arise. Thinking about Russia, i am thinking about Russian traditional wooden houses, and there i saw some, right here, and looking Russian, totally amazing me.

 

Bishop Auckland had another surprise for me too: Stan Laurel, from the famous old Laurel and Hardy comedian pair, is from here! And on the beautiful town- and castle-square is a great sculpture by Louise Plant, looking alchemical, but is called ‘Ps in a Pod’.

 

The Miner’s Art Gallery had only opened late last year. What a great idea to open a gallery that tells the story of miner’s art history! A new exhibition was just opening: The Bevin Boys’: miners that were sent underground in the war. This, too, part of the war effort – underground, but not to be forgotten.

I am now continuing to write the story that I began in the ‘Mine and Yours’ blog post, and which I will present at the Mining Heritage meeting in Belgium next weekend, so wait for more on this!

  1. To Aldermaston:

Nowa to a peace-effort: the following weekend was the 60th anniversary of the big march for peace, and for nuclear disarmament, organised by CND, co-founded by Bertrand Russell. It made big waves then, and was supported, too, by many famous people at the time, such as top artists Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. I had been on the famous march once only, in 2009, at a time when it no longer took place annually. For the big anniversary of course, it was on again, and I felt itchy to go too.

 

It used to take four days, now its’ a single daytrip. That’s not because we walk faster nowadays but because we don’t walk anymore. We don’t walk to Aldermaston, we take the coach, and then go around it. It doesn’t cause the same publicity as it used to, back in the days of the beginning, and then again in the years of Greenham Common. But at least it’s happening. Famous old peace activists like Bruce Kent and Walter Wolfgang were there, and spoke. Afterwards we left paper peace doves on the fence. I saw a now-historic hat on a now-veteran Greenham Commoner, knitted, women for peace! May the cause of peace continue. May borders be overcome. May the structures that separate

 

us be successfully challenged, and the world will be as one. Imagine!

Altogether

What’s the picture? Walking to edges, crossing the land, looking at boundaries, challenging borders. Using walking for peace. And discovering the beauty of the lands  that may have been pushed to the edge, and the importance of our lives, which may have been decentred. Finding the rivers, the waters, following their flowing lines, the loops and  the roundabouts! Challenging edgelands of a certain edge, speaking out, walking out! Angela Davis’ Let us All Rise Together could also be a ‘Let us all walk together sometimes. There is always more to say. There is always further to go, and walk, and make art, too – to collect the stories along the way.

 

 

 

 

That Was the Women’s Week that was!

TWTWWTW! And this one’s serious! It was International Women’s Week! Not to be confused with the comedy ‘That was the Week that was’ then, though it sometimes might tell (an alternative version of) that story too. Tell it to the BBC! – and all…

First and foremost this week this year I wanted to celebrated a hundred years. I thought that was the big theme: a hundred years of votes for women! It wasn’t exactly 100 for women like me, without property, as I wrote in this poem, which came out in the EList, Waltham Forests’ unique and exemplary art info magazine (an example which other

boroughs should follow), but I am still celebrating this year because the struggle to get as far as the suffragettes did was very hard, so we have to give thanks to them who paved the way for us. My poem is a compressed version of my earlier blog post “100 +10”, and I decided to make the “plus 10” into a “minus 10”.

Neither a placard with ‘100 years’ on it, nor the Isle of Man’s world record of introducing women’s suffrage in 1881 featured at the annual Women of the World – WOW festival at London’s South Bank Centre. What a disappointment I thought! Fair enough, International Women’s Day itself had had it’s 100-year anniversary already in 2011 – so IWD is older than women’s suffrage – but for some reason this centenary grabs me even more. The Mind the Gap placard is from the WOW festival though, which i absolutely love, and would love to know who made it – so please if you know let me know (it was not actually from this year’s Women’s Week, it was from last year’s Week…)

I celebrated IWD by looking for prime suffragette (and active anticolonialist!) Sylvia Pankhurst! I mean, I looked for her sculpture in Mile End Park. On a day as significant as

this you might have expected other women paying homage to her, but there was no other pilgrim I encountered. Sadly, it’s not very well known she has a sculpture there. And sadly, her name is not mentioned in front of her sculpture – so if you haven’t googled for her, and you don’t happen to recognise her, you could pass by the sculpture and still not know! The fact that next to her is a representation of a mule doesn’t help, because she could be mistaken for a peasant.

Near where she is, there are boards telling you about the different kinds of spiders and beetles that live in Mile End Park, but there is no board to tell you about Sylvia Pankhurst! Just like with Elizabeth Garrud, the suffragette outside Finsbury Park, who I visited on the 6th February, the day of the centenary of votes for women (also in 100+10 blog post). She too, is not mentioned by name, and neither are the other two sculptures next to her. When googling, I found out that these sculptures were put up by the cycling charity Sustrans, in 2011 and 2013 respectively. It’s great they are publicly commemorating important people, but why can’t they put a name to them? Even the

sculptor him-or herself hasn’t been mentioned!

I remembered that the year before I found another sculpture in Beam Valley Park, between Dagenham and Hornchurch, which also features a women’s rights activist, maybe a trade unionist, I still don’t know because the sculpture doesn’t say! Look at this lovely pic and let me know. And then let Sustrans know that their sculptures are highly appreciated but could they please name them. Public memorials, after all, should be educational I think, otherwise they can’t even encourage women passers-by. And the point of women’s history, impact and significance is once again compromised, even made invisible. A sculpture, of course, is the opposite of invisibility, but if you don’t know who you are looking at, the perception of visibility is not guaranteed.

Later in the day, still on IWD, when I went to the South Bank to the WOW festival, I found, to my surprise that there was little going on! The market, so typical of the festival I thought, had not yet been set up, and all there was were empty benches! There was an event in the evening, fair enough, but the then-missing market, me and another feminist were told, would be up at the weekend – but we thought that IWD is the most important cause for the whole festival, this was the Day Par Excellence, and most of what we saw was emptiness! Wow! Yes, WOW indeed…

I did go back on the Sunday – and, amongst a lot of other things, reflected on the overlooked female forms within architecture (I always seem to come up with my own

events by thinking about things). So on the Sunday I was a little more impressed, but I think we have to take the day itself more serious. Not just as a festival of course. More like a reminder for the kind of revolution we should engage in, which has to be one for peace, because patriarchy, like capitalism and white supremacy is divisive and violent. We desperately need something more peaceful, more kindness, more communication, more fairness, more awareness, for the planet and all of ourselves, equality for all!

 

About Our Art / ‘Terminalista’

Time lapse: it’s International Women’s Day and I am talking about the 23rd February still (so I’ll do IWD after this) – which in itself became a double occasion: I went to see the exhibition in which I had pieces in, and this happened on Terminalia Day, the annual festival of psychogeography – named after Terminus, Roman god of boundaries – edges between spaces, critical or lurid lines, which we psychogeographers are so interested in.

 

And so I went to the South-East, (see previous post), to Torquay – (time lapse, space lapse), to see The Art of You – so this exhibition is ‘about our art’, whereas my Terminalia festival participation means, I’d suggest, that I am a Terminalista.

Orkweed

So here it is: my pieces and the journey, oh where to start! Let me start at the intersection of the two. My prime piece in the exhibition (for it was the only framed one) was my Orkweed, which, by being framed, made a journey down the coastlines! It’s a seaweed from Orkney, so I called it Orkweed. Within Orkney, it is from the small but beautiful island of Papa Westray – and now it was on show in Torquay. So it’s travelled a long way but it’s stayed close to the coast, so it was still in its favourite surrounding there! It’s made a connection, a line, from Papa Westray to Torquay, and I made a line by ‘taking’ it, photographically (think Richard Long, ‘line artist’ (I mean his work ‘A Line made by Walking’) – and here developed a long line from northern Scottish coast, where I ‘took’ it, to southern Devon coast, where it was ‘hung’).

 

The Journey 

Getting there, on Terminalia Festival Day, was an ‘unpsychogeographic’ act in the traditional sense, in that psychogeography is about walking, (and making sense of space while walking) , and here my major travel piece was a train journey.  Therefore I had three ‘pieces’: First to Paddington – requiring movements within London to get  there – then the train bound for Paignton, get off second to last stop Torquay, and then the Torquay walk. So the train enabled a transition between two large spaces. The train-

 

journey was also a very different sort of boundary (or anti-boundary!) between my walks: a connecting one. The journey was ‘moving’ (well, not surprisingly)., especially when I passed by Newbury: here I would, once upon a time, have gotten off to get to Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. Wow! How many peacemakers and feminists got off here not too long ago – and now it looks as if nothing had ever happened!  Like an erasure, a place with a high risk of forgetting.

The other big event on the journey which involved a lot of ‘moving’ was the bit by the

 

coastline, the moving, rising, roaring sea, especially the journey through delightful Dawlish. The waves were so high that I worried the line we were travelling on might

 

break once again, like it did in 2014. Devon might sound mellow, but this coast certainly wasn’t – it felt more like in the Outer Hebrides than Devon. Apparently this was already the beginning of Storm Emma, and the following week, after both snow and storm, the train station turned into a waterway rather than a railway.

Then came Torquay: hill harbour – one stop after Torre which is just the hill in itself. So there’s an upstairs downstairs thing going on here. Even musically it sounds that way: Tor-quay: I could sing it like a kind of echo sent from up high, to reach down below. Harbour Deep Mountain High! I knew before that Torre is another station in Torquay,

 

but I thought it was on a different line – now I realised that both stations are on the same line! How interesting to find just how dots are connected by lines, and sometimes all the dots you find may be connected by a single line!

Starting my walk, I go to the sea first, for this is the edge, as far as I can go. And now I

 

find the tide is low! This happens to me a lot: whenever I go to the sea, the tide is low! That means, the land is more exposed, parts of the beach can be seen which are regularly submerged by water. I am, as usual, more likely to meet the times of exposure, the receding tide, coupled with the expanding land. I like this: it’s the ebb tide I am used to,and the ebb tide I like: when stones and seaweed, shells and things, are appearing, and when birds have more space to stand on the wet sand of these expanding between-times. It’s ephemeral at this outer edge before the waterline.

Then I walk up the hill to the hostel I am staying at, and on the way I pass by the famous

 

Torre Abbey, and by the Artizan gallery where my Orkweed is in and all other things gallery. Just before getting there, I found a symbolism for dots arranged into a single line, with ventilators on a low rooftop in a row – like the stations: dots on the same line, not

 

different. Then i find an eggbox-mask, later a ‘gardener’, on the street!

 

The exhibition

The Art of You exhibition was great. We were a bunch of diverse artists, with diverse work. All of us showed our personal relationship to Art, and what it does for us. What stood out was that those of us with belongings in different places – i.e. origins in more than one country –used our art as a way to show how our different origins connect with each other, so art relates to identity and to our multicultural-ness. So art becomes a thing beyond art too, it becomes a medium, an instrument, a platform to speak and to show with. It reminds me of Steve Bandoma who said “ my culture is my physique, my art is my metaphysique.

My exhibits were, apart from my Orkweed were  a ‘Leaf in the Light’ and a a flower ‘Sun-Soaked and Serene’. And then there was my narrative. How art relates to

 

psychogeography, and how I related to the two and all that stuff. I could go on and on but won’t because I haven’t written enough about the other artists either! There was lots of deep work, the one that immediately appealed to me was Muhammad Taymour’s ‘Gazing Game’: a film about how we gaze at each other, using surreal ‘substitutes, starting with what i thought was a parody on ‘how did the chicken cross the road’. Well yes, how do we cross, whatever ‘crossing’ may be mean, and when do we cross, and do we cross at all, or do we go in a straight line on the same side of whatever path we are following, never crossing over? Oh, and now, at the time of writing, the next exhibition is on already, so go and find out, it’s in the nicely painted turquoise building in Lucius Street.

‘London Bridge’

The remainder of my exhibition and Terminalia weekend was a wider exploration of south Devon just before the snow fell in. So there is more to say, more to write, as usual. I found a ‘piggy island’ off the coast, which is a rock that looks like a piggy in the sea. And then I found ‘London Bridge’! This sounds like a joke but walk along the coast, just

 

outside Torquay harbour on the coastal path, there comes Beacon Cove, Peaked Tor Cove, and then London Bridge! There’s a Daddyhole Plain too look… London pops up everywhere, it seems I didn’t need to go back then?!

 

 

 

 

It’s in the South-West!

In the South-West: Exhibition!

It’s in Torquay, to be more precise, at the Artizan Gallery, to be most precise! And I am in

it, and the Private View is tonight! February seems to become my exhibition-month, as I

was in the last exhibition last year February. That was with “Traditions” in the Art Pavillion, now it’s “The Art of You”.

“The Art of You” is about our art-process as artists, it’s an explorative and a personal show. So I love that, as I always combine the inside and the outside– and not surprisingly, for me it’s a psychogeographic art process. It is psychogeographic exactly because it allows me to do what I instinctively have done: combine inner and outer worlds. This

inner/outer combination, the inner: personal/psychic, and the outer: place/space/geography/public/political. It’s an approach, too, where things are spaces,

with angles, perspectives, forms, shapes, with lines, circles, edges, and bridges over boundaries, hinterland and unconscious. This interplay can be sheer beauty, but it can also be tense, highlighting injustice for example. So it’s here where the stories are that I want to show, write, tell.

Story spaces   These story-spaces range from the magical to the political, so there’s a desire, or even a need, for an identification and recognition of these stories and engagement with them. You can read or see this in my contributions to this exhibition.

I look forward to the other artists’ contributions to the show, there’ll be an interesting dialogue in our work I can imagine. It’s all very exciting as we all don’t know who the other artists are, so we’ll all be in for a thrilling surprise! So let’s go and see!

Private View is tonight –which would have been my grandmother’s 108th birthday. I’ll miss the pv but will go there later, and to the sea! The show is on until the 2nd March. The Gallery is at nr 7, Lucius Street, right in the middle between Torre and Torquay train stations – i.e. between hill and harbour!  Opening times are 12 – 6, Monday to Saturday.

Enjoy the space, the show, the place, the private view – or any other viewing afterwards!

100 years + 10

100 years + 10 of Women’s Suffrage this is of course! 100 years old today on the 6th February 2018. 100 years old for the over-30 year-old women and the property owners. So that really means that I, for example, who is merely renting and quite poor,

 

would still have been disenfranchised! I am old enough, but not a property owner. Hard luck, I would have had til 1928, to get my vote, another 10 years! That’s why the title 100 years plus 10. Or maybe I should say 100 years minus 10, because my centenary anniversary is in 2028, whereas this year marks is 90 years.

Isle of Women

Of course, how old my right to vote is depends on which country I am in. In Germany, women’s centenary of the right to vote is in November of this year, whereas on the Isle of Man – Isle of Women I’d say! –our right to vote is well over a hundred years old. Women received the right to vote in as far back as 1881! Well done to enlightened them!

Marking the Day

To mark the day, I grabbed an old T-shirt of mine, bought a marker (see, I marked the

 

day!) that lasts on fabric, and wrote Votes for Women on it! After all, I need it for another 10 years until I can mark the centenary of votes for poor women like me, who don’t own property.

Then I left the house and before going to work, I went down to my local suffragette! I mean, I went to see a sculpture of her! She stands outside Finsbury Park station since

 

2013. I had read that she stands there, but I could never find her, so this time I wanted to find her! Most people don’t seem to notice, nobody I asked, knew about her. The things we don’t see, it’s alarming!

To get to Finsbury Park station from my house takes me through Finsbury Park park! This is always a treat, since it is so full of history right up suffragette street! It’s also been named the People’s Park. Sylvia Pankhurst spoke here in 1916. Throughout the first

 

world war there were many pacifist gatherings here. This tradition continued later with CND, and antiracist meetings, rallies and festivals. CND lived in the road next door.

 

Suffragette Appreciation

Back to my local suffragette: Her name is Edith Garrud and she is the one famous for teaching Jiu-Jitsu to her fellow suffragettes, so that they can defend themselves.

The sculpture is in form of a silhouette, as you see on the photo, and, though she is there with two other local heroes, and all of them are outside this busy tube- and train station, they all seem to be easily overlooked. The other local hero in that silhouette-trio is Florence Keene, who founded Manor Park Centre (then North Islington School for Mothers) in 1913! The third local hero to be honoured is Jazz B, co-founder of Soul 2 Soul.

 

Sisters, and all, next time you pass by Finsbury Park station, look out for your suffragette, and give thanks for your right! And try to find out who your local suffragette is, so that we could all know this just like we know who our local MP is – and then we can make a suffragette-map!