The Book of Clay

Throughout these weeks I have been making a Book of Clay together with people I met in the park:

The Book of ClayThe Book of ClayThe Book of ClayThe Book of ClayThe Book of ClayThe Book of ClayThe Book of ClayThe Book of ClayThe Book of Clay














































The Book of Clay






The clay tablets were a ‘contact sheet’ between me and park users, and between us and the surfaces of the park.


Pressing the clay onto the park, I received the pieces back with impressions of the people I met on one side- big and small fingers, shoes, pram wheel tracks, dog paws, and the textures of the park on the reverse- stones, grass, leaves, twigs, earth, pavement, railings.

clay fragments

At the end I gathered these fragments together, looking for an image or message in the gaps between the pieces.

meeting Friends of Marsden Park

A workshop with Friends of Marsden Park enlightened me to how much the local community is investing in this space.

The group meets regularly and consists of local residents as well as representatives of  the Nursery and primary school who use the park.  They put on events and dedicate a lot time planning and organising to ensure their success.

Friends of Marsden Park

Originally a Neighbourhood Watch, this group of people bring positivity and energy to make Marsden Park a place enjoyed by all.

For this workshop I prepared lots of quick ‘tasks’ in response to the park, such as ‘If a new entrance was to be installed, what should it look like and where should it be placed?’ and ‘What kind of animal is the park’ . Some lively discussions followed with imaginative descriptions of the park, and an insight into its history and its present state.

Friends of Marsden Park  Friends of Marsden Park

Friends of Marsden ParkFriends of Marsden Park

The Zone

The Zone is a local youth centre situated at the bottom of Marsden Park. I popped there one evening last week with Lee Johnson, and met the staff. It was recently redesigned with a lot of input from the young people who use it. I was invited to join girls’ night.

Not sure where to begin the conversation, I tore up a large piece of paper. On the torn pieces I wrote lots of park-related questions.

questions answers

The girls picked up the torn pieces and wrote their answers on the back. Once the girls started writing they just kept going, and their comments led to lots of interesting discussions. I got my pieces of paper back full of notes, with frank and funny responses. Here are the questions and answers:

Is Nature Good?

“I don’t know what nature is?”

“Everything that God made is nature but I don’t believe in God…”


Do you prefer the lawns or the forest?


“A Bitta Both.”


Do people say hello to you when they pass by?

“Old People.”


Have you ever been scared in the park?


“Yes Very.”


Is there park welcoming?

“I am too old for the park. 15!”

“You are too old for parks at 12/13.”

“I have never been to Marsden Park.”

“Of course.”

“No because the police move you on if you’re 14.”


Is the park safe?

“no, not at all”

“in the morning the night time no!”


Do you have any nice memories of Marsden Park?

“I spend my life on Marsden park.”

“Yeah but I can’t be bothered writing.”


Do you know any local myths?

“Candy man + White lady”


Is the park better than a walk in the county side?

“no, cos you can see sheep in the country side.”

“Yes if you want to socialise but the country side is better if you want a long, quiet walk with”

“the one you love. awn taht’s cute is”


Is the park better than a private garden?

“I think so yes, because you can have more of a social gathering.”

“Yes because you can socialise more”

“No because a garden is safe.”


Do you have enough nature in your life?

“No, but parks provide a small bit of nature in the town!”


Do you have any childhood memories of the park?


“Yeah a lot.”


Would you walk alone in the park?

“no, cos you can not be too sure who is around, and anyone around could kidnap you.”

“Nope not at all.”



Is there anything really wild in the park?

“yeah, the pissheads.”

“Danny Oddie.”

“Just Everyone.”

“Crazy women/men.”


What do you think of Marsden Park?

“Its scary…”

“Marsden park is a really nice park if you are young because there is lots of toys to play with but there is nothing for older people.”

I thought to exhibit the girls’ comments in the park for others to discover.

I gathered the torn pieces of paper into the shape of a bat. This image came to mind because Marsden Park has bats, and when I was told of ‘unwanted activities at nighttime’ from young people in the park, somehow the bats and teenagers amalgamated into one.

ground bat

For a few days the bat lived on the ground at the bottom of the park, where young people from the Zone are likely to pass. The bat then moved to the top of the park. Here is is flapping its wings between two trees:


bat wing

Portrait Machine

Last Saturday I took myself and the portrait machine to Clitheroe Market

The portrait machine came into contact with some high winds but after a bit of repair work (never underestimate parcel tape) we were back in business

It was great to chat to people and draw their faces while asking many questions about the area and Brungerley park

Here’s a sneak peek from inside the machine!

I loved the market so much that Im back this saturday with the touring exhibition!

An engagement in the park

I struck gold!

Meet Paul & Emily

They kindly answered my questions that were attached to their cups of tea “What memories do you have of brungerley Park’

The answer

Paul proposed just after the deer sculptures the happy couple stopped to have a brew and drawing of Stan their lovely greyhound.

When I asked why Paul picked Brungerley Park Paul told me “Were staying at the Waddington Arms and I we were going to go for a moon lit walk but there’s no where round there so this seemed like a good a place as any”

Here’s a little audio from the newly engaged couple.

Congratulations Paul & Emily! Forbes (Soon to be)

The Girl on the Right

As I was walking towards the playground, I asked a young mum about her views on the park. ‘Kids are drinking in the playground. It needs to be cleaned up!’ she said.

From a distance I was not sure if it’s a good idea to disturb the young people sitting on the playground swings in the late afternoon, drinking cans and smooching. When I came closer, explained who I am they were very pleasant and polite, and I realised how easy it is for people to mistake them for trouble makers. These were nice kids, drinking fizzy drinks, and enjoying the swings as much as young children do. I asked if I can draw them when we talked. Here is a sketch:

Girl on the Right






The girl on the right is 21 years old. She grew up around here, spending her childhood in Marsden Park. Her parents decided to move because they think the area became too rough. “You don’t want to be here after 6.30, that’s when all the drug addicts come here. And under-aged drinking.”

“I am not under-aged!” her friend interjected.

“Then she can’t have been talking about you.” I suggested.

We talked about art and parks. I explained there is a next phase to this project, and we talked about what it might be. The girl on the right said the work should be something that shows the nature in the park and how it used to be, a monument of what the park used to be and where it is now. This struck a chord with me, and made me recall the War Memorial with the empty step in Nelson.

I asked them if they think young people have a bad reputation.

“as soon as they see us they think we are up to no good,” said the girl in the right.

To end our discussion I asked them – if the park was an animal, what kind of animal would it be?

A cheetah, or leopard, they said. Why? Because there is no way to tame it. If it was a piece of art, where should it be placed? Where there is a lot of light, on a clean piece of grass.

What else is missing from Marsden Park?

Su Brown is a local artist who works with watercolours.

After giving me some painting tips, she took me around Marsden Park, showing me her paintings in-situ.  ’I walk the dog everyday, and I see things constantly altering,’ She says. Here in a painting she did of the  conservatory before it came down:


People here tell me of many elements that have disappeared over the years, but the memory of the  conservatory seems to hold a special place in their heart. People in Nelson reminisced about it too, but it I get the feeling it is especially missed by the Friends of Marsden Park, whop would take turns opening it to the public on a Saturday, and this shared space and its responsibility brought the community together.

A couple stopped by as we were photographing Su’s painting and shared their memories: “The Friends group had a rota. We used to do two hours.  And Stanley would bring you a cup of tea on a tray.”  The conservatory used to have rabbits, badgers, birds, I am told. It was damaged by a storm and there was not enough money to repair it. They kept a visitors book. It’s around somewhere. You can just see the outline where it used to be. On a positive note, Su says: “One thing’s good now. The clock’s now working where it never used to.”



Castercliff Primary school in Marsden Park 22.10.2012

Today children from Castercliff primary school made up stories in the park. They are learning about writing stories in settings, and so the park was a perfect place for them to use for their project.Castercliffe Primary school

Castercliff Primary schoolCastercliff Primary school

After a walk in which their teachers reminded them to use all their senses, they wrote down imaginative and perceptive observations of the park, which they will incorporate into stories back in class.

Posted from London, England, United Kingdom.

Drawing in public places

There is something wonderful about working in public spaces. It is that element of chance that seeps into your work, which you can try to artificially recreate in a studio environment, but it’s not quite the same thing.

This Sunday I started watercolouring in the park, working in large sheets to create mini-spectacles and raise curiosity. It didn’t take long, with people coming and saying ‘I hope you don’t mind, I’m just being nosy’.

I placed a sheet of paper on the ground, and started painting the Egyptian gate, more commonly known as the Wishing Gate. It has a bird sculpture at the top with a missing head.  As I was pondering whether to draw the broken bird or add the imagined missing head, a dog trod on my drawing leaving his paw print exactly where the bird is, completing my picture for me.

wishing gate drawing