Day 15 – A spot of painting

So…after spending yet more time thinking about the conservatory and her physical state, I decided to paint over the boards that are covering the broken windows.

Somehow looking at them and seeing the name and number of the glaziers stencilled in huge blue figures makes the conservatory look derelict and abandoned.

So, I started with a coat of primer and then covered them with a nice layer of gold paint. The gold looks strangely similar to the colour of the wooden chipboard but then in certain lights it catches and shines.

My plan is to write large words on top of the gold in a beautiful Oriental Red paint. I’ll do this on Saturday morning so you’ll have to wait and see…

I also took a few more pictures in the park on Saturday using the gilt frame. Not great photos technically but it’s still proving to be a good way to get people talking. Just I was leaving the park on saturday I walked right into a freshly married couple and their entourage. What a scoop!

Day 11 – poetry and looms

I ambled up to the top of the park with Isabel this morning. She took me to a spot where there was once a shelter building known as the Roundhouse. Isabel used to play with friends in there as a child and they would sing songs as the acoustics were so wonderful. On either side of the Roundhouse were toilets, the boys’ were slighter lower down the slope than the girls’, so the girls would climb above to catch the boys having a pee and throw pebbles on them for a laugh.

She told me how there were two main themes to their playtimes in the park, cowboys or pirates (inspired by Treasure Island)  and they would enact all the films as they ran making Tarzan calls through the trees.

We walked up to the Conservatory which I think Isabel found difficult due to the sorry state its in. She’s avoided walking by since the windows have been smashed and couldn’t hide her sadness and disappointment that people feel compelled to commit such senseless vandalism.

In the afternoon I went to the museum to talk to Richard Croasdale. Richard’s in his seventies and worked at a large weaving mill in Blackburn from the age of 15 until he retired. Richard built and repaired the weaving looms, he can take mosts things apart and put them back together in gleaming, perfect working order. He comes to the museum every Thursday afternoon and oils and polishes all the weaving loom equipment, it’s a real labour of love for him. Richard told me some of his Corporation Park tales and was kind enough to give me a selection of old photographs and tinted postcards. (I’ll scan them in tomorrow and post them on the blog)


Day 10 – a good day for working with children

I had another day making books today but with a couple of groups of children instead of on my lonesome. Their energy was such a tonic and the day just flew by. I was really chuffed to receive this ‘thank you’ note from Linda Fryer and the children she looks after…

After I left the park I returned to the house all the artists are sharing in Briercliffe and it was good to have some catch-up time talking to the others. We’ve all been so busy being out and about for the past week that days can pass where we hardly see one another. It seems that we are all starting to get into our work a little deeper and beginning to unravel intriguing strands to follow and weave with.

It’s been good to sit and edit some film this evening. The interviews I’ve captured are of a much more ‘documentary’ style than my usual dreamy super abstractions! But the people I’ve met are so interesting, passionate and colourful that there are no special effects needed!

At the end of my day today I met a lady called Isabel Butler whom I’ve heard about for days as she is quite an eccentric character and someone with an immense amount of knowledge about local history, wildlife and social changes. Isabel is also a poet and a bloody good one too. We are meeting again tomorrow to visit the Conservatory, in order to develop some creative writing about ‘her’ plight.


Day 9 – Time to sit, make and think

Today it was good to just spend some time in my little designated space and make books. I was feeling kind of quiet and meditative and not many folks were about in the park so it seemed like the best thing to do.

I did catch a great interview with Gary though, the head groundsman. His great great grandfather was John William Shaw a renowned photographer in Blackburn in the 1880′s who took many many photographs of the park and surrounding areas. he and his son Arthur used to cycle for miles with all their camera equipment loaded on to their bikes and take shots of the surrounding land and townscapes. They had a photography studio just down the road from Corporation Park and therefore took many images of the park in it’s early years. Gary only found out about his great great granddad recently when a book was published featuring old photos of Blackburn. I like that Gary has ended up working in the park and maintain it’s elegance with such genuine care and diligence.

Another thing I wanted to share is that a good friend of mine has died. Frank Nelson, painter, automata maker and generally wonderful guy died at the grand age of 82. I know it’s not news that is relevant to the park but he was a Lancashire lad, born in Blackpool and an extremely talented person who make a huge variety of work over the years. If you’re interested in looking at his work, his automata are particularly inspiring, a little bit naughty and a little bit political.  Bye for now Frank, see you around the corner…

Day 8 – welcome to the glasshouse

Yesterday was a special day, not only did I turn 37 but more importantly I got to see inside Corporation Park’s beautiful conservatory. I’ve started to refer to the conservatory as ‘she’ or ‘her’ because I can’t help thinking of the building as a woman. An elegant Victorian lady once admired, visited, garlanded – but now broken-hearted, abandoned and decrepit.

The glasshouse is Miss Havisham, covered in mould and glass dust, mourning her lost youth, still waiting for her gentleman caller.

Day 7 – Framing faces and views

I had a grand old time today! The sunshine really brought the park to life, there were even butterflies, mayflies and new buds on the pine trees. People were out strolling, laughing and playing and there was a general sense of happiness pervading the whole day.

I took my trusty gilt frame out with me today and began framing the park views. It’s a great tool for interaction as I can say ” Oh excuse me would you mind just holding this frame for me a moment…” and people always want to help and are inevitably intrigued and once we get chatting I find out all kinds of interesting things about them!

Today I met a man called Wajid who walks in the park everyday while he prays. A young couple called David and Donata who’ve just moved to Blackburn from Poland and the park is their favourite place to spend time. A man who comes to the park because the trees remind him of his home in Canada. Mavis Phoebe Harper an ex rambler in her 80′s who walks through the park into town every sunday after church. A group of lads with Staffie pups who come to hang out and play. A man called Michael who likes to sit on his favourite bench on his day off work every sunday, have a drink, enjoy the lake view and chat with his friend Graham. Sarah and her daughter Michelle who’ve been coming to the park since Michelle was a child. Bryony Craine who comes to the park with her nan Jacquie and builds secret dens. Paul Sumner a white muslim Blackburn lad who has been coming to the park since he was a boy and now brings his wife Razia and their kids. And Bill and Anne Hambler (with whom I massively embarrassed myself when I asked if Anne was Bill’s mum…no Anne is Bill’s wife…foot in mouth moment) Bill and Anne have been together for 40 years after meeting in a Chinese restaurant in Blackburn. Anne now needs a wheelchair to get around so Bill brings her to the park every week to enjoy the views and  clear his mind.

And so many more characters whom I hope I meet again!

Day 5 – A day full of interesting conversations about trees

I finally got to spend some quality time with Corporation Park today. I still haven’t managed to walk up and down every path but I covered quite a good amount of varying routes.

I put my video camera through her paces and recorded some truly stimulating conversations with some bright and fascinating people. It really grounded me to be able to talk to others whilst walking around in the shade of trees, through dappled sunlight and birdcalls.  Trees were a common theme today in fact. It seems that many people come to Corporation Park for the variety of tree species and to experience the ‘breathing space’ that trees create. People have ‘favourite’ trees or trees that they climbed as children or use as stopping points, markers at which they sprinkle seeds for the birds. Trees with faces hidden within them or that hide fairy grottos. And trees that create a sense of peace, privacy and an illusion boundless nature within the city centre.

More soon…