Sunday, 27 July 2014

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Writer's Residency at Aldeburgh

Over the past few days I've been on the Suffolk coast, working on a collection of poems as part of the Museum of Beyond project.

The Museum of Beyond is really an art exhibition, designed by Suffolk artist Fran Crowe as a way of drawing attention to the vast amount of plastic rubbish currently floating in our oceans. 

Just some of the plastic found on Suffolk beaches

As part of this project, Fran has imagined a time in the distance future, when oil and plastics are no longer used but the debris from the twenty-first century continues to wash up on our beaches. How would a future curator catalogue these strange items in a museum of twenty-first century life? Would they mistake a traffic cone for a ceremonial headdress? Or would they assume that tooth brushes were actually used for pubic grooming?

The whole exhibition is set out like a museum, with objects carefully placed behind glass and typed cards explaining how 'Oil Age' people may have used each item. The attention to detail is incredible and, though the idea is executed with tongue firmly in cheek, the whole thing is actually really thought-provoking.

Part of a sign from the 'Oil Age'

Fran was kind enough to invite me along to act as writer in residence at the museum, and it was a really brilliant experience. I stayed in Sudbourne, just up the road from Aldeburgh, in Fran and Bill's beautiful guest house.

My home for the residency

During the day, I spent my time in Aldeburgh. The Museum of Beyond was installed at the South Lookout, a beautiful old building which sits right on the pebble beach. Originally used to help guide ships across the sandbanks along the coast, the South Lookout is now owned by art dealer Caroline Wiseman, who encourages artists, writers and musicians to exhibit in the space.

The South Lookout

I arrived in Aldeburgh on Thursday, and spent the morning browsing the collection for inspiration and writing poetry in the tiny room at the top of the tower.

By the time the day was over, I'd written three poems and eaten the most delicious ice cream I have ever tasted! Not bad for the first day on the job!

The view from my office (at the top of the tower)

On Friday, I gave a free poetry workshop at the Lookout, and we had a small group of enthusiastic participants who were bright, inquisitive and full of fantastic ideas. The poetry they created was of a very high standard, and they were a pleasure to work with.

During the day, I also found time to write a few more poems, take a walk up to the Scallop sculpture on the northern part of the beach, and watch a fisherman gut a fish, while a huge crowd of seagulls eyed him hungrily.

The Scallop, designed by Maggi Hambling

On my final day in Suffolk, I performed the eight finished poems I had written during the residency. We also had the privilege of hearing Nathan Williamson play a beautiful piano piece inspired by the collection. Nathan was the composer in residence for the project, and his composition has such a deep emotional resonance - it's perfect for the Museum of Beyond.

Smartie Tops (Oil Age currency)

I had a wonderful week in Aldeburgh and, although writing poems within a constrained time period has its challenges, I'm really proud of the work that I produced. The ideas behind the project gave plenty of food for thought, and it was great to be able to contribute to Fran's project!

The poems I wrote during the week will be available on the museum's website over the next few days, and you can check out audio of me reading some of my favourites over on the Museum of Beyond soundcloud page.

A colourful collection of rubbish

My work with the Museum of Beyond project was funded by Suffolk Coast & Heath Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Sustainable Development Fund. (Thanks guys!) The show was kindly supported by Caroline Wiseman and the Aldeburgh Beach Lookout. I'd like to thank Fran Crowe for giving me the opportunity to work on such an interesting project, and also thank Fran and Bill for all their hospitality during my stay in Suffolk!

Next weekend I'll be in Dorset, performing as part of the Soapbox collective at Camp Bestival. More details to follow. Hope to see some of you there!

1 comment:

  1. It was fantastic working with you! And your poems are wonderful... you totally captivated us all with your performance (I really like your photos too)
    Fran x

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