And yet, again, the year is at a close and it’s time for my Year in Review. This is the fifth consecutive one I’ve done. Who’d have thought I’d have kept this up? Let’s begin!
January felt like a bit of a transitional month in some ways. I submitted my Literature Review on the Geopoetics of Drawing, which hugely bolstered my confidence (87% grade!) and focused my practice, ended the physio I was having (not by choice, mind) and was invited to work at Absolutely Cultured as the Learning and Talent Development Manager – which I accepted. Needless to say, it was also the month I handed my notice in at the NHS Humber Recovery College.I was ready for a change as I felt ‘stuck’ in a lot of ways, so the step-up in practice and career felt like the right thing to do. I also went to visit my mum in the Lakes, which of course, was lovely.
My last day in the Recovery College was in February, and I found it hugely, painfully emotional. I had invested almost 6 years of my life in supporting the students at the RC, and I felt like I was abandoning both them and my best friend / colleague Ach. It really was heart-wrenching. What else happened in February? I volunteered at a local Ukraine donation center for a few days, sorting through and packing donations from the Hull community – I wish I could’ve done more if it weren’t for all the bending and lifting (back pain). I also supported a Friends of the Earth Butterfly Cities event at Constable Allotment, which was a lovely day. I also presented my Lit Review as part of my MA, getting 85% in my presentation – again, huge boost to my confidence.
The big thing that started in February however, was Streams! “Streams is an open space for reflection that aims to provide a supportive framework for developing critical and creative responses to art work.”, and an ongoing project between The Critical Fish and 87 Gallery. It’s such a brilliant initiative and I’m so proud to be a part of it. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do! I wrote a poem in response to Worlds Apart (the exhibiting show), which I really like. I find this style of poetry really helpful in seeing something new in work…
Big thing this month was starting my new job at Absolutely Cultured. The first thing that struck me was how lovely the team are behind the charity – genuinely all lovely people that I’m so pleased I’ve got to know. Honestly though, it was a real challenge moving into a new job and feeling clueless after being shit-hot at my previous job for half a decade! March was also when the Fish Creatives Directory was launched (again, check it out if you haven’t already), which was stressful to deliver but it feels really good to have created something that is of real benefit to the Hull creative community. People have made connections and got paid work from it this year! Which is great! It was also when I delivered my first Streams session, and the month that Fish, Lockdown Still Lives and Carbon Borders Voices launched CRAG – Climate Reading Art Group. Writing all that out makes it clear that its been a really good year for Fish, in terms of getting out and supporting the local creative community from the inside <3
I began exploring Lunar Planting as well, which was in interesting experiment. It was also the start of a series of creative experimentations in how to translate ‘geopoetics’. Read my blogs if you’re actually interested. March was also the month that my new orthopedic sofa got delivered – crap to lie down on for a nap but causes minimal back pain to sit up straight on!!
April started off well. I was on a real roll with my arting and making, growing in confidence through and through. I also took my pup to a local dog show, where he won me a singing lesson after winning ‘musical sits’. I also had Access to Work visit me at Absolutely Cultured and got me an entire stack of disability support stuff, to minimise back pain whilst working at a desk and so on. Invaluable. I had a meeting with the Friends of Hull General Cemetery about potentially creating some site specific work. Despite their anxieties, it was really productive – I wrote a blog about our meeting here. I haven’t been able to find funding to deliver on a project there yet (and they probably think I’ve forgotten about them – but I haven’t!).
For my birthday, my mum got me tickets to go to a Peter Kay Dance-a-thon event in Manchester with her and some family friends, which took place the weekend before my birthday. I was so anxious about going, and some really bad, really strong negative juju about going – to the point I cried in the days leading up to it. There was a covid spike at the time, so I wore my mask diligently, kept away from people best I could, and tried to be as sensible as I could (not that anyone else was).
A few days later, my sister came up to visit for my birthday. I see her like once or twice a year if I’m lucky, and what with corona I haven’t really seen all that much of her in previous years. I’m at my happiest when she’s around – we’re like two peas in a pod and we always have tonnes of fun together. Took a week off on annual leave and had all these great plans. The morning after she came, however, I woke up with a bit of a sore throat… and tested positive for Covid. Honestly, it felt like everything came crashing down. I went and self-isolated in the bedroom immediately, and she had to go straight back home on the train and isolate herself. It was so, so sad. I sobbed for the entire day, and spent my birthday (day after?) in isolation feeling conned and heartbroken. People tried their best to make it nice for me, but it honestly was the shittest, most loneliest day ever.
Just after having Covid, I was due to go to Rotterdam on a work trip to go and learn how learning and talent development was done elsewhere. It was a short, but fun trip. Again, was super anxious to fly (shout out to the lovely Luke Beech for letting me grip tightly onto him on the plane <3) and I experienced a LOT of back pain that week but it was great nonetheless.
15 May also marked the start of my (and my partners) new, healthy life full of healthy choices. Started eating better and making a focused effort to move more where I could. We made good progress back in 2020 but fell off the wagon following some family problems in 2021… I’d put on some of the weight I had lost in 2020 (guh) but refocused. I also handed in Module 2 of my MA (84%) and appeared on BBC Radio Humberside promoting the Creatives Directory. I don’t remember much else of May to be honest, or even think I did much else – I was very foggy-brained and fatigued following covid…
Loads happened over Summer, starting from this month. June felt really busy in a kind of learning/research/exploratory sense. I supported some research about urban housing and green spaces, had really productive meetings with Scarborough Museums about my ‘A Space to Be’ involvement, and delivered my UKRI workshop (about my practice, and research-as-practice) to project partners/post-grads at Leeds Arts University. I also gave my first mentoring session to Leeds-based artist Morticia (who is lovely and I really like!). June was also the month of the Symposium at Humber Street Gallery – which was a good, thought-through event even though it was poorly attended, had lots of food waste and caused me untold amounts of stress!!
June was also when I redeemed that singing lesson that the dog won me – and I LOVED IT. I went to Anlaby Studios and had half hour singing session when I sang Beautiful by Christina Aguilera. And I had so much genuine praise from the tutor – really boosted my confidence and reawakened my love of singing. I also took myself swimming for the first time in an attempt to a) get fitter b) conquer my fear of water and c) help with my back pain/strengthen my back.
In June I also started my year-long project #foraging365. So yes, a month of learning and exploring, for sure.
I kicked off the month by helping with a Friends of the Earth stall at Ella St Festival, which was great fun (the stall and the festival itself). However, everything seemed to go wrong really quickly – my beloved cat seemed to have got into a fight and half of his head had blown up to the size of a tennis ball around his eye – his eye was oozing yellow pus and he seemed to be in lots of pain. I was so stressed and just couldn’t sleep. We tried and tried to get him into the vet – and really had to argue to get him seen and that this was an emergency (?!?!) but when we did, they confirmed it was really serious and he had been clawed in the eye and it had got infected. He was SO lucky as it didn’t catch his eyeball, but the lid itself – and after a fortnight of antibiotics, painkillers and love he recovered well. My poor baby.
Then the heatwave came. Which was just as unbearable albeit in a different way. Me, my partner and the dog (Mr. Cat gets looked after by our wonderful neighbours/his second family) were due to go to The Art House in Wakefield for a two-week micro-residency, but the start of it was delayed for a few days because the trains were cancelled – there was a few running, but noway was I going to bring a double-coated border collie on a hot train either. It was also his first birthday on that Monday!
When we got there, however, I had a wonderful time. We all did. Doggo almost became like a celebrity because he knows how to play to a crowd. The day we arrived was also the day of my mum’s graduation at Derby Uni – it was a tiring day of travelling but I was so proud to see her collect her scroll – she absolutely deserved it <3
During the residency, I made loads and loads of stuff – my goal was to experiment and make a body of work that I’d expose to the non-human later on down the line. It was a wonderful experience and everyone was so lovely. I wrote a blog on my experience here. Whilst I was there, I also popped over to Leeds to meet the UKRI participants and learn about their project proposals, as well as explore some of the galleries in the area. Just had a great fortnight away all in all – really felt like myself for the first time in ages.
Work-wise, June was when the new cohort of INTER_CHANGE were selected and recruited – which was a positive thing!
Another busy month! And another pet issue! This time – and I have no idea how it happened – but the dog broke two of his front teeth (and chipped another). Again, had to beg the vet to take him in (?!) but they eventually extracted the two of them and put stitches in (poor boy) and, because he was already under and it needed doing, he also got neutered at the same time (even more of a poor boy!). So the poor little bugger was hurting at both ends for a while. These bloody animals causing stress!
The big thing for August however, was having my work up at the Hull Artist Research Initiative in what I called the Land Empathy Development Lab – the context and my intentions of which can be found HERE. During this time, I also facilitated a CRAG session based on the ideas of my work, and had a Monday Musings (led by the fab Alex Stubbs) on my work too – which I found insightful and helpful). I wrote a reflection on the entire experience later on, which can be found HERE. It was a great experience all in all, and I learnt a lot from it.
The Fish Summer School also happened in August – it didn’t happen as planned due to low numbers, but it was a fantastic learning experience for Fish and what did take place was received really positively. We also delivered the online LIVE Streams in partnership with 87 Gallery – which was great too.
I also saw my mum again for a jolly around Manchester (<3) and had my second singing lesson (with another tutor this time). I practiced Back to Black by Amy Winehouse and Bound To You by Xtina. Again, praise, again, confidence boosting. There’s something about singing that makes me feel like I can use my voice more – not just in a musical sense, but generally speaking in life. I love singing. And like to be reassured that I can actually sing and have a great belting voice!
Started the month by submitting Module 3 in my MA – which was another writing-y one. I wrote a journal article on ‘Ethical Art-Making – Human: Non-Human Creative Collaborations‘ (85% for the paper, 85% for the presentation, 80% for the podcast ‘viva’) – which although I loved researching, was challenging to get into an article under the given word-count! Massive relief when it was handed in, that’s for sure. I was looking forward to getting back to making – I did a lovely workshop at the Makerspace though, messing about with leaves, and made some charcoal and some other daft things at HARI.
Went to Leeds for a big reUNION event, which gathered all the UNION ’19 fellas AND the UNION Leeds crowd. It was so good to catch up with old friends and make new ones. It was also this weekend of reflection that made me realise how unhappy I have actually been – and that I felt like I was going down the wrong path – essentially that I wanted before isn’t what I want or need now, and that I need more adventure and risk in life. There was also something someone said that really stuck and resonated with me – ‘jumping and then trusting that the net will appear’. That’s still stuck in my head. I learnt a lot and deepened a lot of relationships with people. It was just a really nourishing, but emotionally difficult, weekend. However, I went headfirst into something called ‘Ecstatic Dance’, led by Ecstatic Dance Yorkshire. Literally just moving to music – I felt stiff and self-conscious at first but just went for it in the end and had a whale of a time. I wouldn’t call myself a dancer but I’d 100% do it again.
My partner, the dog and I also went glamping for two nights near Brandsburton too, which was excellent (despite underestimating the need for a cot bed!). It felt good to be surrounded by trees and water and live simply – was much needed. I also started whittling and carving (badly) which felt ‘real’ to do. I also had some more fortnightly singing lessons, which nourished me greatly. I also facilitated another Streams session, and gave two Artist Talks at HARI – the first one was on the Geopoetics of Drawing (which people were actually interested in!?) and secondly, on Non-Human Empathy (alongside a talk from Friends of the Earth). They were all great things to do that I needed at the time, as in different ways they all gave me strength and reassurance when I felt so crap in myself.
Went to Edale for a UNION Advanced Facilitation Skills Training weekend. Surrounded by nature and really good people – again, something I really needed at the time. I also spent a day with HARI RE:LOCATE facilitators/artists at Garrowby Orchard, exploring and discussing Urban Green Spaces and having a lovely picnic together. A lovely day that helped me recognise what it was I felt I needed more of – to be surrounded by people I can learn from who can provoke my thinking, and ‘green’ in general.
I also delivered a Recovery College workshop at HARI, around Mindful Drawing Techniques. I remembered how much I loved delivering workshops and what I loved about the Recovery College, and generally just found it really nourishing. It was a small group, but they each took something meaningful and helpful away from it – which is what it’s all about really, isn’t it? Again, I recognised that this is something else I need – to be creative with people, but also be able to help in a hands-on way so I can see it in action. I also saw something similar in my mentoring sessions with Morticia – that giving more intimate, direct support that is built on meaningful, genuine relationships makes me feel useful and happy. This learning went into developing the A Space to Be Project, which there were more conversations about this month.
Went and met up with my Mum again – in Bradford this time, to go to the Van Gogh Experience. Although they got some information about him wrong and it had this awful ‘disability porn’ angle which I didn’t appreciate, it was alright! We also got some happy family news this month – my brother-in-law and his girlfriend are expecting! I’ll be an auntie next year!
I had a residency at Elloughton Primary School this month – going in and teaching Year 3 and 4s drawing techniques to build their confidence in drawing. It was so good – they first spent time critiquing my work and then learning drawing techniques, to then develop their own artwork in the ‘style of’ later on. I had SO MUCH FUN and it really brightened me. Again, it was an experience that helped me remember what it is I need to be happy – I need to be creative and arty and deliver arty things to and with people.
I also supported the Friends of the Earth stall at the Green Fair in Cottingham – which was GREAT. I met with so many wonderful organisations, including Rewilding Youth – we are absolutely on the same wavelength (we’re in pursuit of the same things from different angles, it really is interesting) and I really hope to work with them in future. I love these Friends of the Earth events – I learn so much every time and value the friendships I’ve been building through them – such a great group of people.
I also went to the Participatory Arts Yorkshire event in Donny through work – it was really interesting and a great network of people (although I’m not sure it’s relevant to Absolutely Cultured, especially in light of the NPO which has thrown everything up in the air!). I also had a really good chat with Adrian afterwards, which I found helpful and clarifying.
I was also selected by Xordinary People at East Side Projects to be part of an ecological-themed Crit Club – 6 artists will meet up online 3 times to discuss/critique work, and the first one was in November. It was really interesting learning about (and challenging) peoples work, and helping them to think through into new ideas – although being last in line and sharing beyond the time meeting meant people had kinda checked out by the time it got to me so I didn’t get as much out of the first one as I’d hoped. But, I’m hopeful for future ones! I am excited to be part of the initiative and hope to be served some intellectual curveballs!
I also joined in with some Active Hope workshops at HARI – imagine a room full of hippies processing their ecological and societal grief and hopes for the future in a darkened room. It isn’t something that is for everyone, but I genuinely loved it and got a lot out of it. It’s a series of three workshops – I couldn’t attend the last one, but the two I went to were ace.
Creatively, I got my mojo back somewhat (I have feel flattened and depressed since September and haven’t felt able to create ANYTHING for the longest time) but these positive interactions with people motivated me to make. Just been testing some ideas out, playing with materials and whatnot for Module 4 (read my blog if you care about what I’ve been doing – gotta document it all!)
My first act of business for December was to hand my notice in at Absolutely Cultured; I had to give two months notice, meaning my last working day is 31 January 2023. As much as I love my colleagues, can perform in my job and wholeheartedly believe in the goals of the charity, I need something more interactive and creative than what the job offers me. I’m following my dream of going freelance artist instead, and using my MA as a springboard into the next threshold of my artistic career. I think I’m at a position now where things are falling into place, where I have a billion strings to my bow, where I’ve been having to turn down freelance work because I didn’t have the time between work and my MA… and where I now believe I actually can do it. I believe that by jumping, the net will now appear. Screw it, let’s do it!
I’ve also had a slew of excellent Christmas parties and gatherings, which has warmed my cockles and really helped to remind me of the communities I belong to and make an impact in. First the Arty Xmas Party with the Roaring Girls at HSG – got drunk and partied with my colleagues, creative mates and some of my lovely Inter_Changers. The day after, I delivered a Recovery College Christmas Crafts session – which was SO NICE. The students who came were essentially some of those who I developed great relationships with back when I worked for the RC. In fact, two of them only came because they saw I was leading it! That was the best compliment I could ask for. One of my learners opened up to me in private about how hard things have been for her since we last met pre-pandemic – it was hard to see someone I care about struggling obviously but I also felt honoured that she still felt like she could trust me and talk to me after all this time. I’m glad I was there for her when she needed me to listen and give her a hug – and again, was a reminder that I find importance in being there for people. In the session though, we all had a catch up, had mince pies and played cheesy music all whilst making Christmas cards and tree decorations.
The day after that was the Friends of the Earth Christmas gathering – went to Zoo on Newland Ave and had breakfast together. I’ve known these people for about a year but never really sat and learnt about people’s lives and interests outside of FoE. It was really heartwarming and I really felt like part of the community. Few days later, it was the Artlink staff and Freelancer Christmas party – which I had a great time at catching up with people. Again, a wonderful community of people that I’m honoured to be a part of. Finally, was the Absolutely Cultured Christmas party – had some pizza at the gallery, played some daft games and then went and saw the MiddleChild Christmas Panto of Robin Hood (which was hilarious and will now be attending every year!). I’ve said it already, but I’m really going to miss my AC colleagues – really hoping that there will be plenty of opportunities to work with them all again as a freelancer in 2023 and beyond!
Another big ‘December’ thing was having my sister back for the week – and no Covid this time! Wooo!! We had such an action packed, cosy week. We went to: Big Fun, my dogs Christmas Party at the Dog Hub (like a social club for dogs), see an AC/DC Tribute act at O’Reileys (for my partners birthday), went shopping, played videogames, went to York to meet my Mum and Step-dad (<3), saw Matilda the Musical at the pictures, came to my work Xmas party for games and the panto (which I thought might be weird but wasn’t!), did facemasks etc… and just had an absolute blast. December has been fantastic for the heart.
This month has also seen the development of a FoE/Rights Community Action Shorelines commission, which I’ll be delivering next year. I met with Andy at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to co-create an enchanted garden at the Pearson Park site – nothings in concrete yet so I don’t want to give too much away but it’s very exciting!!
Christmas was also lovely and quiet, and I’ve had a really good rest (although I really do need to get back into gear soon!). I feel loved and connected and optimistic for the future.
What I keep thinking about is about how much I’ve grown this year – just in remembering what’s important to me, what I want, where I want to go… but also in my confidence about who I am, what I’m good at, in my practice, in my voice, in my beliefs… generally just as a person. And whilst I’ve grown as a person in a metaphorical sense, I’ve also shrank in a literal sense – I’ve lost neigh on 50lbs in total and 12inches off my body in January. I’ve gone down three notches on my Fitbit wristband and despite my ongoing mobility issues (back/hip pain) I’m probably fitter than I ever have been. My mental health continues to wreak havoc (I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve felt suicidal this year) and there’s always that sense of the wolves being at the door in one way or another – I’m more at peace with it though than I have been in the past. I know the wolves will break down the door again eventually but I also know that episode of paranoia/depression/panic/whatever will pass – if 25+ years of mental illness has taught me anything is that it always does. I’m also more of the mindset that healthy choices now (food, exercise, nature, meditation, work:life balance, occupation/activity, relationships/community) will both weaken the wolves and help me kick ’em back out (or befriend them) when the time comes. Lesson learnt anyway – nothing is more important than your health.
And what about 2023?
Got some big things happening next year. It’ll be a scary year as I’ll be freelancing and completing my MA but hopefully a fruitful one!
- Leaving Absolutely Cultured
- Two more Crit Club Sessions
- UNION! I applied and now I’m part of UNION 23 – so another year of learning, growth and support.
- My Mums 60th – karaoke weekend in Manchester! Can put my new singing skills to use!
- Seeing Rocky Horror at the theatre with my sister in Manchester
- Delivering A Space to Be with Scarborough Museums
- Delivering the Shorelines Project in partnership with Rights Community Action, Hull Friends of the Earth, and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
- Delivering more Recovery College workshops
- Delivering a workshop to my Inter_Changers in a freelance capacity
- Hopefully supporting Explorers at 87?
- Hopefully being able to continue supporting my Inter_Changers in other ways?
- Hopefully delivering something very exciting and drawing-based, and another exciting thing for young people at Humber St Gallery (there’s been conversations but nothing concrete as yet… but they’re both exciting and up my street!)
- Delivering on other paid projects and commissions so I don’t become a destitute artist! (fingers crossed for me)
- Doing a Stained Glass Workshop with my Mum
- Going to the Norfolk Broads
- Becoming an auntie!
- Completing my MA, producing a solo exhibition and graduating (hopefully with a distinction!)
- Hopefully losing another 50-60lbs
Onwards and upwards! I hope your 2023 is just as fruitful and abundant as I hope mine is going to be!