In these increasingly uncertain times I am more and more impressed by the way in which people I meet are managing to continue to make ‘convivial places’ that serve to grow or support forms of community and mutual support – ‘places’ that exist solely through the coming together in good faith of people engaged in creative action. This form of ‘making’ seems to me one basis for what we might call another kind of politics and some of the most valuable creative work we can do. Indeed, if some theorists are to be believed, it perhaps lies at the heart of the creative conversations that we undertake when we engage in the work (verb) of art.
Recently the most obvious example of this kind of work for me has been The Showroom Projects with whom Mel Shearsmith and I (representing PLaCE) worked on the Walking in the City project. (http://www.inthecityseries.co.uk – see my last post and Walking In The City). The three main people involved are Alice Tatton-Brown, Hannah Sullivan and Martha King, who describe themselves as ‘creative practitioners and producers’. Something of the spirit of this enterprise is suggested by the description of Alice Tatton-Brown’s role: “Alice is currently looking after finance and development at TPS, though like Martha and Hannah, she too can also be found cleaning the spaces, emptying bins and filling holes in the walls” (http://www.parlourshowrooms.co.uk/thetea/). Not to mention, at least in Martha’s case, taking on other low-paid work so as to help keep body and soul together). Alice is also soon to perform Ariel – part audio walk, part installation, and part performance – an intimate story told and retold in Exeter Central Library (19-26th October).
It might be argued that what I admire in these three women is simply indicative – a working in the kind of hybrid, ‘in-between’ psychosocial space that is occupied, willingly or unwillingly, undertaken by innumerable artists who have both to subsist and sustain their practice by multi-tasking, creatively and economically. While that may be true, it risks missing the particular outward-looking, enthusiastically engaged and intellectually curious quality of the ‘convivial place’ these three have managed to create at the Parlour Show Rooms. It is this creative conviviality, perhaps more than anything else, that we now need as a society and that Bristol City Council risks disabling when it dispossesses The Showrooms Projects later this year.