I’m also writing a new poetry collection, Towerblock, and planning a new series of workshops with Company of Makers, for veterans, to be delivered in autumn 2021. Alongside this are new projects in development, and some one-off workshops and Zoom sessions. In my studio, I’m playing with an Adana flatbed letterpress, making badges, and creating a series of large collages on board.
Landing Place was an irregular event held at Turner Contemporary. Every couple of months, ten poets would perform for ten minutes each, united by a single theme connected to the gallery’s programme. That theme inspired many poets to make new work to the brief. I co-organised and co-hosted Landing Place with Tracey Thompson. At each event, we’d get 125-150 people watching poetry.
At the closing of Landing Place, a small publication brought together some of the poems written especially for Landing Place.
LP01: 29 October 2017 Migration (Supported by Paines Plough)
LP02: 13 January 2018 DADA! The Poetry of Hans Arp & Friends (Promenade performance)
LP03: 11 February 2018 Loss and Remembrance
LP04: 11 March 2018 Power of Women
LP05: 8 April 2018 The Waste Land and Margate
LP06: 10 June 2018 Animals and Us
LP07: 12 August 2018 Pride
LP08: 10 March 2019 Power of Women
LP09: 26 May 2019 Beside The Sea
LP10: 14 July 2019 Landing Place
LP11: Landing Place Anthology – New Writing 2017-2019
“Without these platforms, and the generosity of people like Dan and Tracey who put them on and the poets who contribute for free, we would all be much poorer. We need the willingness of arts organisations to include such events in their programmes, places where anyone who wants to can try things out in a space near to where they live, in places who support not only rich-and-famous international artists but also the talent right on their doorsteps. Things begin in these places, beautiful and important things. Art and friendship and ideas and new beginnings. Communities are strengthened and people given hope and entertainment. “It’s important just to be together and have fun isn’t it?” said the nice stranger sitting next to me. “Yes,” I said “yes it is”.”
Bernadette Russell, writer, performer, and storyteller
“Dada events must have been wonderful to witness at the time, but in some ways to see this performance bursting through the cases and across time, creating joyous moments in 2018, was even more extraordinary.”
Kate Kneale, Creative Director of international design company HKD, on LP02
So here are the Rules of Landing Place. I reckon, they’re pretty good rules for setting up and running an easy but effective poetry event.
The audience is more important than the performers. It’s the audience’s room.
At every event, ten performers have ten minutes each. There’s a sand timer on stage to remind them. (Knowing they were timed, most poets were on stage around eight minutes).
There is a half hour for everyone to settle before the start, then two halves, with an interval.
The running order is on the wall and on the door, so the audience know what to expect.
The door is always open, and the Rule of Two Feet always applies. Stay for one poem, or one poet, or all afternoon.
But remember, if you don’t like this poet – it’s never more than ten minutes to the next one.
Poets are invited or ask politely. The line up is set in advance – no walk up performers.
If you performed at the last one, you don’t perform at this one, so the line up is always different.
If you just turn up, do your slot, and leave, you’re not coming back.
Each event has a theme: so as a performer, think about what you are performing or write new work. No greatest hits.
Because of the open door, and the Rule of Two Feet, it’s not a silent room. Unless the poet is captivating enough.
The Agora was the central public space in ancient Greek city-states. The word means either gathering place or assembly. The agora brought together the artistic, spiritual, civic and political life of the city in one space; it was a space for creating social capital.
The new, nomadic Agora is a mobile intervention, which will appear in everyday places.
Agora will travel the UK. As part of the Troublemakers’ Festival, the Swansea Agora will appear in five different locations on five days for five one-hour sessions. The Margate Agora will appear a few times in different places during the Margate Festival. Stoke Agora will happen as part of Festival Stoke. Short, sharp versions are being planned for London, Eastbourne, and Worthing.
Agora is a social artwork, and in each iteration, I will sit down with about ten people for an hour to have a conversation about local life. A range of prompts and simple activities will be provided. It’ll be a conversation in Plain English, using everyday examples, about citizenship, social capital and democracy.
All the local conversations will become part of a wider artwork about the UK’s identity and ideas of citizenship at this time of change. The things people say and do in each place will travel on to the next.
At the end, I’ll produce a state-of-the-nation piece, in writing but also as an exhibition at my studio. Whichever way the general election goes, we’ve fallen apart as a country and it’s time to work out what’s next: our politicians have failed us in that, and it’s time for citizens to talk.
Natural capital gets lots of air time because banks – in their ongoing quest to own the world – like to invest. Social capital? Not so much. Dan Thompson bangs the drum on behalf of all of us. He is expert at unlocking potential in people and places that are ignored. Lucy Siegle
The GEEK festival in Margate is an interesting thing. On one hand, it’s a gaming festival, with everything from retro arcades and Minecraft to edgy boardgames and a side order of Cosplay, comics and toys. Wrapped around that is a layer of art, including new commissions, digital art, and game-making.
But underneath all of that is the proposition that digital, gaming and the wider creative sector are vital to the economy of East Kent, and that their potential is being ignored in things like regeneration strategies. Those documents always look at attracting big employers, where a more resilient digital economy is built of lots of small, agile companies who co-exist, share services and overlap.
GEEK was created by the team at HKD in Margate, a research-led design studio who work in science centres and museums to design world-class exhibits. Alongside their own practice, they run Marine Studios (where I have a studio).
A couple of years ago, I produced a newspaper for the festival, the GEEK Gazette – which included the programme, and some fun stuff, but also looked at the future of work, emerging technology, and the way creativity and gaming contribute to the area. Writers included the then-minister Ed Vaizey, Tuttle founder Lloyd Davis, and the Centre for Creative Collaboration’s Brian Condon.
Well – GEEK is back this year, and moves to a new venue, Dreamland. And I’ll be back there too, with a new role as Storyteller in Residence. I won’t be telling stories, but collecting them, to help tell the story of why GEEK, and all the things it’s about, are really important.
There is no individual act in performing arts that does not require collective effort to be realised. Together each individual element, be it the artist, producer, venue manager or facilitator, forms a collective experience for our sector, and our wider society.
Too often the “Them and Us” distinctions we draw can become entrenched and hostile. This conference, will look at these perceived boundaries through a variety of lenses – exploring the separation of artist from state, distinctions between makers and audiences, performance spaces and communities, the “established” and “emerging”. Do common issues and concerns arise? Are there shared approaches that could be more fruitful? What is our single and collective responsibility?
It’s a subject that I find very interesting, particularly as theatre (where my career started) offers such a different approach to the visual arts, which hold up the myth of the individual as the artistic genius. I was standing on the waterfront in Newcastle, NSW a few years ago talking to a bunch of interesting people after a conference (Marcus Westbury, the Renew Newcastle gang, the great people from Gap Filler in New Zealand) – and we realised that all of us, and the people we admired who were taking creative collaborative approaches to urban renewal, had a thread of theatre in our backgrounds.
And it’s an approach I’ve applied to 15 years of working with mostly visual artists. I am beginning to realise that the lines between the different elements of my practice, between performance and design and visual arts and regeneration and urbanism and social action, are very thin.
Perhaps, in a dozen universes that are just a subtle knife cut apart, I have different job titles; artist, writer, activist, producer, urbanist. For my talk at APAC, I’ll try to tie them all together.