Completing The Fold

Colm Cille’s Spiral has been a complex project with many elements. It addressed the apparently remote history of a 6th Century monk about which, as Clare Lees said in closing remarks to the project ‘We know nothing – right? Nothing’. It was firstly perhaps a project about the difficulties of history. It took place around six locations or knots, and each of these fractured into multiple locations (ultimately at least twelve places across the British Isles were sites for work, with others from the UK Ireland and Greece brought into play). So the project was also on the surface about territory in some way. It was ‘delivered’ by twenty-six artists and poets of varying artforms across those locations and resulted in some amazing and rich works. It gives a flavour of the richness of the project to note the media and practices included (poetry, typography, ceramics, photography, video, sound work, walking, singing, sailing, sculptural objects and installation, drawing, and the growing and documenting of online communities). A deeper look at the works, covered in more depth elsewhere on this website could extend this list. These artists have been supported and guided by five arts organisations, five universities, four independent curators and a network of advisors. This scope of time, place, people and institution gives a good idea of the projects’ complexity.

However it is important to distinguish between complexity and complication, because all these voices were navigating through and illuminating the same project and formed a related investigation around an easily grasped central point of gravitation. By finding their own interpretations and using their own networks and techniques these multiple voices were helping us all work through our own understandings.

The project was initiated by Difference […]

‘The Fold, A Creative Convention after Colm Cille’, ‘Colm Cille’s Spiral’, 30 Nov – 1 Dec 2013, Derry~ Londonderry

Colm Cille, the founding father of Derry, is attributed in a poem as describing the city as follows:

“The reason I love Derry /Is its quietness, its purity/ For full of angels white it is/ From one end to the other”.

We arrive in the city for our concluding event, ‘The Fold’, at a time when it could be described as busier than Colm Cille envisaged it in his mind’s eye, with impressive queues for the Turner Prize, nightly gatherings in squares to see the Lumiere Festival projections and generally a city and audience confidently in full swing for all the cultural offerings of Derry~Londonderry City of Culture 2013. With this event ‘The Fold’, The City of Culture itself and London Street Gallery become the containers for all six knots of ‘Colm Cille’s Spiral’.

There was a word regarding Celtic Art that Dr Katherine Forsyth (Reader, Celtic and Gaelic Dept, University of Glasgow) used in her presentation at CCA in Glasgow back in October:  ‘interlace’. Interlace refers to the complex geometric patterns on stones, manuscripts and on jewellery, where motifs are looped, and braid and knots intertwine. The detail is so extraordinary that in some of the manuscript illustrations, it would take a magnifying glass to see the full picture. This word ‘interlace’ describes my understanding of this multi-layered project.

So, if we pick up the magnifying glass and hold it up to ‘Colm Cille’s Spiral’ at its conclusion – ‘The Fold’- what can we see? The ‘interlace’ brings into full view the ‘knots’ of Glasgow / the Hebrides, Newcastle/ Lindisfarne / Bamburgh, Derry, Dublin, London / Bradwell-on-Sea and Lichfield / Llandeilo. The ‘interlace’ also braids the past and present, mirrored by a key objective of ‘Colm Cille’s […]

From Wales to Lichfield for a discussion evening about ‘Y Llyfr : The Book’.

It is a day of cloud and heavy rain, and a filthy journey on the way round Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Satffordshire. Richard and I arrive and prepare. We have heard that Bethan is detained at her school and can’t join us. We have slides of her work with children, so an image and reportage will have to stand in for her testimony.

We sit towards the rear of the Nave during sung Evensong. The sound of the invisible choir echoes, whilst the spoken word through the amplification system seems curiously further away. Chris Gray, the operations manager at the Cathedral, explains that the screen and chairs are grouped around the display cases, but there is no artificial light in that location. One desklight, the projection and the internal lighting of the cases creates an intimate space within the vast darkness of the Cathedral for the small group of volunteers and staff who gather around us.

I am delighted by the level of understanding the talk seems to generate. Either people are being very polite, or the idea does communicate in an immediate way. Perhaps both.

The next day I am at the ‘engage’ annual conference, in Birmingham. People who weren’t at the talk the night before ask me how it went. One describes the project to a colleague. I am struck by Mike Clark’s comment when we installed in Llandeilo: we three are like pilgrims, in as much as what we have to say to people as we go along is as much to do with the stories that develop on the journey as with the ideas having an ending.

A week later we head to Llandeilo. Mike Clark has suggested I join the parish’s “men’s prayer breakfast”, […]

By |November 25th, 2013|The Book|0 Comments

Leaving Lichfield Post Storm

Monday / Tuesday 28/29 October


Leaving Lichfield post storm, we see the Malvern Hills picked out in the clear sky. we reflect on the day.

Beth’s photographs of the windows in Llandeilo are set against the view of the Cathedral from the café. We couldn’t have baked potato this time as there was a 30 minute wait. The quiche was very nice, however. The manageress discusses the uncanny resemblance of Richard’s imagination drawing of Lichfield Cathedral to the real thing.

In the Cathedral Beth’s book looks simple and beautiful. Richard’s horse has people talking. Whilst giving out the information, and attaching the handling version of Beth’s book to a table found by the Head of Operations, I discuss the project with two very pleasant and engaged volunteers, and am pleased to know they enjoy the idea and the work.

After Strensham Services, the half way point of the journey, we turn down the Severn and Wye Valleys.

The car halts for 30 minutes at the Bryn Glas tunnels. I know their name as they are so often featured on traffic news. This, I comment, is the same length as a wait for baked potatoes for which we received a personal apology at Chapters Café.

The following day in Llandeilo is bright, clear, crisp. Mike makes us welcome. He has brought orange chocolate club biscuits as well as ‘ordinary’ biscuits. We make final decisions on the locations for work, and gradually feel a sense of comfort in the Church.

As we are installing the Vicar and his wife call by to see how we are getting on. We discuss ideas of exchange, sharing, communication between very different places, and the importance of Derry-Londonderry as a place where the two poles of our […]

By |November 25th, 2013|The Book|0 Comments

Some Journeys to Lichfield and Llandeilo

Leaving Lichfield I remembered Google map’s prediction: 165 miles, 3 hours 15 minutes to Llandeilo Carmarthenshire. That is on the route I suggested, dragging the line away from the M5 /M4 junction, to the M5 /M50 junction. Google thinks I have added 3 minutes. I think I have saved 30 minutes.

So I imagine leaving Lichfield, heading south and west. But actually I reach a series of roads that only travel either north and west or south and east. Google has also already told me that ‘this route has tolls’. A picture comes to mind of the 1770s toll house at St Fagans*, and of the Merched Beca marching towards it.

I am going to my parents house, however, not driving to Llandeilo. I am heading south and east. I crawl through Walsall’s traffic to reach the M6. I regret not paying tolls. It takes me over an hour to travel 20 miles back towards Warwickshire, looking across sheds, industrial units and housing as the Motorway hovers at roof level.

The last time I arrived by car in Lichfield I was breaking a journey from the north of England back to Wales. I reflect on how, coming that way, I thought it was a quiet market town, on the edge of countryside. Taking morning coffee in the Cathedral café garden I thought I could be in a country hotel.

The first time I travelled direct to the Cathedral from Wales was with Richard Higlett. We spent the car journey up the M50 and the M5 talking about churches, Cathedrals, and the differences between those words; about leaving and returning; about writing and the visual; about association and memory.

Richard is fascinated by telling details. We both enjoy considering the […]

By |October 8th, 2013|The Book|0 Comments

Curators’ Conclave

I was invited to take part in the Curators’ Conclave in King’s College, London on Wednesday 22nd May. This offered ourselves as curators from the six knots of the Spiral, medievalist historians and Difference Exchange to meet to share ideas, interpretations and debates surrounding Colm Cille’s legacy and how we feel visual and literary art can represent this.

It was interesting to hear medievalist, Michele Brown talking about questioning her role as an historian and what drives her.  To “fire the imagination” and to question medieval society and in turn, reflect on the issues and values of society today. I noticed that common themes in Colm Cille’s story arose; information flow, ownership and copyright, all of which are topical with the rise of the digital, open access to information and knowledge online.

In Colm Cille’s time oral storytelling were traditional ways to safe keep information, which leaves many gaps in knowledge. Perhaps literary and visual arts can play an interpretive role of filling in the grey areas of knowledge to create new possibilities. Instead of establishing historical facts, the knots may be open ended and ephemeral, we ask more questions rather than answering them.

Curators from the six knots or “themes” gave us an insight into their work with the chosen artists, scholars or illuminators; discussing approaches, outcomes and ways of representation. Interpretations ranged from song performances on a boat, sound installations in a crypt, literary interpretations, google algorithms, tours of hidden relics and exchanges of knowledge, which cross over cultures and languages.

We discussed the state of flux that the projects are in and how the six knots could be represented as a whole. Is physical representation in a gallery space necessary? Or could it be an […]