Archives for category: Life and Other Stuff

Last week passengers could pick from a series of bespoke greetings as they got off trains at Preston Railway Station. There was a menu of encounters available: the red carpet treatment, a crowd cheering your name, slippers and a conversation, dramatic hugs with a run-up, your own personal bodyguard. The service was available to anyone arriving into Preston during 13-18 April and had booked their welcome in advance.

There was an online and over the telephone booking system, as well as a booking office on platform 3 at Preston Train Station. I put up posters and gave out flyers. I was nervous that no one would book; and of severe rail disruption.

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Then the bookings crept in, and a peculiar timetable, determined by scattered arrivals from British towns, was formed.

So much has happened; I will try and tell you what.

It is mainly the accidents and surprises that stay with me. This project has been about engineering chance things to happen, which makes it unclear who the artists are, who the audience is and what the art is. It levels things, disrupts hierarchies and lets us reimagine our ‘roles’.

Was it real or was it performed? Because we were really meeting each other, really walking on a red carpet, really taking autographs. But we were enjoying trying it on, trying it out, before leaving it again, minutes later.

I thought about the I and the You in I’m Glad You’re Here. It implicates an us. It is me calling out and getting a response. It is an attempt to connect, in the in-between. To overcome how separate and alone we are. This project could not happen on its own, it requires two people who meet. It is so nice to be met, to be received. It confirms our existence.

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Photos by Bernie Blackburn.

So the art happens in between us. There were lots of layers to being in it. There were people that actively joined in, took photos, asked for autographs, held up banners, opened confetti, cheered. It became a team effort in many cases, because it had to be, I can’t cheer on my own. I liked that it called for kindness from strangers, and I think strangers liked that too. I will not forget British Transport police saving the day by holding bunting along the platform with the Station Chaplain. Or the boys waiting for the Lancaster train who swarmed the red carpet asking for autographs. Or the hula-hoop troupe who got platform 2 chanting ‘Patricia’ as Patricia stepped off the Blackpool train. The staff at the train station who in between train announcements let me play people’s favourite songs over the tannoy system. The text messages from passengers confirming which carriage they were in. The photographers who gathered and grew over the week that meant we did have our own paparazzi for anyone arriving by red carpet. The security guard who helped me escort three women from Manchester out of the station. An autograph book full of people’s autographs.

I love that autograph book, I think it says how massive and tiny we are at the same time.

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And the art happens all around us too. The immediate audience at the train station, both the knowing and the unsuspecting. People peering out of train windows or double taking from the café. People stopping and staring. Bemused, intrigued or indifferent. Some people will have missed it because they were looking at their phone. And it is important that the piece can be left too, that it expects nothing, forces no one. It is quick and gone.

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Photos by Ashley David Hardman.

And where does the art go? Into the minds and memories of the people who witnessed it one way or another, in the photographs and videos and writing, probably online, maybe in a book. I think that the concept might exist for longer than all those things, the act of meeting someone and being glad that they are there, is out there.

This project has renewed my faith in other humans, and all the surprises they bring. I feel full of joy that I can’t do this- life- and art- on my own.

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Special thanks to all the staff who have been friendly and accommodating- Umar, Mick, Daniel, Hussein, Dhani, Louis, Sophie and so many others. Thanks to the passengers and passers-by. Big thank you to Derelict Sites and They Eat Culture for being partners and making this happen, Catherine, Josh and Ewa. Thank you Ellie, George and Perry for working with me. Thanks to Maddy Costa for making me think to write about it all.

When my boyfriend from Brazil came to England in the depths of winter he very nearly perished from the cold. He just is built differently. Also, he was surprised to see so many gloves on the floor. I guess for obvious reasons, you don’t see many gloves in Brazil. As I looked at my city with his eyes I saw the lost gloves, lone gloves, dropped gloves: the gloves on the floor. Since he noticed them, I have started to take their photos.

They seem symbolic of long-distance relationships. They are both complete and incomplete. And I’m not sure if they’re waving or drowning.

Until that is, I found AN OVEN GLOVE.

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I’ve always had the privilege and pleasure of knowing great gangs of women. As a child one of my favourite films was A League of Their Own. It’s basically got all my favourite things in: a tough unlikely group of women, tales of heart break and triumph, cute costumes, a token man and a Madonna soundtrack.  Things that I’ve subconsciously gravitated to all of my life. Other groups that I might not have been part of , but looked up to are: the Suffragettes, the Riot Grrls, Steel Magnolias. I love the company of women. Talking forever. Turning things over. Soft and strong not like toilet paper but like a fake fur coat. Someone told me once “what I like about your band is it’s democratic”. And I think that’s what I like about the women gangs that I know. We’re woven together, with linked arms, without leaders. Maybe this is what any gang is like. But my area of expertise is women gangs. And this is what I’m taking about.

I suppose it started here:

My Aunties.

My family and other aliensThere are a lot of them and they are a particularly wild Welsh pack of women. They introduced me to party dresses, Estee Lauder lipstick and shopping on Saturday afternoons. Things that living in the Midlands with a gap between my teeth and a little brother doesn’t lend itself to. It was a chink of glamour, a glimpse of chatter. Now, no matter which way I blow into their valley, their street, their complicated universe told in a kitchen; they let me sink straight back in. They were in that kitchen so much eventually they had to move a sofa in there.

The School Nativity

fairy feetWhat were you in the school nativity? I was always an angel. Not the angel. But an angel. Somewhere amongst all of the other angels, a gang of girls that sung sometimes in tinsel and satin. Once, Mary was ill and the teacher asked if I’d like to play the part. I turned down the role. I didn’t want Joseph, a baby or a blue tea towel.  I liked being with the girls.

Nuneaton Girls

nuneaton girlsHere they are. The school friends that stuck: Laura, Sarah, Kat, Emma and me in the medium of disposable camera. Nowadays we use instagram to get that effect.

Hotpants Romance

oxfam southamptonAn actual girl band. Eight years of an actual girl band that tours and stuff! That’s a great thing to do actually, in a group of women: road trip.

The Refuge

the refugeYou know when life is normal for ages, and then suddenly everything changes? Well in 2008 there was a few days when there were a lot of break ups. The result was a lot of people turning up at my house. We affectionately named it The Refuge. And there was never a truer saying than ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’. This photo is from our Halloween, but we all felt this ghastly inside. It’s nice going through shit times with good friends above a hairdressers.

Provocateurs

special agentsSelling knickers with your friends is really brilliant. It’s funny and the captivity of an eight hour shift with people you like makes you go insane in a good way. This mixture of staff were particularly pedigree.

Sonia’s Kitchen

soniaSonia’s kitchen is the best place in Manchester to talk about love and art, eat cake and pretend to be different people. That sounds girly but it’s not. It’s good if you catch Julie there too. We all did a show together once and it was marvellous.

Eggs Collective

those eggsA bunch of cranks that go to elaborate lengths to make temporary glorious things happen at night times. Things like five hour coach journeys for five minutes of showing off. Costumes very important. Dressing rooms a speciality. A good thing you learn to do as a gang is cut through and convey a situation in a look. Communicating a bit like dolphins.

Oh God and even my solo show team was women!

team secret lifeThe brains and courage and talent of Lisa, Layla, Liz, Steph and me. Lots of L’s too. The night before the show.

Here’s to you great women gangs of my life.

I have been thinking about the role seeing plays in art.

I am performing in Small ThingsResonance of Seclusion this week. It is the true story of a man called Joash Woodrow who dedicated his life to making art from his home in Leeds. Thanks to a twist of fate and love from his family, his paintings were saved from the skip and are now celebrated and extremely collectable.

As part of the process, director Liz Postlethwaite has got us drawing. I forgot how much I love drawing. Because it makes you really, really see. I think this is what the art of art is.

Seeing is the: observing, looking, examining without agenda or motive. Base your thoughts and ideas on what you have seen, not base what you see on your thoughts and ideas). It is our job as humans and as artists to see the seen and the unseen. I think if we spent more time seeing, we’d all be a bit better off. Seeing from all sorts of viewpoints. We might understand each other more. Seeing must be  closely connected to empathy. Which helps everyone.

Drawing is the by-product of seeing. And the best drawings aren’t photo realistic, that is only one version of the essence of a thing. A good drawing needs to be prepared to surrender what we think we see and trust what it actually sees. Only by truly seeing what surrounds us,  do we stand a chance of getting the good, the interesting, the unexpected. A truth. A drawing, it’s lines, are a temporarily frame of what you saw. A trace. And then we as the audience or viewer get to see what you saw.

Layers of seeing.

Maybe because I went to art school, but drawing helps me make sense of art, whether it’s theatre, music or a book.

Seeing and drawing confirm that nothing is as weird and wonderful as real life. Therefore we need to create or meddle very little. It’s there already. Can you show me what you see in 3 lines? 5 words? 2 gestures? 1 breath? It’s all there for us to see and be seen. The best art makes everyone look a bit harder and see a bit more.

I hope you can come to the show! Dates and booking information here.

I am working on a happiness manual. This is an ongoing project where I will keep an anthology of ideas for finding joy at this particular time in my life.

Here’s the book so far. ‘How to Grow: The Manual’

Do you want to hide under someone’s coat? Yes, me too, sometimes. This is a manual of how to find pleasure in everyday life.

Idea Number 1: Run Away from your Problems

Put on some sensible shoes and run out of the house, down the street and into the world. I try and believe that I could run all the way to the sea if I wanted, and it is a very freeing feeling. Or, I make up a person (dead or alive) who is waiting for me at the end of the run and picture that person and run to them. If it is late, run westwards, try to catch up with sun, or if it’s early run to the east. I’m not sure why, but it is nice chasing the sun. By the time all of the above endeavours haven’t worked, you’ll have forgotten what’s worrying you and can turn back and run home, hotter, happier and with a renewed sense of freedom. Here’s me and my trainers after a run. I don’t own sports clothes because a).  they’re not flattering and b). I think it’s funny to run through life like you’ve forgotten your P.E. kit and are heading for Land’s End before the sun sets into the arms of a welcoming celebrity.

Idea Number 2: Take Yourself Out

Invite yourself out for a drink. It’s wonderful. Treat yourself to a cup of something and sit at a table, alone, like a mysterious stranger. Enjoy being quiet in the bustle of a busy bar or the breeze of an empty cafe. You should always order your favourite thing, because this is an act of kindness. Don’t be scared that you look stood up, even that’s often more desired, more glamorous, more inspiring then the truth: that you’re fed up. Enjoy this moment where nothing can let you down, because it’s just you and you’re favourite treat, that you can pay for by yourself and devour. Here is a recent coffee, and whilst I don’t want to endorse any places in particular, if you live in Manchester, you must visit Slattery’s Patissier and Chocolatier in Whitefield, Bury. On this instance, they nearly couldn’t fit me in, but the Maître d’ gave me a wink and squeezed me in (logistically much easier when you’re a lone-diner).

Idea Number 3: Don’t Save the Best Until Last

Don’t get scared of using your best things. Seize them the minute they’re yours and let them get soaked, broken, eaten etc. Whilst it’s not quite the same; when they put me on a water metre I found turning the taps on in my house became a nightmare, even though it was meant to save me money. I felt like money was literally pouring through my fingers. It wasn’t a good way to live. I had to have a word with myself: stop being thrifty and start enjoying life. Here’s a photo of my Grandmother’s best cutlery, that was in tissue, in boxes until she died, an unused wedding present. I admire the way she cherished them, and there’s something important about that too, but there’s something brilliant about treating every day like it’s a best day (in small ways). Perfect pearl handles and Sheffield steel cutting through beans on toast or a chippy tea.

Idea Number 4: Do Nice Things for Others that are Free and Simple

How much does it cost to paint someone’s nails? Probably 5p of nail varnish, 4p of a nail file, 3p of a hand cream, free chat, free hand massage, free craftsmanship. How much would you pay? A lot more. I really like looking after people’s hands and feet because it gives so much enjoyment for a relatively a small input (you don’t want to be a martyr). It’s very simple, but your attention, care and conversation are free, yet priceless. Here are my grandmother’s hands, but I wish you could see her face beaming!

Idea Number 5: Grow Wild Things

Caring for things is satisfying. My lifestyle isn’t compatible with pets or partners at the moment, but plants are fine. In the warm spell we just had in March I sowed seeds for salads and poppies. I love getting my hands in compost, glugging water everywhere and wondering what might happen next. If you need a quick fix, and aren’t normally this way inclined, go for cress. Cress has a speedy turnaround (fully grown in days), is very resilient for such a small thing (it will even grow on cotton wool if you remember that from school) and is retro (as salad goes). Here’s my pots.

Idea Number 6: Have a (moderately impressive) Trick up your Sleeve

This is really an extension of Idea Number 4. My trick is poached eggs, I have no idea why, but people are always impressed or at least grateful for one. Perhaps it’s because they (the eggs) defy logic (normally you can’t chuck something watery into water and pull it out whole, never mind in a cartoon cloud shape), or because intrinsically people are lazy and like being cooked for. Recently I made half a dozen poached eggs for people at work and it was the greatest gift you could bestow a workplace. It was good to a). eat together b). defy the office kitchen limits and c). do something normal yet out of place. What’s nice about a poached egg is you can watch it cook and don’t need to time it, so it also restores faith in human instincts. God, it couldn’t be easier, but everyone thinks it’s a miracle! Here’s a recent poached egg (top) and a happy colleague (below).

Idea Number 7: Spend a Fortune in Charity Shops

Everyone wins! Plus, you can get a renewed sense of fate.

February 2012
Allerton Studios, Salford

I lead a day long workshop for Visual Arts students last month. They really inspired me, diving straight in to the strange world of performance for the first time with wild, brilliant results. This is my favourite photo from the day; returning inside after a 15 minute foray into site responsive performance in the car park. We also explored gesture, actions and task lead improvisations. See more of what they’re up to here.

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This caught my eye a few years ago as I crossed the river between Salford and Manchester. A grand plaque. With my name on. Bold as brass, clear as day, an L.C. Evans had been before. I felt a sense of belonging that neither city likes to give out too often and that growing up with very Welsh parents in a midlands town rarely instills in you. This is my equivalent of a blue plaque. I’ll take you!

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In time for my performance ‘Live Letter’, I took some photos. It was chucking it down, a really shitty Manchester day with bad lighting- the perfect backdrop! So me, my wonky tripod and pink camera hung out by the derelict pub in front of my flat and shot some pics. Here’s an exclusive preview!

 

The challenge is to make a new performance based on an orange. I like the juicy, stingy and squirty properties of fruit. This is my influence:

Today I gave a talk called ‘What is Performance?’ I tried to answer with  a navigation through the history of performance, which explored the edges of performance, theatre and art. I ended by talking a bit about my own work and giving a ten minute performance.image

Back off maternity leave with baby Rosa in tow, we played our eighth birthday gig at Salford University. On a desk in a woodwork room. We played a shambles of the hits, and shared a heart shaped cake.

hotpants valentine's 2012

Photo by Steve Oliver.

Yes I’ve been baking!

Last time was an all night job for an Agent Provocateur window display. A dozen ‘Pecker Tins™’ arrived on my doorstep one day and I knew it was going to be an overnight gig.

The window looked alright in the end, mannequins in underwear sitting at a tea party surrounded by these nuisance cakes- complete with a Betty Crocker semen fountain that my ex-boyfriend devised at four in the morning- I won’t take the credit for that, it was a gravity defying flash of structural and artistic brilliance.

Anyway, the pressure of so many sponge peckers going in and out of my oven (sorry) before sunrise & in time for the summer season, did put me off baking. It’s associated with mess, and stress, and those ridiculous tins. Which I took clattering to the charity shop, in a frightening mix of disdain and relief, into the arms of an old woman in a tabbard.

Another reason for my absence from baking may be that I didn’t have a cooker for a while (but that’s another story, quite a boring, depressing moment in time, actually).

So back to baking. Tonight I listened to a jazz cd that arrived in the post from a man in Munich. And I baked. It was bliss. To be absorbed in an activity, dusted in icing sugar, measuring things in cups. I found preheating the oven inadvertently preheats the whole kitchen, which certainly gives Economy 7 something to think about. Sieving sugar whilst the crazy shouting man outside is trying to ruin my jazz music and remind me I live in Manchester.

And guess what I did when I was needed to weigh my carrots? I don’t have any scales and my measuring stuff by the cup was working just fine, until the carrots came along. After the human scale didn’t work- you know, clutching carrots in one hand and something else in the other hand to see which is heavier- I referred to my Asda receipt and saw how much they weighed then divided that by the number of carrots. Yes it felt good. Like maybe I could survive on a desert island…

Really I just wanted to post the pictures not tangent-write. So: the ingredients;

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the heart shaped cake with passion fruit freckles (does it think it’s an unripe strawberry?);

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the kicking cowboy boot cake, if I could ice it I’d write ‘These boots are made for walking’ in swirly red letters;

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the left over runt of the litter cakes;

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the colossal washing up.

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It was a really good night for lots of reasons- drag queen dressing rooms and that cabaret might just be the perfect home for Eggs Collective. We did a short sketch using bad poetry, Tashika’s Kwongy and an unforgettable Boom Boom Boom (Let Me Hear You Say Wayo) rendition with hairdryer wind machines. Here’s a backstage photo and what some people said:

“Eggs Collective blend ironically earnest poetry, with gender and sex issues and a flair for the hilarious”

Laura Maley, The Public Reviews

“Dressed in beatnik black they read poems about their ladyparts with an aching sincerity that is simply hilarious. They also give a truly alien point of view on sex from, well, an alien”
Dave Cunningham, What’s On Stage

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I’m cramming in all my christmas socialising into one week, as I’m off to Brazil on Wednesday. (Expect numerous posts on love, misadventure and misunderstandings). (You’ve been warned). Anyway at my pseudo xmas-office-party-style do tonight I might make a christmas cake (can’t be that hard, right?) as I found my grandmother’s recipe book from 1940 this week. It was a wedding present, left blank for her culinary discoveries. It’s remained blank for the last 71 years, bar ‘Wartime Christmas Cake 1940’. So today I might honour the recipe. Honour the unfinishedness of the book and think of her being a new wife 71 years ago, trying to be a good one.

I pride myself on letter writing and I haven’t done it in ages. I’ve been unwisely prioritising email and twitter and the like.  So four of you can expect one of these in the near future:

A new video I made on what would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday.

This is my blog bit of the website. It’s like an irregular journal.

This summer I had a proper holiday. Normally I end up working summers, because there’s more children on the loose, and we tend to keep each other out of trouble through the medium of youth theatre. But this summer was different. I went to visit my friend in the Middle East and my love came to visit me from Brazil.

Me and Kat in Jordan, my freckles had a field day:

Me and Rodolfo in Wales, the picnic blanket became a cape:

My Grandfather and the Internet

This is my grandfather, Evan Davies. He is eighty-nine. He is learning how to use the internet. This week was a real breakthrough- we managed to have a Skype video call. My grandmother is in the background. She was thrilled. I like trying to explain what the return key is, or practicing on the mouse, or watching his hands typing for the first time in his life.

 

Beautiful posters have found their way onto the notice board in my flats. They make me very happy!

This about general housekeeping:                   And I might enter this: