My experiences of co-curating have been published in a case study on the Museum Practice pages of the Museums Association website. Click the link to read it in full: MA_MuseumsPractise0619MP_2019

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In childhood, I frequently got in to trouble for asking the question ‘Why?’ Grown-ups rarely appreciated me drawing attention to life’s inequalities or holding them to account. When I did receive an answer it was seldom satisfying. ‘Why can only kids in the top set become school librarians?’ ‘Why does the football team have better equipment and uniforms than the netball team?’, ‘Why do I have to run 800 metres in PE, just to prove how slow I am?’

This week I spent a refreshing day in the company of like-minded people who are all asking ‘Why’ too. The event was organised by the Wilberforce Institute and held at The Friends Meeting House in Euston. Throughout the day, professionals working in Museums, Libraries and Archives shared varied approaches to the contentious issue of ‘De-Colonising’ historic collections, exploring if and how it might be possible to tackle racism in the presentation of material culture relating to BAME heritage.

Most examples were given by individuals struggling within the constraints of their respective organisations, to ask unpalatable questions. Some had been assigned the task of addressing issues single-handedly and were straining under the weight of the responsibility. Others were immersed in direct action but lacked the necessary resources. Thanks to everyone involved for sharing their extensive experience and insight. The process of connecting and supporting one another felt very powerful and significant.

My colleague Hannah Niblett and I are in the more fortunate position of working for an organisation specifically established to combat racism. Yet there are still challenges of working ethically using co-production methods. In our paper ‘De-Centering the Power of the Archive’ we described how the work of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Centre and Trust supports the development of community archives, which in turn influences the type of histories promulgated by historians.  We also reflected on issues of agency, power, capacity and sustainability, given the complex ways that our organisation is funded (by Manchester City Council, the University of Manchester and the Heritage Lottery Fund).

Whilst in London I also took the opportunity to visit ‘The Museum of Emotion’ by artist Kader Attia at the Hayward Gallery. Kader’s work explores ‘the ways in which colonialism continues to shape how Western societies represent and engage with non-Western cultures’. Compelling and creative food for thought along the same lines of the ‘De-Colonising’ seminar. A truly informative few days, where I had the space to ask ‘Why?’ repeatedly and unashamedly. I know I am blessed!

 

 

 

I spent the last few days in the company of other creatives, undergoing training in Reminiscence Arts with the amazing organisation, Age Exchange. The London-based charity is a pioneer of creative reminiscence work with people who have dementia and has been commissioned by Community Integrated Care to branch out to the regions.

Our group of 9 comprised musicians, artists, a dancer, a songwriter and a singer. We spent time exploring our understanding of older people and their needs, before sharing aspects of our individual practice and ideas for engagement work. We also planned out example sessions and took turns leading activities, anticipating potential issues and how to mitigate them.

My idea – based on an aspect of my own arts practice – was to use patchwork blocks to explore relationships in families, through printing, collage and stitch. I’m waiting to hear when I’ll be able to put these ideas into practice, hopefully very soon. It was an inspiring few days in the company of dynamic people and I was reminded just how effective a tool the arts can be, helping people to recall and share their memories.

 

Busy hands kept the winter blues away. Sewing projects round the house included new curtains for the dolls house, a patchwork blanket for ‘little girl’ and an Elmer t-shirt for world book day.

 

Went by in a flash! Hard work but fun.

Sorry for the premature reminder, but the festive season will soon be upon us. Watch out for the latest banner by Glenys Walsh and I, at the Reindeer Parade this Saturday commissioned by Oldham Arts Development.