Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Where did that year go to?

It has come as a great surprise to us to learn that it is almost exactly a year since we posted our last blog! What happened there?

We took TOTU down in Cirencester after a successful show, at the end of April and almost immediately got involved in a completely different project. We ended up creating an installation for an exhibition called ‘What’s in my Shed?’ held at Snibston Discovery Centre in Leicestershire. And then it was the summer holidays and then it was Christmas…...not to mention gathering data and responses for our final report to the Arts Council and, suddenly, we are preparing to show TOTU again. This time it will be in the libraries of West Berkshire as part of LibraryFest 2015 – an ideal moment, we feel, to bring the blog up to date.

Exhibiting at New Brewery Arts, Cirencester

As mentioned before the gallery space at New Brewery Arts is comparatively narrow so we had to drastically reconfigure the original pavilion shape as a pair of stepped walls which enclosed pale interior with the story banners rather effectively. It gave the interior a nice maze like atmosphere enhanced by swathes of white translucent fabric we were able to swag from the gallery ceiling. The exuberant colours of the outside looked well against the white of the gallery walls.

                            NBA Exterior 

                            NBA Interior 

It was a strange experience for us to leave TOTU unattended for most of the run and not to get the immediate feedback and interaction we had had at other venues. Curators were primed and did a fine job but we had the suspicion that the public on the whole responded more enthusiastically when the actual artists were there to explain and share opinions and anecdotes.

We arranged a couple of Meet the Artists events where we met some contributors and it was lovely to share the experience of showing in a classic gallery space with them.

             Jennifer List with her Unfinishable Jacket 

Sally Ann Douglass

Sal Cooper 

The gallery put out a call to all artists for Unfinishable contributions and displayed all responses alongside TOTU on a long white plinth. Amongst the exhibits we received were an oil painting of a horse, a wood carving, a porcelain pot and a knitted bear, all of which had come to a halt for a variety of reasons.

As a related outreach activity a class of schoolchildren worked with a group of old people taking up some of the themes inherent in the Unfinishable concept eg: sharing and not being afraid to experiment and play. There was a very merry get together at the end when we all admired each other’s work.

Felicity Clarke, TOTU artist, Pat, Heather, Cissy Paternoster and Jess CDPS with their work. 

As one sparky lady put it: ‘I think it was a good thing that children let the elderly people show them how to do things’.

The gallery itself was pleased by the visitor’s reactions to TOTU as it was quite different from a lot of the exhibitions that had been held there being more participative and narrative based with the audio element being particularly innovative. Hannah Brady, one of the NBA team summed up:
‘An opportunity to bring in new ideas, audiences, ages and interest. This work is incredibly accessible and encourages you to look, to look again, to touch and listen. I have enjoyed seeing people’s responses, talking about the work and being immersed in the space.’

LibraryFest 2015

So after nearly a year in retirement, carefully wrapped and stored in our barn, Tales of the Unfinishable is out and about again!

Jackie Gray of West Berks Council had seen TOTU when it was exhibited at the Corn Exchange Theatre in Newbury in 2013. She thought the narrative element had an obvious link with  Libraryfest, a new annual book based festival in West Berks, and invited us to exhibit this year. The brief was to show elements of TOTU in all the nine libraries of West Berkshire including the two mobile ones. This was quite a challenge and we are very pleased with the scheme we have come up with because, although geographically fragmented, all elements of the original structure are being shown in one destination or another – although not including the roof! Of the 14 original panels Newbury library, being the largest will show 4 with the banquette and column rising up to the second storey of the building.

                                             Newbury Library Weathervane 

Thatcham, Lambourn, Hungerford, Theale and Burghfield Common have 2 panels each which make neat little display pods.

                           Thatcham Library 

Thatcham Interior 

The really small libraries – Wash Common, Pangbourne and Mortimer have more flexible displays of Unfinishables and their stories while even the two mobile libraries are decked with exhibits and celebratory pompoms.

The festival runs from 5 March-23 April and more information about it can found at: On 23 April – World Book Night – Newbury library is hosting an evening of events and entertainment which include, among other delights, playing the spoons. All are welcome to come, 5-8pm, and it’s free. There will be more details about this event on the website in April.

We do hope some of you will be able to catch TOTU in West Berks and see it in its radically different new form.

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