Tuesday, June 29, 2010

BCCA Residency: Day Two

Another productive day today. I arrived at the stall this morning, and Monika was already there. I first checked the coordinates of the stall.
The coordinates of the stall are N 52°31.014 W001°59.583. Today the first edition of the BCCA newsletter was available from the stall, this details the projects that the various practitioners will be working on, and some interesting background info from Monika. Click here to download. Also John Dummett, one of the other artists working on the project arrived. He is doing a project about local Tesco sites, and spaces affected by regeneration decisions - and what happens to these spaces in the interim period between decision and development. It is interesting to see another artist carrying out their project, and to see the different approaches.
Once I had the coordinates for the stall I finished off the map I started yesterday. This lead to another conversation with Sonia -who I interviewed for the project.Sonia is working on Stall 50 in the market - coordinates: N52°01.011 W001°59.574.
Sonia has only been located in the market for 2 days, but says that she loves it already, and that everyone is really friendly and really helpful.
For the interview question where I asked for an object that sums up the business, Sonia selected this shirt.
I then went round to see one of the traders that I met yesterday - the man from T. Kumar fashion. I had a very long interview with him, which turned into a chat and even ended up with us going outside the market so that Mr Kumar could show me some of the problems he identifies with the town.We discussed the difficulty for the pedestrian in navigating their way around, and how it is difficult to get to the market - and also that there are no signs telling people that the market is even there.T. Kumar is a ladies fashion shop, they have been running for 3 years. Mr Kumar talked about the way they select stock based on their regular customers, and what those customers might like. He talked about their buying strategies - they do not buy in the cheapest goods, but prefer to think carefully about their regulars, and even offer a bespoke service - where customers at times ask them to source something. This, he said, is the secret to a successful business - developing a relationship with the customer.
Mr Kumar selected this pink top to represent his business. He said it can be seen as a good representation as it could be dressed down for casual, or up for a night out. This he said is important to his regular customers - saying flexibility is very important.I also interviewed the lady from the fishing shop and the lady from Shree Shai Nail studio. They did not want to be interviewed at first, and insisted that the only way they would agree to it would be if I interviewed them both at the same time, so I did.Tina from the Fishing shop did not wish to be photographed, although it was fine to photograph the stall, and she selected the maggots as the item which sums up the business.They smelt weird, and I must say I was not too keen on them really. I asked Tina about the business and whether the developments worried her, and she said really unless Tesco has a fishing tackle section she will not be worried, as she is a specialist shop, and has very regular and loyal customers - some of whom come daily, while others come once a week. Mrs T from the Nail shop did not wish to be photographed, but said that if I come back tomorrow when a customer is in then I can photograph her working on their nails. To have a full set of nails it is £25 with decorations. I am going to have a manicure as well as doing the photos tomorrow - I have never had one, and it will be a good opportunity to have more of a chat with Mrs T. I asked if I could just photograph the Nail Shop, but Mrs T did not want the unpopulated shop photographed - she said, no it will be better tomorrow when there are people here. Very savvy.Lunch today - I went to the Great Western Cafe, which is a traditional English Greasy Spoon.ITEM FIVE:
1 X Jacket potato with beans and cheese
1 X lilt
1 X water
Total: £3.60
The market closes early on a Tuesday and I photographed some of the closed stalls. I like the squareness of them. Above the wool shop - which I was asked about twice today.
Not too sure what Petty and Cole sell.The optician was not open at all today.
The net curtain shop shut around midday.And my favourite - Rita.
I had planned to go along to the Caribbean takeaway on the way down the road from the hotel. So I popped along, but they did not have any vege food except for a PATTIE which needed to be cooked. Oh well.
I ended up going to another newsagent with a bag of crisps and a pear and a banana, and a big bottle of water.
1 X bottle of water
1 X pear
1 X banana
1 X bag of crisps
Total: £1.43
I also needed to buy some shampoo, conditioner and soap for tomorrow morning's shower - so managed to find an independent £1 shop and got a weird selection of products that I would never usually choose.
1 X shampoo
a X conditioner
1 X pack of soap
Total: £3.97

Total spent today: £9
What will tomorrow bring?

Monday, June 28, 2010

BCCA Residency - Day One

I started my residency for the Black Country Creative Advantage today. I arrived in West Brom at around 1, and went straight to the hotel to drop off my bags. BCCA is a project managed by Monika Vykoukal from a market stall in West Brom. I have decided that since my main interest this week is to look at Independent Shops in West Bromwich, then I should set myself a challenge to only shop/eat in Independent places while I am here. I am interested to find out how possible that will be for a vegetarian. I have not brought any shampoo/conditioner/soap with me, so that will be interesting too. The fact that I am booked into the premier inn does go against the idea, but there is nothing I can do about that bit.I started my project before I even got to the stall - as I thought I might need some paper/pencils so noticed that the Cosmetics R Us shop was also advertising stationary (sic) so I went in for a look. I got:Item One:
50 X envelopes
1 X red pencil
1 X green pencil
1 X lead pencil
1 X pencil sharpener
1 X sign writer's kit
TOTAL: £8.65(I haggled the sign writer kit from 11.90 down to 7, and got the pencils for free.)
On entry to the shop three men were talking about Yakubu's car.
I made my way to the stall, and decided to try to locate myself immediately in the market by drawing a map.
All of the images/maps of the Kings Square building show the New Market Hall as a 'grey area'. Which is (as Karl pointed out) quite odd, given the lack of information available from West Brom council as to the future of the market in regen plans. Perhaps due to the perceived semi permanent nature of the shops - with traders coming and going quicker than more fixed shop spaces they have not mapped the stalls/what they sell, or event the spaces they take up.
I went through the market hall drawing my map (above) which was actually quite a good device for getting talking with the traders, who wanted to know who I was and what I was doing.
I was able to set up two interviews for tomorrow which is great.I went on a bit of a wander to find something to eat for lunch but couldn't find a sandwich shop that I was sure was independent. I ended up going to a nearby newsagents and had:
Item Two:
1 X bag of cheese and onion
1 X 7up
1 X Express and Star (for research purposes)
Total: £1.45
At the Stall I made a list of things I hope to achieve this week; these include:
1. Shop window audit - what shops are there? could do a long photo of the high street, but this may not be possible due to difficulty of getting far back enough from the shop to take the photo.
2. Night time economy measure - as demonstrated by how many shops are lit up/not boarded up at night.
3. Independent shop challenge - only using Independents and recording what I buy.
4. Interviews and photos of market stall holders

I would also like to find a local tobacconists for Monika, as she has a load of boxes of publicity matches that she is not allowed to give out - as the police had a complaint that kids could get hold of the matches and presumably burn things down. It would be good to persuade them to give out the matches to customers, and perhaps tell them about the project.

I went to The Vine with Monika, who stayed for a half and then left me to have my tea.
The Vine is an Independently Run Pub and restaurant selling curries, and the owner has said that I can interview him on Thursday or Friday about running a business in West Brom.
I ordered this, and then couldn't really eat it, as it has been a boiling hot day, and somehow I just didn't fancy a curry - though it was good.
Item Three:
2 X pints of Magners
1 X Veg Balti
1 X naan bread
Total: £9.65
I had a read of the local paper and a handbook to West Brom which Monika gave me to look at - it was printed in the 60's by the council as a guide to all that's good in the town. Maybe it's about time for another one?
I stopped of at the local newsagents on the way home for some vino and water.
Item Four:
1 X 2l bottle of water
1 X bottle of Merlot
Total: £6.10

Full total spent today: £20.80

Common Ground - A roaring success!

COMMON GROUND INSTALLATIO: Saturday morning we all set off from the gallery loaded up with equipment and materials ready for a weekend in Hanley Park. Katie Shipley used our green trolley and carried out a symbolic walk with her memory logs from the gallery to the park. It was already hot even at that time of day, and we were all sure of a beautiful day in the park.On arrival at the park a bustle of activity got underway. Katie made her way to the woodland area to install her logs. This involved quite a hefty digging in process, as the Parkkeeper has asked that the piece remain. We are really pleased that there will be a legacy left in the park after the event - and Katie is pleased to have a piece of permanent public art. We were also really pleased to have a good team of volunteers to help - volunteer Stacey helped Katie with the digging. I went around the site to see how everyone else was getting on.
Michael Branthwaite had possibly the most challenging installation process, involving siting Aphrodite in the top of the waterfall. Volunteer Jane had brought her wellies, and waded into the pond to help. Aphrodite with balloons looked beautiful, and the viewer could be forgiven for thinking that the intervention here was the balloons - as Aphrodite looked like she had always been there.
Ben Faga came up from London to install his animal tracks. This performative piece was due to continue throughout the day, but required some preparation - watering the solid ground to make it possible to create the imprints. Ben had help from L.
Looking across the woodland area there was so much going on, with all of the artists getting on with their projects.
Celine installed her works next to the bowling green, in the little Pagoda, a leftover from 1986 Garden Festival.Marc and Nickie helped each other to install their pieces. Nickie had the foresite to hire a hole borer in order to drill the holes needed to make the sign safe.
Andy's musical sculpture was sited on the small plinth, and looked like it had always been there.
Brian put up his map, and also went across to the train station to install the other half of his piece there.
I then popped over to the pond to see how the S.A.F.E. (Stoke Angling For Everyone) guys were getting along. It was brilliant that they had got involved - being so connected to the park. It was great that they were demonstrating the fun that can be had outdoors, working with young people - offering alternative activities for city kids who may usually find themselves with nothing to do. The S.A.F.E. team were an important part of the weekend, and the S.A.F.E. kids really got involved - exploring all of the art works, and doing some litter picking throughout the day, keeping the site looking great.
Once I had been around the site to see how everyone was getting on I returned to the Bandstand to focus on my piece. I would be repopulating the bandstand and so had to get the bunting and hanging baskets up. My brother Dan was there to help, and was also the First Aider for the weekend.
Then Glen and Andy came to help with the hanging baskets (I am scared of heights).But could just about manage the small steps in order to install the sound piece 'My Dear Tom' in the flower vase at the very right hand side of the image above.
Another of the volunteers Andy helped by putting in the lawn signs, which were there to provide the background to the Quality Streets project, and the funders.
Glen got his piece ready. The view across from his piece to the Pavilion behind worked very well.
And Kate got ready for her green man workshop. Volunteers Rob and Jay went to each piece and hammered in the numbered stakes, to help orientate the viewing public around the site. Volunteer Carly helped with the bandstand and helped Kate, while Behjat and Ben concentrated on documenting everything that was happening. We were very lucky to have such a great team of volunteers - and this was really due to the hard work of David Bethell, who coordinated the volunteers fro the event. The park had burst into activity, as the artists prepared for the day. It was that feeling of anticipation at this point - what will happen? Will anyone come? Will anything go wrong?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Interrogation Publication Arrives!

Hurrah! An exciting day! The Interrogation Publication has arrived at the gallery today. It looks fantastic ad I am so pleased. The first book I have ever written!
The book will be on sale from The New Art Gallery Walsall, and the AirSpace Gallery - and hopefully will be available online soon. It is just £6.95 - which is an absolute bargain!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Preparations for Common Ground

The gallery has been busy this week with all of the artists working on their individual projects for Common Ground. The phone has been ringing a lot, with various press enquiries, and I have been along to Cross Rhythms Radio Station to do an interview.Kate has been in preparing the green man costume, ready for the workshop on Saturday morning.
Kate, Andy and I trawled a little trolley from the gallery up into town to buy some hanging baskets, soil and flowers for the repopulation of the Bandstand.We brought them back to the gallery and created the baskets - and I have been watering them each day since - they look great and I am sure once they are on the bandstand they will look brilliant. I was hoping that we could leave them in situ after the event, but we can't as once our event has finished they become the Council's responsibility - and so if they fall on someone....
Andy has also been working hard creating the Usherette's ice cream tray, which is just so beautiful!At first it looked like this (above) - which actually I was tempted to keep - I like the wood look.But then once painted it really does seem to reference ice cream. We have purposely not specified the goods that the Usherette might be selling - so that perhaps I can use the Usherette tray again.This was one of those weird moments of serendipity - I laid out the Common Ground Maps into the Usherette Tray, and they fit exactly!
It is just 4 days until the event kicks off, and though I am feeling the burn, I am also really looking forward to seeing what happens. Join us!