Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Catching up . . . . .

Since 2007's journey nearly two years have sneaked by. There have been several developments resulting from visits I made on the journey, a lot of work and no time to blog.


In early summer 2008 I returned to Herne Bay Junior School where I'd previously sheltered from a downpour and organised the cross-curricular artist residency with Year 5 pupils which I'd discussed with teacher Rosie Cullen. This health-themed project focussed on breathing, lung health and exercise and central to the work was the involvement of the children in helping to make a life-size bicycle sculpture out of driftwood collected from the North Kent coast.

First the children worked on designs for the bike sculpture,

followed by collages and creative writing, while one table each week worked on a different bit of the bike: front wheel, back wheel, handlebar and fork etc.

Gradually the bike took shape, the children's energy and enthusiasm overcoming my fear that I couldn't put it all together. They wrote imaginatively about where the bike and its wood had come from and where it could take them. Permission to show their photograph here is still pending.


I visited Betteshanger Brass Band on my ride and became fascinated with music made with breath. I wanted to devise a project that would celebrate Betteshanger's history as a mining band, the struggles of miners with occupational lung disease. Annie Whitehead, a trombonist and composer who works with community groups and band agreed to compose a new piece of music themed on breathing for the band, and after securing funding from PRS Foundation through the newly formed Drawing Breath Music Project, this collaboration went ahead. The new composition - "A Road with Heart" - was premiered at St. Georges Church in Deal in the launch concert of the Deal Festival.

A Road with Heart is a haunting meditation on my journey's route. It still moves me to tears and I feel honoured that this cycle ride should be the cause of such a beautiful piece of music. Later Annie, her partner Jenni, band members Rosie Cullen (a teacher from Herne Bay Junior School), Ivor Thomas and his two children (Ivor being the last miner to still play in the band) become part of a new photo-essay about the journey and the people who helped me.


The Herne Bay and Betteshanger work came together with new work from myself and invited artists Rosa Ainley and Sue Ridge in "Drawing Breath Recycled: Maps and Journeys", an Arts Council touring exhibition of artist and community collaborations relating to my journey.