Thanks

armour, Projects

I am so very proud to be part of the Armour Celebration event yesterday, a collaboration between veterans, people who have experienced homelessness and arthur+martha.

We started with a performance of the song Behind Brittle Barriers, co-created with singer songwriter Matt Hill and people from The Booth Centre.

From my notes, I nervously shared my thoughts on the project- whilst Gavin, Danny, Anne Marie and Peter spoke about the impact the work has had on them, with passion, dignity, articulately and without notes! Then went onto read their poems. I have much to learn!

It was an emotionally charged day, two people broke down in tears when they saw their work, seeing a moment in their history, caught up in embroidered stitch, the pain of unresolved issues?  the relief of moving on? a sense of pride seeing their word shared? a letting go? There was lots of laughter also, and most of all a celebration of the amazing artwork, poetry and song created.

Danny and armour

Danny sharing his poem at Armour Celebration

 

There are so many people to thank, The Booth Centre who hosted the project, Arts Council England who supported the project, The Imperial War Museum who hosted an outreach session, The Royal Armouries Leeds, Walking with the Wounded for their advice, the staff and volunteers from the above organisations, our guest artists/writers/singer songwriters, Johnny Woodhams and Matt Hill, and as ever most of all to our amazing participants.

To see the documentary film about this project please visit  ARMOUR

audience

Lois and Matt

Artist Lois Blackburn and Singer Songwriter Matt Hill the Quiet Loner

Armour: an invitation

armour, Projects
INVITATION
Poems, embroidery and song, made in self-defence.
Thursday 11th January, 1pm to 2.30pm
at The Booth Centre, Edward Holt House, Pimblett Street, Manchester M3 1FU

 

We are delighted to invite you to a celebration of the project ARMOUR, made in collaboration with people who have served in the Armed Forces, people with lived experience of homelessness and arts organisation arthur+martha. Sharing ARMOUR artworks, poetry readings, with a music performance by The Booth Centre and The Quiet Loner. Refreshments provided.
 

 

ARMOUR
Armour is a project that uses words and stitches to explore the ways we protect ourselves. It is a collaboration with veterans of armed conflict and with people who have lived experience of homelessness. We asked people to describe their personal “armour”, physical and mental. Artworks were inspired by gambesons, the quilted jackets worn under suits of armour, made for our project out of rust-dyed fabric and embroidered with poems, and other writings.
 
I’ve never done anything like this before, many people said during the project. But the art and poetry they made weren’t just a technical exercise, they were a gesture of courage and connection. They overthrew defensiveness and they let in life.
 
For more information please visit: /armour/

Armour poem recordings & poem collection on line

armour, Projects

I am pleased to share that recordings of poems from the project Armour are now on-line at Soundcloud 

Poems, embroideries and other texts made in self-defence

Armour is a project that uses words and stitches to explore the ways we protect ourselves. It is a collaboration with veterans of armed conflict and with people who have lived experience of homelessness. We asked people to describe their personal “armour”, physical and mental. Artworks inspired by gambesons, the quilted jackets worn under suits of armour, were made out of rust dyed fabric and embroidered with poems, and other writings.

Armour detail

Detail of the Armour artwork. 

Many of the poems are also on-line on our poetry collection arthur-and-martha-poems

We would like to thank the many people who participated for their bravery and honesty. We’d also like to thank our guest poet Johnny Woodhams and singer songwriter Matt Hill, The Quiet Loner, for leading some workshops, our wonderful team of volunteers, including Melanie Miller, Marc and Jessie. And finally, we are grateful to the Booth Centre, Imperial War Museum-North, The Royal Armouries Leeds, Gallery of Costume Manchester, Walking with the Wounded and Tom Harrison House for hosting workshops and the Arts Council England for supporting the project.

 

 

 

armour, Projects

We are proud to announce will be the first showing of art and poetry from the project Armour at The Festival of Change, which takes place at the Museums Association (MA) Annual Conference and Exhibition in Manchester.  16th and 17th November.

Armour, my tongue

Poem and artwork Gavin Farquharson, stitching Lois Blackburn

This body of armour that
is the weight and size
of my heart…
(Eliot Hallisey)
Poems, embroideries and other texts made in self-defence
Armour is a project that uses words and stitches to explore the ways we protect ourselves. It is a collaboration with veterans of armed conflict and with people who have lived experience of homelessness. We asked people to describe their personal “armour”, physical and mental. Artworks were inspired by gambesons, the quilted jackets worn under suits of armour, were made out of rust dyed fabric and embroidered with poems, and other writings.
never again

Poem Danny Collins, embroidery Peggy Prestley

Many people we met were veterans who have also experienced homelessness. We asked people to describe their personal “armour”, physical and mental. And to imagine what might happen if was taken off. That spark of imagining is what gave life to these poems. Out of much heart-searching, during the art and poetry workshops, came many pieces of writing. Some were embroidered, or inscribed on suits of armour made of cloth.
Although we all need protection, sometimes protection becomes the problem. Armour can be extremely heavy, it limits sight, sound, touch – and emotions. In the poem Sir Galahad by Tennyson, the crucial moment comes when the famous warrior realises if he is to let in love, he must remove his armour. But to do so is fearful as well as freeing.
Defences fail and life falls into a dark disarray
Observe yourself when the mind is viciously dismantled…
(Anon)
Imagining the absence of armour was a difficult sometimes frightening exercise. For some, it took tremendous courage to write about it. For others, it brought relief. And for others again, many questions.
“I wonder where it will lead me, this writing…?” (Gavin Farquharson)
“Poetry, I’ve never got it before. This is the first time I’ve even written a poem. Never before. I’ve enjoyed it, it’s been special.” (Elliot Hallisey)
How can people who’ve experienced physical and psychological violence live peacefully with their memories? In our workshops we discussed how we protect our deeper selves and how we heal.
This project was devised to allow emotional/artistic exploration of difficult areas of personal history. The poems come out of the experience of conflict – but our hope is that they might help people to find some peace.
…friends friends linked linked together hand
hands safe safe.
(Peter S)
knowledge sunburst

Embroidery Lois Blackburn, inspired by anon artwork

Exhibition and archive

Stitching the Wars
PRESS RELEASE
TOUCHABLE HISTORY
A pair of quilts has been embroidered with the wartime history of Derbyshire by older people in the county. History arts project, Stitchingthe Wars opens at Derbyshire Records Office 4thOctober until the 5th January 2018. The two quilts then go into the National Collection held by The Quilters’ Guild. Poems, reminiscence, photos and the Stitching the Wars book will be archived at Derbyshire Records Office.
This award-winning project Stitching the Wars combines history, poetry and embroidery from older people living in rural Derbyshire, including many with dementia. Artist Lois Blackburn from the arts organisation arthur+martha made two collaborative community quilts embroidered with testimony from older people who survived two world wars.
Lois Blackburn commented: “This is art made by the public and we’ve been delighted to witness its growth and the richness of experience it contains. It is touchable history, quilts hand-stitched by over 400 older people with fragments of their stories. One of the great joys of the project has been to witness the pleasure of people with dementia who have taken part, turning memory from a thing to be feared to a thing to be relished. These quilts are a precious contribution to us all.”
The poems that border the quilts and appear in the accompanying book and sound recordings were made in collaboration with poet Philip Davenport. “Sometimes the most extraordinary and powerful things are said in day-to-day conversation. We’ve painstakingly written down people’s words and built them into poems together. Some of these are straightforward accounts of farming, cooking, schooldays, others are accounts of bombing raids and the fight to survive in wartime, and to survive poverty. It’s a chorus of many voices, many experiences.”
The exhibition in Matlock will share, archive photos, recorded readings of poems and reminiscence, and the accompanying book. They speak not only of violence, or sadness, but also of great affection for the past, for their fellow humans and for the beauty of the land around them. In love and in hate, in war and in peace, you’ll find their words here, set amongst stitched fields of greens and browns and blood red.
The project has been supported by Arts Council England, Foundation Derbyshire, Derbyshire County Council, Derbyshire Dales Council, Age UK, The Alzheimer’s Society and The Farming Life Centre. We would like to thank the many, many people who have participated and whose work has made this a very special project.
STW Cover

Talking to John

armour, Projects

We’ve had two weeks away from the Booth Centre, for the project Armour. So much happens so fast in the lives of people who use the centre, two weeks here takes some catching up. At the reception desk, we were greeted by Peggy. She explained that the cards and flowers we saw as we came in were for Michael, who had sadly passed away a few days ago. He joins many other people we have met who experienced homelessness, and died too soon.

We spent much of the morning with John Felix, a documentary film maker (who made two beautiful, sensitive films about arthur+martha projects before The Homeless Libraryand Stitching the Wars). John was with us to start the Armour film, interviewing participants, filming some of the afternoon session.

Gamerson try out

rusted fabric embroidered, trial compositions for the project Armour

As with our previous experiences working alongside John, people seemed very at ease with him, sharing their stories with candour. Over the course of the day, we started to see the project afresh, through the comments gathered by John.

Key themes that came up included: People felt safe to reveal their inner selves to the group, a deeper often more vulnerable side of their lives and personality than otherwise would be shared. Many of the group described themselves as having literacy problems, and having problems at school, but that these were helped by the sessions. They felt they had the support to do something new, something that was difficult at times but incredibly rewarding.

One member spoke about the abuse suffered as a child, but how doing the workshops allowed them to speak about this, and share their story with family and friends. Others spoke about how having the time and space to be creative, to think, was enabling them to see the world differently outside the sessions…

The film will eventually be shown publicly in exhibitions and online, but right now as it develops we are able to see ourselves a little differently and perhaps understand more of the complex lives that this project reflects.

Behind brittle barriers

armour

Armour project, Booth Centre Manchester, 13th July 2017

Behind brittle barriers

Guest blog by singer-songwriter Matt Hill www.quietloner.com 

Here’s a question. Is it possible to get a group of non-musicians together in a room for a couple of hours and get them to write a song? I was asked by arthur+martha to come to the Booth Centre in Manchester to help them find out. I’m pleased to report that it certainly is possible!

Matt and Christine

Matt and Christine at the Booth Centre

Although none of our group had direct experience of writing songs they were certainly no strangers to creativity and ideas came thick and fast.  We started by thinking about the theme of our song – that of armour and protection. We did some exercises to help us find words associated with armour and words related to how armour makes us feel – safe, secure, protected.

To give us some inspiration we spent some time listening to and discussing a song called ‘I am a rock’ which was a hit song for Simon & Garfunkel back in 1965. The character in the song is someone who has been hurt deeply and is now a loner, without friends, hiding behind a self constructed wall.

We wondered what might have happened to this person to make him that way? We thought the most likely cause would be a family or relationship breakdown. Those kinds of problems are a known factor in causing homelessness and we found other parallels to the issues homeless people face.

The discussion touched on the extreme vulnerability of sleeping rough, when a sleeping bag is your only armour. We talked about how drugs and alcohol can create an emotional fortress giving a (false) sense of protection. Above all we felt a sense of strong sadness that the person in ‘I am a rock’ was cutting themselves off from possible support and help. We decided our song would have some elements of positivity about love, faith and support.

‘The whole thing  (‘I am a rock’) is about me. But I am coming out of it. I want to face the music, not run away- to give up on love is to give up on life.’ Karlton

When we came to write our song we zoomed in on the word ‘barrier’. A barrier can be something that is put in place to keep people out. But it can also be put in place to offer us protection and keep us safe. We liked that it had two different sides to it. We discussed the implications of this – positive and negative – on people who put up barriers to others.

notes

An effective technique in songwriting is alliteration where several words beginning with the same letter are strung together. We decided to adopt this and went for ‘Behind brittle barriers’ as our title. We included the word ‘brittle’ to reflect that emotional barriers can be broken down, given the right amount of love and support.

‘I didn’t know I had this in me.’ Christine

After some thrashing out of melody and chords (we definitely wanted the song’s music to sound upbeat) we arrived at a finished version just as our 2 hour deadline approached. We then ran downstairs to do a very quick and impromptu performance! (Video link)
As a songwriter I’ve never worked on a song that was finished so quickly or one that was so truly collaborative. Each person in the group contributed something useful and different and the song reflects that with a broad range of ideas. Above all what I get from the song is a sense of hope – that everyone – brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers – are hiding behind barriers of some kind, but that they are brittle and with hope and faith in each other we can find the support we need.

 

 

SONG LYRICS
Behind brittle barriers

Behind brittle barriers you can’t feel safe

Behind brittle barriers you can’t feel the bass

Barriers block the way, push obstacles away

Behind brittle barriers

 

Cradle me in your arms and keep me safe

Don’t let me loose or lose my faith

Behind brittle barriers, behind brittle barriers

People behind brittle barriers

 

Clashing through conflict (Behind brittle barriers)

Sisters and mothers (Behind brittle barriers)

Encased in emotions (Behind brittle barriers)

Fathers and brothers (Behind brittle barriers)

 

Behind brittle barriers, behind brittle barriers

People behind brittle barriers

 

Soul, child, adult  (Behind brittle barriers)

Don’t lose your faith  (Behind brittle barriers)

Barriers block the way

Push obstacles away

People behind brittle barriers

 

Behind brittle barriers, behind brittle barriers

People behind brittle barriers

 

Stitching

Gavin stitching for the Armour Project