In Liverpool: One Saturday

This day didn’t turn out the way I’d roughly intended it to. Though it was clearly going to be grey and at least partially rainy I felt like having one of my walking round Liverpool with a camera days. The sort that sometimes turn into blog posts. Well in the event I didn’t do much walking but here’s the blog post.

I’d always intended to start the day’s walking at the Tate, where I’d been told someone I knew was involved in, well you’ll see what, and then I’d walk on. As it turned out I walked into the gallery shortly after twelve, got involved, and carried on my walking three hours later. Here’s the story.

Those big names from the photos above, together with several more you will probably have heard of are somewhere around the Tate today, but I’m not here for them. I’m here to see some new work and also art being made up in the same gallery. Let’s go.

Some of these are group pieces and all have been made in the former chapel illustrated in the last piece above, the home of CATH, Chester Aid to the Homeless.

Some of the artists who’ve worked on these are here, together with some of the 700 and more people who been talking and working with them this week. Artists, students, an art historian, a journalist, Tate people, University people, lots of children, all kinds of visitors and me.

And here’s what it’s all about:

So it’s a collaboration between the many people of Chester Aid to the Homeless, JMU and the Tate. And having come in not at all sure about homelessness, galleries and the art world as a mixture I quickly realise my preconceptions don’t much matter, because I’m in a place that is working. Actually working as in making things together. But also working in the deeper sense of conversations taking place, ideas being exchanged and stories being told. And you can be told stories of rough sleeping and the difficulties of staying alive without a secure home if you ask. But the same people might tell you different stories too.

Like the one I get told about being a dancer, and Billy Elliott, Max Richter’s Woolf Works, rehearsals and how good it feels to express yourself dancing or like this, making art together.

Or the little girl who sees a box of leftover stuff, sticky tape and old circuit boards. Turns it into a home and says ‘Now let’s play.’

We can’t paint in here because we’re not in a shut away bit of the Tate where wet mess won’t matter. Instead they’ve made a space for us all in a real gallery, with very real and valuable works. So the valuable works we’re all working on in here are being done with found stuff, just messy enough for our imaginations. Like all this:

Our circuit boards, the crocodile from a bicycle chain, the big rope, the toy soldiers and the keys from people’s rooms sharing the space happily with Piet Mondrian, Andreas Gursky, LS Lowry, Peter Blake, and Pablo Picasso. And why not?

Able to do things all together here because it’s a public space being intelligently used. A public space where children with dreams and adults with histories can sit happily on the floor together and make things up. Hours pass by while the great artists sit quietly around us.

Lowry, Blake and Picasso watching the group creation  of ‘Porpoise’ and other wonders.

Then it’s over and tomorrow it won’t be here. All this week, 700 collaborations and by the afternoon of Saturday its done.

I walk away thinking.

About Chester, something I rarely do, and the problems it shares with its big neighbours in Liverpool, Manchester and Birkenhead. How austerity and the haphazard way our country is being run is bad for so many of us, even in apparently comfortable Chester. And how it’s easier to start thinking about how we could all be helping each other out when we know each other and can spend some time, like this, hearing some real stories about how life is in our nearby places. And just spend some time. Making art and being humans together.

Thank you. It was great. It made me think. And I walk off through Liverpool One still thinking.

Thank you to Juliet Carroll, Art Historian at John Moores University, and Mickey Carroll, her daughter and journalist at The Economist for inviting me. It was a great day, full of possibilities.

During the week the BBC visited too, making this short film about it all here.

One of a pair of ‘In Liverpool’ posts from one weekend in March 2018. The other, where I actually do walk around is here.


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