Tuesday, 12 August 2008

UrbanWords at TINAG festival

UrbanWords will be hosting a roundtable discussion, exploring the role creative writers can play in the process of regeneration and urban change, as part of This Is Not A Gateway's festival exploring multidisciplinary approaches to the city. Visit the This is Not a Gateway site to find out more.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Who's to say why there's a tank by the side of the road?

I went for a walk through South East London yesterday and came across this tank on the corner of Mandela Road and Page's Walk (I think!)
A man who works locally stopped and said he'd been driving past it for years but had never stopped to look at it before. We ended up talking about how we both wanted to know more. Why wasn't there a blue plaque? he said. Why wasn't there an explanation?
I've been thinking about this since and I can't decide whether I respond positively to this need for stories, for explanations, for narratives about unexplained things, or whether I find it a bit depressing that our immediate response is to look elsewhere for an explanation - that we want someone else to author our city and our experiences for us, rather than delighting in the opportunity to make up our own stories.
Maybe I'll write a spoof blue plaque...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

How to define writer and text

I am reposting part of a comment made by Ruth Ben-Tovim at Encounters, a really interesting looking organisation based in Sheffield, because I think it's worth considering in more detail and would be really interested in other people's ideas. She says:

"Really interested to read about this site and think it's important to champion the role text and writing could have within regeneration and public realm work. I'd like to see the definition of 'writer and 'text' be widened though. At the moment in the examples you give it seems as if the emphasis is on the idea of writer as a primary creator, someone who shapes others' words or works with people to listen/ absorb but then creates a new authored work. I think that there is of course a place for this work but I think there is also a huge scope to use and work with Verbatum text. For the last 5/6 years I've been delivering temporary public art work/performance work collecting memories and stories linked to specific places within a neighbourhood, journeys people have made to live where they live, and answers to broad questions that explore what it is to be human. We've used these 'collections' to create print, exhibition and performance work and in those processes see myself as a Dramaturg/ curator or even organiser of this text, a very creative role but not the 'author'. We're now looking at projects where text from collections such as these could work within permanent public artwork."

I think this is a really interesting point. I guess from a personal point of view I am interested in the idea of collaboration, so a writer working alongside (and on an equal footing) with a group of people who wouldn't define themselves as 'writers', to create new, challenging work. Perhaps this fits in with the idea of Dramaturg/curator/organiser - but then do you need a writer to do this, or not? Am I too keen to pigeon hole people, I wonder?! I suppose I've spent a lot of time trying to think about what it is that makes writers interesting/relevant people to work with in this context, and trying to think through how writers can keep their identities and use their skills as writers in a community/participatory context. I'm not pretending to have any answers!

I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this....