Wednesday, 31 October 2012


On reflection, the residency gave us space to focus on what it is that we do and more importantly how we can improve our professional development. Ironically this may include stepping back from working in the way that we are presently to focus on direction. 

The residency gave us space to get back to our roots to question the role of the artist and the compromises we have to make to work in a creative way. Challenges are faced daily both  financially and creatively, working with free office space with support from Urban Splash in the Vanilla Factory helps immensely. 

We recognise one methodology is being part of a movement of people in Liverpool many based around the Hope Street area who work in the same precarious way as The Sound Agents, a group of talented people who live off their wits, problem solve, meet in cafes in Falkner Street, Hope Street and Bold Street and talk about law, copyright and intellectual property, ethics, 'projects', experiences, loan each other equipment and plan future collaborative work or sign post a colleague to a 'suit' who may be able to help in some way. The group consists of writers, directors, producers, composers, musicians, lyricists and the occasional academics.

We have discussed this phenomena, perhaps the Mersey poets left a legacy of talented people coming together in this way? Something to think about. 

During the residency we were filmed making a film as part of a BBC documentary 24 Hours in the NHS to be aired in April, we attended a number of meetings including a new focus group at the PCT, we were interviewed by China Daily, a newspaper that is sold in 30 European countries with a readership of 150 000 for a feature and was asked to write an article for the paper. We held a poetry evening in partnership with Writing on the Wall (WOW) for poet Edward Bedford AKA Steve Aldo.  

We have recently joined a focus group at the PCT, we were invited along to discuss quality and value. One of the points I raised to be included in the minutes was the fact that artists do not get the respect that we deserve. As in other professions there are different roles say for example if you compare the Arts to Health, there are GP's, Specialists, Consultants, Clinicians, Scientists a wide spectrum of careers. We can compare this to the arts.  We were told at the focus group, that in the future for grant funding once the PCT ends, GP's will be dealing with funding directly, arts organisations will have to be able to write and speak the same language as GP's to obtain any financial support. As artists working as agitators with people who are classed as 'community' (and the word community itself opens up a whole can of worms)  we both have 30 years experience as producers of work. 

We do not actually do any Art work with 'communities'.  We document what is happening and agitate situations working with people who are part of a geographical location including developers and health professionals, we make partnerships with museums, universities, meet with leaders of councils, TUC and aim to set up a multi-media museum working in partnership with all of the above. We facilitate and aid the establishment and development of creative practice in the field of arts, heritage, design, music and international research. The work of art is the dialogical practice creating a relational aesthetic based on communication and exchange.

We discussed this with a film producer, literature agent and musicians how there needs to be a change in thinking about how people working in the creative industries live and work and the importance of working with creative people to bridge gaps especially in arts and health using art as a tool for communication and documentation.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Day Eight

Mr Liu taking a well earned break catching up with the news

Where is Liverpool in comparison to China?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Day Seven

Correspondent Cecily Liu came to Liverpool to write a feature article for China Daily on the changing face of Chinatowns. China Daily has a readership of 150 000 and is sold in 30 European Countries. We spent the morning in the Pagoda and went to Urban Splash for our interview. Simon Humphries Development Director at Urban Splash joined us in the conference room. We arranged for Cecily to meet with LCBA and the Pagoda. 

Cecily interviewed Mr Liu and the apprentices at the Pagoda in the afternoon while the children were taking a break from the orchestra rehearsals. 

Mrs Liu is very talented and teaches workshops on paper folding and Tai Chi as well as dancing. Here Mrs Liu is teaching the students how to write their names in Chinese using traditional calligraphy techniques.

"Smile for the camera students and show off your paper cutting designs!"

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Day Six

Over the weekend in the car, our conversations drifted back to the Pagoda and what we would both like to get out of our time spent in The Office as The Unexpected Guests. We talked about being creative and what it means to us. 

Recently, we had a meeting in FACT and were asked: If you had all of the money in the world what you do? 

I would paint and write, Mr Campbell would write lyrics and produce music. So that was a start. Why don't we do that now? We don't have time. Why don't we make time? We need to be in the right frame of mind and basically lots of other excuses. I spent Sunday morning in the little bedroom searching through photographs and a book on Chinese translation. I found the photographs and they are exactly as I remember them but I could not find the book, it must be in the loft.

We discussed how we needed to do this kind of exercise of searching and reading to re-connect with things we had done before to get back to a place where we felt we could start making again. We both work with stories.This residency has given us the space to start thinking again.

Today I started to draw one of the sailors from a photograph. His name is Baby Face. I decided to draw with charcoal. Mr Campbell worked on a sound work. We sat in the office at our desk with Kelly one of the apprentices in the middle. Kelly read out words from a box of children's Chinese flash cards. We copied what she was saying. It was both hard and funny. We filmed it all.   

Very young children were learning to play Chinese instruments in the main hall with Mr Liu. 

We went to the Wah Sing to catch up with our dear friend C.K.Cheung, it is always a pleasure to see him. He told me to keep writing but not to  exaggerate because people will not believe me. "Just write the way it is". 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Day Five

We met with our friends the original Blue Funnel Sailors for lunch and learnt some Chinese. They originally came from the countryside in China so it is sort of Mandarin but not quite.

We learnt how to say, "Hello how are you", "Thank you" "Alright now" and "Goodbye". This actually took a lot longer than you would think. The spaces between the words are very important.

I said "Hello how are you"? back to the gentlemen and they didn't have a clue what I was saying. By the end of lunch I got it right. "Stop saying hello all the time, it is bad to say that all the time, it is like saying - hey wake up"

The owner of the restaurant came over to clear the table, "Thank you" I said in Chinese, she looked a bit bemused.

"She doesn't understand you"
"Thank you" I said in Chinese once more but with meaning
"No she doesn't understand you because she is Cantonese"

This led to a discussion about Mao and how big China is and how people speak English in Wales, Scotland and Ireland but in China Mao could not understand people and introduced Mandarin so that there was one language and all the children had to learn Mandarin. Very interesting. They taught us how to say thank you in Cantonese.

We sorted out the photographs to start drawing the sailors.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Day Four

Life seems to have become pretty hectic over the past two days; we went on a wild goose chase to The Rocket and back this morning and landed on The Pagoda both in a complicated mood. 
The place had been taken over by what seemed like hundreds of little people in red jumpers all sitting in little chairs in an orderly manner learning calligraphy and paper cutting. How sweet!

We had a discussion with the teacher about photographing the children and filming them for the blog, we came to the conclusion it would be okay to film their hands and not their faces or bodies. 

This was a bit difficult as so many were smiling for the camera and one little boy eagerly opened his paper cutting effort and ripped it in half, his face was a missed photo opportunity.

The English class was in the office, they said we were late and they were just finishing. They agreed to be filmed about the need for a Chinese Cultural Museum and an Oral History to help with our application to funding bodies. Richard the teacher translated for them. I like this group they really are good fun. Most were in agreement that we should do an oral history and that there should be a museum for people to learn about the importance of the Chinese in Britain.

One lady said “I’m not bothered one way or the other” I liked her honesty; she thought it was more important to have a language school so people can learn Mandarin. Although, they do teach Mandarin in the Wah Sing and probably in the Pagoda, but a language school sounds interesting.

The building closed at 2 so we edited the film footage in the afternoon in Urban Splash. 

Day Three

Today was incredible, we knew that we would not be able to stay long because we had to go to Everton to work with GAG (The Greaty Arts Group) being filmed for the 24 Hours in the NHS programme.

It was more like a flying visit in between picking up equipment from Brightmoon Media in the Hahnemann, mini-dv tapes from a shop in Speke and making sure everything was charged and ready.

A group of ladies were being taught dance by Mrs Liu, they were standing at the top end of the hall near the stage holding brightly coloured scarves and metallic brightly coloured umbrellas. I stood in the middle of the hall, grabbed a camera and turned it on. 

The music started and all the ladies came dancing towards me twirling their brightly coloured metallic brollies. Mrs Liu grabbed my belt and pulled me back at the same speed as the ladies. Each one smiled in to the camera and waved their scarves.

They had another go, this time I thought I would kneel down to get the top of the stage in and to stop the lactic acid in my arm stinging. The music started and once again they came towards me like synchronised swimmers (without the water).

Time for photographs all gathered around the camera and then we left.

This is the best little bit of filming I have done for a while.