Since then, Dru has made more gorgeous maps celebrating the water and the area, and they, like her other illustrations and poetry books, can be bought from her Etsy site. But look how lovely they are! Big thanks to Dru for letting me put them here.
A few weeks ago I went on a podcast-walk in the snow with Dr Shawn Sobers, talking about his work as a film-maker, artist, educator, curator and more. One of the things we discussed was his work with heritage sites, exploring their links to the transatlantic slave trade, and he told me about a film he’d just finished working on at Newstead Abbey in Nottingham.
Listen to the podcast with Shawn, talking about his work, here.
I met Shawn Sobers when I was doing my Photography degree at the University of the West of England, and he was one of my professors. But that’s just one of the many strings to his bow – Shawn is a filmmaker, photographer, writer and curator, and I always found his community-based practice and his range of interests to be completely inspiring.
We went for a walk along the Avon in Lacock, exploring the landscape where Henry Fox Talbot lived and created processes that gave us modern photography. While we walked, we talked about teaching photography, Shawn’s film practice, his work with National Trust sites helping communities research their links to Transatlantic slavery, and his own role in running a heritage site, curating the Tafari Gallery at Fairfield House, where Emperor Haile Selassie lived in exile in Bath.
Please do forgive the patches of audio problems in the recording. We were walking in the March snow, on a day full of weather warnings, and it proved a bit too much for my audio equipment!
Find out more about Shawn on his website, which has a selection of films we talked about, including his 1999 film on Haile Selassie, Footsteps of the Emperor, his recent art film about the sinking of the SS Mendi, a ship carrying Black South African Labour Corps troops to serve in World War I, and Under The Bridge, the 1990s film for HTV exploring Transatlantic slavery in Bristol, including the River Avon:
Back in 2007, Bristol-based artists Kayle Brandon and Heath Bunting were making really interesting work together, including exploring the cities in different ways. One of these was the Avon Canoe Pilot project, which had many strands: sport, trying to get a Blue Flag for the Harbour, dredging rubbish, clearing a jetty, swimming… all of which sound wholesome, but were done in incredibly subversive ways.
I read about this project on their joint website, and I was fascinated. It made me wonder why I never see people on the Avon, only vehicles; to question my own relationships with the water; and it inspired me to start to push my own boundaries of how I relate to the water. I was really happy they agreed to come on the podcast and talk more about why they were doing, how and why.
To find more about the various projects we discussed and more work relating to the water, follow the links:
- The Avon Canoe Pilot portal, and the PDF of the booklet they made about it
- The Bristol Blue Flag project and
- Dredging in the Harbour
- The Canoe ferry jetty
- The Disco Canoe
- Heath’s Avon Wild Swimming event
There are lots more projects that Heath and Kayle worked on as the DUO Collective, on their website.
There’s more information about Kayle, including a list of works, bio and CV here.
Heath’s information is here, and you can also check out his wikipedia page and the Tate page about his A Terrorist – a status project and Tate video interview about that, and his BorderXing project.
All images are from the Avon Canoe Pilot Project booklet, and are used with kind permission of Kayle Brandon and Heath Bunting.
Dru Marland is a poet and artist who lives on a narrowboat on the Kennet & Avon Canal.
I went to visit her boat on a wet, grey day, and she told me all about her work and her life on the water, and about the community of canal-people. We talked about how she started out as a poet, and the traumatic experience that lead her to become a full-time artist, as well as the beauties and difficulties of narrowboat life, from having to find a new berth every fortnight, to more prosaic issues like dealing with the mud, and a boat’s equivalent of plumbing.
During the podcast, Dru read me some of her poems, and we also talked about specific pictures she’s made, some of which you can see below – all pictures copyright to, and used with the kind permission of Dru Marland.
The West End of the Kennet & Avon Canal, by Dru Marland
Ellen Southern is a vocal artist, whose Site Singing project includes visiting lesser-known heritage sites, and making vocal pieces responding to the spaces, alongside drawings, photos and writing.
I met Ellen when she was performing a piece under the Avon Bridge, as part of a walk, and I was delighted when she invited me to come and visit one of her sites, Over Bridge. This is a beautiful, abandoned bridge to nowhere on the River Severn in Gloucester, and we explored the space together, while she told me more about the bridge, and why she loves it.
Ellen also talked about using her voice in her art, and using her voice to explore spaces. I’m really grateful to her for sending me some of the pieces she recorded on our trip, that are included in the podcast.
While we were there, I took photos with my medium format and 35mm cameras, and my mobile phone, and you can see them in this Flickr album (click on the first photo to start the slideshow).
You can find out more about Ellen Southern on her website, and follow her on facebook and twitter. Her Site Singing project is documented on her blog, with writing, drawing, and of course, music, and there are also recordings on Bandcamp. There’s also an interview with her about the project on South Art Text.
There’s more information about Over Bridge on the English Heritage website.
You can download this podcast directly from the Avon Stories Soundcloud, and sign up for all the future podcasts via the Avon Stories RSS and subscribe on iTunes or Soundcloud to make sure you hear all the future stories. You can also follow the project on twitter and instagram, for regular photos of the rivers and water in Bristol.
Last week, Vik and I took a November walk, starting at Sea Mills, down through the nature reserves, then along the Portway to the Goat Gully, and up around the Downs to Clifton. We started a bit late for this time of year, getting on a bus at around 1pm, so by the time we’d got to the Suspension Bridge, it was definitely dusk.
I’ve been to these places before, but never as one walk, and that always shows new sides to places. The Avon always looks different every time, of course, and I’ve only been the the nature reserves in the Spring before.
Photos are in this flickr set – there are photos from my DLSR, point’n’shoot 35mm and medium format film cameras. Click through to see more, and I have more links below too.