Familiarity is growing in Barrow in Furness.
As the residency develops, I find myself constantly trying to create mechanisms to start conversations, sparking ideas and gleaning snippets of local insight, insider knowledge.
With one of my airBnB host families, we strike up a conversation about possible climate projections for Barrow and Walney Island, as they envisioned converting the channel-facing houses to boat houses, we imagined a coastal community with a newfound water centric focus, a boat people or a community fleet. From rainfall increases in the region, and surface flooding due to more extreme global sea levels and erosion in the less immediate future – the town’s relationship to the water that surrounds it seems important, if sometimes hidden behind the supermarket car parks.
Walking out along the coast at Sandy Gap, rows of stones have been gathered and strung along a section of fence, threaded through a round hole in each. I join in the search and quickly spot three or four similar stones – they seem much more common than I would have expected along the stretch. Stones with holes through are said to be lucky, talismans to ward off bad news. Through the eye of the stone you can see into another world, so someone said. I save one and leave the rest out to be found by the next person. In collecting and gathering we curate our own narratives of places, and in making new objects we can share our ideas with others.
I create my own rhythm of time: waking, walking, studio, sharing, I create distractions and disruptions, I make regular tracks around the town centre and search out the identity of the place, and try not to let me focus lead me down any dead end tracks. I imagine the town centre as testing ground, for exploring future possibilities or alternatives. Later, I find the best location for a sound work, and note it for the future.
I start to look for my role in this place, what can I offer in exchange here? I look for a place as an outsider, visitor, journeyman and shape a role for an artist-visiting – and hope I can contribute to the conversation here, adding new ideas, enthusiasm, fresh eyes and ears.
What does Barrow in the future look like? How can we imagine Barrow in 20, 50, 100 years? I’ve started to compile a set of tarot-esque cards inspired by the people and places that I’ve encountered, and mapping of information that Art Gene have done so well at (See their Seldom Seen maps for info), and test ideas for conversation-starters that might help us to imagine new possibilities or new potential futures for the town and surrounding areas.
I’d like to invite you to take part in the conversation. On Saturday, 15th February I’ll be hosting a session at the Field on Walney, alongside one of Art Gene’s events and hope to start the discussion with more folk then. Stay tuned for further information coming soon.