Falmouth Intensives, a personal view.

A collaborative painting- Abstract Intensivists 2018 I recently completed a five day intensive course in abstract painting at Falmouth University.I’ve done art courses most of my adult life, many of them at established, well-regarded art schools. Some on-line and some that would be regarded more as a leisure pursuit than as an intellectual expansion of artistic knowledge and skill.The Falmouth Intensive was the best organised course I have attended.At £500 for five days, it is not cheap but is certainly in line with other courses that are available.What did the Falmouth Intensives Course do to make me rate it so highly?The campus itself is eclectic and beautiful,especially with weather that was perfect. Falmouth is a dream destination for artists.Students/course members were treated as valued clients/customers. Our working accommodation was a large Victorian villa on Wood Lane, a leafy suburban street that merges town with gown. We were a group of 9 course members, with a choice of 11 well prepared studio spaces. Within the studio space area there was a communal kitchen that was stocked with complimentary tea, coffee, milk and biscuits, all branded products, that were topped up every day. The communal kitchen was shared by all the intensive course attendees, there were two other courses running the week I attended. This gave us the chance to mingle and share experiences. Food based ‘ break-out’ sessions happened nearly every day, not compulsory, they enabled artists from all three courses to meet whilst enjoying food, drink and some valuable time away from their artistic endeavours. This was a brilliant idea, artists can be insular creatures, to lure us out of our studios with the promise of free food was a genius plan. Falmouth Uni also wins a food diplomacy prize for serving scones a bit like a Victoria Sponge, (Scone-Jam-Cream-Scone). A simple flip made the scone ‘Cornish’ or ‘Devon’, keeping the scone purists happy.So, as they always say at the beginning of courses “that’s the housekeeping done”.The abstract course was not afraid of taking all participants back to basics. Our first morning was spent doing drawing exercises indoors and making observational sketches outside. Our two lecturers for the week were Simon Averill and Glad Fryer, a fabulous tag team of enthusiasm and knowledge. Both working three of the five days we were given the chance for ample informal conversations with one or both of them in addition to time-tabled ‘crit’ sessions and seminars. Both held sessions in which they shared their own working practices and experiences as active artists in the abstract genre. They also made the effort to bring in a good selection of their work and published materials. It is so helpful to understand other artists viewpoints and creative endeavoursWhat participants never know on these ‘selective’ courses is whether everyone who applies gets selected or whether there truly is a selection of suitable candidates. Either way, due to serendipity or selection, our group of students worked well together. All with a similar work ethic, we were surprisingly productive over the 5 days. Our one experience of working on a collaborative piece of art exposed us all to a new, to us, and unique way of creating art. With no rules or instructions it was left to the group to devise a way of working cohesively. That’s a tricksy ask of an established group of people let alone virtual strangers. I can’t say it was all ‘peace and love’ but the character and texture of the individuals in the group found a way to create an image together that gave us all something to think about.The Simon/Glad tag team, was an inspired choice as course leaders. Significantly different in character yet matched in the quality and style of their teaching, it is hard now for me to remember which one taught me which of the learning nuggets I have taken home.Their enthusiasm carried me through when my paint was recalcitrant and my technique shoddy. I’ve been home a day, had some sleep and time to reflect, undisturbed by swirling thoughts of ‘resolution’. I’m nearly ready to unpack the car and return my stuff to the studio. Next week I will paint abstracts again in a whole new way and with a lot more confidence.Thanks to everyone who plays a part in organising or delivering Falmouth Intensives. Thanks to my fellow intensivists. It was great to meet you.An abstract of this blog is not available.A feather that blew into my studio on the last day. I wonder who was visiting? #creativespirits #abstractthoughts

Plymouth Literature Festival 2017

JB Barrington at the Hutong Cafe

Plymouth has an established and vibrant Performance Poetry culture. For Plymouth Literature Festival 17 there is a new venue on the block. The Hutong Cafe, which opened earlier this year, is building a reputation as an intimate location for evening events. Saturday saw the arrival of JB Barrington, a performance poet from Salford, a particularly interesting area of Manchester, he was supported by two local poets and a surprise extra poet from Hull.

The evening kicked off with Antonia Raine, a local poet who flipped misogyny on its head, shining wit and humour on the cliched comments and behaviours of some men that really piss women off. She was followed by another local wordsmith, Andy Blackwell who weaved local and carnal knowledge into brilliant and narrative poems, told in a range of accents that were superbly accurate.

The surprise extra of the evening was Jim Higo, a poet/ comedian from Hull, as a salve to the pride of Plymouth which lost the chance of being City of Culture to Hull he suggested that the only perceptible change in his City, now it is cultured, is that there has been an increase in the street price of heroin. Jim’s set was lively and left me an earworm that was hard to shake. His rant “ I Hate a Floating Voter” was a polemic, and although I didn’t completely agree with it, I was hooked by his performance. His incomplete Ice House Road, a tale of prostitution, left me wanting more and the poem about a lonely aged boxer cadging drinks in the pubs of Hull was unexpectedly moving. He told us that his mum thought that a Plymouth audience wouldn’t ‘get’ him when he told her where he was performing. She was wrong, the audience at Hutong definitely ‘got’ him, his tales of deprivation and humour struck a local nerve.

Wearing a brown Mac and clutching a carrier bag of stuff, the main man, JB Barrington wandered to the front of the room for the third part of the evening. He cut a stylish figure with steel grey hair and modish good looks. The previous night he had performed at the 02 at Sheffield with the Sleaford Mods, and tonight 50 lucky people at Hutong had a much closer encounter.
JB is from Salford, an award winning performance poet known for his satirical, lyrical, ‘working class’ poetry. His poems feature dole and debt, dockers and unions, proud men, strong women and the love, fun, misery and fragility of normal life where he comes from. His mum is a huge source of inspiration. Things Me Mam Used to Say might be the words of a Salford woman but the motherly advice and discipline all seemed pretty relatable. Nostalgia conjured for humble icons like the Spanish dolls that resided in countless Council homes depicting the glamour of European travels long before Easy Jet. JB points out the obvious things that it’s all too easy to overlook and forget; yet these are the things of recent social history.

You Had Me, is the tale of an ex lover-note to many, never upset a poet you might become a performance! Truly I was lost for words, it was such a great evening. Not only because it featured poetry from a man who is such a high caliber performer – I don’t know why did he agree to perform in such a tiny venue a seven hour drive from his home but I am glad he did. JB Barrington came to Plymouth Literary Festival, he was brilliant and incidentally brought another wonderful poet with him and they were both ably supported by some seriously good local talent.