It was really exciting today to see the Caravanserai project in this week’s edition of the West Briton, which features a double-page article about the events at Treloan over the summer, and talks about the different artists in residence. Click here to read the article, and have a look through the photos in the top right hand corner for a photo of me reading at the first Fireside event!

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burning words

As part of Alyson’s week as writer in residence, Caravanserai held another Fireside event last night.  Since the first event during my week in residence, these weekly events have been growing, with more and more people contributing each time.  I love the way this project is inspiring people to try new things and learn new skills – I like to think of it as a kind of ‘word flu’ epidemic spreading through the village…

I took my fortune teller poem with me to read, and I also read Caravanserai again. I’m starting to enjoy sharing my writing with people; something I never thought I’d say after my first terrif-ied/-ying attempts! Alyson contributed a poem I particularly liked, about ‘the ghost ship in the bay’, that she’d started during her residency.  I’m so glad someone’s put something in words about these skeletons of ships that have been sitting off the village all through the summer. It was also very inspiring to hear work that’s fresh off the page and to get a feel for someone else’s writing process. We were very lucky to be joined by Cornwall based poets Caroline Carver and Penelope Shuttle and to hear Penelope read from their work.

Annie, Alyson and I got together this afternoon and began work on making the poetry line into a windbreak, to be used at future fireside evenings and gatherings in the project field. Debs was keen for this to happen; really good to see positive lasting impact of residency. Annie and I also put some sails up in the project field – under canvas yet again.

the wordbreak

I also had a chance to chat to Debs about the project; it was great to hear that some of her campers are still writing postcards to Portscatho, and I had the chance to go through and re-read the postcards that had already been ‘sent’ back to the village.

Today was also a chance to talk over the project and my residency with Annie and Mac, and to show them a new poem I’d been working on that had sprung out of the residency.  Mac’s produced a collection of sound clips of conversations, bird song, recordings of readings, tent noises, the sound of rain which he’s hoping to use in a ‘sound tent’ installation on the campsite, and he let us listen to this over lunch.  Hearing all this together in one space really brought it home how much Caravanserai has achieved in such a short space of time.

I spent some time today up at Treloan going through the postcards that had been sent back to Portscatho during my residency. Debs has decided to keep the box up for now, so that people can continue to contribute their thoughts over the rest of the summer, which is great news.

Postcards posted to Portscatho

In the four days of my residency about a dozen postcards were posted, all completely different in their style, content and decoration. Several were accounts of holidays, or memories of past trips to Portscatho.  Two others used the word Portscatho to make acronyms or alliterative phrases; two were poems about their experiences on holiday. It was really nice to see how people had reacted to postcards with words printed on the other side. For example, an extract from Gerard Woodward’s August about the strangeness of tents and the weather was followed on the other side by a description of one family’s holiday in the rain. It might be nice to think about making a book or an album of some kind from the postcards sent in, and still to be received. Perhaps some kind of creative visitors’ book?

I was lucky enough to be able to spend a morning with Alyson today; valuable writing time she gave up in order to talk to me about her experiences as writer in residence. We chatted about the Caravanserai residency, as well as other projects and residencies she’s worked on in the past. It was fascinating to hear Alyson’s views about previous residencies, and to find out more about how she approached each project.  We decided to do some writing together, so we spent half an hour or so writing ‘Consequences’ style, making some kind of poem, each writing a line using the last word left by each other. Lots of fun and surprisingly good results…

You can read more about Alyson’s week in residence and read one of her poems here, in an article I wrote for our local magazine. Roseland Magazine article

 

I managed to find out a lot this week about the Shetland Arts writers residency.  I was particularly keen to research this residency as it seemed to share several features with the situation at Treloan. Susanna Jones, who was writer in residence in Shetland for a month in 2006, very kindly emailed offering to answer my questions, so I’m really looking forward to hearing about her experience of the residency.  I also heard back from Donald Anderson, Literature Development Officer at Shetland Arts, and spoke to him on the phone about how the writing residency has developed and changed in the last few years. It was very interesting to find out about the long-term effects of the residencies, and the positive impact they have had on the local community in Shetland. You can read more about Susanna’s experiences as writer in residence here.

I spent this afternoon decorating the project field with Annie in preparation for tonight’s ‘Feast’; a banquet of local food in the project field to celebrate the wild food walks taking place today and the success of the Caravanserai project so far. We had a fantastic evening, and it was really interesting to talk to Rose Barnecut who joined us from Creative Unit and FEAST, about the project and its impact. Rose was particularly interested in the project’s role as a bridge between the residential and tourist communities present in Portscatho, and I told her about how much I had gained from taking part in a residency at Treloan.  As the sun set, visiting artist Hannah Cox lit her fire sculpture, spelling out the word feast.  The sculpture was beautiful, illuminated all the more by the full moon rising above it. Have a look at Hannah’s photos from the evening here.

 

I was delighted to hear back from Janie Hampton today, who’s very kindly offered to help with my research into writing residencies, as part of my project.  Janie is a novelist and biographer, and was writer in residence at the Marsh Harrier pub in Cowley Oxford for three months as part of the Arts Council funded Year of the Artist in 2001.  You can read more about her residency here, in an article she wrote for The Independent.

Activities posters

When it came to deciding on writing activities around the campsite during my residency, I was still really keen to use the idea of postcards to Portscatho. In the end I felt that giving people stamped addressed postcards to write on and send back to me was not going to be feasible.  Not only would it become a big project in its own right, which I felt might not give me enough time for my own writing, but given the time constraints of my project and the costs of producing and printing postcards, I felt it would be better to focus on a more short term set-up.  In the end, I decided it would be best to use blank postcards, although to aim to include handwritten or printed extracts from poems and novels on some as a form of inspiration. 

Postcards by the sink

After speaking to Pete and Debs, I set up a postbox in reception, as well as canvas boxes to collect postcards from in reception and the main wash-up area, with instructions as to what to do.  I wanted people to feel free to write whilst having an idea of scope and theme, so I tried not to be too prescriptive with my instructions. Have a look here: Poster for postcards 

 I managed to use the fab printer in the van to print out some words onto the backs of postcards, which I then added to the blank ones already in the collection boxes. 

Poetry on postcards

I wanted writing to have a visual presence around the campsite during my residency, and to create an activity that any visitor to the campsite could join in with, regardless of how much time they had available. I loved the creative connotations of the word canvas, and the links it made between the rows of tents in the campsite and the sails on the boats visible on the sea’s horizon beyond.  The idea of using canvas to write on came up during a chat with Annie, Mac and Alyson during our planning session, and in the end I decided to set up a washing line of words on site, which people would be invited to add to using blank triangles of canvas, marker pens and pegs.  Have a look at the poster here…..Poster for poetry line 

I’d mentioned my idea to Pete and Debs when I arrived on Sunday, and they both really took it on board.  I’d originally thought the line could be set up outside the project van, but when it came to setting it up the following day, Debs suggested I put it outside reception, in a fantastically central position on site.  I added the first triangle of canvas, with the word ‘sea’ written on it, then sat back to see what would happen (no pun intended)……

 the first item on the poetry line

 

Despite the rain, our line began to grow steadily, with the help of Pete and Debs encouraging new arrivals on the campsite and visiting locals to go and add a word to the line.  I had wondered beforehand whether it might be possible that we’d end up with a collaborative piece of writing, or one long sentence, so I was really interested to see what people would contribute.  In the end, the line became a collection of separate words, and although the temptation was there to try to shape them into the beginnings of a poem or a story, after chatting to Mac a couple of days into my residency, I decided to leave the line (or lines as it had become by now) as it was. As the edges of the triangles began to curl up in the rain, Debs and I began to talk about ironing the canvas at some point later in the summer, and making it into bunting, but more about that later.

Here’s how our poetry line grew….

sea / gulls  / play…the first day

sea / gulls  / play…the first day

Poetry line day 2

after a day

Poetry line day 4

by the last day of my residency