Friday, 2 December 2016

Community Feedback Day

On the 2nd December the Research Forum updated members of the broader community on the developing shape of the 2018 exhibition. Presenting the list of agreed artworks, the process to date and personal pathways through the exhibition, with presentations by Judy Dermott, Dr Ian Jones, Jason Pay and Franca Pauli, the group then asked for feedback from those present to check whether their vision for the exhibition resonated with a broader audience. Tying in with the Research Forum's ambition for the exhibition to spread across Margate, the second half of the afternoon focused on how to develop various offsite elements and how partnerships around this might work. 

Photo credit: Jenni Deakin.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

A visit from the Mead Gallery

In 2018 A Journey with 'The Waste Land' will tour to the Mead Gallery at Warwick University and Leeds Art Gallery. To  develop versions of the exhibition in each venue parallel participatory processes are being established. 

On the 8th and 9th October, participants from Coventry, who first convened in May 2016, came to Margate for two days of discussions. 

Photo credit: Jenni Deakin

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Live Well Innovation Funding

In collaboration with Occupational Therapist (OT) Jemma Morgan, we're delighted to have been awarded funding for He do the Police in Different Voices, a project engaging mental health service users in an artist led programme to develop skills, confidence and resilience over a nine month period in 2017, which will result in the production or co-production of an artwork or resource for A Journey with The Waste Land.

T.S Eliot wrote part of this poem whilst recovering from his own mental illness in Margate in 1921, and the Research Forum have identified the need for further input into the exhibition by those with personal experience of mental health issues. Margate has a higher than average rate of mental illness and has traditionally been a place of convalescence for those affected. In celebrating the seminal poem Eliot wrote here during his ‘nervous breakdown’ and including new contemporary content informed/directed by those currently in a similar mental state to Eliot, the Research Group want to reverse the stigma often attached to mental health. They are keen to make this aspect of the poem’s genesis, and current experiences of mental health problems in Margate, accessible and intelligible to audiences visiting the exhibition.

As an OT, Jemma Morgan works with patients with acute mental health problems. As a member of the Waste Land Research Group she's been really keen to develop this aspect of the exhibition, so we're delighted we now have funding to bring an artist in to work with some of her inpatients and other service users to think about Eliot's time here, and the broader idea of Margate as an asylum.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Offsite aspirations for the exhibition

Suggestions from The Research Forum's session on the 25th October.

Reviewing moving image options at the Tom Thumb Theatre

Having generated a shortlist of artworks to pursue with lenders, the Research Forum today reviewed moving image and time based works, in a session facilitated by Lizzy Rose at the Tom Thumb Theatre in Margate. 

Photo credit: Trish Scott

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Eliot's London

After a break for the summer the Research Forum re-convened for a trip around Eliot's London, kindly supported by Southeastern. Footprints of London guide, Tina Baxter, led the group on a Waste Land walk around the City, which was followed by a visit to the Musuem of London and then to the British Library to see a letter Eliot wrote in 1921 from the Albermarle Hotel in Margate.

Here is a full report of the trip posted by Patrick Seery.

Photo credit: Patrick Seery

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Walking with The Waste Land

On Sunday 17th July, members of the Waste Land Research Forum led a walk around Margate as part of Writing Buildings, a University of Kent conference looking at the intersection of literature and architecture. Locating the poem experimentally within the architecture of Margate, passages of the poem were read on a walk which explored participants’ personal connections between the poem, the town and Eliot’s time here.

Here are some thoughts on the event from Research Forum member, and organiser of the walk, Elspeth Penfold. Elspeth established a walking research group at the end of last year, and has been arranging regular walks as part of the project.

“Walking with The Waste Land began last November as a part of  A Journey with ‘The Waste Land’. The group’s aim was to use walking as a research tool to explore the poem.The walks have been attended by different members of the group and whilst always starting off with a sense of direction have evolved as a result of decisions and conversations, made by those walking, as the walks have progressed.

In May we were invited to put together a walk for delegates of the University of Kent conference, Writing Buildings. It was wonderful to see how so many people, who had contributed in one way or another to the walking group over the last ten months, pulled together to make this walk happen. The July 17th walk was far more planned, in terms of it’s content and route than anything we had done previously. However, it felt like the culmination of many months of walks and conversations, as well as ideas that have emerged during other events at meetings of the wider group.

We had a wonderful turn out for the walk and were delighted that Mike Tooby took the time to create a presentation to introduce the walk and to place it within the wider context of the journey of the Project. We had a great deal of fun on an incredibly hot day after so many windy and rainy walks. It has given us a great foundation to now consider the way forward and develop ideas for future walks. We hope that more members will be able to contribute to the group when we start walking again in September.

All the details of our walks are on the Walking group section of this website in the members area.

P.S. you don’t have to walk to join in!” 

Photo Credit: Jenni Deakin

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Selection day

On Saturday 25th July the Research Forum gathered to agree the initial tranche of works to pursue with lenders/artists for the exhibition. Over the past 6 months, through discussions and thematic sessions, we had accumulated nearly 300 suggestions.

To get the selection process going, we started by voting for 'must have' works in terms of different themes. We then looked at what the exhibition might look like if filtered by sections of the poem, and also through the lens of art history. We used coloured stickers to mark choices.

As different people's suggestions built up, a core to the exhibition started to emerge. Here are some of the works that people felt were important.

Up until this point works had just been proposed by individual members so it was great to see evidence of how works resonated across the group as a whole; which works people really liked and which felt more peripheral.

In the afternoon, we cross checked our thinking by parking overarching categories/ themes and letting individual works themselves (and links between them) lead our thinking. Working in small groups we started to make connections and pathways between works, grouping works together and formulating ideas about the journey from one work to another.

Photo credits: Jenni Deakin

Monday, 20 June 2016

The TSE Reading Group

Since the start of this year Research Forum member, Dr Ian Jones has been facilitating a monthly TSE reading group. Here's a summary of sessions to date. The group will start up again in September. 

Thursday 21st January: screening of TOM & VIV - a 1994 feature film based on Michael Hastings’ 1984 play of the same name. Starring Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson as TSE and his first wife, Vivienne Haigh-Wood.

Thursday 25th February: Readings and discussion from Eliot’s early published poetry, including The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Thursday 17th March: Reading and discussion of Gerontion, Portrait of a Lady and Rhapsody on a Windy Night

Thursday 21st April: An informal conversation with Debbie Whitfield, who worked as PA to TSE’s widow Valerie from 2000-2012, and is currently employed by the TSE estate, working on the six volumes of TSE’s letters edited by Christopher Ricks.

Thursday 19th May: A screening and discussion of BBC ARENA programme’s biographical portrait of T S Eliot - directed by Adam Low, with contributions from Valerie Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Jeanette Winterson, Christopher Ricks and Andrew Lloyd-Webber. The programme was first screened in 2009. 

Thursday 16th JuneBy popular request ! An Evening with Old Possum and his Practical Cats. Bring along and share your favourite TSE cat poem.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Building a scale model of the galleries

The exhibition design working group have built a scale model of the galleries so we can start to consider the spatial aspects of works we're looking at, and arrange possibilities according to the space available. 

Image credit: Franca Pauli

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Article in ae magazine

A conversation about the project between Mike Tooby, Trish Scott, and participants Franca Pauli, Elspeth Penfold and Alicia Box has been published in Arts & Education magazine.

To read the text click here.  

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Tasks ahead

Back in Margate Yacht Club we discuss what we think the different aspects of the research process are, and what some of the challenges will be going forward. We have started to think about the specific tasks ahead and the need to break into smaller groups to take on specific responsibilities.

Photo credit: Jenni Deakin

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Setting exhibition aims

Through a structured thinking exercise (rooted in philosophical inquiry) we have generated tentative aims for A Journey with 'The Waste Land'

We started by jotting down individual ideas about the form, content, feel and reach of the exhibition. 

Karen Eslea, Head of Learning and Visitor Experience at Turner Contemporary, then led an exercise which opened these up for debate. Moving around the room in terms of whether we agreed or disagreed with statements we then discussed our different positions. In areas of major disagreement, statements were reformulated until we'd managed to find a form of words which enabled consensus ('consent after dialogue').

To give an example, with regards the statement, 'the exhibition has to be interesting to TS Eliot experts' initially views were mixed (- note the way in which people are distributed across the room, some agreeing, some disagreeing). 

However, after debate Karen reformulated the statement as 'the exhibition should appeal to a diverse audience including TS Eliot experts', which people felt more able to endorse (- note the way in which people are now clustered together on one side, the 'agree' side, of the room). 

Devising aims in this way enabled thinking to be visualised, and language to be nuanced in a way which took account of everyone's positions (whilst avoiding everyone having to speak about everything or those with the loudest voices having a disproportionate influence). 

Photo credit: Jason Pay

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Research feedback

40 members of the Research Forum gathered to share initial ideas for the 2018 exhibition and talk about emerging themes. Everyone brought along one artwork to discuss and suggestions encompassed artworks, documents and artefacts spanning from 1650 to 2014. To give a flavour of the richness of ideas here's an extract form one of the conversations that occurred:

Dani: I love things that are like diagrams and maps. We were talking in our group about being able to read things in many different ways… and a clash between reading something logically and illogically, or logical structures and a lack of. This image suggests the idea of paths and structures but you can’t really work out what it is, so you’ve got all this structure but you’re none the wiser. I also find it beautiful as I love diagrams.

Franca: I can tell you what this is: These are pictures of quantum particles taken in a high energy accelerator which is a machine which makes particles spin so fast they’re made visible. So this is basically the smallest, tiniest piece of matter, which we’re all made of. I picked this because I work as a translator in a committee about the history of quantum physics which developed exactly during these years [the years that Eliot was writing ‘The Waste Land’.] Maybe because I’m used to thinking about these things I really feel the quantum poetry. It’s really beyond time and space (which is why I chose the theme ’time’). It also has to do with why I’m here, personally. When I was picking a new place in England to move to a few months ago, and I read the line ‘On Margate Sands I can connect nothing with nothing’ this was exactly what I needed to do right then. I thought ‘wow this is a good sign’. This is also why I chose to be in this group. I also see that most words in the room have to do either with space and time, also mental illness, fragmentation or disjunction have to do with being out of alignment with space and time.

Mike: It makes me think there’s a wonderful possibility of putting this with the Man Ray ‘Dust Breeding’ image. There’s the extraordinary way in which this loops into Eliot, in his early life, attending Bergson’s lectures in Paris, and that was a really fundamental influence on him in terms of shaping his ideas about the world. So there are lots of fantastic connections developing. 

Image credits: 1 - Trish Scott 
2&3 -

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

What the Thunder Said

In our look at the final part of 'The Waste Land', we were thrilled to start the session with a perfomance of 'What The Thunder Said' by students from Hartsdown Academy in Margate, who then joined us for a conversation led by practical philosopher Ayisha de Lanerolle.

The session took place at Cliftonville Library and also marked the launch of the Hartsdown Reading Hack initiative. Over the next year students at Hartsdown Academy  will engage with 'The Waste Land' and the project and we're excited to see where they'll take it.

Photo: Jenni Deakin.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Death by Water

At each of our meetings to date we have started by reading sections of the poem out loud or listening to different versions of the poem.This always generates discussion about how the meaning of the poem changes depending on who the speaker is.

To spend some focused time experimenting with how performance can impact the interpretation of 'The Waste Land', members of the Research Forum spent an evening with local improvisation group Athelstan Sound at Resort Studios testing out different ways of 'sounding' part IV of the poem, 'Death by Water', arriving at various different embodied understandings of this section of the text. 

Photos - Jenni Deakin.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Fire Sermon

“The big claim you could make is that modern poetry was born in Margate” (Professor David Herd 13/09/15)

On 13th October, Professor David Herd, Head of the School of English at The University of Kent joined The Waste Land Research Group to help us unpack Part III of the poem, ‘The Fire Sermon’, which include the 50 lines of the poem that Eliot wrote whilst in Margate in 1921.

Professor Herd discussed 'The Waste Land' in terms of how Eliot was holding elements of the modern poem together; rejecting regularity in favour of a structure which reflected the state of the world post WWI (as well as his own state of mind following a nervous breakdown). Herd identified some of the motifs Eliot was experimenting with; burning, clutching and connecting, as devices for managing content and holding disparate fragments together, marking the birth of the modern poem. 

Sitting in Margate Museum we also listened to T.S Eliot reading 'The Fire Sermon' and discussed Professor Herds ideas on connectivity in relation to the other sections of the poem. 

Photos: Jenni Deakin.

Monday, 5 October 2015

A Game of Chess: I never know what you are thinking

Artist Rosalie Schweiker joined Waste Land researchers for an evening in the bar at Margate Yacht Club. The session focused on us all getting to know each other as well as the second section of the poem, 'A Game of Chess'. From discussing the last time we'd all played chess, to thinking about assumptions we have of each other and the poem, to identifying snippets, ideas and themes of interest, and scribbling these down on the back of beer mats, it was a fun and productive session. It was also nice to be in a pub discussing the section of the poem that's set in the pub; the context for our exploration following the form of the poem.

Ian Jones and the Commodore of the Yacht Club (who was on the bar) stepped up to give a great improvised rendition of the poem. This included the Commodore reading out the barman's lines 'HURRY UP PLEASE, IT'S TIME' every time they occurred. During this reading the rest of us were tasked with having a sip of our drinks every time the word "I" appeared, tracking the changing subjectivity through this section of the poem.
Discussion at the very end focused on gossip, building a research community, offline connectivity, and how to capture conversations and the energy in a room in a meaningful way. A black book to capture snippets, overheard conversations, images and other material will now be in circulation as an alternative documentation strategy. Thanks Jemma Morgan!

Photos: Jenni Deakin.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Community World Cafe

To introduce local organisations and community interest groups to the developing project, a world cafe took place on the 23rd September, focused on exploring some of the central issues underpinning A Journey with 'The Waste Land'.

The event was a hands on and immersive session. Questions focused on testing out what should be in the exhibition, how best to engage with different types of material and how decision making could be approached. There was a particular focus on teasing out the difference between an exhibition about the poem and an exhibition about visual responses to the poem, and thinking about the connection between text and image.

Moving forward, a series of events for those delving into the research process are happening this autumn to trigger the process of getting acquainted with the poem and each other. There will also be more events to share practice, research and discoveries and shape the overall direction of the project going forward.

From initial conversations a number of areas of interest are already emerging, including the imagery of water in the poem, Margate in 1921-22, women and women's voices in the poem, sound 'music' and the spoken word, mental health and new technology.

It was exciting to start the process of talking with other groups and organisations about what might start to develop in parallel, e.g. music, small exhibitions of work, performances, community events, readings and to keep in touch about options and developments.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Developing this website

Drama student Jordan Coverdale, from The University of Kent, has been on an internship at Turner Contemporary to help us develop a website for the project.

Here are Jordan’s thoughts on his experience:

"I first got involved with the project through the Student Ambassador scheme at The University of Kent which offers outreach work to go alongside my studies. When I saw the advert for a post to help develop a website for an exhibition at Turner Contemporary, I was keen to apply due to my interest in online media platforms.

My role was to explore different web options that members from the community (involved in researching the exhibition) could use to share ideas and findings.

Whilst I've created informative websites for projects in the past this is the first time I’ve delved into making a fully interactive site, allowing people to create their own profiles and share content.

I soon discovered that there were several possible approaches, each of which would lead to participants interacting in different ways. One option was to go with a project management tool (e.g. Basecamp). However, this didn't feel suitable for the experimental and community oriented nature of the project.

Instead I proposed that we create our own platform built from existing tools. I had previously discovered online services that provide you with a basis for creating your own social network and the one that really stood out to me was SocialEngine, due to its simplicity and visual impact. Through experimenting with the service further, I learnt that users could create their own profiles with ease and that it was possible to build an interactive sense of community. Using myself and also a fellow intern, who was researching the poem, we set up a mock site that could act as both a public facing website with information for newcomers about the project, alongside an area for community members to share their own ideas.

I was keen to see what potential participants wanted to get out of using the website, and therefore used any introductory events to gather opinions. I learnt that people felt more at ease contributing to a closed off group. As a result I made the members area of the site by invite only. Some people were also concerned about whether the site would be simple and easy to use, which led me to create a help section with detailed tutorials. I feel that these discoveries were vital in the development of the platform, to achieve an interface that people could happily remain engaged with.

Looking back, the real challenges were designing a platform that could deal with lots of people working collaboratively, all with different levels of technical knowledge. 

It's fair to say that I have learned a lot in just the six weeks I’ve been working, and I am excited to see the platform finally being put into the hands of the users and watching the community grow. Going from joining an opportunity scheme within my University to helping develop an art exhibition has all been incredibly exhilarating, and now I feel so involved I can’t wait to experience the end result!"     

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Meet the robot!

Last night a philosophical inquiry took place to discuss the concepts of 'agency' and 'intention' in relation to A Journey with 'The Waste Land'.  

As well as this project being about the links between 'The Waste Land', the visual arts and Margate's cultural heritage, another key area of research concerns the participatory methodology for developing the exhibition: What does it mean for Turner Contemporary to open up an exhibition in this way and share power and trust with members of the community?

A few weeks ago Emma Braso, Curator at the Herbert Read Gallery, UCA approached me about doing something which connected her upcoming exhibition  ‘Agency without Intention’ to A Journey with 'The Waste Land'. She was interested in participatory practice and what the concepts 'agency' and 'intention' might mean for a group of people with shared interests.

We decided to host a conversation with members of The Waste Land Research Forum and opted for this to be a philosophical inquiry, an established method used byTurner Contemporary. Last night's event was facilitated by Practical Philosopher Ayisha de Lanerolle, and started with people responding to a robot designed by Abdulbari Kutb, one of the other artworks in the exhibition. The conversation moved from questions of agency and intentionality relating to the robot; its creation and movement, to a discussion of 'The Waste Land' project. In particular we discussed the shifting and relational nature of both these concepts.

In starting to develop a vocabulary around the participatory process a number of issues came up: In researching 'The Waste Land' who has agency? What’s Turner Contemporary’s intention in opening up an exhibition in this way? What are individual motivations for being involved? Where does power lie? Where might power lie in the future? What conditions going forward will create empowerment?

The discussion was filmed and an edited version will be presented at 'Agency without intention' opening at UCA on the 15th October.

Photo: Abdulbari Kutbi

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Community Research Starts

Participatory research on A Journey with 'The Waste Land' has started!

After initial conversations with different members of the community to test out interest and think about what a structure for the project might look like, through word of mouth and an open call, over 120 people have volunteered to work with Turner Contemporary in some way on developing the exhibition.

The project seems to have captured the imagination of so many people both locally and further afield and the interests and capacity of participants going forward make it an incredibly exciting venture.

In the biggest introductory event so far 67 people met outside Turner Contemporary to walk across Margate Sands from the gallery to read the poem out loud and discuss it at the Nayland Rock Shelter, where T.S Eliot wrote a section of the poem in 1921.

Most people present had an interest in art and literature but lots of people weren't familiar with the poem, so going forward there will be more events to help people engage directly with the text.