Saturday, 20 September 2014

Kind of Cake Related Thoughts....Week 2

I signed up to the #AcWriBloMo September Edition on Facebook - the challenge being that you would write a post each week in September on your research blog.

I started this blog in 2012 and til now this blog has been a mix of whatever takes my fancy - mostly meanderings down memory lanes via lovely old postcards and my enduring love affair with tacky seasides and proper oldy worldy black and white films and of course my love of Hammer films and Peter Cushing in particular, though in 2013 it concentrated much more upon my work for the Place and Memory art project and the history of St George's Fields in Leeds. I also set up a sister blog then to sit alongside this one - the sister blog concentrates upon images whereas this one concentrates more upon words.

Being part of the Place and Memory Project reignited my love of delving about in libraries and rooting about in archives which had lain dormant since I did a history degree at Leeds University many many moons ago. In turn the research led me down different ways of expressing myself - though it's true to say it almost always begins with a photograph.

Last year it was photos like this

That then turned into objects like this:

which then formed part of the Place and Memory exhibition at the Trinity Centre last October and then at Inkwell in April of this year.

I had always been interested in victorian death culture but during the course of the project it became more of an obsession with a particular interest in victorian post mortem photography. I enjoyed the process so much that I set about trying to find somewhere to do an MA so I could pursue these somewhat morbid but fascinating to me studies and I went to various open days, I considered the MA in Gothic Studies at Manchester Met but whilst I could have researched my passion I would have also had to do a lot of literary modules too and it's too long since my English A Level and it would have been far too much of a stretch to get back up to academic speed on that score for me to have fully engaged with it. The pluses just would not have outweighed the negatives. I also looked at Leeds Met and Leeds Uni to see if I could do one by research there - I could have done (or rather could have applied to do so and the folk at Leeds Met did seem really lovely and enthusiastic too) but it still didn't feel quite right. I signed up for the Open Day at Leeds College of Art for their MA in Creative Practice and almost didn't go as I was still umming and arring about it but I am so glad I did go because when I got there and heard what the course offered I thought yep - this feels right, this is the place. So I applied, had an interview and got a place.

And so good so far - yesterday was week 2 of induction and I got to meet my personal tutor - albeit briefly but she's already given me lots to think about - namely about how best to structure and plan my research as at the moment it's still mostly a list of books and me ferreting about looking at them in no particular order.

So I know I need to focus more on my end result - what I want, what I need to do to get there and also what they need from me along the way in terms of assignments but I'm not going to worry about that too much at the moment as first of all I'm going to enjoy the kid in a sweetshop feeling and revel in my albeit somewhat scatter gun approach. I love following links and reading other people's bibliographies and finding new avenues to wander down.

But the 'new input' I've had this week which is really floating my boat research-wise is the BBC series the Beauty of Anatomy which I watched on catch-up, half read an article by Audrey Linkman on Postmortem Portraiture in Britain 1860-1910 amidst the splendour and temple to learning that is the gorgeous Brotherton Library - a place which as an undergraduate overwhelmed and scared me but which now I have claimed as my own  and the discovery amidst the somewhat tattier but still very beautiful indeed Leeds Central Library that in 1861 on what is now Lower Briggate roughly where the Viaduct is now stood a Mourning Warehouse next door to a Photographic Appliance Manufacturers and that photographers weren't listed as such then but rather as Photographic Artists. Next week I plan to finish the Linkman article and find out more from the trade directories( the 19th century equivalent of the Yellow Pages) and in particular I want to see when photographers started being listed as such and artist was dropped from their title.

Mmm maybe that's a title I should be trying to bring back to describe myself and my work......

And as for the cake side of things -  as part of  #AcWriBloMo  it was suggested we portray our research via the medium of cake but alas my cake drawing skills are somewhat lacking and my attempts to conjure up a piechart are also lacking so I'll just have to describe this week as a rather hearty flapjack - slightly claggy in places as I did have a 'OMG who am I kidding I can do this moment yesterday' but overall substantial and heartening and I want some more.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Yet More Oldy Worldy Postcard-Ness - This Time It's Whitby

And here's another one of the postcards I bought from my jaunt to the lovely island of Jersey and the fabulous little antique shop on the edge of the covered victorian market in St Helier.

I picked it because - I like its colour and composition and most of all because I HEART WHITBY.

I've been going to Whitby for a long time now - I first went in the early 90's, very early one morning and the sea was rough and the spray splashed my face as I stood at the railings to the left of the pier. It was so cold my hands almost froze to those railings but it was also completely invigorating and energising. To warm up I went to a little cafe to have a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich. It's called Arbuthnotts now but not sure if it was called that then but I remember that bacon sandwich as one of the best I've ever had. Thick white bread slathered with butter (not margarine) with a bit of brown sauce and slabs of crisply cooked bacon - my mouth is watering just as the thought. I've had many bacon sandwiches since them and many have been delicious but none have been as delicious as that one. Like the bacon on the grill - it is seared on my memory.

I fell in love with Whitby that day - its kooky side streets, old world charm, tea shops, cake shops, chip shops, two penny falls, lucky ducks (though it's the letters from grateful recipients that make me smile the most) kippers, cottages, Abbey ruins and of course last but not least the Dracula connection and one of these days I will stay in the house that Bram Stoker stayed in....and who would have thought that in years to come I'd be getting my engagement and weddings rings made there or meet and take the picture of one of my all time favourite photographers - none other than Martin Parr who was there to take pictures of the goth festival for the upcoming Terror and Wonder Exhibition at the British Library.

Since that first magical trip I've been back to Whitby many many times, sometimes for daytrips, sometimes for Valentines Day, sometimes with family and if we can afford it twice a year for the Goth Festival though me and my non goth at all husband are quite jonny come latelys to the goth festival side of things as we've only been going to that for the last 9 years or so.

I have not been able to kick my adolescent addiction to black hair dye and eyeliner and rather than continuing to try and resist this addiction and be a so called 'grown up' I decided to re-embrace and recapture my lost goth youth a few years ago - it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. Happiness comes clad in black and pinstripe and on big stompy platform heels with blood red lipstick and nails for me with a bonus soundtrack of bleepy industrial nonsense on occasion :-)

Whitby is a place where I feel instantly at home and happy and I hope to continue going there for many years to come and this postcard reminds me of what it looked like when I first went as just visible on the left handside of the picture is the rickety bridge down to the other pier. That bridge is not there now and nor can cars park along that bit of road anymore, I think the whalebones has been replaced too. That cliff face has changed too - thanks to heavy rain and coastal erosion more of it has ended up in the sea over the last few years.

Judging by the clothes on the people in the picture I'd say it was taken late 60's but if any of you know a more definite date then please let me know. It doesn't have a date on the back - just the description 'The Whalebone Arch on West Cliff with St Mary's Parish and the Abbey on East Cliff'.

Sadly this postcard was never written on and who knows why it was bought - most likely it was a souvenir of a trip but I'd love to know how it ended up unwritten and unposted in an antique shop in Jersey....