In September 2022 I was sitting quietly in my studio feeling vaguely agitated about something when an idea about creating and doing something positive to raise money and awareness entered the top of my head like a wedge. It wouldn’t go away.
I was waiting to see some visitors to my studio; they were bringing their daughter, who is studying at Oxford University, to see my work.
By the time my visitors arrived, I had decided to move ahead with my idea. Indeed, it wouldn’t let go of me until I made that decision.
I told my visitors about my plan, and they became the first to offer a contribution – which was: their daughter, Dulcie Havers would give a talk about her scientific research during the exhibition. (This proved to be fascinating at the event). They also promised to tell their friends… I realized early on that one of the key factors would be getting enough people to come along to buy and give their attention and energy to the event.
The next thing I did was to contact Tom at Tremenheere gallery, and Neil and Jane who own it, to ask for their permission. This was given, cheerfully, then Tom and I met to discuss dates.
I started to tell people, and to ask people to donate work or time or a skill. I became brazen about asking! Something I never could have done some years ago.
I used my network and contacted many people asking them to give talks. One early contact was with Anne-Marie Solowij, ex-Vogue journalist and driver of mini-buses to Ukraine with food and supplies for people still there, and to offer safe passage for those wishing to leave. She told me her own father had been a refugee from Ukraine many years ago. She promised to give an illustrated talk (clips are on my instagram feed).
One of my preoccupying thoughts was about which charities we should support. For various reasons I had given up on mainstream media, and I’d become a keyboard warrior and follower of many charities, scientists, researchers, advocates and activists on Twitter. Through my connections on this platform I learned about the work of several charities and situations of great need which helped me to make decisions about who we should support. As a shamanic practitioner and artist I’m keenly aware of the inter-relatedness of all living beings, so I felt clear that Extinction Rebellion should be supported; in fact it was Ocean Rebellion who came as well as representatives from XR to talk about their work and to show us the horrors – and implications – of the assaults on living systems in the oceans.
In the late summer of 2022 the flooding due to the climate catastrophe was severe in Pakistan so I felt we should support the Disasters Emergency Committee who always help in situations of dire need. Many yeas ago I was part of a team which created a fund-raising show for Freedom from Torture; it felt imperative that we support them again. We had a great speaker -Ian Pye – from the organization too (clips on Instagram).
Sometime earlier in the summer I found a fascinating essay on Twitter about the climate catastrophe and the need for us to begin to embrace catastrophic language – it being the only appropriate one for what is coming towards us, fast – by an academic in the US called Susan Kassouf. This essay helped me to hone my thinking around this topic – I was also beginning to turn my thoughts at the same time to an exhibition I have coming soon which opens on February 24th 2023 at Studio Kind in Devon – about Trauma. Catastrophe and Trauma and the ways we have of thinking about them tend to be ignored, swept under the carpet, shamed, or belittled. I wanted to find a strong (and also vulnerable) way of being with our thoughts and feelings about what is going on in the world. Rates of change are fast and demanding us to be adaptable and wide awake.
In October I taught my usual workshop on Iona, and to my great relief a number of my most passionate and dependable students offered to help run the event. Their help proved invaluable; I couldn’t have done it without them. Other current and ex-students offered to help in so many ways….
Throughout November the pressure built and works started to arrive from all over the UK. I carried on asking. A tiny few said ‘no’. It was a big ask: requesting work from artists who would get nothing in return. A very few people were put off by the mention of XR. Finding an auctioneer was hard; in the end I asked Jesse Leroy Smith who did a wonderful job and gave a stirring speech too….
I began to lose sleep feeling the pressure. I posted almost daily on various platforms to encourage contributions and footfall. I had other work to do at the same time including teaching so it all felt like a lot to carry. Then it was the handing-in day and I arrived late, after delegating. I was out and about in my car collecting work and plants and books for the event. Angela Cockayne provided copies of her new book, and plants she’s raised for us to sell. My car was full!
Newlyn Art School, Tanya Krzywinska, Penny Florence and Falmouth University helped by lending us IT equipment for the film screenings and talks.
I had around 30 emails or messages to respond to daily about various logistical arrangements for the event. I felt pretty overwhelmed. But it was great to see so much work coming in and such a wide variety. Larger pieces were particularly welcome – thank you Sophie and Charlotte!
Then it was the evening and time for me and Jesse to complete the placing. Marie-Claire Hamon and I had already had a first attempt at making some kind of order/beauty from our generous submissions.
Jesse offered a fresh eye and before long it all made sense.
The following morning Dan Pyne, Andrew Swann, Una D’Aragona and Karen Lorenz began to install. They did an amazing job. We had to do it all in one day. It was tough. Other people helped with labels and running things around.
The following day on December 2nd we opened at 11 am and the visitors began to arrive.
Dulcie Havers and her friend fellow Oxford student Jamie Walker gave powerful readings about the scientific perspective on climate change. Delpha Hadson came and entertained us with her light touch and her gorgeous music….
We had a powerful and slightly frightening performance piece about refugees by Ilker Cinarel and Penny Florence on Friday evening; after that my favourite part which was a shamanic ceremony to bring in blessings and prayers for the whole event. Photographer Alban Roinard came along and took great photos of the Friday evening’s events – free of charge….
On Saturday the visitor numbers grew and we started to make considerable numbers of sales. It was so heartening.
Readings and talks followed, by Ian Pye, Anne-Marie Solowij, Katrina Naomi, Sophie Miller, Ben Ross and Neil Scott. They were all powerful and moving. There are clips on my Instagram feed.
Kathy Wray spent two days making portrait drawings of visitors for a small fee, and she performed a dance too, moving us all away from words….
At 5 pm Jesse arrived and shortly after he gave a profound and hilarious speech urging us all to win our heart’s desire by buying them a piece of art…fortunately there were several couples where love bestowed generosity upon their hearts; and high bids. It was great.
By around 6.30 pm it was all over and then the big task of counting and checking began.
And the tidying up!
Most of us were extremely tired but we had to leave the gallery in good order so our cold Sunday morning was spent making good the walls and wrapping and packing unsold works – many of which are still at my home waiting for possibly another event to be run next time by a larger team in another part of Cornwall….
My sincere and unending thanks to all who helped in so many ways.
But especially to Nikki Kenna, Sally Tripptree and Karen Lorenz.
Photos and clips on my Instagram feed: