The week feels like we have passed over a bit of a threshold. Looking back at the beginning of the week, we were still feeling the need for long walks and creating time and space for our thoughts to formulate, and then be expressed. We took a walk through Walthamstow Marshes to the River Lea Navigational, this time walking north from Springfield Park along the Lea to Markfield Park. We resisted the temptation to look at the Markfield Beam Engine, reserving that for a when we are joined by a certain friend who is equally enthused by arcane bits of industrial heritage.
I returned to work on Monday, slightly at the deep end helping to facilitate a systems mapping workshop on industrial decarbonisation. The workshop went well - Policy Lab facilitation muscle memory kicked in - Camila Buchanan expertly set things up and Ine Steenmans co-facilitated, bringing her technical expertise. I worked a half day as part of a phased return to work. In the afternoon I popped into a couple of excellent art shops in east London - first The Printspace off Kingsland Road to check out different paper types for printing artworks on, and then AP Fitzpatrick off Cambridge Heath Road to purchase an impasto gel for creating photo transfers. My knowledge of inner east London is exposed as I get completely lost going between the two major road arteries.
I caught up on emails at home for half a day on Tuesday. I have been surprised by how tired and discombobulated I have felt - perhaps it is predictable, but it is amazing how a highly emotional period can impact the way one’s brain works. My colleagues at Policy Lab have been incredibly supportive. I have discussed with them how returning to work is part of the healing process, it will hopefully kickstart a further cognitive and emotional recovery. But that means that I am at work not quite fully healed, and the team have been amazing understanding that.
Drawings of home
For the rest of Tuesday, and to take a break at looking at a computer screen, I prototyped a collage of drawings created by participants at workshops on social housing. Participants had been asked to draw their homes (pictured above, top left and top centre). The responses were incredibly varied in their nature. Some drawings are side-on, street views; some are top down, aerial views. Some are intricately detailed; some are extremely expressive and gestural. Almost universally, the drawings bring out a different specific feature of housing: whether that be a location on the top floor of a block, a garden, a neighbour, a roundabout. It’s an interesting exercise in understanding how we visualise our homes, and what features come out.
I spent much of the rest of the week catching up, finding out how members of my team have been working so amazingly in my absence.
You must be joking
Our preparations for The Mill’s The Joke’s On Us! exhibition are heating up. I secured a web page on the Waltham Forest, Borough of Culture 2019 site, asked members of Policy Lab to tell me their best joke (Grant’s Pink Panther number pictured above), and met with Chantal Condron from the Government Art Collection to think through final bits of preparation.
The week ends with a couple of rewarding trips to local institutions. First I head to K & H Timber in Lea Bridge Road, where the guys cut me a series of sizes of MDF board, which I will use for the painting for the forthcoming Forest of the Future exhibition. Second, prior to our bad news earlier in March, I had bought my partner tickets to Africa Express, who were playing in Leytonstone/Wanstead Flats as part of the Waltham Forest, Borough of Culture 2019. The gig was on Friday, with Damon Albarn returning to Leytonstone, the area he grew up. A number of highlights, with sensational African beats, Rokia Traore’s haunting lyrics and Blur making a surprise performance to play Tender, backed by the London Community Gospel Choir. It was at once a cathartic and unifying finale to a March which has been difficult for us all in different ways.