Tag Archive | Barnsley

An Hypothetical map for a Regional Identity Dilemma.

In the United Kingdom many areas believe they are marginalised and overlooked in favour London and the South East. Although I’d argue the primary cause for such grievance isn’t geographically located, but located inside of us, from being subjected to the kind of society created through 40 years of fidelity to the ideology of market fundamentalism and market individualism – which personalises social problems, and affects people in London as much as the North (for example) – there are many reasons why people in the UK feel ignored and marginal to matters due to where they live. For example,  “London will see £1,500 more in transport spending per person than the North over the coming years”  a fact that is cause for bitterness for anyone who regularly has to use Northern Rail or Transpennine Express.

Additionally, the idea that a sense of belonging to a geographical location has been totally illegitimatised by these globally interconnected times has been proven to be totally flawed. I think it’s an impossibility to expect the human animal to thrive with no sense of connection to an area they have lived in for a number of years. And it doesn’t have to be forged around hard oppositionalism to other regions.  I’d argue regional identity can take on different forms, and doesn’t have to be borne from the alienation and humiliation many feel in impersonal nation states that can conversely result in a more ferocious fever of xenophobic nationalism.

However that’s a topic for another time. Also, I’m not here to make such statements of what type of devolution should be sought, whether they would work, and all that, etc. I am simply employing my years making mind maps around the South and West Yorkshire areas, to hypothesise about ‘workable’ constitutional boundaries that could deal with the ongoing dilemma of devolution between the Sheffield City Region and the Wider Yorkshire Region..

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Residents in the Barnsley and Doncaster districts are being asked to ‘have their say’ on a decision over whether to agree to be part of a stronger Sheffield City Region (which they are currently the most northerly areas of) or as part of a Wider Yorkshire Region. Barnsley and Doncaster councils have voted against on their initial agreement to be part of a mayor-run Sheffield City Region, in favour of a Wider Yorkshire Region, for reasons, they say, are due to the amount of changes in British Politics since the original agreement was made in 2015.

After much consideration, I started playing around with an idea for a map that de-draws constitutional boundaries that I think could potentially work.

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Yorkshire is giant county in proportion with other England centres, with a massive sense of identity, which, in turn, has made it forget that some of the areas now in within its boundaries, weren’t always so.

The reason I would propose to change a Sheffield City Region (excluding Barnsley and Doncaster) into a place of its own called ‘Hallamshire’ isn’t out of some petty wish to exclude it from the bloated belly of Yorkshire, but to agree with the thoughts of the Writer/critic Ian Nairn when he visited the town in 1960’s. Nairn says:

“[I]t is the capital of an area which exists in fact but not in administration – Hallamshire, or the missing South Riding. …The industrial revolution gave it character which is not quite Midland, not quite Yorkshire, not quite Pennine…”

The reason ‘South Riding’ wouldn’t work, however, is due to one of the main obstacles to Sheffield being part of a Wider Yorkshire Region. Much of the south of Sheffield is situated, at least historically, in Derbyshire, especially as the housing developments continue to sprawl out towards the south and east. Additionally, much of the City Region that sees Sheffield as its nearest city is in Nottinghamshire. Although the nearest city to most of the Doncaster and Barnsley boroughs is Sheffield, they are also very close to the conurbation that has built up around Leeds.

I think Sheffield would fair well being known as the centre of aHallamshire’. I roughly propose it would begin in the north, following the Don valley from Dunford Bridge, taking on Penistone (which has much more in common,  culturally and geographically, with Sheffield, than it does being currently part of the Barnsley district). It would stretch to the eastern side of the Derwent valley in the Peak District, and follow the Rother valley from the south in Derbyshire and into Rotherham, and stretch out South East to include the former mining areas of north Nottinghamshire around Worksop.

There are historical reasons to suggest that Sheffield may have existed on boundary lands between the North and the Midlands. According to the historian David Hey, The river Sheaf, from which Sheffield takes its name, means ‘boundary in Old English’. he suggests, in his 2000 paper ‘Yorkshire’s Southern Boundary’ that:

“it might easily be thought that the boundary would follow the river Sheaf to its confluence with the Don, and so on to The Humber. This in fact may have been the division between the Brigante and the Corieltauvi tribes when the Romans erected their fort at Templeborough in A.D 54…”. David Hey (2000) Yorkshire’s Southern Boundary, Northern History, 37:1

Even though this map is purely hypothetical I felt it still it could offend Sheffielder’s who feel just as strongly about their Yorkshire identity. Yet, I am actually trying to point that Sheffield’s ‘uniqueness’ (often evoked more by Southern expats who moved to the city, surprised how different the city is to the dated perceptions of it being an ‘unsightly’ place) puts it in a category of cities whose identities have outgrown their origins. Despite it being considerably smaller than Manchester and Liverpool, it is of similar ilk, in not belonging to one area, but of forging an area all for itself. Leeds’ identity, for example, seems to be far more at entwined with a Yorkshire identity, seeing itself as the main Yorkshire city.

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As we move ‘into’ Yorkshire from the hypothetical Hallamshire, I tried to make districts that I feel could possibly work both geographically and culturally. ‘Southwest Yorks’ would follow the Dearne Valley from its source on the hills just west of Denby Dale to its end as it joins the river Don. However, it would also include the land that lies south of the middle and lower Calder Valley. The reason for this district is that although much of this area is closer to the centres of Huddersfield, Dewsbury and Wakefield, once you actually hit their respective urban areas you are clearly in a wider urban area that is more than the sum of its parts and, although haphazardly, spreads right up to Bradford and Leeds.

‘Southwest Yorks’ roughly spans the areas of industrial Yorkshire that never became so built-up because they were largely mining communities. The same applies for the Doncaster area, but the reason I felt this was a separate area was due to its geography being more like the vale of York, which is noticeable in the change in the colour of the rock formations,  which changes from the orangey brown sandstone found in ‘Southwest Yorks’ to a thin strip of ‘magnesium Limestone’ that runs north to south as the land flattens out almost completely.

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The ‘West Riding Metropolis’ was a hypothetical name that the writer Owen Hatherley came up with, to designate one of the most built up, heavily populated areas in England, which has never yet worked as a fully functional metropolis due to its incoherent and discontinuous urbanity; indeed, speaking of the current counties, as they stand, I feel it is accurate to call South Yorkshire a ‘discontinuous conurbation of villages’ and West Yorkshire a ‘discontinuous conurbation of towns’.

The western perimeter of the former industrial side of Yorkshire also has a separate geography to the ‘West Riding Metropolis, a side that is a mirror of the land just over the pennine border. This area is post-industrial, yet is more rural, but unlike the mining areas, seems to visualise not only its own history but the very beginnings of the industrial revolution. I struggled for a potential name and called it ‘Mill Town Yorks’, but perhaps ‘Uppermill Yorks’ would be better. The area would likely start in the south at Holmfirth and follow the western edge of the West Riding Metropolis up to Keighley.

These are very simple plays with the area of I know of Yorkshire best, and I don’t expect it to be taken too seriously. However, it would be nice to think it could help think differently about a wider area which certainly needs infrastructural rethought.

Ends (omitted work from Writings From HMS Brexit)

A spoken word piece I ommited from the full Writings From HMS Brexit performance (listen here Theunrealisedproject – Writings-from-hms-brexit-1 ). This piece is based around my home town in the early months of 2017.

Three works on show this December

I have three works in the open exhibition at The Old Market Gallery in central Rotherham. A town of a 1/4 million people, which has possibly been let down by the powers that be more than my home town Barnsley. I don’t often visit the town, normally spending time in nearby Sheffield when I travel this way. But when I do I feel a massive grievance for a place this size to be given such little, especially in regards to transport infrastructure – which is appalling when you take into consideration how the place now actually makes up a large part of a continuous South Yorkshire urban sprawl of possibly over 700,000 people.

I’m exhibit 3 pieces. ‘Whilst We Were in The Eternal Now…’ from 2014

‘Debtland’ from 2015

And my most recent piece Hope of The Nihilized’

If you are passing, or fancy going out of your way to visit, here are the details:

The open exhibition runs until Saturday 17th December

The gallery opens 11-3, Tuesday to Saturday

Market St, Rotherham S60 1NU

 

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Fighting for Crumbs (Art in the Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) – Video Documentary.

This is our video documentary, crafted and produced by Connor Matheson/DEADIDEA Productions. It accompanied our recent exhibition. Please take a look.

Thank you for everybody who contributed to our crowdfunder earlier in the year.

12.08.2016. Performance and poetry@Fighting For Crumbs

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On Friday 12 Aug from 6:30pm on-wards we’ll be having a performance and poetry event, alongside a last chance to see The Fighting For Crumbs exhibition

Nick Kilby

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Artist Nick Kilby will be breaking his two year performance fast to put something together for the Fighting For Crumbs event on August 12th at the Gage Gallery in Sheffield, located inside KIAC, Sheffield, S3 8DB. 6:30 – 9pm

‘”To the 330’ is a noise/aktion blood hex against an occupying administration. Be fun to see some of y’all. There will be no milk x”

 

Jeff Jethro Platts

Jeff is a singer with Parson’s Lot and CAMBODiA, a writer, performer, activist, campaigner, ex miner, ex many things.

 

follow our events page on facebook to keep up to date. https://www.facebook.com/events/1766943633588740/permalink/1777196522563451

6:30-9pm, Gage Gallery. The Lions Works, 40 Ball St, Sheffield S3 8DB

 

 

England’s Nervous Breakdown

Lost for words

…not strictly, but they are wrapped up in a thick cloud of confusion and contradiction. But I’m putting out there EXACTLY how I’m feeling in the wake of last week’s referendum vote.

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Sheffield, 25 June 2016

Is this the nervous breakdown of a country? It’s becoming an unavoidable truth that what I’ve seen happening over the past few years has gone into overdrive since 23.06.2016. People around me having some sort of meltdown – something I suspect is happening because the strain and the pain of DECADES of Thatcherite Britain has suddenly become unbearable. Brexit, like it or not, seems to have worked it like an accidental alarm-switch.

Was Brexit an unexpected exercise of a country’s nervous breakdown, long overdue? And was this unexpected exercise the last, skewed, but true exercise of democracy we had left?

It is without doubt that there are people in places around the world enduring a hell the English (as this is mainly regarding the English) cannot imagine. But has this country, the first capitalist country on earth, finally broke down under the experience of late capitalism? Has life under this faded-glory-stained neoliberal project hit saturation point?

Last week I was off work, but, after failing to set up a postal/proxy vote, I wasn’t confidently care-free enough to miss voting. So I decided to spend my days off work heading a bit further than usual. It seemed the right thing to do upon a terrain that could, so to speak, be shifting under my feet.

On Tuesday I cycled all the way from Barnsley to York (exhausted, dehydrated, thus all the more porous to the Northern Europe-like feel to North/East Yorks – the red-tile rooftops could convince you there was no body of sea between Yorkshire and Denmark). YORVIK . On Wednesday I went to London, endured a far-more than customary level of alienation at Frustration at the all-out ‘Remain’ consensus congregating around the Kings Cross-based leafleters (even though I voted Remain myself). I felt wounded and inarticulate in a London that felt self-congratulatory-soaked in something that was promoting a cause that had no idea of the type of wounding I was feeling, a wounding I KNOW I’m not the only one feeling, because the wounds are slumped in the city’s streets corners when it bothers to acknowledge them. An anger rising up through the drains of Thatcherite Britain.

But I had too many friends with too many SENSIBLE reasons to vote Remain and too many frightening reasons not to vote Leave for me to take such a reckless leap for the cause of the anger I’ve been feeling for so long now. And on Friday morning I was stunned into inertia just like everybody else.

Aren’t we all lost right now? Heads boiling with a million voices all at once. Looking for blame victims. But I won’t blame 17 million leave voters by calling them stupid or racist. Calling people stupid for what for them is a genuine concern leads to nowhere, except a self-congratulatory flurry of Facebook ‘likes’.

“The Cunt with the gut and the Buzz Light-year haircut…calling all the workers plebs” (The Sleaford Mods)

In recent British history nothing has been as divisive as the destruction of the working class base, built over years of struggle, fucked over by Thatcher, and the market fundamentalism then driven between us all. Yet we overlook ‘the war between all’ conjured by this, and we parrot the words of a more affluent less trapped metropolitan elite for whom issues of race and gender are solely moral issues, and nothing to do with class stratification. The result is what you see in the video above. A top down, media perspective, which doesn’t even need to be based in London to be London-centric, looking at all those intolerant, stupid places like Barnsley -cherry picking the mixed up and politically incorrect voices.“Oh why, oh why can’t they be like us decent London Folk?” A slowly bubbling rage.

“I work my dreams off for two bits of ravioli and a warm bottle of Smirnoff “

 

So, these places where the majority voted ‘Leave’ – what do we do with these people who refused to do “the right thing”?

In 2015 the documentary Invisible Britain followed the music group the Sleaford Mods on a tour of towns not on the ‘cool-list’. Not just ignored by other music groups but also by the London-centred gaze of society. Invisible Britain is perhaps the only contemporary documentation of the great ignored that hasn’t stuck to a preconceived, condescending stereotype, laden with mockery or contempt. Expensively-educated Sacha Baron-Cohen springs to mind…

When you hear the Sleaford Mods, the lyricist Jason Williamson’s anger, if you ask me, is like a momentary placing of the head back on the shoulders of the decapitated and disempowered body of working class rage. Williamson’s seething anger at the alienation and humiliation of a contemporary life experience many can relate to gives a voice to this rage when the world is made to feel so unaccountably chaotic that the only tools for understanding it available are tools to blame yourself with for the hell that surrounds you. But, as the film states, they are still largely a lone voice.

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Manchester, 24 June 2016

That which informs racist anger isn’t born out of fresh air. Nor can those who spout it vanish into fresh air  – which is what I often feel many on the diminishing liberal class long for. Out of mind out of sight.

What do you do with these people, then? “Get rid of the buggers? “. Create two separate States?  One called ‘London‘, for the ‘tolerant’ ‘open-minded’ folks and ‘the rest‘? Actually, doesn’t this petition already exist?  The ‘I’m alright Jack-multiculturalism’ mantra conceals an hidden contempt.

The Leave result has clearly blown everything else out of the water. And as denial against it kicks in, the truth of what has simmered underneath the seeming tolerance and liberalism of the past few decades is coming out. It’s nasty, and I’m sorry to say the most upsetting things aren’t just coming from ‘racist idiots’ but from the younger section of the Remain supporters, chatting away in the cooler parts of town. Behind the ‘coolness’, their inherited social Thatcherism is rearing its ugly fucking head. Their contempt isn’t for the migrants, it’s for Britain’s socially immobile who will “probably never leave their home town never mind live in another country” (actually heard!). It’s an hidden hatred for the existence of those who “clearly haven’t tried hard enough to better themselves” and join aspirational and cosmopolitan Britain. It’s not a contempt for people from other countries, it’s a contempt for the working class of this country, and it’s equally toxic – if not more due to its invisibility.

I’m sorry to say this but they may have just sunken your cosmopolitan dreamboat…

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London, 22.06.2016

I can’t help but be convinced that, even though what evidently galvanised the victory for Brexit was a deep concern about immigration, the anger isn’t really meant for immigrants, but for the ruling class of this country, as inarticulate as the anger was. As self-harming as Brexit could potentially be to everyday people – it’s an anger about being ignored, overlooked and even looked down upon. And I’m not saying I don’t now find it all scary as fuck.

The same present day top-down reasoning bemoans the ‘loutish’ English for their seeming preference to take to throwing chairs and punches at other football fans than taking to the streets like the French. But after nearly 40 years of destruction of class consciousness and a narrowing of political horizons,  creating a state of stuckness that Mark Fisher calls ‘reflexive impotence’,  Brexit is a seismic working class revolt, even if it ends turning against the working classes.

The Ignored is geographical in nature, but it is fundamentally underpinned by class.

“The sorrows we suffered and never were free” Decades, Joy Division

In an article looking at why white working class children,  out of all ethnic communities, perform so poorly in the school exams they sit before joining the adult world, Paul Mason says that “Thatcherism didn’t just crush the unions, it crushed a story”. Far from pitting different working classes against others, Mason looks at what happened to a specific story. This was a story of a long history of struggle, from the satanic mills and mines of the 18/19th century, towards an increasingly equal and better country for the working class, propped up on paternalism and solidarity. But, he adds, “suppress paternalism and solidarity for one generation and you create multigenerational ignorance and poverty”.

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The Vale of York. 21.06.2016

Left to endure the hell of ‘prole-life’ with no explanation to the pain felt, or meaning to guide you through it, it’s clear that migrants, who are nearly always thrown into the very same Ignored-lands, are mistaken as being the cause of this pain rather than being effects of the pain being felt.

After 30 years of misdirected rage towards the neighbours, the headless zombie of working class rage reacts in a destructive manner. I’m not saying what has just happened is a good thing by any stretch of the imagination, but the limits of my own imagination saw that something like this was bound to happen in the UK at some point. The cause for either a leftwing Remain or Leave were not being heard because they appealed to how they thought people should think rather than how they actually felt.

In a competitive world everybody wants to speak, but nobody wants to listen.

A Psychic Timebomb (2013)

A Psychic Timebomb (2013)

Blair and Cameron’s  Britain…so much to answer for…

… a Negative Hedonistic Britain

Humiliation. Aimlessness. Shame. Anxiety. Anger. Dead-end pleasure-seeking.

Drink to take the edge off the pain. Drink to run away from the pain. Drink to locate the nature of the pain. Drink to find a way out of the pain.

Sooner or later you can’t see anything else. And I’m not even alcoholic –  I just can’t deal with it all once the sun goes down.

I’ll be honest, I’ve hit a point in my life where I don’t think I can carry on in this manner much longer….I’m hearing you England.

Regarding the past ten years I can’t yet express the pain at the deep regret at the world I’m supposed to function in. It bursts out in drunken self destruction- it’d be articulated in sober tears if I hadn’t become so walled up over the years.

“Keep calm and carry on”.

It’s very hard not to internalise negativity. After all, it’s encouraged by a process that has seen this island become increasingly private and lonely over the past few decades.

“Feeling uneasy? then stick your headphones in and drift into private inertia”.

But with each passing post-2010-year I’m finding that what I thought was MY Story – that my struggle with depression has felt to have been caused by a loss, and REVERSAL of a sense that the world was becoming and fairer, more tolerant, less cruel place –  was actually lots of other peoples’ too. It’s just that it was experienced in loneliness. It turns out that through the last decades of the 20th century many of us thought the millennium would be the harbinger of something better, and the cost on general well-being from the reversal of this conviction must be so huge.

Post-Rave. Post Britpop. Post Binge-drink Britain… what next?

And so to Friday 24 June…

As my train traveled through Manchester, and as a country tries to function after the morning’s news, I look up at the hills that circulate the world’s first modern city. This is a nervous breakdown!  It sort of comforts me in some odd sense, because I feel like I’ve been heading towards one for a long time, and it looks like the rest of the country has found its rightful place beside me for this mass collective breakdown. Things could get very dark very quickly, if the racist incidents being caught on film are anything to go by, but I’m in a Kate Bush-methadone right now, as I listen to a slightly slowed-down version of her Wuthering Heights. It seems to always stir a deep conviction of there being something better beyond, for which the pennines (whichever side of the pennines) seem to become a more than adequate threshold to. Some of us can’t give up on Utopia.

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Barnsley. 27.06.2016

LET IT BLEED…

Hearing that the English national football team had lost to a country with the same population as the Wakefield District (and  I think the problem is mainly just about England),  it felt like a symbolic act of surrender on a much larger scale. The country needs to collapse into a weeping mess, because if it pretends it isn’t having a nervous breakdown than the pain will just be extended and aggravated. Let this ‘pumped up’ ego-bloated nation, deluded about its place in the world, deflate, otherwise the pain will intensify.

This is as much a note to my easily beaten self as anything, but: right now, in the midst of what currently seems Dystopian, let’s not be swayed by the common rhetoric over the foolishness of Utopian dreams.Beneath my pathos, the pain I showcase idiotically at times is a unflinching dream of that better world.

6 Days Left to Support Our Crowdfunder Campaign!

6 days left to help support Fighting For Crumbs (Art in The Shadow of Neoliberal Britain)! Once the crowdfunder is complete, we will begin to promote the event, that will be held in both Sheffield and Wakefield, including an exhibition our the artists’ works, the showing of our video documentary, talks, films and much more. Ta.

the imposition of conformity

So this year has begun with me working with a group of artists on anexciting project which, at least in my life, promises to be something quite special.

Fighting For Crumbs (Art in Shadow of Neoliberal Britain)will be taking place at the Wakefield Redshed, and the Sheffield-based Gage gallery between 8-14 August 2016. A event centering around a film and an exhibition, it will also include talks and performances at both venues.

We need all the support you have to make this project be as special as it promises to be!

Please find the Crowdfunder located below.

https://www.indiegogo.com/project/fighting-for-crumbs-fundraiser/embedded

Here’s a little about what Fighting For Crumbs is all about…

In November of 2015, the group the Sleaford Mods starred in an independent film examining the lives and homes of the majority that were being systemically ignored in this brutally austere but paradoxically aspirational age of David Cameron. Invisible Britain’ was screened nationally, yet it seemed to focus much of its energy on towns once at the centre of the Yorkshire mining heartlands.

2016 marks the 50th birthday of The Redshed, also known as The Labour club. Situated in the heart of the Yorkshire city of Wakefield, the place is somewhat unique, and has defiantly resisted the capitalist forces that have penetrated nearly everything else around it. A year-long line-up of events are now marking this anniversary.

Sandra Hutchinson, a lifelong supporter of the club, spoke of how The Redshed began at the height of the social and political changes happening in the 1960’s. In-spite of the seismic troubles around the world, it was an age of political optimism, and there was a strong belief that things could be and would be changed.

“THERE IS A PREVAILING SENSE OF PARALYSIS AND DEFEAT ALL ACROSS EX-INDUSTRIAL BRITAIN. AND THIS PARTICULARLY EFFECTS THE YOUNG WHO HAVE NOT KNOWN ANYTHING ELSE” JD TAYLOR

The Invisible Britain documentary addresses this political climate; an age of deep political pessimism. A sense of defeat clings to the streets of our congealed conurbations. A depressed, and broken spirit hangs over us, instructing us to abandon the world we live in and find happiness in loneliness.

The huge support that propelled Jeremy Corbyn from relative obscurity to leader of the Labour Party, seemed to be more a WILLING for a return of a political optimism. Wanting it, because it’s not here.

Five MORE Years... (2015)

Fighting for Crumbs (Art in the Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) is the stories of artists who are striving for nothing but raw artistic expression at a time when we’re all being forced to strive for ‘crumbs, where wages are low, and the market dictates creativity.

It’s not so much stories of poverty-stricken artists. It’s about artists working within the crumbling remains of the Britain’s post-settlement optimism.

Under the “keep calm and carry on” mantra of Tory rule, more and more artists are feeling pressured to head into more craft-based activities.

Although this is not a critique of the crafts itself, how can an art SAY when it’s trying so hard to SELL?

What value does the truth of artistic expression have in such times? Have we been reduced to fighting for crumbs?

BROKEN BRITAIN IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT. IT’S ABSOLUTELY SMASHED TO PIECES” INVISIBLE BRITAIN, 2O15

 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/fighting-for-crumbs-fundraiser/x/13528122#/

A Visit To ‘Sheffield and The Nuclear Winter’ Exhibition, and a Whole Lot More…

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So today I walked into Sheffield Central library, and in the remaining 30 minutes before the exhibition ‘Sheffield and The Nuclear Winter‘ closed, I found myself facing a certain series of reality prospects that had been somewhat buried under an half-decade of an unwanted montage of self-consumed anxieties, based on age-based frustration, the unending demands for identity (re)construction in our ‘always on’ [no]times, and the entrenched sense of competition in life caused by this phony-austerity agenda.

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Nuclear War?! There Goes My Career! – Mark Vallen

“Under the general weight of it all.”… and trying to maintain a sense of dignity (the Self[ie] under siege!], I have literally thrown myself into my art-making. And it’s stronger than it’s been for years. But I’m not quite sure why I’m doing this; because I don’t think I have it as ‘career’ in my mind (I can’t picture a beyond point) it’s more of a final push; a “fierce last stand of all I am”, to quote a line from a track by The Smiths. I often wonder if it has become pure drive.

I’ve somewhat lost my way; adrift, with no idea how to get out, and it’s been like this for a good few years, whilst social pressures seem become claustrophobically close.

“Give it all you’ve got now”

I daren’t be too open about my doubts over the reasons behind why I make work in this way, when ‘selling oneself’ is so mandatory to contemporary life, which ‘could result in a damaged reputation for my product’ {type bollox]. Creative expression is crucial to my very being, it finds a way out whether I plan it or not, but my way of working on things thereon-after has been so caught up in a destructive cycle that’s spun like a hula hoop around my adult body, that often I just want to be able to relax, not be so PUMPED UP, but, then I get stuck: “relax into what, exactly?”

How to be at ease in this world has always evaded me. But today I have looked back to when I began an introspection into why. I somewhat want to get back to that future.

But it was only a fantasy
The wall was too high as you can see
No matter how he tried he could not break free
And the worms ate into his brain.

So the day after I put on an exhibition, I hit a comedown, and I recoiled and slumped into the thoughts and feelings of my 24 year old self. Waiting for a train in Wakefield, I began listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and with Grayson Perry’s great documentary All Man about the impact of masculinity on individuals and society alike on my mind, I began thinking about what path The Wall partly guided me onto back in autumn 2008.

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Untitled, 2009

Not only did I think it was time to understand why I’d been such an emotionally bottled up/screwed up young man until that point, but I wanted to [try to] understand the world I was living in –  after all, the financial crash was an event still fresh from the oven, and it occurred to me that I needed to know a little more about the structures of this world especially if life was going to get tougher.

I buried myself into books, defying the self-told-story-thus-far about me not being able to read properly. So, imagine The Wall helping me deconstruct why a prison wall was emotionally starving me, whilst reading James Lovelock’s Doomed-Gaia hypotheses, and then, erm, doing my back in, staying in over Christmas and watching Threads – the film based on a possible nuclear attack on Sheffield/South Yorkshire amidst a 1980’s tension point in the Cold War…

You only need to watch Threads once. If you’re sensitive enough to the realism of it, or from a nearby area and literally know the streets the terror is played out on, it is artistic shock value taken to its logical extreme: it’s traumatising.

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Taking from South Yorkshire and Nuclear War – Information For The Public in South Yorkshire. (a book which advocated the sharing of its text/imagery

Threads hit me so hard I literally smiled when I visited Sheffield a week later, realising it was still there and standing. And foolishly misleading as emotions are: as anything so big would’ve taken out where I live in an instant too, as this story based on a likely scenario if Sheffield was hit by a nuclear blast explains –  chillingly so, if you are closely affiliated with the former mining area-cum-sleepy dormitory suburb that is Darton, or home.

“Jim is in his farmyard near Darton, Barnsley. Suddenly a brilliant flash of light temporarily blinds him. A wave of heat from the explosion scorches his face. Seconds later, he hears the explosion. Windows crack and tiles fall from the roof. Numb with shock he feels his way back into the kitchen….The house provides little protection from fallout. Like four out of five people in the Barnsley area, Jim dies.”

The above text and the accompanying diagrams were taken from the documents on display that made up the one day event Sheffield and The Nuclear Winter. I didn’t get to absorb that much, but in 30 minutes left I was sobered out enough to realise how increasingly streamed out I am from becoming more and more tied to my ‘Always on’ (or Wi Fi-seeker!) devices, and how my core being (or core sense of what it is to be fucking human or something) demands I COME UP FOR AIR!

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“There is no pain you are receiving. … your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying!

It seems that Pink Floyd’s The Wall follows me when I think about such things. Perhaps it’s the quintessential Cold War-period album? Perhaps The Wall, like Grayson Perry argues in All Man, is about how damaging masculinity can be on an individual and geopolitical level, when it becomes a used for emotional repression in a society.

It seemed that I was able to reflect on both these things today, for the first time in ages.

There’s nothing like ‘a near miss’ of a potential apocalypse in global affairs, centred on the annihilation the place you’ve seen the world from, to momentarily drag you out of the stream/our never ending cyberspace commutes, to take a look at something we don’t usually feel is real enough to care about.

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This is because the nuclear threat usually doesn’t feel real anymore. Not only have we been misguided into thinking all those threats died away when the main adversary to USA-centered power, the Soviet Union, collapsed in the early 1990s, but I think the ‘disappearance’ of the big threats is mainly down to the type of world that was just emerging from the Cold War and Post War settlements like some freak creation.

In the early 1980’s the neoliberal project, which forces our 21st century ‘online’ selves into being endless entrepreneurs of ourselves, was in its infancy in the UK. The technologies that push us into committing to self promotion (in whatever form it takes) 24/7 in 2016 were years away, and the social bonds, communities that gave the otherwise politically disfranchised ‘the capacity to care’ hadn’t yet been fully desecrated by neoliberal policies.

In 2016, we are equally bored and anxious – although we are a pains to openly admit this ‘public secret’.  Internet memes and lifestyle gurus promote the wonders of the world – exciting tastes, views, diets, experience -whilst the language is one of community, friendship and good times. Yet what we have been more or less pushed towards in the past 15 years is a way of life that makes us anxious and bored in equal measure. Anxious because life is becoming tighter, more brutal, competitive between one  another, just for crumbs. Boring, because we are glued to devices that stream pics and texts into us at such speed that everything becomes insignificant. Much of the content itself has the potential to really make an impact on our perceptions, but under digital rain, nothing new can enter – you have to consciously push yourself to find anything significant that doesn’t directly concern your lonely, cyber-commuting-self.

The compounding sense I, at least, have had during the past 6 years, when cyberspace dependency has skyrocketed, is one of being in an eternal now. It’s not that I don’t feel like I‘m getting older, or anything; on the contrary, it possibly impounds a sense of ageing, as digital dependency, and increased competition seem to spill out onto the street as the world begins to look like a landlocked Baywatch scene, where a mass of “keep and young beautiful” people hustle between job, gym and grocery as self-perfection becomes a mandatory for market individualism. And as my naturally anxious figure cuts between them, feeling like some 1990’s flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shorelines at the end of history, I am also aware other parts of our towns and cities are beginning to resemble Rustbelt America, or even perhaps the 3rd world. Yet the ‘always on’ cyber-commute way of life we have, creates the sensation of being stuck in a loop, forever.

And how can anything beyond the immediate seem a physical actuality anymore. Even Climate Change feels like it isn’t real, even as nearby floods are showing it most clearly is. This hit home most strikingly when I was jolted out of the post-night-out numbness of my particular ‘loop’ one night, when trouble was flaring up in the Ukraine 2 years back.

Whilst We Were In The Eternal Now...

“Whilst We Were in The Eternal Now…” (2014)

“Whilst We Were in The Eternal Now…”  was a response to the this feeling of pervading unreality to geopolitical and climate change events, whilst in the cyber-commute loop. A cold shiver whilst lying in bed, as I suddenly CAME UP FOR AIR, and realised just how real the threat of nuclear war still is.

I’m the sort of person who doesn’t want to live in a dream world, but I’ve found I’ve been doing more of this over the past few years. Perhaps this was due to an initial meltdown due to the amount I used to threat about the future of humans on this planet under capitalism. It didn’t do me any good, but I hate living like an avatar. And Im glad I came to to the Sheffield and The Nuclear Winter exhibition today, because it made me come up for air.

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Support Our Crowdfunder Campaign!

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‘The Imposition of Conformity’ by Sheffield-based artist John Wilkinson

So this year has begun with me working with a group of artists on an exciting project which, at least in my life, promises to be something quite special.

Fighting For Crumbs (Art in Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) will be taking place at the Wakefield Redshed, and the Sheffield-based Gage gallery between 8-14 August 2016. A event centering around a film and an exhibition, it will also include talks and performances at both venues.

We need all the support you have to make this project be as special as it promises to be!

Please find the Crowdfunder located below.

https://www.indiegogo.com/project/fighting-for-crumbs-fundraiser/embedded

Here’s a little about what Fighting For Crumbs is all about…

In November of 2015, the group the Sleaford Mods starred in an independent film examining the lives and homes of the majority that were being systemically ignored in this brutally austere but paradoxically aspirational age of David Cameron. Invisible Britain’ was screened nationally, yet it seemed to focus much of its energy on towns once at the centre of the Yorkshire mining heartlands.

2016 marks the 50th birthday of The Redshed, also known as The Labour club. Situated in the heart of the Yorkshire city of Wakefield, the place is somewhat unique, and has defiantly resisted the capitalist forces that have penetrated nearly everything else around it. A year-long line-up of events are now marking this anniversary.

Sandra Hutchinson, a lifelong supporter of the club, spoke of how The Redshed began at the height of the social and political changes happening in the 1960’s. In-spite of the seismic troubles around the world, it was an age of political optimism, and there was a strong belief that things could be and would be changed.

“THERE IS A PREVAILING SENSE OF PARALYSIS AND DEFEAT ALL ACROSS EX-INDUSTRIAL BRITAIN. AND THIS PARTICULARLY EFFECTS THE YOUNG WHO HAVE NOT KNOWN ANYTHING ELSE” JD TAYLOR

The Invisible Britain documentary addresses this political climate; an age of deep political pessimism. A sense of defeat clings to the streets of our congealed conurbations. A depressed, and broken spirit hangs over us, instructing us to abandon the world we live in and find happiness in loneliness.

The huge support that propelled Jeremy Corbyn from relative obscurity to leader of the Labour Party, seemed to be more a WILLING for a return of a political optimism. Wanting it, because it’s not here.

Five MORE Years... (2015)

Fighting for Crumbs (Art in the Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) is the stories of artists who are striving for nothing but raw artistic expression at a time when we’re all being forced to strive for ‘crumbs, where wages are low, and the market dictates creativity.

It’s not so much stories of poverty-stricken artists. It’s about artists working within the crumbling remains of the Britain’s post-settlement optimism.

Under the “keep calm and carry on” mantra of Tory rule, more and more artists are feeling pressured to head into more craft-based activities.

Although this is not a critique of the crafts itself, how can an art SAY when it’s trying so hard to SELL?

What value does the truth of artistic expression have in such times? Have we been reduced to fighting for crumbs?

BROKEN BRITAIN IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT. IT’S ABSOLUTELY SMASHED TO PIECES” INVISIBLE BRITAIN, 2O15

 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/fighting-for-crumbs-fundraiser/x/13528122#/

Everything I’ve Done in 2015

It’s pretty unlikely I’ll get anything else done this year now, as I’ve hit my New Year-period wall prematurely, from which I can never imagine the possibility of making anything new again – until I make something new again. Perhaps I do my own yearly roundups because I somehow feel that I’m unjustifiably forgotten about. When I regain my bearings from the egotistical gravel pit, I recognise that it’s likely over 90% of us feel this way. But all the same, no choice but to play The Game.

So here’s a list, in a more or chronological order, of the best bits of what I have done in 2015; and believe me, there’s a lot of bits I’d rather regret. Regarding the visual works, I feel THE LONG NIGHT OF A NEEDLESS STORM is my strongest piece, both in visuals and title, it’s the best attempt I’ve made all year of interlinking all the problems of today indirectly back to the dominant political agenda.


January 2015

Cynicism Has Had It’s Day


What is Ugly Anyway?


Non-Stop Inertia: A Stuck Record in London

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February 2015

Surfaces of an Unrealised World

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 March 2015

Not Humanly Possible (A4, ink on paper)

Not Humanly Possible

Not Humanly Possible

A Cognitive Austerity (A4, ink on paper)

A Cognitive Austerity  (2015)

A Cognitive Austerity


Another Lonely Night, Stare at TV Screen


April 2015

Stories From Forgotten Space


May 2015

Lost Bus Routes and Pre-Election Rambles from john Ledger on Vimeo.


Five MORE Years… (A4, ink on paper)

Five MORE Years... (2015)

five MORE years…

“I am Here (a Lost Work From 2009)


June 2015

THE LONG NIGHT OF A NEEDLESS STORM (125x100cm, mixed media on paper)

The Long Night of a Needless Storm

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THE LONG NIGHT OF A NEEDLESS STORM


“Hardworking Tax-payers, Inconvenienced” (A4, ink on paper)

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“Hardworking Taxpayers, Inconvenienced”


Pain is Barred an Outlet (A4, ink on paper)

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Pain is Barred an Outlet


July 2015

“Sad, LONELY, Frightened” (A4, ink on paper)

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“Sad, LONELY, Frightened”


Stories From Forgotten Space (book)

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Everybody’s Fracking (95X130cm, mixed media on paper)

Everybody's Fracking

Everybody’s Fracking

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This Is Not a Top Song List: My Life Through Joy Division Tracks


August 2015

The Self [ie] Under Siege  (A4, mixed media on paper)

The Self [ie] Under Siege - By John Ledger

The Self [ie] Under Siege


Lost Summers

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Interview for Art Saves Lives magazine


OneNationTory (2015)

OneNat

OneNationTory


September 2015

“Can We Stop Now, Please?” (A4, mixed media on paper)

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“Can We Stop Now, Please?”


The Big Smoke (and Mirrors): Stories From Forgotten Space from john Ledger on Vimeo.


Images from Voices From The Wilderness exhibition (Sheffield)


Images from Strange Bedfellows exhibition (Barnsley)


October 2015

Manchester and The Morning After (Stories From Forgotten Space) from john Ledger on Vimeo.


Nothing New Under Digital Rain

Untitled


November 2015

Debtland (2015, 110X77cm, mixed media on paper)

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Debtland

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Friday’s Anguish


Artwork for Wear Your Band T-shirt to Work Day (explanation here)

Rubber Ring. Gimme Shelter - Copy

Artwork for Wear Your Band T-shirt to Work Day


Sounds that made up my year…

“the rotten soil of nowhere land”

Tears For Fears – The Hurting (Demo version)

Zomby – Where Were U in 92′

Real McCoy – Runaway (Tory election victory-sting-soother)

The Fall – Frightened

New Order – The Village

Goat – Let it Bleed/Gathering of Ancient Tribes

Sleaford Mods – Double Diamond

Wu Tang Clan  – C.R.E.A.M

Sleaford Mods – Mcflurry

Sleaford Mods – Jobseeker

Sleaford Mods – Tied up in Notts

DMS – vengeance

Sleaford Mods – Teacher Faces Porn Charges

Rufige Kru – Menace

Congress – 40 Miles

Chumbawumba – Tubthumping

Sonz of a Loop Da Loop Era – Far Out

The Chameleons – Don’t Fall/Second Skin – (again)