What do you do? What is Up Projects? How did you get involved?
I am an artist based in Leeds, and it’s not that easy to say what I do, as my work seems to have changed quite a bit in the last year or so. At the minute I seem to be trying to emulate the career path of a comedian, but who is not really even trying to be funny – or successful. But I have done a one-hour stand-up comedy special, hosted my own late-night talk-show, and now working on an eight episode interview series.
I was incredibly fortunate to be selected by UP Projects, an organisation that curates and commissions public art, to produce a new work for their Floating Cinema – a narrowboat that tours the waterways of the UK and moors up for public lm screenings. Somewhat out of the blue, they had an invited me, along with a few other artists to make
a proposal, and was super happy when they selected mine. Never before, have I had an opportunity of this scale.
Explain more about “On the Bench” how and why did you come up with that?
Working in the North of England, and meeting so many people, with so much enthusiasm and dedication to both their own work and to supporting others, I felt it was something I wanted to try and present, or at the very least discuss. Everyone continuing to produce with very limited support or recognition,and with the general difficulties of operating provincially, it felt like something meaningful. It’s a bracket that I would have put myself in, though maybe less so now I’ve actually had this opportunity!
On the Bench seemed like this perfect idea – to just record conversations with people, whilst sat on a bench, unscripted, unprepared even. People with all the talent and motivation, but maybe not quite the opportunities
(I feel) they deserve – particularly in relation to place. But I didn’t have the resources, reason, or platform to do it – until The Floating Cinema came about. It seemed like such serendipity – eight stops, in eight places, along one route – and in Yorkshire too!
Why do you think it’s important to document the work of artists outside of the major art capitals?
Art capitals are wonderful places, but only become that way after being filled up with people from all over the place who are motivated by wanting to contribute to the wider culture. It’s important not to lose sight that it’s all one big system, and that most often, the more exciting and investing things being produced are cultivated on a much more local, and often provincial level. With more and more cuts, and cultural activity being ever less supported, particularly in the smaller towns and cities, I feel there needs to be more effort put into the mutual- support we can offer one another. And which, thankfully, is really starting to take root.
What has it taught you?
Being based in Leeds, it’s very easy to think of yourself as cut off from the larger ‘artworld’ (for want of a better word), but the process of researching and engaging with activity in even more remote places, has been both humbling and eye opening. It’s made me very grateful for the number of institutions and organisations who operate in Leeds, but also envious of the really strong local support networks I’ve witnessed as part of this project.
What have you discovered about Doncaster?
Having the route of The Floating Cinema dictate the order and locations for
each episode of On the Bench, from Sheffield to Hull, it quickly became clear just how the development of the waterways, particularly in this region, had been on the whole country, and even to the industrialisation of the world. And it really seems like Doncaster is at the heart of it all.
What should people expect from the Floating cinema experience?
I think it’s going to be a really special thing. The waterways don’t have the presence and significant that they once did, and as much as there are still communities who live and work on the waterways, it is something many of us don’t have much access to. It’s exciting to give them this new use, and to also present a feature lm programme which is really amazing.