This evening Rochdale was damp, varying between drizzle and rain, and it was anything but warm.
The crowds however were out in force for the opening of the Gaia Installation and the switching on of the Christmas lights. We were entertained by street theatre with some very impressive drummers and circus skills.
The highlights included an aerial show by an artist suspended from a balloon floating over Riverside and a couple of spectacular peacock puppets.
The lights were lit, the crowds cheered and applauded and the Gaia exhibit spun slowly as hundreds of people looked on and took their photos and selfies of themselves and their children holding up Planet Earth.
The entertainment reached its conclusion and the coffee shops did a roaring trade as people headed home or to the shops. Once again Rochdale had done itself proud.
Today I delivered the first workshop of the Climate Worx project. With a total of six workshop sessions we will look at writing about the climate, climate change, our environment and the world we live in. We’ll draw on our reactions to the Gaia installation opening this Saturday, 20th November, at Number One Riverside in Rochdale and we’ll share our ideas, tips, techniques and stories.
Todays workshop was hosted by Eileen Earnshaw and Falinge Writers, the new group that itself launched just a week ago, with the meeting room provided by Vintage Worx. The Falinge Writers group will meet weekly on Thursday mornings from 10.00 to 12.00. Next week Eileen will deliver her workshop looking at prose poetry.
The group really has got off to a flying start with new faces and some familiar ones and the atmosphere and creativity has been great. The quality and variety of writing is always inspiring and it seems that if you put a dozen people in a room you’ll get at least a baker’s dozen of ideas and approaches. In several examples of writing today, whilst writing about climate change, a theme of cooperation shone through, and that is perhaps the most important value for any group of creatives, whether in writing, art, music or other genres.
The next workshop in the Climate Worx project will take place at Number One Riverside on 2nd December from 10.00 to 12.00 so that we can explore our reactions to seeing the massive impression of our planet close up. Anyone who would like to be part of the group and this project but who can’t make it on the day can message me and I’ll share the notes and prompts for the session which you can use for your own visit.
The end point of the project, but of course not the ideas, writing, discussion and sharing, will be the launch of our pamphlet scheduled for 17th March (St. Patrick’s Day) 2022. We’ll make sure everyone has submission guidelines for the pamphlet and all members of the group will receive free copies.
This afternoon I’ve been making some prints ready for the first ever Touchstones Christmas Market.
This is an artists and makers market so you’ll have a chance to browse and buy goods from local creators who will be happy to tell you about their work
The market will feature arts, crafts and handmade goods just in time for those last Christmas gifts and cards. The market will take place on Saturday 11th and Sunday 11th December and will be open from 10:00am to 4:00pm on both days.
I’ll be bringing a range of greeting cards, hand-pulled prints, photography and books.
I’m sure there will be a great range of products from local creators and it promises be a great event.
Like most people I had been aware of Vincent van Gogh from secondary school onwards. Only after a visit to the National Gallery in London did I come to appreciate his art. On that day in a room full of stunning paintings by Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Degas and Manet there was one painting that, for me, stole the show. That painting was on of Van Gogh’s series of paintings of sunflowers. I’d seen them in books and projected on screens and they hadn’t really impacted me. But on that day in 2003 this painting glowed almost as if it had been backlit, and I stood and looked closely at it before sitting on the bench to soak it in for a while. From that day I understood why Don MacLean had sung about Vincent and I wanted to know more.
Over the next couple of years I was fortunate to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, twice, where I learned a great deal more about the man, his art, his writing and of course his mental health. If he were a musician or a sportsman then you’d call me a fan. With that in mind when we saw the event in Media City advertised we were really keen to go along.
Salford is the latest of 75 cities world-wide to show this Van Gogh Alive multisensory experience that includes projected pictures, quotes and information and lots of moving images and video, all supported by a soundtrack of classical music.
With such a track record we hoped to be impressed. Before entering the main multimedia, exhibit there is a chance to see, and have a photo taken, in a replica of the Bedroom at Arles, made famous by his series of three paintings, where Van Gogh stayed 14 months, including two months when Paul Gaugin stayed and worked alongside him.
Stepping into the large exhibition space the first impression is of being surrounded by the colour palette and brush strokes of Vincent Van Gogh. Seeing the works magnified on the large screens gives a strong feel for his bold brushwork and revolutionary use of colour.
The experience charts his career as a painter which lasted just 9 years until his tragic death, aged 37 in 1890 at Auvers-Sur-Oise. Van Gogh was incredibly prolific, producing over 900 paintings, as well as almost 1300 drawings and sketches on paper. The experience showed a wide range of his work from the very famous self-portraits, his Japanese inspired works, and his works from Belgium, The Netherlands and France.
With projections on the multiple screens, and even on the floor, often simultaneously showing different images, videos and quotations at the same time it pays to move around to view the experience from different positions. A very clever touch is the projection of paintings with some elements animated, e.g. crows flying over the cornfields or petals falling from the blossoming almond tree. A smaller room is filled with artificial sunflowers and with mirrors all around, including the ceiling, creating a powerful impression of being surrounded by the flowers that Van Gogh famously painted.
When leaving the exhibit visitors are invited to have a go at drawing versions Starry Night (in 5 minutes) and Bedroom in Arles (in ten minutes) guided by video demonstrations. Standing drawing in front of lots of people isn’t for everyone but I had one of my favourite fountain pens with me so joined in, drawing so fast is a challenge but it was also fun and there was
Whether you have little or a lot of knowledge of the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh, perhaps one of the most influential modern artists, this experience is at once informative, entertaining, educational and powerfully moving.
Looking at art is good for the human spirit and as Vincent himself wrote “I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”