Friday, 21 December 2012

FLASH FICTION, GUEST AUTHOR: Fairytale of New Holland - by Loz Harvey



‘It was Christmas Eve babe, in the drunk tank...’
 
The jukebox could hardly be heard over the murk in the Magna Charta pub. Another Christmas Eve dodging drunks on the dockside, all full of hooch and ammunition and a year’s worth of pent-up pot-luck. The factory had closed at lunchtime and the team had spilled up the streets into the pub.
 
Now, glancing out on the debris of a late night badly in need of a refit, Jaynie wondered which of the wannabe Shane MacGowans she’d be fighting off later. None of them knew the words, but they’d got the impression down-pat, she thought. Cocksure, toothless, swaying their way towards closing time with a soundtrack of Slade and The Rubettes.
 
Every Christmas had been the same for as long as Jaynie could remember. Since the ferry stopped. It was the 80s, but could have been last week. “I can see a better time, when all our dreams come true,” he’d said on the pier, off to art college.
 
She had been 14 then, waving on the shoreline as the ferry made its last voyage to the city of vinegar and chips, now just a dim collection of lights best viewed half-cut at the edge of the timber yard. She waited a while for him to return, but the land crossing was inconvenient, he’d said, and involved three changes. He still loved her, but it was the train company’s fault. Thatcher’s fault. So she was stuck at the Magna Charta with the lads who couldn’t afford to be anywhere else. They were neither handsome, nor pretty. She could be the queen of New York City, or Sheba, or New Holland as much as they cared. As long as she pulled the pints and made sandwiches for the pool team.
 
The singing reached an inebriated crescendo. Men were bellowing Kirsty Macoll’s part as if being an old slut on junk had never been so alluring. Scumbags, maggots and cheap lousy faggots hugged each other in the stale lounge bar.
 
“I could have been someone,” Jaynie thought, “And not just anyone,” as one of the fabricators made an ill-calculated move and knocked himself out on the slops tray.
 
Teeth dislodged, he hauled himself up by the rope of the last orders bell, while singing Galway Bay. He grinned and said something unintelligible. Jaynie took a second look and released it was him. Older, bleaker, drunker, merrier. But him.
 
And the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day.

 

 

‘Fairytale of New Holland’ was first published in Article Magazine in December 2008 and featured in the 2010 Fathom Press Anthology. Loz Harvey lives in Sheffield and writes the blog Articulated: Laurie.

Friday, 7 December 2012

FLASH FICTION: With An Unbeliever On A December Afternoon



I wrote this for the fifth anniversary of Joe Strummer's death. It was originally published in Article Magazine in December 2007. Seems a long time ago.



He said his name was Strummer.

I asked, what was he doing on top of a multi-storey car park in Scunthorpe? He shrugged, asked if I had a cigarette. Leaning into the lit match, he swayed forward and held my arm to steady himself. ‘You can smell the fish and chip shop from up here.’

‘Really?’ I said.

‘No, you can.’ He steered me to face the wind and told me to wait. ‘Only if it blows in the right direction.’ For a moment, I swear there was the faintest whiff of vinegar on the raw breeze, then it was gone in a gust of steelworks sulphur. ‘Did you get it?’ He said. ‘Love that smell – saveloy and chips.’ He flicked the fag end away and the wind took it in a shower of embers. ‘Gotta love a saveloy, man.’ He punched me on the arm and laughed.

‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘gotta love a saveloy’.

He eyed my carrier bag. I offered it and he helped himself to the pasty I’d bought for later. He took a beer from the bag. ‘You don’t mind…?’ He wiped his fingers on the arse of his Levis, opened the can as he walked to the edge and looked over. ‘It’s a long drop.’

‘I know,’ I said.

In the years since that bitter day in December 2002 - a day like this one with its emptiness and dread, I’d had questions. About the things he’d said, the gritty, important things, the politics, the honesty, integrity; had he meant it or cared in the way I did when he’d said it? He’d sent me down a path and as it was going so wrong, I wanted to know.

He looked out across the rooftops. ‘Listen son, don’t tell anyone about me being up here.’

I said I’d keep shtum.

He came back to the bag, swapped his empty tinny for a full one. I took one for myself. We dinked cans and wished each other all the best. I looked at my watch. I was late.

Did he want a lift anywhere? He said not.

My car wasn’t parked where I thought so I made another circuit under the CCTV’s eye. As I came back to where we’d parted, the door to the stairwell slammed shut, rousting pigeons. Sometimes, especially on days like these, you just have to keep faith.




(c) Nick Triplow 2007

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Young Mod's Forgotten Story Part Four: Beat Surrender

My 'retained' ticket - note crap seat
It’s a cold December night thirty years ago. The tube to Wembley Park is packed. A load of mods and a fair few bemused and slightly edgy looking commuters. Especially when a ‘We are the mods’ chant goes up. Works its way down the carriage. There’s a bunch of us tonight, met up at Charing Cross.
 
Let’s get this straight, I’m more than pissed off. Since the news broke at the end of October and I bought my ticket – that oh so precious ticket – tonight’s left me with mixed feelings. I had a couple of large ones in the Maxwell before catching the train. So The Jam are splitting up. That’s it, end of. Weller released a cobbled together statement, a ‘personal goodbye’. It hardly seems enough to cover what this feels like. It’s been personal. A code to live by, a band taking your life and putting it into words and music.
 
Tonight feels like I’m about to lose something important, and somehow there’s a sense of knowing I won’t get it back.
 
At the end of this year the Jam will officially be splitting up, as I feel we have achieved all we can together as a group. I mean this both musically and commercially. I want all we achieved to count for something and most of all I’d hate for us to end up old and embarrassing like so many other groups do. The longer a group continues, the more frightening the thought of it ever ending becomes – that’s why so many of them carry on until they become meaningless. I’ve never wanted the Jam to get to this stage.
 
What we (and you) have built up has meant something, for me it stands for honesty, passion and energy and youth. I want it to stay that way and maybe exist as a guideline for new young groups coming up to improve and expand on. This would make it even more worthwhile.
 
I have written this as a direct contact with you and so you hear it from us first. But also to say thank you for all the faith you have shown in us and the building of such a strong force and feeling that all three of us have felt and been touched by.
 
Here’s to the future,
In love and friendship.
Paul Weller (Oct. 1982)
 
NME - November 1982
I can’t honestly say I remember much about the gig. There are snapshots: Stuart Adamson’s Big Country supporting: The Jam coming on: Strange Town: trying to get closer to the front: falling out with and losing my girlfriend and mates in the crowd somewhere: the end: walking back to the tube, cold, empty: eventually making my own way home.
 
A few days later some of my mates went down to Brighton for the last gig. I thought about it, but had some bridges to build and I didn't fancy going through the whole thing again. Turned out to be a smart move.
 
 
 
Thirty years on. Well, for the record I sorted it out with my girlfriend – a Beatles-themed ‘We Can Work it Out’ sorry I was an idiot card a few days later. But I was right about one thing, something did go when The Jam split up. I suppose I grew up a bit. There were no more dashes down to Our Price or Smiths or The Spinning Disc for the new single or the new album. No more obsessively collecting magazines and bootlegs. Top of the Pops became marginally less exciting. A lot more geezers in make-up and Dorothy Perkins blouses.
 
But the truth is, I’ve never stopped listening to The Jam - I'm listening now as I write this. I read that statement again and realise Weller was never more on the money than when he made that decision. I want all we’ve achieved to count for something. It did. It does. All the more so for never giving into reunions and million quid comebacks. Sometimes you need to know when to walk away and with all the Abbey Road specials, BBC4 Weller nights, re-issues and Gift retrospectives, there’s a few perfect moments –  memories that hold tight to that sense of honesty and integrity that The Jam seemed to stand for. I took what I could, then moved on.
 
 

Days of speed and slow time Mondays -
Pissing down with rain on a boring Wednesday -
Watching the news and not eating your tea -
A freezing cold flat and damp on the walls -

that's entertainment.

 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Taking a Fresh Look at Oral History

Summit Fishcakes, Hull, 1959

Last week saw the first of three new Life-Writing workshops at Caistor's 28 Plough Hill Gallery. It's a course I enjoy putting together and teaching, especially as it encourages people to think about their own experiences. Earlier this year, those journo-types at the Hull Daily Mail asked me to write a piece about oral history, specificially why I think it's important to give prominence to those corners of our past that mainstream media and academic study tends to shy away from. In the end, it's all about telling stories.
 
 
PROJECT TO SHED NEW LIGHT ON THE LIFESTYLE OF CITY'S WORKERS
 
A shortcoming of traditional history is that it tends to focus attention on the recording of momentous historical events. As a writer and researcher, this means you risk overlooking the most important aspect of history: the everyday life experiences of ordinary people, those who rarely have the opportunity for their voices to be heard.
 
With the new project Pattie Slappers – Stories from the golden age of Hull’s food processing industry we’ll look to use traditional historical research and bring it together with oral history – the words, memories and distinctive language of those who lived through the best times and the years of decline of an important part of local industry. We’ll look to shed light on the unique lifestyle, work and culture of generations of the city’s workers.
 
I’m indebted to those who come forward and freely re-visit memories and tell their stories. The interviews we’ve undertaken so far have already helped to promote a realistic appreciation of a way of life and a level of hardship it is difficult to imagine. At the same time we also hope to address some of the myths and stereotypes which have informed our understanding of this period in Hull’s history.
 
The main inspiration for this work, or at least that which inspires me most, is that which was pioneered by the British documentary movement of the 1930s and 40s. Particularly the way that John Grierson and the ground-breaking Post Office Film Unit brought the lives of working class people to a mass audience for the first time. Most people have seen the film Night Mail featuring Grierson's reading of the WH Auden poem written to accompany the film.
 
Oral history recognises that all memories are a mixture of fact and opinion. We know that memories are by their nature selective or can become hazy over time, and of course people may be influenced by stories heard or read later, perhaps remembering only the most extreme aspects or emphasising the importance of their role in a particular event. Where possible, we cross-reference and verify events – not always easy when the industry is all but gone and there’s a paucity of formal research from which to draw.
 
But most importantly, the interviews we undertake for the Pattie Slappers Project will provide people with the opportunity to make sense of their own experiences as individuals. In bringing them together under one cover in a book and an exhibition at the city's Streetlife Museum, we'll show how we value their contribution to the city’s social and economic history.
 
 
The Pattie Slappers project interviews are completed and we have some great material. Time now to edit the interviews for the book and exhibition in spring 2013.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

THE SKINTS - Rise Up




This really is too good not to share. Anyone who has a fondness for the sound of Two-Tone, of old school ska, and who has ever thought, music ain't what it used to be. This is what it used to be and more. And it's new, released earlier this summer.


 
 
 
The Skints are from north east London, young and clued in. They look great and they sound great. Their album Part & Parcel was released in April. It's totally on the money, without doubt the best new music I heard in 2012. Produced by Mike 'Prince Fatty' Pelanconi, a veteran of sessions with, among others Gregory Isaacs, Dub Syndicate and Graham Coxon.
 
See what you think.
 
 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

EVENT: Hull Noir at the History Centre

 
 
Hull's History Centre has opened its doors to Caffeine Nights authors for an afternoon in December. Saturday 1st December to be precise. I'll be lining up with Nick Quantrill and Alfie Robins, reading, showing films and pictures and giving it some yuletide crime storytelling.
 
With the Frank's Wild Years season approaching, here's an opportunity to take time out from shopping and spend a couple of hours experiencing what a friend recently described as 'Jackanory for grown-ups'.
 
It's a new initiative for the History Centre, looking to support local writing and encourage people into an amazing architectural space. And if shopping is your thing, what better than a signed copy of one of 2012's top indie titles?
 
For full info, contact Hull History Centre on 01482 317500.
 
 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Humber Beat: Fiction and Films of the Festival Season

 
 
With the publication of Frank's Wild Years in March this year, I've had a dozen or so opportunities to take the book on the road, for readings, book groups, libraries and in the last couple of months literary festivals. Usually on the fringes, but pretty much without exception a welcoming and enthusiastic audience, eager to hear new writing and interested in the how? and why? of what it takes to make half a living from writing.
 
Hull author, Nick Quantrill and myself have developed a series of self-contained presentations - of our own work, of short films by the brilliant Hull film maker, Dave Lee and of talks that, for example, make the links between the Dickens' social realist stories and modern crime writing. Look at the themes, the characters and the underlying story of Oliver Twist. Would it be marketed as a crime novel if it were published today?
 
Recently, as part of North East Lincolnshire's Filter Festival we teamed up with another Hull author, Russ Litten for an event at Cleethorpes Library. We were hoping to repeat the event at Caistor's 28 Plough Hill last Friday. It didn't come off, but for the good people of Caistor and anyone unable to get to the events, Dave Lee's films are available to view on Youtube.
 
The first is a short film based on the opening of Nick Quantrill's first Joe Geraghty novel, Broken Dreams. The film, made for this year's Humber Mouth festival, takes the theme of Hard Times and Great Expecations; Hull is on the cusp of change and the film superbly evokes the city and its docks, the would-be, might-be and never-could-be of life by the Humber.
 
 
 
The second film, The Last Job of the Night, is an extract from Russ Litten's 2011 novel Scream If You Want To Go Faster.  Set in 2007 in the aftermath of the floods that made great swathes of the city's population homeless (including Nick Quantrill), the novel creates a finely judged narrative from a tapestry of interconnected characters. It has an Altmanesque sense of the passing relationships of people sharing the same space at the same time: the last weekend of Hull Fair. The language is direct; these are people you recognise, people you know. Last Job of the Night is based on a true story - Litten's words and the reading of Jon Strickland tell it far better than I can.
 
 
 
 
Nick Quantrill's Joe Geraghty novels Broken Dreams and The Late Greats are published by Caffeine Nights, available on Amazon. Scream If You Want To Go Faster is available online and from most decent bookshops. Litten's second novel, Swear Down is published by Tindall Street early in 2013. (Judging by the extract he read in Cleethorpes, it'll be high on the post-Xmas wanted list.) Finally, Frank's Wild Years is still available from the usual places or by contacting me directly.
 
 
 

Sunday, 30 September 2012

ME AND MY MOTOR - Frank Neaves

Cortina MkIII 2000E - Frank's Motor

Earlier this year, the nice people at the Hull Daily Mail asked me to contribute to their 'Me & My Motor' section. It didn't start well. I told them my first car was a knackered Vespa 90. 'That's not a car,' they said. 'Stick to four wheels, preferably one at each corner,' they said. 
 
So I gave them my list of second-hand crates: the 1977 Datsun Cherry, the Fiesta with holes in the floor, the Volvo with stuff growing in it ... I could've gone on, but the look of Clarkson-style contempt suggested they'd got the message. Which was when I pulled the chair a bit closer and leaned in, 'Tell you what,' I said, 'if you're interested, I know a bloke who might have what you're looking for.' 
 
I can't say Frank wasn't happy about it. He's keeping a low profile at the moment, but once I'd managed to find him, he came round. He usually does. 
 
 
1. What do you drive?
 
Last thing I owned outright was a Rover 75, maroon, leather seats, walnut dash, but that was a while back. It got a dent in it. These days if I need a car I tend to ...er borrow one.

2. What was your first car?
 
A Mark II Cortina 1600E, metallic silver. They used to say you could break in with a lolly stick, which apparently someone did. Never saw it, or them, again.

3. What was your best car and why?
 
A Mark III Cortina 2000E. Midnight blue with a vinyl roof and an 8-track player for me Motown Chartbusters. 

. . . and your worst car and why?
 
When the first Cortina got pinched, I had a Hillman Minx for a while, bought it for £20 from a bloke in Catford. Felt like a right dick, you could do nought-to-sixty in about three weeks.
 
4. Do you consider yourself to be a good driver?
 
Back in the day I was solid. Not the best, but I never got caught, put it that way.

5. Have you ever had a crash? If so, what happened?
 
Not a crash exactly, there was one time though about three in the morning on the south circular, but that was more what you’d call an ‘enforced stop’.

6. What do you keep in your glovebox?

A first aid kit and a bible. If the first one don’t work, always handy to have the second one.
 
7. What drives you mad behind the wheel?
 
Drivers with no manners.

8. What music do you drive to?
 
Strictly a classic soul man these days. Mavis Staples for the quiet days and crank it up with some Otis or Wilson Pickett.

9. Who would be your perfect passenger?
 
One who knows how to keep his trap shut.
 
10. What’s the craziest thing you have ever done in a car?
 
Give a ride to someone who didn’t keep his trap shut.

11. Who cleans your car, and how often?

When I’ve got one, I do. Back in the day when I was driving for a living, chauffering for Mr Schiller I’d do it every day. Inside and out. Spotless.
 
*
 
I'll be reading from Frank's Wild Years and talking about Ted Lewis, crimewriting and social-realist writing across the Humber region along with Mr Nick Quantrill (The Late Greats and Broken Dreams) in THE HUMBER BEAT at Ilkley Fringe Festival this Tuesday, 2nd October at Ilkley Playhouse. We're on at 9pm.
 
 


Frank's Wild Years - available from selected Waterstones,
online at Amazon, Waterstones or by e-mailing me direct

 
 
"An urban masterpiece; riveting from first to last. Nick Triplow is the true successor to Ted Lewis."
Mike Hodges, Director - Get Carter
 
 
"Frank's Wild Years is simply stunning. A brilliant character study, a gripping gangster story and an incredibly moving examination of friendship, family, loyalty and loss."
Paul D Brazill
 
 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

NEW SINGLE: 'Mutiny on the Thames' - Pope

 
 
 
 

Erstwhile Chords guitarist and songwriting mainstay, Chris Pope has been busy. With his band Pope, he's recorded a new single - Mutiny on the Thames. It's probably a bit brassier - in every sense -  than your favourite Chords three minutes, but swapping powerpop for politics brings out the best in Pope and brings to mind the Redskins in their prime.

 
Either way, it rocks and lays it on the line. And hey, it's not every day a bloke whose songs you've admired for 30+ years drops you a line to tell you about a new one!
 
 
 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

EVENT: The Humber Beat at Ilkley Festival Fringe


 
A heads up for an event taking place as part of the Ilkley Festival fringe on 2nd October. Mr Quantrill and myself will be taking a late drive down the M62 to present 'The Humber Beat' an hour of readings from novels and short stories and discussion about the city and its impact on crime writing.
 
Our session is free that evening - we'll be following on from the paid event with 'The Dark Winter' author, David Mark.
 
 
 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

SHORT STORY: 'Shane MacGowan's Coat' in BEAT THE DUST - Made in Sheffield edition

'He shoved him in number six and slammed the door.
MacGowan told him he was a paddy-bashing bastard.'

Melissa Mann's Beat The Dust is an online magazine dedicated to bringing new writing into the world. An invitation to contribute to the Made In Sheffield edition - curated and introduced by the estimable Mr Simon Crump - was not to be missed.
 
Based on an article in The Independent some four years ago, over the years I'd written and re-written the short story Shane MacGowan's Coat more times than I care to remember. It had never quite come together in the way I wanted it. For Beat The Dust, I started again and here it is, finished and in full.
 
It's difficult to remember just what an impact The Pogues had in a post-punk world; seeing the band in the mid-80s, as many will testify, was a riot. A beacon of real music in a sea of synthpop and gated snare drums. I was lucky enough to see them a few times, including a St Patrick's night gig at the Town & Country Club in 1988. Possibly the roughest moshpit I was ever in, but one of those nights you're just glad you were there.


I've just checked my original notes and the piece in the Independent, 'When Shane Met Katie', was written by James Fearnley. Katie Melua had taken on the thankless task of replicating Kirsty MacColl on Fairytale of New York. It was published in 2005, which makes this pretty much the longest gestation period of any short story I've ever written. Maybe that's because it meant the most.
 
 

Monday, 10 September 2012

BOOK NEWS: THICK AS THIEVES: Personal Situations with The Jam

THICK AS THIEVES: Published on 20 September

 
Having Spent a hefty chunk of the last five years interviewing people about their working lives and unique experiences for social history purposes, it's something of a culture shock to see a book that treats an ever present from my own cultural past in the same way.
 
The track Thick As Thieves from 1979's Setting Sons just about nailed what it was like to be part of a gang, knowing it couldn't last forever. Keeping that spirit on the road, Stewart Debill and Ian Snowball's new book trawls the archives and conducts new interviews with anyone connected with The Jam, the people who worked with them live and on record and those who followed them from Sheerwater Secondary School to Brighton Arena.
 
 
 
 
I've written elsewhere on this blog about the impact Weller and The Jam had on me as a teenager growing up in the suburbs in the late 70s/early 80s. [Check The Young Mod's Forgotten Story Parts 2 and 3] Here Debill and Snowball have the blessing of Weller - he provides the foreword  - and Foxton and Buckler, who both contribute their own memories.
 
The rest of the assembled cast include fans, producers, designers, hangers-on, mates and pretty much anyone prepared to commit their thoughts to tape and print. Complete with photos and archive material, this is first and foremost a fanbook. Initially published in a limited print run earlier in the year, there has clearly been enough support to justify a full scale launch. It's available to pre-order from amazon for £6.99
 
 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

CREATIVE WRITING: Short Story Course - Caistor Arts & Heritage Centre


 
"I remember wanting to do something about that enormous-faced wristwatch she was wearing — perhaps suggest that she try wearing it around her waist."
J D Salinger - For Esme ~ With Love and Squalor
 
 
There is something magical about the short story form. I think it's that you can do pretty much anything with it, malleable within a nominal framework of a piece you can read in a single sitting - if you adopt Edgar Allan Poe's formula. It's also unlikely to make you a fortune - not that it ever did, which means by and large you write short stories because you want to, because it suits you, because you have something to say and the desire to get it said.
 
'The short story, I should point out, is perforce a labor of love in today's literary world; there's precious little economic incentive to write one...'
Lawrence Block, Manhattan Noir
 
 
Coming up with stories and angles for a new series of workshops for Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre, starting this Thursday evening, I had the task of working through a box file full of collected stories, dog-eared photocopies and well-read favourites. And that was before looking for new angles; I wanted to include something that could loosely be termed 'genre fiction' this time around. There are the 'moment in time' stories, the 'time condensed' stories - a life told in a thousand words; chance meetings and un-meetings; lives broken and redeemed. Idiot stories; stories that bend convention so far it disappears up its own metaphor. But what still gives me that thrill is the sense of possibility the short story offers.
 
 
'I have a three-by-five up there with this fragment of a sentence from a story by Chekhov: “…and suddenly everything became clear to him.” I find these words filled with wonder and possibility. I love their simple clarity, and the hint of revelation that’s implied.'
Raymond Carver - Principles of a story

It's fundamental for me, in designing a course, to offer the opportunity to examine the craft at work in the short story. For anyone who has written a little or nothing at all, or for the writer with some experience, exploring the skills needed to place the first words on a blank page with a deeper understanding of the 'how and why'  brings with it greater confidence. The course provides the tools and some well-practised tricks of the trade. From there it's up to you.
 
Short Story Writing: 28 Plough Hill, Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre, Thursday evenings 7pm-9pm - 13, 20, 27 September and 4, 11, 18 October. £60 for the 6-week course. Call 01472 851605 to book.
 
 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

VISUAL ARTS: GILL HOBSON – Questions of Light, Time and Space

Light Lines Series No.3 - Gill Hobson

Gill Hobson is an artist who refuses to be complacent. Constantly challenging herself in her artistic practice, at the heart of her work is a ringing consistency of ideas: of time, place, space and light and how to unify them to create work that speaks to our contemporary world and ways of living.
 
Known best for intricate pieces in glass and metal – imagine the most elaborate peacock’s tail in glass and filigreed metal – that work was concerned with patterns of surface, colour, light and tactility and, for Gill, trying to make sense through making, arrangements and forms. ‘I developed a particular approach and style to using those materials that is about this location, here in Northern Lincolnshire, but I felt I was only speaking about a tiny area of what fascinates and motivates me in being an art-maker and researcher.’
 
In 2007, Gill embarked on a Masters in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University. It marked a change of direction and renewed her commitment to developing her artistic practice. ‘I began to use film and media technology to explore the idea of pattern and place. I wanted to engage more theoretical and physical concerns – it’s all linked to higher education and doing my masters, but that in itself is fundamental to my desire to develop as an artist.’
 
The opportunity to study gave Gill the space to think, to challenge ways of thinking and doing, and to find a new artistic and theoretical voice. ‘As you get older, things happen and you change as a person. Your work changes and reflects your life experience. So when I went back to college it was with that in mind. I needed to keep being excited about art and its opportunities.’
 
Now working towards a doctorate, Gill constantly re-fuels this process through research and artistic investigation. The glass and metalwork led to commissions to work in an arts and health context, particularly mental health. ‘I became interested in the way art enhances health environments and how important environment is to wellbeing. It’s about those ideas of people, place and space and the dynamic between those three – that’s what’s been driving my work.’
 
Once these ideas found their voice, firstly at a major project at Sandfield House in Scunthorpe with a group of people recovering from mental health issues, then in Gill’s own practice, she was determined to take it a stage further. The new work became less about physically constructing and assembling materials; more about using film, sound and photography to articulate ideas about person and place. Gill road tested the films at Grimsby’s Abbey Walk Gallery, then in Dublin with an academic audience.
 
‘People reacted in different ways. My films aren’t really films in a conventional narrative sense, they’re more like collages. They’re about taking time, pausing and opening up a space for the audience to engage with the work. Because it’s a moving image it evolves in front of you. You lose yourself in that that action and movement, it’s durational.’
‘Their hypnotic quality creates space for pause and contemplation and peace. So they’re not conceived to be hypnotic, but because of their nature, they are. They’re about that pause and the opportunity to join in and lose yourself in the work.’
One elderly viewer was suffering from dementia found the films engendered a sense of peace and calm. She’d been getting angry about her condition, her loss of memory, but she found them peaceful and uplifting.’
 
Another viewer – this time a Slovakian woman in her early thirties –  found the film 100 Moments reminded her of sleeping  at her grandmother’s house as a child. ‘She’d switch the light out and be on her own in a room with the sodium glow of the streetlights and the gentle movement of the curtains. It was something she hadn’t thought about in twenty-five years. That’s what the films do: produce a space for that to happen; that’s the important thing about them being durational, it opens up a space in time, without interruption, for the experience to take place.’


Moment 44 - from 100 moments by Gill Hobson.
Click the image to link to the film
Gill’s films are hypnotically watchable. Given the acceptance that this is a piece of art worth an investment of time –  the shortest is around three minutes –  keep the sound low and you find yourself drawn into the space where Gill’s ‘conditions of pause’ have a chance of being realised. ‘At the Dublin conference earlier in the summer, the focus was on how we respond to architectural space through light, how light describes the spaces we occupy and how access to natural light is an important aspect of human experience. It was an academic audience and they got into this idea that this was a time to lose yourself in something, but also to engage with something – that change of tempo, of movement, of rhythm, in thought processes. You have to sit still, you have to give them your attention. If you do, you’ll be rewarded.’
The temporal aspect of the work is important, a reflection of the artist’s disconnection with time. ‘Sometimes, I don’t notice time passing. I don’t know what time of day it is when I’m working, when I’m drawn into the pace of contemporary life. This is especially true when you work with technology. The films explore the conflict, the imbalance between the rhythms of natural time and constructed time – the time of deadlines, responses, all the stuff that goes on in our technological lives, we’re still located in natural time, of days and seasons, changes in light and space.’
 
 
If anything, Gill’s work has become even more involved with articulating ideas in different registers and with various technologies.  She is aware of the contradiction between the natural and the technological. ‘We live in a technological world and I’m not a luddite. But I still need to work through ideas in the physical world, making and working with my hands.  Co-ordinating ideas and thought processes into a physical object for me is a way of physical thinking. Bringing something into being from nothing gives you time and space to make mistakes and distil information that relates to other forms of art making. The art making process is really important.’
 
With the new exhibition at Caistor’s 28 Plough Hill Gallery opening on 1 September, Gill is exhibiting several  new studies for larger pieces of work. ‘They’re about architectural space and place and the patterns and rhythms in space, so I’m using a lot of architectural detailing and coloured elements that respond to light. In these pieces I wanted to strip out the decorative elements, the distracting elements, and keep them very clean, very simple, to enable that conversation about time, light, space and duration.’
 
Having developed a set of ideas, and aesthetics, it is important for Gill to be able to give them physical form.  ‘The pieces respond to space and to the light in that space. So if it’s a dull day, they’ll look one way, if it’s a bright day they’ll look different with the passing of the day, and time of year.’  
 
Light Lines Series No.2 Detail - Gill Hobson
The new pieces are a response to the earlier work – those complex forms in glass and metal – and the realisation that most of the audience were engaging with the work in a different way to the artist. ‘People looked at the pieces; they didn’t look at the light from the pieces. I always looked at the light, the shadow, the changing dynamic of the light. But for the audience, the piece became the object. They were engaged with the object and no matter how many times I talked about the space, the light, the time of day, unless people acquired a piece and lived with it and realised it for themselves, they never got that sense of how transformational they were.’
 
‘With these new pieces, I’ve tried to make that more evident by stripping out many of the surface qualities and complexities and a lot of the extraneous elements that were perhaps encouraging people to focus on the piece and getting lost in the detail. I’ve tried to open up a space for people to see them in different way.’
 
The new work is clearly influence by Gill’s film and photography of architectural space. ‘I’ve spent two years photographing light around my home and having a record of how places change over time, how light falls over surfaces, turning them into something of remarkable and rare beauty in just a moment when the light hits. That’s in this new work, architecture and wallpaper and coloured light, the light through your curtains and the different qualities of light.’
 
‘One of the things I’m trying to do with this new work is not to put everything into every piece. Each piece is engaging with a particular idea, not all my ideas. Its focus is on one area of interest and seeing how it works out. It wasn’t my intention to do that, but it was developed out of engagement with other mediums, photography and light. For all of us light is a constant, it has a diurnal rhythm, and we can get very out of sync with that truth.’
 
Gill Hobson’s exhibition of new work is on at 28 Plough Hill Gallery, Caistor, from 1-30 September. For info:  www.28ploughhill.co.uk or www.gillhobson.com