We finished the latest exhibition at 4pm in St Martin in the Bull Ring on Tuesday 29 November, with the final poetry workshop by the very excellent poet Penny Hewlett. It was a lively group of poets that gathered around Penny. The theme was Moving Away, a fitting end to some quite powerful and emotional workshops run by Penny, to fit in with the A Graceful Death themes of loss, bereavement, hope and life. This workshop was also powerful and emotional. It is inevitable, when anyone is asked to work on their experiences of grief and loss, and to celebrate the life of those who have died, that it isn't going to be just a jolly moment or two of recollection. Penny aims to get poetry out of the situation, and the work she encouraged from her workshops is very strong. There will be a small booklet of the poems when Penny gets them all together and printed. I for one, can't wait. I love the poetry and responses from those that take part in the exhibition. It is tremendously moving to read what people can write, and I always include any poetry in the exhibition as it tours.
So, Birmingham is done and dusted. I am home, with all the paintings and assorted AGD stuff back in the studio. Our next venue is the old and famous church St James's in Piccadilly, in mid March to about the 10 April. I will post more on that as we organise it.
Birmingham. What happened in Birmingham, and how did it go down? It went down well. I met some good people, and heard some interesting stories. I was there for the beginning, and there for the end, and realise that I really do need to be there all the time. The paintings and the words are powerful and moving, and it is not enough to leave people to move around in the exhibition without someone available to talk to. If either I or someone who understands the exhibition are not there, something is missing. I understood from this exhibition in St Martins, that the whole experience of AGD is the human contact. It is about the human condition of life, death and life again. To have lost someone, to have felt that grief and anger and bleakness, to have come through it all and to have survived the experience of bereavement is truly life changing. The paintings and poetry and prose in the exhibition touches us all again, and we resonate with the messages and images. We understand the whole thing, it relates deeply to our experience and that - that is where someone needs to be standing in the exhibition, ready to be a warmly human, and to listen and be there. If I could manage it, there would always be tea and cake for everyone to provide instant contact with the present, and to provide comfort. The exhibition acts and a sounding board for those who need to speak, it acts as a spring board for those who want to go away and do something about their feelings (I mean something healing, like poetry, praying, art, speaking, and so on). For the two weeks that I was not present at the exhibition, I feel that people may have found it difficult and confusing. But, Penny was there for her workshops over one of the Saturdays, and that has been very positive.
I am going to take a few weeks to assess the next steps for AGD. We are so very lucky to be showing over Easter at St James's in Piccadilly. Both Eileen and I want to make it a memorable time for everyone, and we hope to grow our ideas of workshops and related talks and discussions. Penny, our AGD Poet will be there. Eileen will have her films and recordings, and we hope that Neill Blume will have finished our film about the creative processes behind the exhibition, and the effects that it has on those who are being painted. Eileen and I have tentatively asked a wonderfully creative friend if she would consider doing some Dance and Drama workshops around the exhibition, and we have also asked our friend Stuart (who is painted in the exhibition alongside his wife Sue, and some of Sue's writings, before her suicide in 2008) to consider doing some work with us on the subject of suicide. Eileen is producing her book, and we hope to have that for the next exhibition. I have ideas too about asking certain people to give talks on subjects alongside AGD.
In the meantime, Eileen is coming to stay this weekend, and we have a working weekend ahead. We will be meeting with people who may be able to help us tomorrow, and on Sunday we are meeting the next person to be painted. We are having lunch with her, and Eileen will photograph her. We have done the interview, but may do another. This lady, Sarah, has not only survived bereavement, but has survived cancer too. She hates the word Survivor, so I won't use it for her. Her story and her thoughts are very interesting and a bit different - she is a strong lady.
I would like, before I go, to thank an extremely kind lady that I met on the Soul Midwife course. Her name is Storm, and she sent a donation to A Graceful Death on her return home, and has asked for us to come to Glastonbury where she lives. Thank you Storm, thank you! You are a star. And yes, we will come to Glastonbury and it will be lovely to see you again.
In the meantime, much to think about. But after another pot of tea and some more cake. And, Tuesday 29 November is Steve's anniversary. The exhibition came down on the anniversary of his death in 2007.