As we have gone deeper into and now begin slowly emerging from lockdown, it seems that everything and little has changed. As we drive fractionally greater distances from our homes and towns, we are seeing surroundings afresh and they seem to hold new promise. But world events and evident local needs remind us that many things also remain. As the world continues to move at a pace and we try to steady ourselves in our locked down stillness, we are making time to reflect, time to plan and time to act.
We approached the start of lockdown with a sense of bemused energy; was this really happening, how could we respond creatively and meaningfully in the face of social inequality and the prospect of imposed isolation, and with the intention to quickly adapt, connect and continue. We questioned our embedded practice and felt alienated from the locale in which our work is based. As time went on, we discovered a whole new digital locale that has opened up our conversations and has also opened us up to each other as we found a new honesty, openness and empathy via Zoom, and have been struck by people's willingness to share and connect beyond levels we would encounter in the room.
We have at times seen audiences, staff, artists and board members open up about the challenges they are experiencing in lockdown, around health, wellbeing, anxiety, childcare, grief, and this has served as a powerful reminder of the experiences that connect us, and breaking down the perceived separation of organisation and audiences - a more integrated, embedded approach.
But we remain very aware of continued and deepening inequalities and our privilege in working and speaking here. We have been reminded recently that creativity must go hand in hand with uncovering if it is to bring about change. We find in our partnership work that the bridging of these elements is often challenging, always interesting and that it is important that we don't lose sight of this. As an arts origination working across sectors, community groups and disciplines, our impact is greatest when we bring creativity into a process of revealing, questioning and amplifying a diversity of voices and opinions.
So far in lockdown, our Testing Ground series of talking events has come to be the main activity and have shown us that providing a safe space for at times uncomfortable mass conversations lies at the heart of our practice. Digital Talking Society, with, Building Bridges Pendle and The People Speak, is a weekly mass conversation on Zoom that gives a platform for dialogue and diverse viewpoints around themes relevant to Pendle communities. So far in lockdown, these have included exploring grief and dying, local provision and distribution during lockdown and nature and wellbeing, in which we have been joined by 89 diverse voices. We will be continuing with these regular talking events and are planning series exploring Racism, health, ecology and landscape and businesses and the future of work, where we will also be sharing research by Associate Artist Andy Abbott on his Dreamworks project, and future economies.
Other events that we are currently planning and which will take us into early autumn are: A Digital Gathering - a month of talking events and in-conversations 'on' Pendle Hill, with art, ecology, community and landscape in the mix. These events will ask questions about our relationship to the Pendle landscape and hear from artists about projects they are mid-way through about working in collaboration with ecologists, farmers, landowners and volunteers. We are looking forward to hearing from Kerry Morrison about navigating her Pendle Peat Pie project in lockdown and being estranged from the hill where she and ecologist Sarah Robinson have lead the planting of sphagnum moss to enable peat restoration. And also Isabella Martin as she embarks upon a remote project looking at the traditional boundaries around Pendle Hill, and restoration of dry stone walls.
Lonely Arts Club - at the start of lockdown we set up an online community for mainly Lancashire artists to meet, and to offer support, information and talks from artists and funders. This has grown and evolved over the past few months and we are introducing a critical reading element to the programme going forward. Pendle (Anti-) Social Cinema - The volunteer-run pop-up cinema has continued on a weekly basis during lockdown, popping up in living rooms via Mubi and Zoom for a shared screening every Thursday night at 7pm.
Do keep in touch, we would love to hear from you.
Best wishes and stay safe,