Notes from the Margins

The project is being presented at the Lafrowda club in St.Just, Cornwall on Saturday 23rd September 2023 from 18:00 to 21:00 and at the same times on Sunday 24th. Entry is free
Full film- updated September 2023

A remote Cornish cottage was the site of a collaborative arts residency exploring combinations of image and sound. It was the week of Storm Noa and the Brisons Veor cottage continually rumbled with the sound of wind and sea-swell. In fact it made the front page of the Telegraph as their chosen iconic image of the storm (yes, it’s the cottage with the scaffolding). The residency resulted in a 20 minute film combining visuals and music created during the week. The film is available on this website in four parts, whicn released to synchronise with its premiere screening at the cottage at 8-30pm on Friday the 14th of April:

Original films produced April 2023

Notes From the Margins 1 / Veering West

Notes From the Margins 2 / Margins

Notes From the Margins 3 / Cyclonic

Notes From the Margins 4 / For a Time

Notes from the Margins

For years we thought about a project called ‘Old Dog’ (You can’t teach an old dog new tricks) which would use creative arts to help people realise the possibilities for change, novelty and even adventure. It was inspired by occasional one-off events where people experimented with arts and crafts and usually surprised themselves with what they could achieve.

I had that experience personally when a friend and musician encouraged me, despite a lack of musical skill or expertise, to embark on creating my own music. I’ve found the experience unusual and exhilarating as it contrasts with my professional work as a writer and researcher in being non-linear, non-verbal and much more closely connected to my emotions and unconscious.

Another friend, Mike, made a similar journey from the linear and constructed world of graphic design into the very different world of his emerging artistic practice, something he’d had an ambition to achieve for many years.

A recording I sent him from Cornwall, inspired by the lost sound of the Pendeen lighthouse foghorns, led him to suggest a collaboration, and further to see if a trust offering art residencies just a little further down that coastline would take us on.

They’ve offered us a slot at Easter time 2023 and we’ve started preparations for a collaboration between his visual art and my music. We have very little idea what we will achieve. We’re not in a position, financially, to copy the KLF and burn a million quid, and anyway we hope to do something more constructive. We have a week there, well actually only six days. We will prepare our possible media and technologies; in my case an ensemble of electronic and real instruments along with the capacity to record location sound and a computer system to edit all this together; in Mike’s case both physical media and electronic tools along with past experiments in imposing his imagery onto locations and landscape. We will spend months in preparation, but we will resolutely resist having a plan for what we will actually create during those few days. We will work in an uncertain space at the margins   . . .

. . . In our latest Castle Inn consultation we talked a lot about the mysterious space at the margin of land and sea, between the tides, since the residency is next to a small Cornish cove. I have always been fascinated by the coastal margins (and even originally studied them briefly) and Mike is also intrigued by the space between two states (he says the technical word for this, ‘Liminal’ is heavily overworked in artistic circles so we’ve banned that from our lexicon). There are other terms for this, ‘The Littoral Fringe,’ and the accidental word ‘Luminal’ which titled one of my songs when the spellchecker corrected ‘Liminal’.

And as I write I realise that this all comes round to our earlier idea of ‘Old Dog’ as the whole thing about that space on the margins is that it is unsettling and we naturally want to gravitate towards a fixed state, either out of the water or in it. Biologically, organisms which cope with life in that middle zone are fascinating. I studied the ability of seaweeds to cope with half the day wet and the other half dry. Counter-intuitively those that seemed most frail coped well, whereas leathery tough oarweeds didn’t. Old Dog invited people from their usual state to live briefly on the margins, away from their usual settled state, as a way of unlocking new energy and enthusiasm.

I guess for me, coming to this in later life when horizons are foreshortened and hope can be dimmed, the journey of this project has a metaphorical dimension. To be a frail but resilient species of seaweed rather than a lumpen oarweed for example, to allow myself to live in an unsettling state on the margin rather than gravitating to the safe predictability of wet or dry. I don’t want to somehow clutch at another time, to cling onto vanished youth. It’s the opposite really, I think one capacity I have admired in some older people is wisdom and peace, and my deeper ambition would be that es through the journey of this project I might slough off some of the habits, behaviours and beliefs that narrow my vision and be open to some kind of wisdom and peace that I might share back with those I like and love. Yes I know, that’s a bit ambitious really.