YSI/Corridor8 residency day 1

Sunrise in Newcastle upon Tyne

What a beautiful day for me to get started. I woke up around 4am, which is quite usual for me. Rather than risking dozing off again I got up as I needed to leave home at around 5.10am to catch the 6.10am Megabus to Leeds. I know the train is quicker, but money is tight and I have the good fortune to not get travel sick and can work satisfactorily while on the road.

I am taking my 10 residency days in 3 blocks to minimise the amount of times I must undertake the 100-mile journey. My priority for this first leg was attending the engagement work at the Urban House Initial Accommodation Centre in Wakefield on Thursday 16 May. I am a volunteer teaching assistant at Action Language, a charity in Newcastle and Sunderland that offers free ESOL classes to asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants. Ensuring that people who are displaced from their homes are treated well is important to me, so the work being done with Urban House residents is a big draw. This week was my only opportunity to join the session there, and the two days preceding it worked out to make for an excellent start to the residency.

Outside Leeds Art Gallery
I arrived in Leeds just before 9am with only vague plans for that day. The engagement schedule indicated that art students from Leeds City College were having a trip to Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute. I was told the trip might not be that useful for me to join as it was 'self-directed'. I figured it could be worth speaking to the students and instructors anyway, if they consented. Armed with no further information, I was outside the gallery soaking up some much-needed vitamin D and I thought 'c'mon now Paula, be brave, there's bound to be someone with a lanyard or something you could just make enquiries with'. Given that I make a podcast and am aiming to incorporate audio recordings as materials in my final responsive online textual sculpture (the description should become less clunky and more refined as we go), I figured I'd get my audio recorder out of my bag and into my jeans pocket in case the sleuthing worked out and I'd be lucky enough for them to want to talk to me. 

No recorder. 

I definitely packed it. I checked and double-checked that I had packed it before leaving home. However, I did drop my bag at one point on the coach, and although I was sure I'd picked up any spillages out of it, it turns out I had indeed missed the gadget. The happy ending to this story is that the fellow human who found it did the clever and decent thing in working out who to contact from the recordings and kindly posted it back to me!

Residency journal
A bit discombobulated, I figured, have a cup of tea and get cracking on the reading, writing and thinking for the residency I hadn't yet had much time to tackle. By a sunny window on a high stool looking out from the Tiled Hall CafĂ©, that's what I did. I camped out there pretty much all day and got loads done. I made many scribbles in my residency diary and wrote a lengthy and illustrated email to established writer Jen Boyd in response to notes and thoughts she generously sent to me after our Skype chat a couple of weeks previously. 

Ideas flowed. 

I firmed up the idea of and initiated my epistolary correspondences at the end of each residency day and decided that those emails along with my private email thread with Jen would form part of the process of drafting the final piece, which at this point is open to working towards either a single collaborative output or separate outputs that are in dialogue with one another. For the format, broad ideas currently involve revealing the layers of those drafts, showing the palimpsests and leakages, as Jen says laying process bare and facilitating the navigation of vignettes of text and other media. As well as the main festival concerns with material literacy and anthropology, we're thinking along broad themes and issues of value, labour, the body, performativity, ethics, accessibility, transitioning, experimentation, presentness and detail, and the ways that these all interconnect, how they collaborate and how our collaborative/working-through-together process could reflect that.

The challenge for the coming days would be how to maintain presentness as a participant in engagement events while also documenting them effectively enough to respond in a meaningful way. This unfolded the next day during my first trip to The Hepworth Wakefield as detailed in the next post.

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