A Story

The last couple of weeks have been about sharpening our machetes. This week is the first true cuts. Last night we cut through the undergrowth of just picking pictures because they are nice pictures and we like their look, to the understanding they have to tell our story. The jungle ahead of us has never been cut. But once we have cut our path others can follow us. Let me tell you a story.

About 3 years ago, my grandniece Renais was 2, I took her in the Whitworth Art Gallery. In the shop she wanted a pencil. It had a fat bottom and could act like a spinning top. It cost £8.

I became fucking furious. The arts are always saying they want people like us to engage with the arts. I can’t buy Renais the pencil. Which means we feel excluded from the Whitworth experience even though we have come through the door.

Also the shop looks like a middle class child’s bedroom. The £8 is on purpose. Like the price of a house in Didsbury, they intentionally want to keep us out. They may not admit this to them self. They may not even know it is happening. But it is happening.

I go home. I write a fucking letter. Not a letter, but a fucking letter. I address it to Maria Balshaw who is the director of the Whitworth at the time. I detail what I mean.

I remember I was shitting myself. Like someone, the thought police, the stay in your fucking place police might come banging on my door any minute. Plus there is always the added bonus in my profession that I piss someone off so much I never work again. You know my history with that one.

So I post it and I don’t hear anything . But, and this is one of the laws of attraction, mentally I must have summoned a genie who gave me an answer to end this discrimination, cos here we are. Here we are in the Whitworth. And I am also their critical friend, which means I will attend meetings and add my thoughts to their policy. I will be able to explain face to face about the £8 pencil, and the £10 sausage roll. And get on this, the other night I was a finalist in the Manchester Cultural Awards where Maria Balshaw who never answered me was also receiving a super special award.

She is no longer the director of the Whitworth. It is Alistair Hudson who’s ethos is:  ‘A lot of community projects, even with lots of people involved, are ultimately about making work that advances an artist’s career. Something we need to bring back into the equation is the responsibility artists have. They should work collectively within society to be more useful.’ I’ve always loved the idea of mystical shit. The universe replaced Maria with Alistair. Alistair gave us our own gallery for 12 months.

Our story includes being excluded by £8 pencils. Watch us make that first true cut with our sharpened machetes to make a sustainable clearing for us. 

Congratulations to Linda Brogan who won Highly Commended in our Exhibition of the Year Category for Excavating The Reno. Such important, beautiful stories and a truly excellent feat. 

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