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10th April Good Friday Overcast and cold to begin – raining not stop later Breakfast conversations have not been as successful as I’d imagined… once more I’m the only diner at Rosehill House. However, I have to say that talking to a stranger within half an hour of getting out of bed isn’t easy – it’s that time of the day when all you really want to do is grunt. And if I feel like that I expect others might too! Friday 10 April

Kerry with young artist and radical street poet Laura Skilbeck (formerly of the independent Islington Mill Art Academy)

Perambulating with the portable studio, walking, talking, drawing, and giving away bespoke, site specific poetry

Around the town’s streets and at the hiddenplaces sites

Today I was out with Laura Skilbeck. Laura and I met through Islington Mill Art Academy Where I “taught” in inverted commas, on the initial summer school courses Impressed by her attitude from the outset, I’ve invited Laura to work along side me on several projects, one of which, 100 cauliflowers, gets a mention in the Academy’s blog pages Laura writes site-specific poetry – on site – and gives her poems away. She also writes poems to commission – and likewise – gives them away If she’s not careful – she’ll never make a penny from her art But readers will be pleased to know that today she was paid –


We um'ed and ah'ed about feeding the parking metre – was Good Friday a Bank Holiday? Laura wrote a note for my windscreen

And then we heard a man shouting... from a high window of the overlooking mill building a guy was leaning out shouting “Don’t put money in – it’s a Bank Holiday today!!!! I keep seeing people feeding the metres and they shouldn’t” And rightly enough – parker after parker fed the metres Even when we said we thought they didn’t need to 2

Not wanting this absurdity to carry on un-challenged, I left a note whilst Laura began writing her poetry perched upon a salt bin at Site 11 - Cow Lane

Today – whilst I talked, Laura wrote her poems on small white paper bags with carbon copy paper beneath – which meant that she had a copy to keep. Our collaborative approach to the day worked really well Sometimes I become so involved in a conversation that when I come to write it up I want to do the conversation justice by saying all that I’ve heard. But Laura - as the eavesdropper and not the one engaged in the dialogue - could pick and mix her words And what she wrote encapsulated the essence of the conversations as I experienced them 3

The first recipient of a poem was Alex – at the burger bar on Cow Lane Alex is half Italian, half Arabic, and came to England “from right of Turkey” to live in Brum with his uncle. He told us “… I’ve lived in Brum, Brighton, Bournemouth, and London. A sous chef job brought me to Burnley but I want to go back to London – it’s buzzing – and Burnley isn’t” He then went on to say in a completely un-P.C. fashion “… the Burnley birds are ok when they’re drunk – but you don’t want to wake up next to them”


At the Cow Lane Bridge, after a conversation about trout in the Calder Laura wrote her second poem

This she gave to a couple who we saved from paying the parking fee They’d come to Burnley for a day out – as tourists! 5

Upon reading the poem they spent ages leaning over the bridge looking into the water – presumable trying to spot the well camouflaged native brown trout in a murky tract of culverted water


Laura and I headed to the precinct and set up the cart at the exact same spot where Sharon and I had been yesterday. Robert was singing Laura began to write And 2 very tough ‘Michelle brother’ look alike blokes made a beeline for me. The short stocky one with a flat nose, aggressive tone, and very confrontational manner seemed to be angered by the fact that I was stood in a pedestrian area with a clip board – I can’t remember his opening line – but it wasn’t the usual friendly one that I’ve become accustomed to I stood my ground and kept my cheery disposition (Laure said later that she thought he was going to punch me) And within moments of talking to him his tough persona melted and he began to joke with me – in fact – a joke a minute kind of a guy Turns out his and his mate are ex Para’s – fought in the Falklands – “…many of the lads came back form there damaged…” More than 300 Falklands veterans have committed suicide since the end of that war, and hundreds more suffer from depression and feelings of guilt. I told him that a friend of mine came back from the Falklands, at the age of 21, a damaged man – he shrugged and shook his head – eyes down. He didn’t want to talk about it … and quickly changed the subject “We really like Burnley don’t we. It’s got a really good atmosphere – comfortable, full of character, and dead friendly – not like Manchester” Now retired they come over from Manchester from time to time to help their mate out at the local amateur boxing club. A guy with his arm in a sling approached and leaned over the stocky Para’s shoulder – coming between our conversation. He was staring at the map I have on the studiolab “What’s all this then?” The stocky man began to explain And slung arm man began… “Well I’m an historian… Stocky man tried to join in as the historian began to talk about Burnley’s pubs - but slung arm man made it clear through his body language that he was in no mood for banter so stocky man left. Today I broke one of my golden rules – Do not be opinionated – listen to, and feed into, conversations… Slung arm man told me that he has written a book about the pubs in Burnley “Do you know that Burnley had 11 breweries and 439 pubs? It used to be the most drunken town in England and the government did statistics about it. In the 60’s and 70’s it was a vibrant town – but now it’s a slum. Millions of pounds have been spent on crap buildings and now they’re wasting more money on a shopping centre when they can’t even fill the one they’ve got with decent shops. They’ve built a new college – what are they going to do wit this one? [He points to the concrete college building behind us] 7

“… Where we’re stood used to be a street, and every Friday night the gangs from the Irish park would come and fight with the locals on this street. You think those two guys were tough – they wouldn’t have stood a chance…” “That pub there – the old Yates’ place – that used to be the Boot and Saddle – the roughest pub in town…” There was no stopping him as he reeled of all manner of ale related titbits I asked about his book and where I could get it “Oh - it’s not published yet – I keep researching and finding out more stuff so the book won’t ever be finished. I have a copy of what I’ve written so far though…” He then began to talk about the size of Burnley how it’s taken over the surrounding villages like Padiham “Do you know that Burnley is 14 miles across – it’s bigger than London – and it’s the only town in England that borders onto another county” And this is where I made my mistake “Oh – I live in Todmorden, and that boarders onto Yorkshire and Lancashire” “Well yes – I’m sure you want to be Lancastrian, but you are in fact a White Rose and Todmorden doesn’t border anywhere!” I was convinced that Todmorden was half Lancs. and half Yorks. - I stood my ground – and that was my mistake I’ve never done that before – but I found this man to be quite rude - obstinate even. He didn’t want to talk to me – he wanted to talk at me. And as soon as I questioned one of his ‘facts’ he got a little shirty “I’ve got to go now – my wife is waiting for me!” And he walked away – saying that he’d come back in half an hour with a copy of his book - “You wait here…” We waited... But not surprisingly – he didn’t return Which is actually a shame – because I wanted to know more about his book A dialogic practice shouldn’t be about me at all – or my opinions – so I blew it – but it made me realize how strongly one can feel about the town where one lives. Todmorden is where I live, and I am more proud of it than I realized. So I learnt something today – about me - about my feelings and attitudes towards “place” – and about me as a part of a community as opposed to me ‘the artist parachuted into a community’. Laura wrote a poem as she listened to our conversation …


When I got back to Rosehill House I did a Google search for Todmorden; town and county boundaries – and read these links 9

As soon as the man with his arm in a sling left, Robert the busker came over and Laura gave him his poem

He was thrilled – no one had ever written anything for him before Then 2 young men approached us wanting to know what we were up to They had divided opinions about Burley “Yeh – it’s an ok place to live” said one “No it isn’t it’s a dump” said the other I told them what the Manc. Blokes had said about the atmosphere and one of the young men said “Well that’s alright for an outsider to say but they don’t have to live with the stabbings and the violence – I think Manchester is ok – it’s buzzing – but I don’t really know what goes on there” Laura called them over “Would you like a poem I’ve just written with you in it?” The more optimistic of the two grinned from ear to ear. Laura read him the poem and he accepted it with glee He said – “If I could change one thing about Burnley my wish would be that there were more jobs. Lots of employment makes a town a better place to live” 10

Our next stop was the Continental for lunch. As we arrived it began to rain, so I put the umbrella up.


As we ate our lunch a fit man – as in clearly works out – cheekily approached us “What are you two ladies doing?” We explained – and asked what he was up to. He replied “I’ve come here to get some food – it’s the best place in town” “Oh” said Laura – “I’ll write you a poem whilst you’re eating – be sure to pick it up when you come out of the café” “I will - as long as it’s got a good tip in it for me to pick up a girl when I’m on my holiday in Mexico next week …” He went inside and Laura began writing…


And sure enough – dining done – he came for his poem – and was chuffed to bits. He then tried hitting on Laura – but she was having none of it!


It was whilst stood outside the Continental in the pouring rain that I had my saddest encounter A couple of visibly drunk individuals staggered their way across the paved area to the skip behind us where they began rummaging through the contents and laughing loudly I whispered to Laura – don’t make eye contact – they’re really drunk and we might get stuck with them We didn’t need to make eye contact – there was no way were going to get away with not speaking to these two – They came right up to us, leaning over the cart – alcohol fumes emanating from their mouths – in their hands – tins of Carlsberg Special Brew Slowly and laboured the woman asked “What – are – you – two – doing? What - do - you -want - to - know?” I explained what we were up to, and as soon as I mentioned ‘regeneration’ the woman lost her jovial drunken state and became markedly serious considering her intoxicated state. “I live in Burnley Wood and I really want to do something to help. Look at me – I’m a drunk – but I’ve got lots of ideas. I have been putting together a list of things we can do to help the old people and the kids in the area. It wouldn’t take much – bring back the community centre and get some bingo going… I've got the number of a vent – vent – what’s the word? “Ventriloquist” “Yeah – that’s it – ventriloquist - and he’s good, and cheap – he could entertain the old folks – and the little kids would like him too I’m not a racist - he’s an Asian guy” The man she was with couldn’t get a word in edgeways – he arranged to meet up with her later and left. She continued - “The kids around there need to see people like me – an example of how not to end up – I do drugs – and I’ve got a criminal record - and I know what it’s like – and I don’t want the kids to end up like me” I asked her what drugs “Do you want me to be honest? “Well you’ve been pretty honest so far” “I do heroin. I’ve been on it since I was 17 – I’m 32 now” “I’m a mess – but I really want to help the young’uns and the old folks in Burnley Wood. I really do. I want to do volunteer work. I’ve got all these ideas and I want to help” There was no doubting the passion of her words – But with a criminal record – and a heroin addiction – no matter how passionately she feels about helping out – no one will be asking her for help – I asked if she would have her photo taken with me “Oh yes – but not with a tinny in my hand” She shoved the tin up her sleeve and came and stood next to me – her mouth tightly closed – she didn’t have many teeth left - a common side effect of long term drug use… She’s not the only person in Burnley that I’ve spoken to with a mouth half void of teeth – the remainder greyish black and rotting… And Burnley Wood keeps cropping up in conversations… 14

After we said are goodbye’s Laura wrote a couple of poems We spent the rest of our day outside the Continental – it was chucking it down with rain and we figured that if we were to move on we’d get soaked through – so we stayed put, drank hot chocolate, and drew in the rain. 15

The trouble with the rain is that people don’t really want to hang around in it. They walk quickly – heads down – shoulders slightly shrugged Not much reason for us to stay out any longer…


In the evening I was back at the Continental On Friday and Saturday nights they transform the café into a bistro – tablecloths, fairy lights, candles, soft music and an evening meal set menu Three courses plus coffee for £10.00 I’d booked a table for one I’m not used to dining out alone and was slightly apprehensive – I shouldn’t have been - such a warm and friendly place – it’s perfect for dining for one And the food – well –still 10/10 But after eating my mezze starter – followed by a vegetarian special – I had to call the waitress over – I was stuffed to bursting and no way could I face the desert of baklava with ice creams