In January 2019, six artists (myself, Brigitte Jurack, Roger Hill, Philip Jeck and Mary Prestidge) started residencies at Belong Crewe, a Village that is home to around 100 edlerly people, particularly those on the dementia journey, as part of the three-year 'Where the arts Belong' project funded by Arts Council England's 'Celebrating Age' and the Baring Foundation.
During an early visit, I notice a lady sitting on her own in one of the households. Aged 92, Pegeen has just moved in before Christmas and during our chat, she reveals that her father "did some writing." Pegeen's father turns out to be Liam O'Flaherty and reading his beautiful short stories set on the West Coast of Ireland, I am struck by how he introduces each character by describing their eyes before anything else:
These four words become a short animation screened within the Internet Room, with printed versions dotted around the Village in a more permanent manner amidst the black & white portraits of the Beatles, Morecambe & Wise, John Wayne and Shirley Bassey.
With thanks to Tabitha, Laura, Becs and all at Bluecoat and all the staff at Belong, particularly Natalie and Mel. Extra thanks to Sandra and Pegeen's powers of attorney Veronica and Angus for granting permissions. The next stages of this project include further research periods at new Belong Villages in Birkdale and Chester up until 2021, producing more FOUR WORDS and audio.
Link to Guardian article on project, 26 June 2019.
The FOUR WORDS project began in January 2016 as an experimental new model that brings people together to reflect on complex issues such as the month of January, dementia, markets or the future. The social innovation of these takeovers of media walls, television advertising space or now facilities for older people lies in the breadth of participants, engaging with teenagers, retired seafarers, ancillary workers and ex-footballers from local communities alongside established artists.