I enjoyed sharing the following script for a creative audio-descriptive piece in the Knitting Time workshop at Pallant House this week:
I had already started this A4 coloured drawing when I decided it would be an apt illustration for the poem Blue Black Feather. It conveys a love of nature in a dream-like landscape made up of birds, faces and human figures, which inhabit a series of hills and pastures. It pictures the encroachment of urban life on the landscape in a series of simply drawn tower blocks which run down the left-hand side of the drawing. It just needed two birds and so I drew a Jay dominating the right hand side of the foreground and a smaller crow further up and on the left, with which it is communicating.
The poem relates to a story from the mid-eighties of when I found a perfect blue-black barred Jay’s feather. Living in North London during the early 1980s was a depressing time. All my efforts at getting somewhere to live were being thwarted at the same time as all social housing was being sold off. Ideals of community and social awareness were fragmenting. I squatted a housing association property. For a time our eviction notices were thrown out of court by the judge because the housing officers were so embroiled in corrupt deals. Everything, seemed bound up in corruption.
I got very excited by the jewel-like quality of the feather. In my fragile state of mind this piece of treasure seemed to be auspicious sign; an omen of better things to come. It glowed, like something from the garden of Eden. On an impulse I showed the feather to a fellow passenger on a tube train. I happened to be following one of the sillier fashions of the time, wearing striped pyjamas. It was a trend started by the Boomtown Rats who I’d seen play a couple of times.
So, when the woman who I’d shown the feather to announced that she was an off-duty police officer, it was not wholly unsurprising that she’d assume that I’d escaped from Friern Barnet, the nearest mental hospital. She took me aside on the platform, clearly debating with herself what she should do and whether or not she could be bothered to take me all the way back to the police station. She wavered – especially as I had nothing on me to identify who I was. On grilling me about where I was going she asked me if I was harmless or not. She realised I couldn’t cause much damage, armed with a tiny feather. And so she then asked if I’d go back to the hospital of my own accord; making me promise faithfully that I would do so. And so I agreed, escaping the psychiatric system by an edge once again.
At the centre bottom of the drawing is a prominent ball shape across which a skeletal figure is draped. And to the left of the figure is a large cross-hatched shadow which is draped from the bottom corner of the picture, across the bottom tower block and up into the fields above. There is sense of underlying fatalism within this drawing. The frightened expressions on the faces in the submerged figures are expressive of a search for meaning and purpose in a random brutal urban environment.