Vimal’s Walks

Vimal reflects on his recent Remote Nest Residency, creating a walking tour documented via a diary.

BBC interviewing about the walk

Diary

This is my remit
Highlighting the culture and diversity of Coventry enabling people to see, taste, smell and hear stories of the people in the area via a walking tour.

Aim
To create a walking tour with real stories celebrating the culture and diversity of the area

Day 1
OMG where do I start what do I need to do???!!!!
Thoughts of places to explore:

  • I’ve always liked Fargo village and the diversity around there so maybe a good place to start?
  • Hindu Temples, gurdwaras, mosques
  • Information on the internet regarding diversity of Coventry
  • Yes some historical aspects but if people want to know about buildings, architecture this is not the tour for them!
  • Collecting stories from family and friends in the Coventry area

Day 2
Cinemas Ritz/Palladium – historically Indian cinemas – lots of information on forums.
Lots of history regarding Asian communities buying cinemas via self funding, hindi movies and Sundays became a day out to the cinema for the Asian community. Decades later there were disputes regarding ownership.
Possible to investigate further but currently too far from the Foleshill rd

Temples/gurdwaras near Foleshill Road:

First gurdwara built in Coventry is nearer the town centre – could be too far. Need something closer

Mosque being built on the Foleshill rd, the oldest one is on Eagle street built in 1962 Jaima Mosque

Thoughts
I need to physically explore Foleshill Road and the main road which serves Fargo Village and see which stores could possibly be up for interviews and use their locations to tell the stories

Day 3
Found a video on the internet about Foleshill which is a good reference point.
Foleshill the people’s hill

Thoughts
what do people want to know about Foleshill road or roads near Fargo village?
what would people like to experience?
visiting several places of worship – could it be boring?
Maybe I should just go into one place of worship and highlight the others?

It’s stories people enjoy
Need to celebrate diversity

Day 4
It’s raining – cancelled visit to Foleshill Rd
Thought – do I still want to do Foleshill Road or the road near Fargo village?

Day 5
It’s Foleshill Rd
General Wolfe has played a big role in Foleshill rd, Irish communities, Afro Caribbean
Music – Specials, Selecta

Interesting fact
First ‘coloured’ Licencee 1962 Mr Frances – The Wheatsheaf pub. A fact to share and terminology used at that time.

Day 6
Research internet – Coventry facts – historical forums
Lady Godiva – reenacted down Foleshill rd
Watch manufacturers
Blue Ribbon
Cashs lane – the building and significance – known as Topshops

I don’t want to go into too much historical facts

Day 7
Went to Foleshill Road to interview a few retailers
Interview with Tahims – Clothing retailor
Interview with Shan Paan – Indian fancy goods
Interview with Standard Indian sweets
Interview with Iranian fish Mongers

Retail store Shaan Paan

Day 8
Spoke to Mehru Fitter who worked at Coventry library – for some possible leads

Day 9
Spoke to Anita P whose grandfather arrived from India and settled in Coventry in the 1950s
He was a cotton farmer in India with a thriving business but had to leave everything after the partition – he ended up working in Courtaulds in Coventry. Story collated.

Thought
Joshi’s Story needs to be told outside Courtaulds

Day 10
I do the walk on the Foleshill Road and find
there is a big gap from Courtaulds to Shaan Paan.

Thoughts
Need to find out what most of the businesses were before they became hairdressers
Currently 8 hairdressers all next to one another
Maybe interview a hairdresser?

Day 11
I listen to the recorded interviews and turn them into script

Day 12
I Go through the Coventry history archives and find some interesting facts
Prince Charles visited Foleshill Road and also opened the Bangladeshi community centre on George Eliot Rd.
Clint Eastwood had a role in the film Lady Godiva
Phillip Larkin was born in Coventry

Thought
Little snippets of info that can be shared during walk without going into too much information

Day 13
Visit Talking Birds Nest (Phillippa, Dez, Janet) and share ideas/stories about the walk.
They give their views as to what stories they’ve enjoyed

I go onto Foleshill Road and note through chatting with owners of businesses in the hairdressing area that most of the retail stores are operated by Kurds

Thought
This is Little Kurdistan
I will refer this area as Little Kurdistan during the walk and talk about how vital the Kurd community has been in the development of this area of the Foleshill Rd

I Interview Lookman who owns a hairdresser – he was sent to Coventry!

Day 14
I transcribe Lookman’s interview

At Lookman’s Hairdressers

Day 15
I do research on temples, some are too far away from Foleshill Road, however I find there is one on George Eliot Road. A Hindu temple that serves mainly the Tamil community, with people originating from South India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. I speak to the president about the idea of a walking tour, and he would be delighted if we brought people from other communities to pay the temple a visit.
President of temple explains any rules that need to be observed. Photography and filming is fine.

Thought
The temple has a wow factor
I have knowledge of Hinduism so can share stories about gods and goddesses
Significance of Ganesh
This will be the starting point of the tour

Shri Sidhi Vinayagar Temple

I visit the Gurdwara on Foleshill Road, speak to one of the trustees who gives us permission to bring guests into Gurdwara as long as people respect the rules
No cigarettes, no alcohol at any time. Filming and photography is fine
Thoughts
Share tenets of Sikhism
5 ks

Nanaksar Gurdwara Gursikh Temple

Day 16
Speak to Haroon from Active Inclusion regarding floating library on canal

Thoughts
To include walk along canal side and share anecdote of Cash’s weavers

NP Aerospace is also on Foleshill Road
Bespoke bomb disposal suits made – predominately by Asian community

Next to NP is a Gurdwara – different section of Sikh community – previously George Wilson gas meters

Interesting fact
4 air raid shelters on the Challenge cycles building on Foleshill Road

I visit Gem jewellers who have a wow factor with the Indian jewellery they sell. I explain walking tour and they will allow a visit.

Thoughts
Stories regarding importance of gold in Asian community – dowry
Mangle sutra – Given to wife by husband and significance of black beads in the gold chain

A short interview with Shanaz who has a material and clothing shop. Selling lengha, Salwar Kameez, dothis etc

Cash’s Weavers along canal side

Day 17
The walking tour is taking shape.

I decide on a route
Hindu Temple
George Eliot rd,
Gurdwara
Canal side
Joshi’s story outside Courthaulds
Walk to Little Kurdistan
Lookmans story hairdressers – settlement
Fishmongers – Aras story – Masgouf cooking
NP Aeronautical – hand made bomb disposal
Gem jewellers
Shaan Paan – leaving Uganda
Standard sweet centre – food stories with potato chapatti and mango lassi

Day 18
I take Dez to test walk

A success!!!!!!
Market walk on social media

Day 19
I write a blurb and decide on a name for the Foleshill walking tour

Vimal’s Walks: Join Vimal for a multi-sensory walk celebrating the diverse and vibrant heritage of the Foleshill Road. Visiting temples and hearing the sacred stories of gods and goddesses, with a stroll along the canal side, a stop at an Indian fabric shop, a Kurdistani hairdresser, an Iraqi Fishmonger, A Ugandan fancy goods shop with anecdotes of settlement, food and success, finishing with a glass of cold mango lassi and a hot aloo porata. All experienced in a fun and relaxed way.

More bookings via Waterways weekend for the walking tour, interest from BBC Sounds

The walking tour over the two days is SOLD OUT!!

Big thanks to Talking Birds, Derek Nisbet, Janet Vaughan, Philippa Cross, Dom Watson, Frances Yeung

Developed during a Nest Residency with Talking Birds. Performances supported by Coventry 2021 Green Futures programme.  

RAPIDE SLIDEOUT

Paul Daly and Adele M Reed reflect on their recent Nest Residency.

For me, the sense of liberty that TB’s residency offers is the foundation to why it deserves most of its plaudits. It’s been so refreshing to focus on practice without expectations and time pressure, I gained so much from exploring without any sense of anxiety or stress. 

Sharing the space with Adele elevated the experience tenfold, allowing for a constant dialogue and reflection on both our practices. We staggered our days at the space, on reflection this actually benefitted us with further mental prep and insight before fully sharing our thoughts and aspirations to one another. Adele brought a playful impulsive energy to proceedings, something I have lost to a degree with my own work, this is likely one of the main things I wish to reintroduce to my practice in some form. Just revelling in a fully rewarding experience with our Adele, especially considering how each of our compulsions and obsessions are delicately interwoven into our work. So pleased we had this opportunity to dive in together. 

Other main takeaways are a refreshed confidence with my main creative focuses, a plan of action following the completion of a 7 year project, more undying love for analogue, and some of that bountiful optimism which is to be cultivated and injected into the next career phase. 

To top it all off, we were seen off with an in-kind chippy tea. This should speak volumes of the generosity and earthly nature of the Talking Birds team, a constant calm presence that made the experience that much more enjoyable. This is a golden opportunity for local artists.

By Paul Daly

Dear readers, apply for a Talking Birds residency! Rare is this kind of supported opportunity, a deep level of trust is gifted to you with respect for the artist, at its core. This treasured period of time affirmed many things – the cruciality of open space and time, the importance of dialogue with like minded souls, the joy of art in its myriad forms, the necessity to rest between heartening, powerful moments of revelation. 

I went into the residency with Paul with one particular commitment in mind – to chronicle our eclectic shared interests and fast-moving insightful conversations. We play off each other in a very organic, uncontrived and playful way, and therefore decided to name our documentary blog ‘Rapide 40 Slideout’ – the title of a drain we walked over on the way to Daimler Powerhouse on our first day. Rapide 40 Slideout evolved into a collaborative, thriving breathing beast (in other words it became an obsessive tendency for me) of 122 posts in 10 days. Please explore it, if you’d like to delve inside the flying sparks of our minds, via emailing us to request link – adelemreed@yahoo.co.uk or pdalyphoto@gmail.com 

Polaroid making and manipulating became a notable focus, each day of the residency creating one new image each to either tamper with or keep as is. Audio play featured heavily also and Derek lent us Janet’s father’s condenser pencil microphone which taught me that my cheap cassette player is capable of far more satisfying analogue recording than I knew possible. I read gothic art literature and local historical crime and watched a plethora of international films on Mubi. And we spoke about the key themes within our work. I found these sessions particularly fascinating, unearthing parts of our motives that perhaps go far too often unexplored, unprobed. Many motives lie in politics, religion, upbringing, and so forth. The question was: why do we do this? What are the roots of our respective compulsions? 

I was surprised by the residency, for just how much it supported me, and as I first proclaimed: will be shouting about it and Talking Birds ongoing! 

By Adele M Reed

Taking our Time

Daz and Martha from calico reflect on their recent Nest Residency. 
 
We recently completed our first ever residency with Talking Birds. On our Hatching Residency, the Talking Birds team granted us time, space, advice and support, to try out a completely new idea. We had a week to play and explore, to create without any time pressure or expectation to produce. It was joyful, transformative, scary, and at times, a complete nightmare.
 
This was the most time we have had to explore an idea in, well, forever. We are so used to time-sensitive making, to cramming rehearsal time into commission opportunities and giving ourselves impossibly small amounts of time to create entire shows. And we are good at it, we have found a rhythm to working to the tick of the clock, built up stamina for the create-perform-create-perform way of working. 
 
We expected to keep up our pace; that we’d finish our week at the Nest with a whole new show, maybe two, with reams of polished content and new ideas to deep dive into. But, in reality, when Talking Birds told us to take our time, and expected nothing from us, we stopped in our tracks. The clock stopped ticking. 
 
Sometimes, we were our own time-keepers, keeping our pace and continually pushing from idea to idea, medium to medium, trying out as many things as we possibly could in one day. We had this space, these people, this time, and we had to use every second of it creatively. We danced, we jumped, we played with shadows, with clothes, we drew, we wrote, we explored video, improvised, choreographed, imagined. On these days, the possibilities felt endless, that we could generate so much, interrogate our idea so deeply, all in one day. 
 
On other days, we had no idea what to do. There was too much time. We couldn’t keep up the pace. So we slowed down. We took more breaks, and longer breaks, basking in the sun by the canal. We abandoned The Nest and treated ourselves to a long lunch out. At first, we felt guilty for running out of steam, for killing time. But then we had new ideas, we reflected on what we had made and saw our ideas from new perspectives. We also reflect on the way we work, and on the landscape and reality that has made us feel like taking your time is time-wasting. But at the Nest, there is quite literally no waste. Everything is composted, recycled and reused, and this, like any good thing, takes time. 
 
Our Nest residency gave us the time to learn how to slow down. The reality of the fast-paced, product-focussed environment that we are now re-entering means that the clock will, inevitably, start ticking again. But we are so grateful for the Talking Birds, sharing their space, their ways of working, and their time, with us.

time immersed

Wes Finch reflects on his recent Nest Residency

I am taking two weeks, one either side of chocolate-gorging at Easter, to spend time immersed in fairy stories, folk tales, legends, and fables and work out how I might write something in response, along those lines that reach so far back into our collective past and persists into our messy and fragmented present. Maybe I can even jump into the future and look back at where we are now? Maybe that’s a little ambitious for a two-week period but it’s good to aim high, even if I just read some great stories and get a few ideas.

There are certain characters, ideas, formulas, and progressions of events that repeat themselves, in different contexts and wearing different clothes, in the stories that we share and enjoy that have been present from the beginning of storytelling and are still with us today. There are a whole set of ideas, circumstances and narratives that come to mind when someone says the name ‘Cinderella’, ‘Snow White’ or the phrases Let There Be Light! or The Chosen One. Stories are how we make sense of the world and inform how we navigate and interact with it. I’ve found thinkers and writers like Johnathan Pageua and Jordan Peterson fascinating in their unpacking of biblical stories in that regard – well what portion of it I can keep up with, anyway!

It’s a real privilege to have a room, a quiet space with wi-fi and books, with none of the distractions and obligations that come with trying to do this at home. I love being at home (which is a good thing, considering that last two years) but there are other people and animals that come in and out of rooms, people that knock the front door, guitars to be picked up, paint and pens, records, incomplete DIY jobs, things to tidy, laundry and washing up to distract and interrupt me. Here I have the luxury of time to dedicate thought and energy to something I hope I can form into a bigger project in the future.

At the moment I’m still trying to absorb stories and ideas, but I’ve written a little piece about a dragon that attacks Coventry and something about a metal detectorist finding a Golden Key…

The Nest is a fantastic place to be, amongst other creative people working in all kinds of disciplines. I’ve already bumped into a photographer and a dancer I know, passing between my room and the communal area downstairs. Now, I just need to find someone who might want to do some illustrations….

It’s now the end of the second week in my little office. I’ve met some more interesting folks working here and shared some of my writing with some, and as my time here comes to an end, I know I’m going to miss what such an environment has given me.

I’ve read more but nowhere near everything I’d want to (so many books, so little time!) and I’ve written a few more pieces. I worried I might not be able to get back into the rhythm of it after a break, but ideas have obviously been percolating and then insisting on being put on the page just as I’m trying to read another story.

The stories of Kurt Schwitter are bizarre, funny and brilliant, Katherine M Briggs’ British Folk Tales and Legends – A Sampler has been really useful, as have Lisa Schneidau’s Botanical Folk Tales along with Chainey & Winsham’s Treasury of Folklore.

It doesn’t help that Talking Birds’ small library downstairs is full of incredibly interesting and distracting titles too (I borrowed Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild and Other Stories over Easter and didn’t regret it, although I’m not sure it tied into my practice here other than highlighting some useful stuff about the practice of writing with a short contextual essay after each piece.)

There’s been some positive responses to whatever I’ve shared which has been encouraging. I wrote a retelling of an old French tale where a young lord marries a water sprite and I’ve started a retelling of the early life of Lady Godiva, when she was just called Evie.

I’ve struggled to get a foothold on something truly from the future perspective. After finding a map of the predicted flooding and redrawn coastline of the UK in 100 years’ time I really wanted to respond to that, setting a story on the Isle of Rasen where the market town of Middle Rasen now lies in Lincolnshire but that’ll have to wait to solidify a bit more.

I’ve been drawn to Fairies, or as I now know to call them The Gentry or The Good People and have a couple of pieces concerning encountering them in a more modern context.

As an over-arching theme I’ve been mulling over the idea of the ‘other’ or the ‘magical’ that features in so many stories and drawn to considering it all in a revised way; I think there is a lot to be gained from understanding and appreciating the symbolic reality of things and what they represent and manifest for us in the stories we tell and enjoy. We live in an age so dominated by scientific practice that to even deal with things like spirits and spells is at once dismissed as childish. Fantasy as a genre isn’t considered as worthy or important as say historical fiction because it involves things that have no basis in physical, manifest reality. If something can’t be observed, recorded, and quantified does it even exist?! Well, what does that say about your very own consciousness, eh…?

I think it’s probably important to remember the following, and it’s something that has been known eons before and is being slowly remembered and reconfirmed in physics labs today; what you observe to be real is very dependent on what and who is observing. Therefore, what is true might well depend a lot on you. So, just bear that in mind next time you turn the corner into your street and come face to face with a fox in the moonlight.

Research, Renew, Reflect

Leanne Moden reflects on her recent Nest Residency

At the end of April 2022, I spent a beautiful, sunny week in Coventry with Talking Birds, as part of their Hatching Residency.

I was really excited to work on a completely new idea – a one-person show based on my recent experiences of chronic illness – and the residency gave me the headspace to finally start the process of thinking about the project, rather than just thinking about thinking about it.

In 2021, I had a sudden and frightening period of ill-health, and the experience really showed me how invisible and chronic illnesses are often treated in the UK. I wanted to explore the highs and lows that come from navigating the world with a chronic condition, with a view to turning this into a piece of autobiographical theatre.

One of the things that struck me most about getting sick was how worried I became about ‘not being useful”. When I was incapacitated by my condition, all I thought about was how much time I was taking off work, and how inconvenient I was being to those around me. That made me think about the current societal narratives around productivity, usefulness, and community, in relation to illness and disability.

During my first couple of days on the residency, I did a lot of thinking, note-taking, and reading, and I wrote pages and pages of stream of consciousness narrative. At the end of each day, I worried that I hadn’t written enough, or used my time as wisely as I could. This was pretty ironic, given I was meant to be writing about productivity and rest! So, by Wednesday, I vowed to just go with the flow, and not get too het up about “being productive”.

As a result, I spent the final few days writing around the themes of the show, as well as plotting the story arc, thinking about how “Deal Or No Deal” might be the perfect metaphor for the Just World Hypothesis, and generally getting super excited about what I was writing.

I also found time to write a draft for a commissioned piece for an unrelated project, and I spent a day working through my current archive of poetry – finding stuff that I’d started but failed to finish, and earmarking it for editing in the summer.

It was almost as if the fear of not being productive was causing me not to be productive. It all felt a bit meta, truth be told! But actually, it was all grist for the mill, and I wouldn’t have found time to consider my own relationship with “feeling useful” if I hadn’t had the time/space afforded by the residency.

It was also really lovely to meet and chat with other creative people during the lunches, and these serendipitous conversations were super inspiring too. I’d like to extend a huge thanks to everyone at Talking Birds for such a lovely, welcoming, and creative experience. I hope it won’t be too long until my next residency!

Revisiting old work with fresh eyes and new perspectives

Dom Fleming reflects on his recent Nest Residency

I have just completed a two week Nestival residency with the amazing Talking Birds organisation. The residency ran across two separate weeks in March 2022 (due to falling ill in-between the scheduled 10 day period) and took place inside The Nest; Talking Birds’ beautiful base adjacent to the Daimler Powerhouse on Coventry Canal.

The residency allowed me to take a break from work and gave me the space and the freedom to look at my project work with fresh eyes and excitement. I worked my way through my archive to start the lengthy process of curating my work into a photography book. Due to the nature of being freelance and constantly needing to look for work and move forwards towards the next job, whilst I always ensure I am shooting personal work and passion projects, I often struggle to find the time to develop and explore ideas in depth and work on the post production side. This residency gave me the freedom to delve into my hard drives and rediscover old work that has been untouched and unseen for weeks/months/years.

The first week consisted of trawling through hard drives and collating all of my images from a specific documentary project and then re-editing a chosen selection of images to be printed. The work in question was a documentary project shot around the UK over the past 7 years focusing on the bikelife subculture and movement. Revisiting old work with fresh eyes and new perspectives allowed me to view previously ignored work in a completely different light.  

I then printed a wide selection of images for my second week at Talking Birds so that I could see the work in its physical form and as a ‘project’ for the first time. Having the space in the studio to lay out my photographs next to each other allowed me to see what worked together and create ‘categories’ and ‘collections’ of images. It also highlighted where the possible gaps are in the work, so that I can see what is missing and now plan what needs to be photographed in order to complete the project.

The Nest is a great creative hub, with clean and spacious studios to work from. I was lucky enough to experience two different studios due to my residency being spread across several weeks; Space Odyssey in my first week and Solid Blue in my second week. Changing my environment often leads to an increase in productivity and I was very lucky to have this unique experience of being able to enjoy two studios at The Nest.

An extra benefit was having interesting and inspiring conversations with staff and other residents. Other Coventry photographers were doing a different residency towards the end of my time at The Nest and I was able to show them my work for critique and exchange ideas / opinions.

Thank you to everyone I met at The Nest, I promise I won’t be a stranger. To any creatives in Coventry reading this, make sure you apply for a residency if you think you could benefit from it, as it’s such a great opportunity within the city.

What are you going to do with it?

(Paul Tafaro reflects on his recent Nest Residency)

Plan first

March 2022. I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a two week residency at Talking Birds. I clenched my fists and shook them, a gesture from footy. I’d found every excuse not to work at home. Here were two weeks, ten days, in a room, giving myself permission.

I had thought about writing this play for over a year. Subconsciously working on it perhaps. Every time I mentioned it, friends said ‘YOU HAVE TO WRITE THIS!’ I’d reply, ‘No you write it!’. Untrue.

A few months earlier, I had collated all of my notes (iPhone notes, email drafts, WhatsApp conversations, underneath loaves of bread) into a 29 page Word document. I distilled these notes ‘research’ into an 8 page scene plan. I had written out the plan a few weeks before the residency. The plan consists of scene headings, bullet points with tent poles of interesting things that should be included in the scene, the main action of the scene (the thing that needs to happen) with snatches of dialogue to consider including. This plan went through a few drafts, as I initially had fifteen scenes. When I have written a plan I know that the play can be written. On the residency I’d forget what the next scene was, but the plan steers me back and keeps me above sea level.

I figured I had a three act play. Nine scenes. One location. Each scene would be a mini pressure cooker play in itself. The audience a fly on the wall.

I had also worked out who would be on stage at the start of each scene. This was to create contrast, and focus on different dynamics within the play.
Act I
I C & E
II A & D
III B & C
IV E
Act II
I A
II D
III B
Act III
I A
II C

Interior design

On the first day of the residency, I completed emails before lunch, drawling the line under the first stage of another project. It took me two days to complete scene one. The longest scene (16 pages). The first scene of a play is sometimes tricky. I was introducing five characters and had some exposition. But it was also the scene where everyone, for the most part, is getting along. On the second day, I was behind, sat in the comfy chair and had a rest.

I was in the blue studio and decided to move the room around a little. On the second day, I had pulled out diva card #31 and asked for a computer chair from downstairs. This was kindly accommodated (brought up in the lift didn’t you know!) by Philippa. I adore natural light and faced the window but didn’t want my back to the door (opposite the window). I positioned myself near the radiator. This was partly so I could see if people were at the door. Whilst writing, I sometimes listen to classical music in the background – like Mahler or Shostakovich. Anything grand that I don’t need to dance to.

After the request for the computer chair, I realised that I’d also got used to the laptop at a particular height. I’ve lived in places without a desk before and used a chest of drawers that I opened up and balanced the laptop atop clothes. I was currently using some cardboard boxes and a Jamie Oliver (useful Xmas pressie) cookbook at home. What could I use here? Is that a bin?

It all seemed minimalist, possibly Scandi and in keeping with TB principles (I seem to have removed the bin for the photoshoot). Frances also kindly brought up the cushion in the photo for my arms leaning on the wooden table. I never knew I was this unbelievable. Scene a day.

Journey not the destination was that?

On the journey to the residency, I find myself noticing the tops of buildings. What was the story behind these? What were/are these rooms used for? There’s a moment when you drive into Radford, by Barr’s Hill, on a bus, that you are really quite high and can see quite far. I find myself wondering what the structure rising high above the rest was? Was it Warwick University? Was it, no surely, student accommodation?

On one journey, I see adult twins dressed in the exact same outfit, holding the exact same gym bag each. I think about mistaken identity … I wonder if there is enough lightness in what I am writing?

One morning at a stop, I watch a lady collect something off someone. She goes to another. I realise that she is asking for money. Out of four people, two stop and hand something to her. I think about what the money might be spent on? Who this person lives with? Why did I believe out of four people, four would not have given her anything?

12.38pm Lunch

The communal lunches were lovely. For an hour a day, everyone at TB generally gathers for their lunch downstairs, sometimes outside, if the sun’s got the memo it lands on Janet’s plants, everyone finishes their lunch and you can stay outside a little longer and sway to a summery song like Two Occasions by The Deele. For these two weeks you are freelance, child. On different days, different people are in. Some days my lunches lasted an hour, others two. Dez is an extraordinary raconteur. I needed any excuse not to work.

Plot twist

There would be an event and co-working day on Friday, the last day of residency – this meant no work Friday for me. Co-working days are a chance to chat and try brownies. Sometimes, I look at brownies through glass and imagine their taste. A van comes every day at lunch and sells food and drink. I haven’t bought a large Bakewell tart since Memorial park 2006 so I did relent once. I figured that I needed to finish the play on Thursday.

Work then

A working day might be 10.30 – 12.30, 2.30- 4.30 if the scene wasn’t finished, 9:30pm – 1:30am in the evening. A brilliant thing about the nest residency is that there is no expectation to create something, and you don’t need to be in the office.

I was surprised at how clearly the characters voices were in my head. One joy about playwriting, particularly when it works, is when characters surprise you. I had written out a plan with things that should be in the scene, but sometimes they didn’t end up in it, or characters entered the scene wanting something different (affecting but not changing the main action).

Some playwrights prefer to write by hand, even typewrite, but I like how the laptop can accommodate the speed of an actors thought.

Installation

The toilet upstairs is illuminated by a wondrous green light. I often used just this light when using the loo. It reminded me of a sort of nostalgic Megabowl laser quest/Drayton Manor ride which was potentially waltzers in the dark but I don’t remember. One day I was in there, I heard birds chirping? Later informed that this wasn’t from the NPO auditory access budget but real birds! Highly recommend a visit.

Wet Wednesday Will

Non-stop rain perfect working conditions. Dez made steps with a new score. I completed the first draft of the play. A year in the making, under the cover of rain. James Horner’s Brainstorm haunts me as we print double-sided. Feels like we we’re doing something forbidden. I had wanted to write this for a long time and was excited to get to the end. There were times when I’d come down for the communal lunch after an argument between characters (in my head) and the quietness of the adults in real life at lunch was an interesting juxtaposition. I really appreciated not being alone with my thoughts as one would normally write.

I used Thursday to learn how to put captions onto a YouTube video, thanks to an empowering tip from Janet.

I then spent a few days celebrating, resisting reading the first draft, a few more stretches of joie de vivre.

If the trend is to include a playlist, here
Ain’t No Stopping Us Now – McFadden & Whitehead
Before I let Go – Maze
Groovin’ (That’s what we’re doin’) – SOS Band

So

The residency was a beautiful experience. I had some lovely conversations. I spent one evening going to a dance class and another seeing The Batman. The weekend on another writing project. Knowing that I would be turning up for a few hours in the studio gave me a structure and time to focus. A laid back process. This was my first paid residency experience. Thank you very much.

feeling like coming back home

melissandre varin reflects on their recent Nest Residency

i had my third residency with Talking Birds between the 7th and 18th of March – in-between spaces.

i had access to “Odyssey” studio space at the Nest, received £1000 financial support, and found comfort (once again) in a warm hug, a half-pronounced joke, an overdue catch up and a permission to be – me.

i ended up inhabiting the studio offered to me about 4-5 days across a 2 weeks residency, i never felt like i was feeling the space as i needed to. Was i avoiding the spaces i intended to investigate with this project? i guess that this question will stay in suspension. It is only at the last moment, last day of residency that i started to connect threads, bits and pieces of me in regards to this inavouée (undisclosed) feeling.

Where i needed to be was at linoleum dreams parked on the parking of the Nest.

But – i did not feel ready, in all the complexity of what being ready to re-visit an artwork i sweated in, dreamt in, loved in – could (have) mean(t).

i felt like avoiding, and accepting the fact that i came to this residency depleted for multiple reasons that i will keep silent in typed words but could expand on if you ever see me in the detour of a street, gallery, theatre.

– depleted – it is when i am most vulnerable to external forces. i felt the pressure to produce for the first time in a while at the beginning of the residency. But – returned to myself spiritually guided by (non)living ancestors. i paused on the fact, the need to have such pockets, portals, moments to come depleted, stay depleted – feel its wind of change and its static corners – without pressure to ‘sort it/myself out’. As an artist with mood swings, chronic depression, and care responsibilities – i never paused on the thought that maybe feeling whatever i am feeling, including depleted, did not have to be a feeling, space i needed to unknot but could – be – with/in.

Without performing Black joy, without performing Black queer trauma, without performing but being and trusting the fact that what was (not) happening was ok.

Sym and mel inside linoleum dreams, parked on the parking of the Daimler Power House, kindly supported by Talking Birds

i had pleasure though! Surrounded by beings i love and did not see in a while, taking time to share a cuppa, nurturing friendships learning about how/where Black queer artist friends grew up in in Dakar, Birmingham, Nairobi… working at Odyssey studio with a friend part of B.O.O.K (Building Our Own Knoweldge) working group, inspired by friend and collaborator Samiir Saunders i wrote the first version of my access rider (happy to share with anyone interested) – i got to know about myself and share it to the world.

Ok now that i am starting to list things it actually sounds like it was 2 full wholesome weeks. But i want to highlight the reality that these were interrupted with times when i had to cancel my days as i felt the need to stay still – i must admit that i spent a whole day watching Love Is Blind season 1 and 2 as well (learnt so much!)… . Also learnt a lot navigating the British Arts Show in Wolverhampton as part of a day trip investigating this aching research question: how do we create loving environments? (perspectives from Black queer artworkers who grew up on the African continent and in the EU/UK-based diaspora) –

i lived.

i am writing this post fresh out of an inspiring talk by Zed Lawal, Dan Thompson & Derek Nisbet, and chair Philippa Cross.

this residency has been transformative – quite in line with most of Talking Birds’ work. as i am ending this annotation on the residency, i would like to share my love for the being making this organisation – a warm womb i (re)turn to while excited, on a high, depleted, lost ….-

Talking Birds, and its residencies programme is an essential example of what mothering could mean when it comes to the arts sector.

More on this slow-birth-ing creature i am working on or that is working within me in due course.

here is a snippet of a tentacle of this thingy that works and mixes my within for almost a year:

i would like to have conversations with members of my chosen family (mainly (Black) queer artworkers) this time and compile the transcripts of them – both work will inform a multi-language performance and multi-sensory installation i feel the impulse to make. With this project that lives in my heart i have the desire to investigate how senses of aesthetics, of what is art and what is not – are formed and informed by the built environment/ interior design/ furniture/ type of flooring / wall-paper and so on – we grew up in? How can this inform the creation of loving environments in the arts (too)? How can we create loving environments? Dissecting these questions by looking back at our immediate roots and acknowledging the power of ‘things’ in contributing in making us who we are now – i am currently thinking of expanding my understanding of my vibrant materialist approach.

As a dear being sent me on a low a couple of months ago:
Octavia E Butler’s assertion in Parable of the Talents, “To survive let the past teach us”

These words will definitely find home on my skin through ink asap.


If you are a Midlands-based artist working in any medium who might benefit from a Nest Residency, you can find more details and how to apply here.


Making space to change your mind

Co-AD Janet on why we have decided to pause a recruitment process part way through.

Last week we held interviews for the role of Nest Community Connector. We met five really interesting, amazing and unique humans, all of whom would have brought something really interesting to the role and to Talking Birds.

In the course of the interviews, the candidates asked us usefully searching questions, about the company and about the post, that prompted us to reflect more deeply on the role and where it sits within Talking Birds.

We realised, in our reflections at the end of a joyful and challenging day of conversations, that we were, in fact, asking ourselves more questions about the role than about who should fill it.

It felt unfair to ask anyone to walk into that uncertainty – and although it took some uncomfortable discussions to get to this point, we have decided not to appoint at this time. We will pay the applicants for the time spent on their applications and interviews, and we will ask one of our freelance family to hold a temporary ‘caretaker’ role supporting Nest Residents. We hope this will make space for our staff and board to interrogate and reimagine the shape of the team that will best support the company’s development and evolution into our 4th decade.

Roles in small companies are flexible things, they shape themselves around individuals and circumstances (neither of which are static) and, of course, evolve over time. The shape of the company and the skills and specialisms it needs gradually change. We should have remembered this. We knew it years ago, when we were a company of three artists and used one person moving on as an opportunity to create a role for someone with a very different skillset.

Even as a small and generally flexible company it’s easy enough, when you are as busy as we all are, to make the mistake of just forgetting to take a moment to question yourself sometimes: to just treat something like recruitment as a thing grown-up businesses do, a linear process rather than an opportunity (or obligation) to throw everything up in the air a bit. That’s just what happens. That’s how systems persist. It’s probably largely responsible for companies getting bigger and more difficult to turn around, and also perhaps how silos develop – when roles become defined by job titles rather than what needs doing.

It feels like this decision – to reconsider rather than appoint – may be a good example of the regenerative way of working that we aspire to. It is not sustaining the status quo, or growing for the sake of growth, but looking beyond: to regenerate, reinvent, find a better way of doing and being.

This has been a useful lesson for us: even when we are busy, we need to make space to explore whether the obvious path is actually the right one – remembering that just because this is the way something is always done, that doesn’t necessarily make it the right way of doing it.

We should, of course, have done that before holding interviews, but if we had, we would not have made new connections with those 5 wonderful people – and although we don’t yet know what shape of role Talking Birds really needs right now, we also don’t yet know what might grow out of the connections we made on that day of questions and conversations.

Revealing hidden treasures

Indira Lakshmi reflects on her recent Nest Residency

Y E A H ! So Excited!

I was in Delhi, sitting next to my husband in a bar called ‘Dr Zombie’ decorated in neon green and black with plastic skeletons hanging from the celling. We decided to go out, things are opening up again in the city after the second dreadful wave of Covid, which seems to be rapidly fading from collective memory. I opened my emails and found out that I’d been selected for the Future Ecologies Nest residency. I was totally ecstatic to be able to have been offered space and time to develop my practice, and was eager to get started.

—-

September 5th. Back in England. Mixed feelings about being back. L o n e l y … u n c e r t a i n t y
lovely weather 🙂 w=i=l=d=p=r=i=m=r=o=s=e sittiNGoN**thegrass

—-

15th September – 10am – canal trip – Dom Breadmore’s boat.

It takes a few minutes to get used to the motions of the boat, the sensation of buoyancy is something I’ve not felt in years. The last time I was on a boat was in Orissa, December 2017, Chilika lake, looking at gangetic dolphins. Being on the canal felt like Coventry’s secret mirror world, where everything moves in slow motion, watching the flora of the banks drift by, and the soft motions of the water felt surreal and healing.

C O C O N U T S –

There’s objects in the water that look like coconuts. I think of when offerings are given to the river Ganges, to show gratitude for sustaining life. I start remembering my grandma and the ritual when we immersed her ashes in Stratford upon Avon, because the river Avon eventually reaches the sea, just like the Ganges.

Dom explained that there’s a Hindu temple which backs onto the canal, and the coconuts are indeed ritual offerings. Something about the coconuts stuck in my mind. I feel they’re poignant metaphors for cultural displacement. I started to think about the diverse histories of migration to the city. My own family migrated to Coventry from Punjab in 1958 following the post-war call out for workers from the commonwealth.

The canal has a rich history. It was once lined with numerous factories and the homes of workers. A fascinating range of objects have been found in there including old machinery parts and even a grenade! Then there are these seemingly random, floating coconuts. They’re such loaded objects. They contain the energy of hopes, dreams, pleas, hundreds of prayers… They make me think of cultural displacement, not only within the Indian diaspora community I grew up in, but also within myself as I’ve navigated through both England and India. I’m a floating person, not truly belonging to either culture, that’s also a gift.

T h i n k i n g About T H E B O D Y

I started thinking about interactivity, as I knew my work would be potentially displayed physically at Random String Festival. I’d been thinking about passive participation in art spaces vs active participation, where the viewer considers the traces they leave behind in a space as well as what they take away. I’m also interested in technology bringing people together, physically rather than remotely in a metaverse dystopia, and how we create environments where physical exploration and movement can take place.

I constantly think about the body in space. How does the body inhabit the environment, how does the way we move/ position ourselves effect perception and vice versa.

I had been experimenting with the software Pure Data for a while, an open source visual programming environment. In Delhi I’d visited an exhibition where an artist had used Reactivision, an open source, cross-platform computer vision framework, to track markers to the effect of the viewer moving around and triggering a print command. I instinctively knew this was something I had to delve into, though initially I wasn’t sure how I’d use it.

R E A C T I V I S I O N == :s ….. 🙂 …… ❤

There was some refurbishment going on upstairs at The Nest, so I couldn’t access the studio. Frances helped me to print out sheets of fiducial markers, and I sat in the downstairs communal space and got to work.

I learnt the initial basics of programming during my MA in Visual Arts Practice at Ambedkar University in New Delhi, then carried on teaching myself. I figured out the basics with Reactivision fairly quickly, but getting beyond the basics took hours of sitting transfixed at my laptop.

One use of Reactivision is to track movement of fiducial markers. You move a fiducial marker – Reactivision tracks the coordinates and position – events are triggered depending on how you write the program. My process was – Reactivision feeds the X and Y coordinates into Pure Data, with that data you can assign certain events to certain markers, or to the X and Y coordinates of the markers.
Initially I routed out the data to a digital synthesizer and started experimenting.

https://youtube.com/shorts/fRILwEXkaeE (video of me initially experimenting with Pure Data and Reactivision)

T R I N I T Y M A R I N A W I T H Frances ❤

I wanted to find out what life was like living on the canal, in a boat. I remember when I lived in Leicester, my ex’s dad worked on a marina, I had some friends that lived in a boat too. I remembered bits of conversations from back then about what it was like to live on the water, the reasons why people wanted to get away from city life.

Frances, the community connector at Talking Birds, connected me with a friend of her husband named Marc Denny. Marc lives on a boat moored up in Trinity Marina, Hinkley. We drove up to meet Marc, who had gathered some of his friends together who also lived on boats there. We sat in a pub nearby and I recorded a conversation between us.

It was brilliant to speak to them, I wish I could have gone back and had individual recorded chats with them all but there wasn’t enough time. The main things I took away were that there was a greater sense of community, the pace of life was different away from the city/life on land, you had to be more mindful about your resources i.e water and heat…

I caught up with some friends who had lived on canal boats. They said life was hard in the winter but equally beautiful. Sensorially it’s a totally different way of life.

O C T O B E R 7th </3

Bad News… </3…
S-l-o-w-f-u-n-c-t-i-o-n-i-n-g | h-y-p-e-r-p-r-o-d-u-c-t-i-v-i-t-y — Taking breaks to cry in all the video installations at Coventry Biennial.

S4DN3*ss s l o w l y thenfast ( ͡❛ ﹏ ͡❛) l a g

C A N A L sOng

I joined Dom and Anne from Ludic rooms for a trip down the canal, to record using a hydrophone (underwater microphone). The results were interesting but not what I expected. All the hydrophone recordings sounded like a motorbike…

I applied some reverb and added layers of guitar and vocals over the top.

I fragmented the song into separate tracks and inserted them into the Pure Data patch I was working on. I developed the patch enough to be able to use it for a table-top interactive soundscape.

T A B L E – T O P (( OMG Kill me now :’) )) C R E A T I O N H U R D L E LONGTIME

I researched different ways that people had used Reactivision and marker tracking with interactivity, and decided I was going to make a rear-projected table-top interface where the markers could be read from underneath.
This was the plan:

Here’s an example of the moveable objects with fiducial markers underneath. I decided to use objects found in the canal which are anomalies; coconuts, litter, empty beer cans…

I borrowed a large piece of perspex from Ludic Rooms and initially began working with the perspex balanced on two tables. I began working with rear projection, which is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever done…

s l o w l y thenfast ( ͡❛ ﹏ ͡❛) l a g

The code was now working well, but getting the hardware and physical elements to work was much more challenging. This is really what took up the most of my time, but I’m really, really glad to have had this time of trial and error. It’s been an invaluable learning process. I eventually figured things out, and moving forward I have this know-how in my artistic tool kit – I’m already planning the next development of this work.

My friend Tom Edwards helped me with making a wooden structure for the perspex, which we assembled at Random String Festival.

I wish I had more time to make things more polished. I think I utilised the time as well as I could, and ended up with a working prototype for the future. If I could do this again I’d do it with floating objects on water, in a shallow tank…

I realise that when you finally get over the technical hurdles your mind opens up to more possibilities, rather than being obsessed with overcoming tech difficulties. I heard a phrase in November that sticks with me ‘rationally working with what you have reveals hidden treasures’. I’m trying to do that. I’m not a software engineer or a trained musician, until now I’ve intuitively worked with the skills I’ve picked up at different points in life, and this residency has given me the time and space to develop my skills with programming. A new window has opened for me. Though I used found objects for the work at Random String, I know that now I can integrate my skills as a sculptor into a touch interactive framework, and I’m thinking along new lines with interactivity, games and experiences.

14th November, 2021, Random String Festival 😀

The display at Random String Festival was a really valuable experience. The work was interacted with a lot by people of all ages, it was a really positive atmosphere. The rear projection wasn’t perfect, my positioning of the mirrors is something I need to work on in the future, as well as refining the code and other hardware/physical elements.

One of the great things about the display was the constant interaction with the work, people were engaging and actively participating in the experience – people were having fun with it, having a laugh with their friends, children were fascinated with it…

I’m thinking about the balance between something which is a spectacle and still looks inviting enough to physically engage with.

I’m working on the next rendition of this table top interface for a gig my friend George and I are organising in March with our project Human Oils. I’m trying to create a game, where there are more obvious rules, more clearly defined ways of moving things around. I’m thinking noughts and crosses with different objects, just as an experiment.

(Coventry City of Culture video, me talking about the work)

I want to sincerely thank everyone at Talking Birds and Ludic Rooms for their support and for the invaluable work they do. This has been an incredible and valuable experience which I feel has really propelled me forward with my practice.

🙂