James Whitman

Author, playwright and creative writing tutor, based in Sunderland.


20/20 Vision: Week #1

It’s been a week since the 20/20 Vision exhibition opened at Mackie’s Corner in Sunderland. A unique collection of work by 20 local artists over 6 weeks, 20/20 Vision is the brain-child of my good friend, Barrie West. The quality and variety of the work he has collected is fantastic, and visitors to the exhibition have commented on both its range and accessibility.

I’m one of three residents at the exhibition, the others being Mark Peverley (painter), and Anthony Barstow (sculptor). My plan is to create new writing and workshop material, inspired by the pieces exhibited and the practice of the artists involved.

Meeting the Artists

One of the best things about 20/20 Vision is the opportunity to meet the artists who created the work. Learning about the different approaches they take, and what motivates them to create work, is fascinating.

For instance, I spent much of Saturday chatting with Kath Price. Kath is a textile artist and workshop facilitator. We chatted about her involvement with feminist protests in 1970s Birmingham, and how much of an impact these had on her work as an artist. We also talked about Kath’s love of all things Laura Ashley. (Kath also taught my younger son how to make ‘proggy flowers’, which was just the most lush thing ever.)

Stephanie Smith doing what she does best — enthusing!

I’m already mates with Stephanie Smith, whose ‘Skin Maps’ are the subject of a documentary coming to Radio 4 in December. I’ve followed the development of this project for many months, and it’s been really satisfying hearing people’s responses to Steph’s work after all this time.

Over the next few weeks, I’m looking forward to chatting with more of the artists. The only problem is that my mind is already fizzing with new ideas, inspired by what I’ve seen and heard so far…

Hendon Writers Group

On Tuesday, I ran a writing workshop at Mackie’s Corner for the Hendon Writers Group. The group produced work inspired by Steph’s portraits and Skin Maps, as well as paintings by Ken Devine (of Sunderland’s Frederick Street gallery).

Ken Devine’s paintings  inspired some haunting stuff from the Hendon Writing Group.

Writing from inspiration points like these forces you out of your own personal writing rut. Some of what the group produced gave me actual goose-bumps, and I look forward to these ideas being developed in future workshops.

If you’d like to try some of the writing exercises I’ve come up with so far, I’ll post some of them on here. Alternatively, you could visit Mackie’s Corner, where you’ll find the exercises in little hand-made zines. Alternatively, if you’d like me to run a workshop in the space for your writing group or school, please get in touch.

Additionally, as part of this residency, I’m also trying out something new…

Live Streaming

For the first week, I recorded three streams based on Steph’s ‘Skin Maps’. You can find videos of these streams here (over on Twitch). If you enjoy the exercises, please share them with your writing buddies. Also, I’m totally new to streaming, so any feedback on the videos would be greatly appreciated.

Okay, that’s enough from me for now. If you want to find out more about 20/20 Vision, check out The Sunderland INDIE on Facebook. Or just come along to Mackie’s Corner and ask one of the arty looking types sitting in the windows. (Pev and I have weirdly similar wardrobes, but I’ll be the one with the laptop, while he’s the one with the easel).

Until next time… toodle-oo!

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