Sunday, 22 May 2011


I know a poet called Mark Ward.
We have worked together in the past and i asked if he might consider writing something about dandelions when i saw him during the Curate the Campus project last week (he's studying for an MA in creative writing at the uni). I was really chuffed when he said yes and am delighted with the result:

Prolific: profligate,

they emulate the stars in their boldness

and intensity.

Unsung by poets, persecuted by gardeners,

the wrong type of flower

they stand defiant on the lawns and pathways

Outcasts, banished to the edgelands of our

towns and cities; flourishing on the sidings

and embankments: the mean backstreets

and the decaying monoliths of our industrial past.

Bouquets for the homeless.
In time the brash garish flowers transform
into opaque globular seed heads: light, delicate
they await the breeze to stir.
Dandelion clocks.
Pluck one; take a breath and blow.

Count the hours – spread the joy.
Come Spring there’ll be another star-burst on the lawn.

Mark Ward, 2011

Saturday, 21 May 2011

CTC Day 8 - Final day

The final day on my residency proved to be another successful day. I finished my concertina book of drawn dandelion leaves collected around the site (there's a total of 72 drawings in the book) and I also met with Eduardo Medina, a PhD student studying biological sciences: we had a really fascinating conversation about the British ecosystem assessment and lots to do with habitats and the value of land.

I then had a great meeting with Dr Rebecca Ellis a lecturer at the Lancaster Environment Centre whose background is in Social Anthropology - Emily Adams introduced us as she thought we would have a lot in common. A really interesting conversation which i'm still thinking about.

What a great few days - absolutely packed with things to think about from conversations and chance encounters. I loved this project! It will continue further into the future, i know it.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

CTC Day 7 - Encounter

The weather wasn't great yesterday - still grey and rainy most of the day. Aarrrh - the British summer is here.

I went to find the green roof on top of the Info Lab building at the far end of the campus. In the wind and rain me and Richard went out onto the deck outside the cafe to what can only be described as a dishevelled, weedy patch of yellowing plant life - pretty miserable looking. I was happy to see that some of the healthiest looking plants on the roof were dandelions - popping up where they shouldn't be. I collected a couple of leaf specimens and we left.

I had lunch with Mark Ward who is studying for his MA in creative writing. He has agreed to write a poem for the dandelion project and asked for an extension on the deadline (he fits well into student life).

The afternoon ended with a chance encounter - i met with Dr Felipe Otondo who has an office on the same corridor to me and is a lecturer in music technology - and we had a great discussion about dandelions, sound, art and such over a cup of tea. A great day.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

CTC Day 6 - Rain

It rained all day yesterday - it was horrible.

But although i didn't get out onto the grounds much I had a really great day.

I managed to get in to Bowland Tower - the big disused tower block right in the middle of the campus. It's been shut a few years - it used to be accommodation for students, but became infamous for the amount of suicides of students leaping from the top.

Pete Moser is doing 24 hours in the tower as part of the Curate the Campus project - writing a piece of music and broadcasting every hour from the 12th floor of the tower. That's how i managed to get in - i delivered a heater to him.

I have to say it is really nasty inside - bleak, wind swept and drizzle soaked. The window sills were covered in a blanket of dead flies - apparently the whole floor was also covered, but they cleaned it up before Pete stayed there. I admire Pete for his determination - a night in there must have been a real challenge.

I took lots of shots and also noted Wall-rue Asplenium ruta-muraria growing out of a crack in an outside wall 12 floors up, and also Groundsel Senecio vulgaris growing inside the building in a glass sided stairwell.

The day ended with a meeting with Ian Sturzaker the Landscape Manager here at Lancaster University. It was such and interesting chat - we talked about the university policy concerning weeds and management of the grounds. The boundaries of acceptability regarding weeds is interesting in this case: to let weeds live and grow in the pavements and landscaped areas would reveal a lack of care and disrespect for culture. However, the university is situated in fields and woodland - the site is 360 acres in total - so you can't continue a strict regime throughout, therefor weeds are part of the balance in the surrounding habitats.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

CTC Day 5 - KCUF

My fifth day on site started quite well with another bus trip where the kids were far better behaved, subdued even. Perhaps by Friday they are burnt out. While unloading the kids off the bus i noticed across the road someone had made an unsuccessful attempt to write a swear word backwards on the perspex of the bus shelter so people opposite (like me) could read it - it read: KCUF. Made me laugh for the rest of the journey.

I did lots more drawing: i think i've finished about 40 odd pages now, plus I wandered the grounds to collect leaves. I went to the lake and saw scrawny coot chicks and noted many flowers: cuckoo flower, meadow and creeping buttercups, forget-me-nots, figwort, daisies, wild pansy and foxgloves (i've left my note book at the office - so i can't remember the whole list).

Thursday, 12 May 2011

CTC Day 4 - Drawing

I did lots of drawing all yesterday afternoon - doing line drawings of dandelions leaves i've collected from around the site. It was a sunny, windy afternoon with cloud shadows skidding across the landscape.

Today is different - grey sky with some drizzle, a cooler, stiff breeze whipping in from the coast.

I've just had a great meeting with Roger Lang who, until recently, had his CLEO* office here at Balerigg House. He knows the site pretty well and we chatted about dandelions - he told me of a poem he knows about pulling up dandelions - i'm going to try and look it up then i'll put it on the blog.

I'm now going out to collect more specimens to finish the drawing work - a concertina book with a different drawing per page - i've done 20 odd so far and need to do about 60 in total.

*Cumbria and Lancashire Education Online

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

CTC Day 3 - The Journey

The journey here was a trauma. I set off from the house at 7.20 and caught the bus from the centre of Preston.

It was the school bus.

There was only a few other non-teenagers on the bus: huddled together on the lower deck. The collective noise of screeching youths was indescribable - god only knows what the driver had done to get that shift. Thankfully the duration of the school run was quite short and when they all got off the driver stopped for a well earned break and give us all time for reflection.* He kept the doors open during the break - presumably to clear the heady smell of Lynx aftershave.
It took me two hours to get here.

Anyway i just got back from a fab meeting with Emily Adams who is studying a PhD here on Understanding and Managing Honey Bee Health in the UK. We had a lovely walk to a seat below Balerigg House where we sat and chatted about dandelions and bee research while having a cup of tea. While we walked further she gave me lots to think about and how so many different subjects overlap with the dandelion project. We had a great time and we're going to meet again tomorrow.

*I reflected on the thought that i've just bought a weekly ticket.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Curate the Campus Day 2

It's been another fab day here at the Lancaster University campus. I first met with poet Mark Ward who is studying for his MA in creative writing and we arranged to meet later in the residency. I'm hoping he might write something for the project.

It was a drizzly start, but i went over to the far end of the site along the woodland walk. There was only me - i expect all the studes were busy studying and not having time to walk about the beautiful grounds...

I collected a few dandelion leaf specimens in my press and walked back to my office. I have an office! I've never had a job where i had an office (i've had jobs where others have the offices).

After a long walk to the furthest part of the campus from my office I met artists Jonathan Raisin and Elizabeth Willow by random chance in the garden they made last year for the Making Time project. We had a long chat about dandelions and the project - they used an image of a dandelion seed head on their Making Time postcard.

It's really sunny now so i'm off out to explore again.

Curate the Campus Day 1

I started my residency yesterday here at Lancaster University at the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts.

When i got here in the morning it was a bright sunny morning. Richard Smith, the curator here, showed me around the campus: it's massive - an incredible array of concrete buildings set in some beautiful grounds surrounded by woodland with lots of trails and paths and open parkland with various sports fields.

I spent a couple of hours exploring the woodland and then a walk to the little lake and onto the rugby pitch - where i found this dandelion - and then back up to my little office where i'm based for the project.

The afternoon weather was totally different: it absolutely poured down. But i still managed a walk in the grounds with Richard as we chatted about the project and then i continued to explore the site and gather specimens and get my bearings.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Curate the Campus

From 9th May - 20th May i'll be artist in residence at LICA Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts based at Lancaster University.

I'm going to concentrate on the dandelion project while there: i'll collect specimens (as always), but also i'm going to try and meet with as many people as possible from different departments to chat about dandelions within their own area of study.

More info