An account of weekly workshops by Isabel Dickens
A new exhibition focusing on artwork created by the public during lockdown has opened at Platform. **Listen here to an interview about the project on BBC Radio Scotland - The Afternoon Show with Janice Forsyth.**
Everything Will Be Fine is a celebration of the creativity that flourished during times of sadness and uncertainty. On Friday 15 May 2020, as the country navigated the restrictions of lockdown, Issue 1 of a newly created Platform newsletter was mailed out to 42 homes in the north east of Glasgow.
The Bridge had been closed for two months and Platform were looking for ways to stay in touch with the local community – especially those who were not keen or geared up towards online interaction.
The newsletter began with writing letters, sharing responses to questions, drawings, observations, hopes and jokes and with each issue, a stamped address envelope would be included for people to have the option to respond. As lockdown continued and restrictions remained, the newsletter became a regular way to keep in touch, offering a space to stay connected and creative.
The project ran for over 18 months and produced twenty-five issues in total. By the fifteenth issue the mailing list had grown to 252 names and across the project 4,654 newsletters – in an A5 magazine style format - were printed and posted to addresses across north east Glasgow and beyond. People from all ages and areas took part, from young children and families, to couples and elder generations.
Mail Art Contributor Kit McKeown, 81, from Easterhouse, who took part in the project and who has a submission included within the exhibition said: “When lockdown struck, the art classes I had attended at Platform continued weekly online. The team at Platform then started the Mail Art initiative - we were posted a blank A4 piece of paper and a SAE. We had the freedom of submitting whatever we wanted. 2 weeks later the newsletter was dropped through the letterbox by post. It was always on a Friday - a day marked with excitement and anticipation for a good read. For me, it heralded a joyful start of the weekend.
“I am delighted to have one of my submissions – an artwork on my past profession - nursing - featured in the Platform exhibition. Additionally, one of my submissions was picked up by a similar project by the Southbank Centre in London and it went on display there as part of their exhibition – I ended up as a poster girl on display up and down London, Brighton, Manchester and various cities in England. It was also included as part of the touring exhibition as far as Europe”.
A total of 400 submissions were received over the course of the project, in various forms from people of all ages, locations and background. For those involved, each issue became something to look forward to and a space for people to share and inspire, contemplate and discuss. The final issue of the newsletter was sent out in December 2021.
Scaled up versions of the contributions are now on display on Platform’s exhibition wall, showing an artwork from each issue and ultimately sharing the broad range of styles, themes and creativity that thrived throughout the project. Also featuring as part of the exhibition are selected original artworks alongside the pages of writing that was submitted in the form of letters, stories, poems. Participants are coming together on Sat 14 May to open the exhibition and see their work on display.
Platform’s Artistic Director Matt Addicott said: “When the arts centre closed it forced us to reflect on the very nature of what we do. Like many other venues and organisations we moved a lot of services online but for many such activity was not possible or not of interest. And so we turned to the post and sent out materials, wool, pens, paper, paints, sketch books etc for people to continue creating at home.
“Something still felt absent however – the exchange, the connection – offering a space for people to share and connect with one another is at the heart of what we do and so the mail art project was an attempt to fill this gap. If we could not meet in person then perhaps making, sending and sharing via the post could work.
“As the weeks and months passed and the mailing list grew, it was heartening to work on a project that people were engaging with and contributing to. At times my flat felt a bit like a post office with hundreds of envelopes, address labels and stamps everywhere. Although printing, folding and posting was a bit of a slog at times, receiving so many beautiful, creative and inspiring responses in the mail made it more than worth it. The project certainly gave me purpose and hope during the dark months of lockdown.
“Since the project began we have talked about displaying these artworks in the venue and it’s a real joy to finally see them hanging on the exhibition wall.”
Margaret McCormick, Platform’s Arts & Communities Lead, who curated the exhibition added: “We are proud that the first exhibition taking place at Platform since reopening is a celebration of the creativity that emerged through the newsletter project - displaying artworks from the 25 issues that were created and sent out via post during the past 18 months.
“I spent quite a bit of time with everything that was submitted, looking through letters, stories, personal notes, drawings and paintings. Even though the project came from a time of challenge and isolation, what we have is a vibrant collection of artworks from people of all ages.
“I was inspired by the regular contributions that everyone made and the creativity that emerged between people as a way to keep in touch and stay connected.
“Everything Will Be Fine really is a celebration of the people who made it, offering an insight into the creative community we have here at Platform and how that community grew and flourished during very dark times”.
This Spring, April 2022, brings new hope and Platform is delighted to be back with workshops, events and performances taking place once again at our home within The Bridge.
The exhibition wall and vitrines at The Bridge features artwork by:
Ahlam Mohammed, Anne Marie Murray, Annie Love, Brenda Gilmour, Charlene Munro, Edward Henry, Elaine Fisher, E. M, George Drennan, Geraldine Heaney, Gillian Grant, Janis Johnston, Jean Lawton, Jim Rafferty, Joesph McNulty, Kayla Monaghan, Kit Ching McKeown, Lewis Blair, Maeve Macluney, Margaret Connelly, Margaret MacCallum Steele, Marlene Finnigan, Mary Mullan, Neda Ghaffar, Steven Khan, Orlan McAleney, Peter Kelly, Peter Woods, Regina Ballantyne, Simmi Saini, Steve Carrick, Susan Milligan, Tatiana Robb, Thomas Sherry, Robert Haughie and anonymous contributors.
The exhibition also features a series of portraits by Eoin Carey. This collection of photographs were commissioned by Southbank Centre as part of their project Art By Post.
Entry is free and the exhibition is on at Platform, The Bridge, until Saturday 18 June 2022. Exhibition opening times: Mon 10am–5pm, Tues10am–8pm, Wed 10am–5pm, Thu 10am–8pm, Fri 10am–5pm, Sat 10am–5pm, closed Sundays.
[Images: Euan Robertson]