Happy New Year you lovely lot,
It’s been nice to have a break over Christmas even though the end of the year can bring with it difficulty. It can be isolating and naturally grief can rise to the surface at this time of year. I was lucky enough to have some very lovely people confide in me over December. Listening to peoples struggles and sharing my own was considerably more nourishing than the obscene amount of cheese and chocolate I put in my face.
So, to everyone who had a challenging Christmas: a massive well done! You got through it! I’m sending you solidarity and power for 2019.
I’ve been thinking about the notion of celebration rather than enforced joy and buying crap you don’t need (my natural temperament is set to Eeyore) and more about genuinely celebrating the people around me and our collective achievements of the last twelve months. I’m so lucky to have the brilliant women that are Jess Sweetand Anna Turzynski working with me. Last year would not have happened without their endless patience, hard graft, and strategic glasses of wine.
2018 was a busy year for me and Team Grief. We hosted an international conference on Death & Remembrance welcoming delegates from Germany, America, Mexico and India in partnership with Dr. Laura King and Live Art Bistro. Lots of personal and academic reflection fuelled by Jess’ culinary invention Empanasties (Empanadas meet Pasties) to mirror our Leeds and Mexico City collaboration.
We hosted artist and film maker Vlady Diaz from Mexico City for a residency, discussing the history of grief in both our cultures with visits to museums, arts spaces and a very British (rainy) trip to Whitby.
Next came a pilgrimage and international tour of Part 6: Journey with Absent Friends, a new installation for our caravan Perle. During the project I had some big life moments including finding a long last map containing my Dads personal history and meeting up with my brother’s wife and children in Luneborg for the first time since Jonathan died, over a decade ago. There was certainly a big overlap on the art/life Venn diagram. We’ll be launching a website with videos, photographs and writing of the journey soon, so if you want to see me in breath-taking countryside having a bit of a cry… watch this space!
We had beautiful responses to the caravan from audiences in the UK & Germany and extended our tour to do more dates in Leeds and to open Manchester Jewish Museum's Festival of Leavingin November.
We sent Grief Series designer and brilliant woman Bethany Wells to Mexico City for a making residency with Zion Studio based in The Faro De Oriente and collaborated with the artist and translator Laura Pirez. We really feel we have found the most wonderful team to grow part 7 with care, ambition and a glass or two of Mezcal.
Our Ofrenda workshops across Yorkshire have invited some moving responses as we re-invent our remembrance rituals and to give voice to invisible histories. Add to that lecturing, mentoring and being an outside eye for some fantastic artists including Joanne Tremarco, Victoria Firth and Stephen Donnelly has made for a hectic but fulfilling year.
I spent betwixtmas (that week between Christmas and New Year) sitting in my pj’s doing very little. And so I’m celebrating the lovely people that make Team Grief: producers, artists and audiences. Thanks so much for your generosity and often radical vulnerability.
Next year sees more exciting work with artists from Mexico, launching the Part 6 website, touring Perle and facilitating more Ofrenda workshops. I hope you can join me.