“Memories Project” at Echoes

Fusion Arts

Fusion Arts

The memories project at “Echoes”

I have to admit that I am slightly nervous about the impending project, which I am about to lead. It starts on Tuesday and whilst I have thought about it quite a lot, the prospect of the first session in two days has me wondering whether I will be able to cope, to be able to inspire the users of the Group enough to keep their attention, to work with them to create meaningful pieces of work that uses the time they invest in the Group in a valuable way…..

The current schedule proposal – from the Artscape Leader (Tom) is:

Summer Term time Dates:

1. 16th April – John Umney Project, supported by Tom

2. 23rd April – John Umney Project, supported by Tom

(Claire ward visit Oxfordshire Dementia Information Services Coordinator)

3. 30th April – John Umney Project, supported by Tom

4. 7th May – John Umney Project

5. 14th May – John Umney Project

6. 21st May – John Umney Project

28th May – Half term – no session

7. 4th June – John Umney Project

8. 11th June – John Umney Project

9. 18th June – Fusion Project

  1. 25th June – Fusion project
  2. 2nd July – Fusion Project
  3. 9th July

16th July

This schedule is likely to change, but as it is two months I am wondering whether to use it as an assignment – either 1 or 2. I will need to discuss with my tutor. I plan to stay with this Group as long as they will have me, and also integrate myself into the ‘Artscape’ project as widely as possible. I have ben offered an Honorary Contract (which binds both parties to certain obligations – chiefly on part about confidentiality etc.), the CRB checks are now being carried out (or at least I have filled the forms in and passed them over a couple of weeks ago), and a bunch of other forms have been signed, witnessed and countersigned….

What hasn’t been arranged thus far is how the final work will be exhibited, as I understand things these projects have a conclusion, an outcome that is viewable by the outside world – even if it is on the walls of the Fusion Arts building where the Group is hosted; we shall see.

This was how I described the project before I went on holiday in an email to Tom:

My thoughts/inspiration on this project came from what I perceived of the two previous projects the ‘Masks’ – which I only saw as end pieces – and the tile project. I really liked both projects but from slightly different perspectives and combining these I thought about how I could work with the group on a notion of the ‘Self”. The masks were, I think, modelled on the creator of the mask, so became, in effect, a reflective self portrait and whilst I wouldn’t want to derive too much from them I was very interested to compare the created item with the individual. That John’s mask seemed to be angry, whereas he is very mild mannered, and Richard’s ‘dual’ mask might be an expression of how he feels about himself…… as I said I wouldn’t want to delve too deeply, but interesting nonetheless. And the ’tile’ project combined elements of the past and recreated them in the present – the artifacts that were excavated in the local community, using clays that were similar to that of the found objects and then the users bringing a current perspective to them by manufacturing their own version.

With the photo project I would like to have the users develop a portrayal of themselves – a kind of self portrait perhaps – that uses elements from their past to express a ‘vision’ of themselves today. I appreciate that this ‘vision’ will only be a narrow view, but nevertheless if they bring to the portrait items that are of meaning to them then it will bring the past into the present in some small way and present a ‘vision’ of themselves.

Some of the themes I thought about were family related – holidays, weddings, childhood et. Or it could be something to with work – as sometimes work can be as important as family life. I thought about old family photographs, I have some jewellery passed down to me that I could photograph, some flowers from our son’s wedding – lots of holiday photos of course. It might be objets d’arts like a paper weight or a christening spoon, things that have a special place in their memories that either remind them of a person or a place that was, and maybe still is, special to them.

As I said I can bring some stuff to the first meeting and maybe if Dipti could ask them to bring the oldest photograph they can find – doesn’t matter if it’s black and white or colour, crumpled up and creased, stained or pristine – so long as it has a meaning to them. We can then talk about my stuff, and maybe your stuff as well and then try and develop a conversation about the pictures they have brought which will help them reflect about what they might choose to bring to be re-photographed during the project. As I said previously negatives are ok as I can scan them, and if they want to use original photos in the piece of work that’s ok or I can scan them as well. I would like the group to write a few words about each piece they bring if possible – nothing much, maybe just to say ‘this is me and mum’, but if they wanted to say anything more then that’s fine also and then append these words/label to the items as it appears on the final piece of work. We can set up a ‘photo-studio’ much like I did with the tile project with a camera and tripod for which I would make prints and bring in the following week; I would expect that the users took most of the pictures, with some assistance from us.

The work, as I see it at the moment, will be individual prints (though it could be a collage) with a personal narrative set by the user and guided a bit by us.

I am happy to have conversations with them, though I appreciate that I’m a novice with the group and will value support from the ‘professionals’. I’ll try and think of ‘plan B’s” before we kick-off, but having worked with the group for a few weeks I am starting to get a sense of the dynamics and have enjoyed it immensely so far – so again, thanks for the opportunity.

I hope this answers most of your concerns, let me know if you have any further issues and I will try and answer them. I will be flying off on Monday so will try and get the forms sorted out by then.

Otherwise have a good Easter break and I look forward to meeting up on the 16th.


So, to Tuesday’s events: I plan to introduce the project to the “users”. I will bring a number of artifacts which will include:

A photograph of my parents wedding, my fathers signet ring – this is very thin and has a cut where it removed from him after he had died and was passed to me. Some cuff-links that my Grandfather gave me for my twenty first birthday – these were originally a present I gave him with my first wages as a “Saturday Boy” at the CO-OP when I was fourteen. A wooden carving of Ganesh that we had commissioned in India some years ago – Ganesh, amongst about a thousand other responsibilities, is the God of memory and time. Some chop-sticks from California, A passport… I made a list here:


There is a concomitant danger that as I participate in the activity that in my ‘self-portrait’ I start to reveal too much about myself than I really want to see…

I plan to post about the progress of the project, on a weekly basis I hope and record the participants through their work as their portraits begin to appear.


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