Wednesday afternoon, 5pm…
It’s been a long day, it’s been a long week, incredibly busy at work… writing most of the time when I get home, I didn’t even get the chance to get back on my guitar since Sunday and I didn’t get much sleep the last couple of days.
I’m shuttered. But I’m not going home just yet. I got a ticket for a poetry event at the new John Hansard Gallery.
“Should I go home and have a relaxing evening instead?”
“But you really wanted to visit the Gallery since it first opened.”
“Yeah but I’m soo tired. And I can visit another time, maybe lunchtime tomorrow, oh wait I have a meeting at lunchtime tomorrow, what about Friday, oh wait…”
“See? Just go. You love poetry, it’s a free event, now SOLD OUT, and you get to walk around the gallery and finally meet the Transformer you’ve seen the pictures of for days…”
“But I’m exhausted…”
“Remember what you talked about with Shebz earlier…”
“OK OK I’ll go”
Sometimes these internal conversations go for hours. No wonder why I feel so tired all the time.
I’m glad I decided to go.
I went about an hour early so I can check out all the exhibitions currently at the Gallery.
First thing I went to see was of course Hetain Patel’s Fiesta Transformer. I was weirdly fascinated with Transformers since I was a child, cars turned into robots, so futuristic and brilliantly surreal. I never thought I’d ever see a Transformer up close. I stood there staring at it, standing next to it, admiring Guildhall Square alongside it. I decided I was going back at the interval, after the sun set, when it all looks more magical.
I went back and this time it was just me in the room, not for long but that was a moment I’d never forget. Its shadows on the wall whilst the Transformer itself admiring the views. For some it may have seemed scary, for me it felt like a friend, a familiar face in a weird sense. I stood next to window, glanced at the beautifully lit sister building, the Nuffield theatre, which I can’t wait to visit, staring at what looked like an old man in a white shirt and black trousers, he reminded me of a photo of my dad grilling fish in the kitchen of the restaurant he worked… and then I couldn’t stop staring at Guildhall Square and started humming a song I’ve been humming all week, Jorja Smith’s Don’t Watch Me Cry. Are you aware when you set me free? All I can do is let my heart bleed…
It was like the Transformer and I were two old pals standing there admiring the views with my humming echoing in the room. Someone walked in, I left the room, still humming. The moment was over but what a moment it was.
I then walked next door, in a dark room with two benches opposite two large screens. I sat down to watch Don’t Look at the Finger, a short film created by Hetain. Oh my. No words to describe it can do it justice. An African wedding ceremony, I assumed an arranged marriage. The couple getting dressed then stood in front of the priest. I expected her to speak but she started signing. They were all deaf.
The wedding ceremony was a touching, emotive blend of body movement, gestures, signing. After their hands briefly touched the couple burst into a powerful martial arts dance, ending with them smiling at each other holding hands. Incredible costumes, imposing background as the ceremony took place in an old church and the music accompanying the film was equally mesmerising, powerful and touching, all at once. Absolutely incredible.
I was about to walk out but Hetain’s The Jump screening started. And it captivated me so much I could not leave, I stood there watching until it was over. Spiderman jumping in slow motion on the colourful, patterned floor looking directly at me at the end.
I now love Hetain Patel. I don’t know if his work has the same effect on everyone, but everything I’ve seen that night immediately got me. I can’t wait to see more.
I didn’t have much time left before the poetry event run by Entropics was about to start so I had a quick look around Sam Laughlin’s Untitled exhibition, a series of black and white photographs documenting the construction of Studio 144, the building I was standing in. Fascinating.
After a quick look into the City Eye area, I stepped into Rob Crosse’s Prime Time Gallery. A bench and a couple of bean bags opposite a screen showing a short film of a group of older gay men whilst they travel the Caribbean on a cruise ship. I didn’t have time to watch the whole film, I need to go back for that, but I stood there for a moment staring at the deep blue sea and the bright blue sky before I picked up a poem written by Chantal Faust, written in response of the film title Something Along the Lines of Desire. So magnificently real, I felt every word.
I didn’t have time to explore Rhona Byrne’s Huddlehood interactive artwork or Stair/Slide/Space Conversation station, so I’m already planning another visit next week.
After my little tour it was time for the event to begin.
I love poetry. I fondly remember some of the first poems I ever read by big Greek Poets, Seferis, Elytis, Kavafy. How they made me think, transferred me elsewhere, took me on trips through imagination. I don’t read poetry as often as I’d like and any opportunity I get to enjoy and learn more I take it. That how I ended up at the Gallery on Wednesday.
First, Holly Pester. I didn’t know much about her other than what was on the Gallery’s website. I’m glad I didn’t, it’s better not to have any preconceptions. I was captivated from the first poem. Holly’s poetry is so real and raw, weirdly beautifully playing with words, inspired by every day life and her performing style is as equally captivating. She read poems on Gossip, an alternative view of it, how it could actually be helpful in some circumstances and then moved on to lullabies. Not lullabies you’d expect. Real, surreal, sad but beautiful. But my favourite poem of hers by far was the one on abortivity. The pain, the constant pain whilst getting on with life pretending everything it’s OK…
Next on Iain Morrison, the Gallery’s Writer in Residence. Iain wrote a series of poems based on his notes on meetings and other events leading to the Gallery’s opening. Funny, imaginative, beautiful. I loved his playful writing and his accent (I love accents). I couldn’t stop thinking what if I wrote what’s going in my head when I’m sat at meetings at work, all the random thoughts, my imagination going wild, my mind drifting away to places, people…
The evening ended with insightful conversations kicked off by the QnA. Did you know that the word gossip actually originates from the bedroom at the time of childbirth, as giving birth used to be a social ladies only event?
Most of the audience knew each other and most came from a creative background. At first I thought “Should I be here? I don’t know half the things these people do. Do I really fit in? I’m not a poet, I’m not an artist, what am I?”
A colleague earlier that day randomly said after I expressed my admiration for Paul Maple, one of the most creative people at Solent “Of course you love him, you love everyone and everything creative”.
It’s undeniably true.
I learned so much in one evening and I enjoyed every moment. Even if I didn’t fit in.
I’m incredibly happy John Hansard Gallery is now literally steps away and I can indulge myself in more culture, art and creativity.
Thank you to everyone who made Wednesday evening happen. A night to remember.