OORFC in Exeter

Last week I spent two mornings at Lost and Found Art in Exeter.

There was a steady flow of people looking at all the local art, and I was fortunate enough to talk to most of them.

What was particularly pleasing for me was the chance to talk to several young visitors and hear their responses to the ‘What are we doing to our children?’ question.

I was surprised how open and forthcoming they were with their concerns for the future, and their willingness to fill in the Response Forms.

Of course, you can read everyone’s responses in the Repository, where I hope that I have categorized them correctly.

Correct and appropriate categorization is proving quite difficult, so please forgive me if mistakes have been made.

Once again, I thank everyone for their support and encouragement.

A practical example to address a serious concern

A few weeks ago I happened to be tuned into BBCTV at lunchtime and saw Rev. Canon Dr. Rosemarie Mallett, vicar of St. John’s Church, Angell Town in Brixton, London, making an eloquent plea for churches to be open between 3pm and 6pm. Rev. Mallett was particularly alarmed by the number of deaths and injuries caused by knife stabbings, so her idea was for churches to become "safe places" for children - particularly during those critical after-school hours.

The Rev. Mallett made this suggestion, among others, at the Church of England's General Synod, held at the University of York, where she spoke on the motion “Responding to Serious Youth Violence”

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The debate took place during the morning session of Saturday 6th July, 2019.

You can see Rev. Mallett present this motion on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKZ3B8wCmkY&t=1756s (between 32mins and 43mins approx).

Alternatively, listen to it here:

To me, her suggestion to keep churches open is a really good example of where someone, working in a specific field, and with a specific concern (in this case serious youth violence), provides a practical way to address the concern. A perfect example of what the Offices of Respondsability for Children was set up to do.

In an email to Rev. Mallett I made that point and was grateful for having received a speedy and encouraging reply.

In a further communication I was also encouraged to learn that, subsequent to the motion being carried, the hope was for churches throughout the land, wherever practically possible, to remain open during those hours. In fact the hope was that some churches would cluster together, especially in hotspot areas.

THE motion carried! Brilliant.

A question of childhood appears in oil

Johanna McWeeney has graciously allowed me to use a detail from her oil painting ‘Evensong’ on the ‘About’ page of this website. The full painting, in oils, which is 100cm x 70cm, is shown below.

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I first learned of this painting when Johanna exhibited it at the concluding exhibition of works carried out during the ‘Art Month’ held at Powderham Castle. During the month of June, many artists were invited to produce works inspired by their visit(s) to the Powderham Castle estate.

Imagine my surprise (and, I have to admit, shear joy) at learning that my ‘What are we doing to our children?’ ‘action’ had set off a train of thought in Johanna’s mind - such that she has incorporated the actual phrase, as well as the sentiment, into ‘Evensong’.

Johanna kindly shared with me some of the ‘meaning’ and ‘feeling’ behind the work.

The painting is called 'Evensong' - from the last word of the poem which surrounds the picture. The poem can be seen in the Chapel at Powderham Castle.

The little girl clearly represents childhood joy, but also expresses despair – the despair at the loss of childhood.

Dogs appear a lot in Johanna’s paintings since, for Johanna, they represent unconditional love, safety and peace.

The little boy and the angel facing him can be seen as a unit - a spiritual response to sadness, loss and difficulty.

The music at the bottom is from a book called the Bird Fancier's Delight (published 1717) - music written for recorder to be played to teach caged birds to sing. The significance of the particular extracts is simply that Johanna wrote out the music for the Nightingale in reference to evensong - a word, when paired with the cooling dew of the poem, brought to mind birdsong at the end of the day.

'Evensong' is also referenced in the inclusion of the church, which can be seen in the distance from Powderham. And the house, the 'warm abode' in the poem, is by “Pet's Corner” where Johanna also met the pig. The pig is included because the inner part of the painting was designed to encapsulate all the things Johanna took from her visit.

The border outside the poem references the pattern on the chapel ceiling and the inner part of the border represents one of the many gateways at Powderham, and which give that sense of possibility - where can we go now?

This ties in with the OORFC question – “What are we doing to our children?”

This question remained in Johanna’s mind, and while her work is simply an expression of the inner child, or childlike joy, there is the contrasting sense of sadness.

Johanna also exhibited, in complete contrast to ‘Evensong’, a fun piece.

Johanna McWeeney ‘Landscapes of Childhood’  Acrylic on MDF board 41cm x 28cm

Johanna McWeeney ‘Landscapes of Childhood’ Acrylic on MDF board 41cm x 28cm

'Landscapes of Childhood’, 41cm x 28cm, was partly painted using an OORFC potato which Johanna received when visiting my ‘Office’ at Powderham. The work describes the movement and light of a forest landscape under a bright sky.

The shapes of the clouds and trees were made using potato prints!

Although using the potato prints was just a bit of fun – it is still, in a sense, looking for that childlike wonder - by actually directly recreating a childhood activity in a 'grown-up' medium (acrylics) for an event which created 'grown-up' expectations.

To learn of these responses to ‘What are we doing to our children?’ was quite unexpected but very satisfying. Thanks, Johanna.





Art galore on the last night of ‘Art Month’ at Powderham Castle

Last Friday I opened the Offices of Respondsability for Children at the concluding exhibition of works carried out during the ‘Art Month’ held at Powderham Castle. During the month of June, many artists were invited to produce works inspired by their visit(s) to the Powderham Castle estate.

The pop-up OORFC, of course, involved talking to the visitors of Powderham Castle that month, and getting their responses to the question “What are we doing to our children”. Whereas on previous visits the ‘Office’ was set up in the courtyard, on Friday night everything was situated inside the castle.

Anna FitzGerald, the organiser of the event, had clearly worked hard to make the whole month-long event a great success. And Friday night was no exception. Two large rooms were filled with artworks and since OORFC needed quite a lot of space for visitors to gather, hear my story, and fill in response forms, I was fortunate to be allowed to set up in a room (the library, I guess) situated between the two main exhibition spaces.

One lovely incident reminded me very much of the supposed dying words of Goethe - ‘mehr Licht’ (‘more light’).

Charles, the Earl of Devon, and owner of Powderham Castle, concerned that the light in the room might not be all that it should be, offered a solution – he turned a handle that magically moved the mirror above the fireplace to reveal an open window, thus allowing the daylight to steam in!

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Magically the mirror disappears and daylight streams in! (OORFC before the night begins).

I am happy to say that, with perhaps the exception of one couple, OORFC was received really well. Several visitors filled in their responses there and then and several people took away the info and suggested they would respond after giving the question further thought. Fair enough; and I thank all for listening and responding.

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Though everyone is creative, not everyone possesses the confidence or skill to respond with a coloured drawing like this:

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During the evening I was also asked whether I would consider bringing the pop-up OORFC to two relatively local galleries. I certainly hope that this can happen - that would be the icing on the cake.

And, of course, what made the event special for me was learning that Johanna McWeeney both created and exhibited her work ‘Evensong’ which actually incorporates the words ‘What are we doing to our children’ in her beautiful painting. I have gladly used, with Johanna’s permission, a detail from this painting on the introductory ‘About’ page of this website.

Thanks to everyone who received the OORFC message so favourably and thanks also to both Anna for all the hard work for organising and presenting such an ambitious event here in Devon, and to the Earl of Devon for offering the use of Powderham Castle.




What a lovely thought and surprise

Today I received the following message in the post. A big surprise but just lovely - and so encouraging. Thank you, Kate.

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But my biggest thanks must go to Ylva for sharing her lovely beautiful, colouful print with me (and now, you)!

It’s delightful and, of course, very special when made using an OORFC potato!

The variety, by the way, is Marfona, described as “suitable for mashing, chipping, roasting, boiling and baking”.

An all-rounder, I’d say.

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OORFC makes its third visit to Powderham Castle

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Yesterday proved to be a very successful day, with a steady stream of visitors.

Almost everyone I spoke to was interested in the ‘Office’ and happy to participate in discussion.

Nearly 100% of visitors to the ‘Office’ filled in their Response Forms - there and then - and I am grateful to all who did.

Many different concerns were expressed, and useful ways to address those concerns were written down to be shared here on the website. Gradually our Repository is being filled out, and now the difficulty of categorizing responses is proving to be quite a challenge.

If any respondents feel I have mis-categorized their contribution then do please let me know at oorfcexeter@gmail.com.

Once again respondents came from all over the U.K. and a few from abroad.

I was interested to learn from a visitor from the U.S.A. of an organisation which seems to be very successful there, (and possibly exists here?) called Planned Parenthood. Its website states: Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of people worldwide. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 13-1644147. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowable under the law.


OORFC at Powderham Castle for a second visit

Yesterday I was scheduled to pitch the pop-up at Powderham from 10 -5.

Unfortunately it rained almost all the time and so, since I was outside in the courtyard, there were only a few opportunities to talk to people, even though there were several large parties taking guided tours of the Castle.

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Rainy June!

However, one brave soul, an artist from Exmouth who kindly gave me permission to use the photograph below, became the very first person to fill in a potato Response Form there and then. I am finding that most people want to take their time over this, so they take the form away. I just hope that they are inspired to share their ideas either by photographing their reply and emailing it to OORFCexeter@gmail.com or use the On-line Response facility here on the website.

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There was an international flavour to those who came to see what it was all about and talk - quite a few from Holland and even a couple from California. What was clearly apparent was that there are many concerns about what we are doing to our children, and many ideas put forward to shaping society for the better.

My next visit to Powderham will be on Tuesday 25th June, 10 - 5, and then at the June Art Month Private View on Friday 28th June, 19.00 - 21.00. Everyone welcome.

Pop-up OORFC has had its very first outing! This was to Powderham Castle on Monday 10th June, 2019

Although the weather was not as one hoped (for an early June day), interest in the project was considerably higher than I expected. Those visitors who agreed to participate in this pop-up ‘action’ (and there were more than I had anticipated), were given an ‘official’ bag, along with a carefully wrapped living potato and a stamped ‘official’ potato Response Form.

Of course, it is now a question of whether these visitors do indeed provide their responses to the question ‘What are we doing to our children’. It will be great if they do.

Clearly, from just talking to visitors, it is apparent that many varying concerns are there to be addressed in, using another Beuys’ phrase, ‘permanent conference’.

Here is pop-up OORFC in action: