On the first day of December and the last workshop of the series, we set out to circle the island.
We were a group of writers, media researchers, advertising execs, teachers, engineers, crossword writers, arts programmers and poets. Setting out, we were relieved and nervous that we were working with people that all spoke such different strains of a common language. We chatted and introduced ourselves and pointed and nodded and made notes about what we thought we had seen, but when we got back to Spike Island we realised we’d all taken a very different walk. Different moments had spoken to us, out there bobbing along the harbour.
Some saw the arguing lovers, others the steam cranes. Litter. Canoes. Weather. The Dry Dock. Our feet. Overheard conversations. A lost glove. The waves. God’s Garden (No Dogs Please).
Others plotted out our movements as if we were walking through mappable space. Others took readings of our excavations, seeing how far we could dig through the tarmac.
Popping into MShed, we were able to walk around the world of Google maps for a few moments, only to head back outside and find ourselves checking our route on our phones and looking at print outs of maps and aerial photographs from Bristol City Council’s archives to keep ourselves hovering between planes.
We talked about the function of the walk, about the conversations between us. And we talked about the writing being a translation of ‘a moment’. And how this project might be better understood as a chain of translations of all the shared and private moments we moved through in the first hour of the workshop.
Now the project has come to an end, I have started to think about the closing of ‘the moment’, both as a pocket of time or experience and as an action of turning, moving around an axis, whether that movement takes place between looking at a map and trying to overlay that aerial outline onto your horizontal pathway through outbuildings and caravan parks in a tangle of a city or whether that means moving from one language to another, turning one thing into another, one line of sight into two.
After warming ourselves back up with coffee and mince pies (eagerly welcoming the first of the festive month!), we set about flattening these ‘moments’, writing them out and through each other. We initially wrote alone and then shared and rewrote, some in partnership. Some participants started to cut and paste new texts using previous participants’ work and all of us decided to structure our pieces around the perspex sightseeing guide (pictured above) which variously declares:
YOU ARE HERE
YOU WERE HERE
YOU WISH YOU WERE HERE
YOU WILL BE HERE
YOU WILL NEVER NEVER NEVER BE HERE NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY
Then, the thrilling task of miniaturising the poems on plastic to compose a collection of pocketable sightseeing guides to disperse across the city. Here are some of the final pieces: