Updated: Feb 18, 2019
How I learnt that speakers are safer than earphones when installing public art.
As I turned around from my painting I was eye to eye with the headlights and bumper of a car. In shock I blinked, yes there really was a car 30 cm from my face and I had no idea how or when it got there…
It was a regular midweek morning in Summer, my schedule was filled with creative workshop bookings and commissions. One commission I was in the middle of completing was a BT Exchange box design for Gorgeous Gorse Hill.
Gorgeous Gorse Hill is a community organisation formed from a small group of local residents, who work together to try and improve their local area and make it gorgeous. The chair of the group Ruth is a stylish, intelligent and unforgettable lady who fights hard for her community and together with her fellow residents and members of Gorgeous Gorse Hill achieves amazing results for their wider community, and all on a voluntary basis. Both Ruth and the project are an absolute inspiration.
I first encountered the Gorgeous Gorse Hill project at Dig the City; An urban gardening festival in Manchester where I was installing an eco-mural on King Street. Ruth had a display stand at the festival where she was talking about their project and displaying an example of how city gardeners could make the most of any space they have; even if that space was just a small windowsill, a balcony, or even a lamppost. I got speaking to Ruth about my mural for the festival and also about the Gorgeous Gorse Hill project and we kept in touch. A few months after the festival I was excited to receive a commission from the project to design an enormous floor mural for a park just off Trafford Road. The floor mural was epic, a dream commission and I learnt a lot; but that is a story for another time.
So back to the current box, this was the second box design I had created. The theme for this one was ‘Rain’. It was to be installed on the corner of Trafford Road and Ravenswood. Trafford road is a major road that links Manchester City centre and other neighbouring large suburbs such as Stretford, Gorse Hill and Sale . Thousands of commuters travel that route every day and tens of thousands of sports fans use that road to get to Old Trafford football and Cricket ground on match days. Its a busy road. On that bright, warm and sunny day I was in a world of my own as I painted the ‘Rainbox’. There I sat, extremely comfortable, on my Yoga mat, my earphones were in and I was enjoying an engaging stream of podcasts and iTunes. On this particular day I was beginning to paint the first layers of colour, having already prepped and primed the box a few days before. When all of a sudden I got a weird sense to stop and look up. As I looked up and around I was shocked to find that I was eye-to-eye with the headlights and bumper of a car. I blinked, yes there really was a car 30 cm from my face. The car had mounted the curb, its driver door was flung open and it was abandoned. Still in shock I looked to see if anyone else was around. Frozen, I didn't know whether to move, hide, or call the police. Glancing up and down the street my eyes finally locked with a gentleman who had stopped at the traffic lights just behind the abandoned car. He wound down his window and began to speak. He told me that the man who had been driving the abandoned vehicle had just got out and ran after someone down the road.
As the man was explaining what had happened the man in question came sprinting back up Trafford road with a look of sheer determination and fury on his face. I had no idea of what to expect as the man got closer. Would he be carrying a knife, or maybe being chased by the police, I really didn't have a clue. As the man approached he looked at me, I was still rooted the spot just in front of his car. Instinctively I asked the man “are you okay?” on reflection I really have no idea why I decided to speak to him, but thankfully he was not carrying a knife or being chased by the police. Instead he answered “yes love I'm okay someone just hit my car so I was going after him” I nodded and looked on as he leaped back into his car and sped off down Trafford road in pursuit of the man who had just collided with him.
For the rest of the day I replayed that moment over and again and realised that I was totally oblivious of what was happening around me as I sat painting with my earphones in. I don't know if I was shaken by the experience or just a little bemused, whichever it was I made a definite note; a finite decision never to paint and plug both of my ears ever again. The next time I painted I packed my speakers.
New post next weekend - Have a fantastic week x