Those of you who follow Stories From Scarborough on Facebook might remember me mentioning that I took parts of the archive to Leeds last weekend. I wanted to share the project more widely, and to explore Scarborough memories more creatively than is possible on the website alone. For this reason I approached HOARD – an arts project based in Leeds.
In a cavernous office block, located at a business park several miles from the centre of the city, a group of artists have been hoarding anything and everything – memories, objects, photographs, boxes, carrier bags, to name just a few. Inside the bland, carpeted expanses of the Darwin Building, the process of hoarding has been examined and transformed into engaging artwork, installations, performances, and workshops. After reading about the project online, I was keen to transfer some of the Stories From Scarborough collection from my studio (and computer) to this exciting-sounding space.
Curator Sarah Francis kindly allowed me to participate in HOARD, alongside a number of intriguing artists – some of whom travel considerable distances to take part. Their projects are in varying stages of development – by comparison I’m a mere novice; both to HOARD and its home at Leeds Valley Park. However, Stories From Scarborough shares some important similarities with the work on display – namely it explores what it means to hoard. Indeed, I haven’t just collected memories and stories, I’ve also done some creative experiments – some I’ve shared here at Stories From Scarborough – others on my regular arts blog.
Alongside conventional souvenirs and memories, I’ve been creating experimental artworks and performances, including a chairlift costume, signs and a fictional character who builds sandcastles and
corrupts rearranges the archive, whenever the opportunity arises.
Above: The character performing at the 2014 Create@Salford festival (source)
It is this character that brought me and the project to HOARD on Saturday August 16th for an open day – the ethos of the project offered an ideal opportunity to begin re-assessing Stories From Scarborough. What it means, how it sits in a new space, and what it communicates to those who may not be familiar with Scarborough or its history.
Above: Setting up at HOARD (source)
So: what happened at HOARD? I put on my costume, and arranged/played with a selection of the archive, including photos, memorabilia, samples and artwork. Much of the archive is currently digital, so I will eventually need to find ways to store it physically. For now, however, it was just a case of presenting objects and memories, in the hope that perhaps some of the visitors to the HOARD open day would find it interesting.
Above: Re-examining the storage of the archive at HOARD (source)
Rather like a holidaymaker, I had travelled from Scarborough to Leeds with my suitcase. This particular suitcase is the one that accompanied my family and I on our Scarborough holidays during the late 1980s and 1990s. I am now using it to transport the archive. During the performance at HOARD I tied it up like a giant parcel. The string reminded me of the spider webs you often find devouring boxes of memories stored in lofts.
This crude experiment also questions the accessibility of archives. During my research for Stories From Scarborough (and in previous archive work) I have found that archive organisations/representatives vary greatly. Some are wonderful (like Archives+ in Manchester, who I had the pleasure of working with last year), and will go out of their way to help you. I’m also very grateful to the individuals and organisations who have helped with Stories From Scarborough so far.
Others, sadly, seem reluctant or unable to help and guard their collections with a vigilance that can feel unwelcoming. Certainly, copyright, ethics and legal issues make archive guardianship a challenging task, but surely the responsibility to share is just as important as the responsibility to protect the collection?
Below: Part of my archival display at HOARD (source)
The dinosaur(s) were a reference to Marvel’s. Rather like historical programmes on television, in which actors recreate scenes from the past, Stories From Scarborough also features a number of items that reconstruct the histories of former attractions; in the absence of tangible souvenirs. The FRAGILE tape, on the other hand played a part in the chairlfit costume I designed, and here it was used to indicate the fragility of Scarborough’s former attractions – and all memories of them. No one remembers exactly what Kinderland, Marvel’s, Atlantis etc were really like – their temporary existence is long over, and the memories have since become mythologised and shrouded in the mists of nostalgia.
Above: One of the signs I created for HOARD – a reference to the rose tinted glasses through which holidays are remembered (source)
HOARD’s home at the Darwin Building – an office space – is a strange place. In this great vastness, it was easy to feel lost, and Stories From Scarborough felt small and strange. None of the visitors I spoke to knew of the attractions in the archive – some remembered similar places from their own childhood memories – the idea of a seaside holiday is fairly ubiquitous British tradition. Or rather it once was. Nonetheless, it made me think more about how Scarborough’s attractions and their histories might link up with those of other seaside towns and tourist destinations.
Indeed, as I re-arranged the archive and objects I’d brought with me, which included water from Scarborough Mere, an album full of old photographs and a tennis racquet that was used on the tennis courts that preceded Scarborough Zoo, I found myself thinking a great deal about what Stories From Scarborough actually means.
Above: Considering new arrangements (source)
Due to the intermittent flow of visitors, it was possible to sit back and think about the collection in a new space – a peaceful environment conducive to ideas. I was able to photograph my experiments and consider performance ideas that might be developed in future events.
Above: Contemplation time (source)
Above: HOARD feature in the Yorkshire Post (source)
Aside from all of this, there was some fantastic work on display at HOARD by other artists, which I hope to write about elsewhere in a separate post. Seeing the work of fellow artists also gave me lots of ideas about developing the creative side of Stories From Scarborough, and really made me think about how to transform the archive into something that only interests specific people with specific memories of a specific place at specific points in time, to something that reaches further afield, and is much more critically engaging. Hopefully, via continued involvement with HOARD, I can give this archive, and Scarborough’s former attractions, a new lease of life.