Thursday 22 June 2017


It took a little while but I have completed the Watchfield Map and the Primary School Map, except for the brass eyelets around the edges. I think the reason I am mentioning that is to remind myself that they still need doing. The emotional release felt by finishing the drawings has taken it out of my mind and I don't want a last minute panic to try and sort it out.

The Finished Map

The Watchfield Map

I have several favourite bits: and the gallery of old military planes in the boarder at the top is one of them. One of the villagers made me a list of old planes which would have used the old airfield before it became a wind and solar farm.

gallery of old military planes

I have arranged to deliver both maps on the 3rd July and will pop into the school and present their map with a short assembly and exchange stories about the things in there.

Watchfield Primary School

I am very happy with both maps and it has been a very developmental project.

Monday 5 June 2017

The Village Fete


A very enjoyable/busy afternoon indeed

A Great Afternoon ..even got a Punch and Judy show
not entirely clear what was happening here, it involved dogs?

hand painted sign says Works of Art for Watchfield come and see
this is fantastic where will it go when finished?
have you seen this bit about the moving boxes?


no look forgot to put our garage on there

So this was the opportunity for all and sundry to get involved. And they did. Children who had worked on it earlier at the school had brought their parents in to have a look. The parents then added a little detail of some kind. I doubt whether there were two minutes together at any point in the afternoon where someone was not drawing, pointing, talking, laughing or telling a village related story.

I was given two vouchers for food and water by the organisers. Thank you much appreciated, it was a full on afternoon.

I feel I am an expert on Watchfield now after having no local  knowledge what-so-ever embarking on the project. A whirlwind of local stories and happenings and visual overload on what is where. I have begun to feel part of the community as one of my own contributions was a garden gnome. I was asked what's that? I explained that it was in a front garden I had passed, on one of my reconnaissance tours of the village to collect data, or find a particular linking alleyway and such like. Reports are coming back that there are actually three gnomes all carrying axes!

'There be Dragons in there'

someone has already drawn our house!

where's Chapel Hill and then I can orientate myself

I think I've seen that woodpecker
I didn't know there were sculptures there before, its amazing
It Was A Grand Day Out



The Villagers

The Village Hall was used as the venue for these map making sessions. The difference being I visited the venues before to ready made audiences. This is the other way around and participants visit the venue. Villagers were very interested in seeing what had been done so far as they were the last group to contribute.

As residents for many many years they had seen a lot of changes to the village including the putting up of the perimeter fence around the Defence Academy and the various residential phases of building programmes. They described things like the old new houses? They recalled times when the Defence Academy was clearly a vast children's playground where access was totally free and unrestricted. We spent some time establishing some of the core historical elements that were felt to be relevant. Then more personal details started emerging. Houses, garden features, individual allotments appeared and the detail was beginning to accumulate to very complex levels. Dogs, neighbours, friends roles in the community were illustrated.

This I felt was exactly the same as the Defence Academy Friends and Family  group who had commented with wit and humour about where they lived, and they were very relaxed drawing about each other and other people. I was not so sure the Villagers would take the same approach, but after core detail was established they were exactly the same commenting freely on theirs and the lives of others. 

I had wondered if the civilian half and the services half of the town would have very separate and distinct differences. And yes of course they do and it shows very clearly on the map. But the informal commentary, inclusion and community 'in jokes' were shared and laughed about and the map used as a vehicle for social comment has been used in exactly the same way by both groups. The crossover between the two communities was seamless in this respect, yet the life styles are very different. The villagers long relationship to one place compared to the parachute in and out lives of the services families, it is in a map making project that their lives have had some kind of shared meaning.   

foreground the old village, behind the academy 

foreground the academy, behind the old village

The civilian side of the town is all about accurate placement of property and buildings. Detail important about what is (and what was)  in that exact position...(ish). Roads are a key feature to navigate by. Representing the golf course and surrounding areas proved very difficult as there were no roads to reference position by, and these areas were neglected unless I really pressed for info.
The families in the services had different concerns and approaches and someone suggested it was like the Eric Morecombe line where 'they are all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order'. This is a good description as all the elements of the campus are depicted but location not important. Instead flags, emblems and insignia were used to identify people not properties.
In a world where the back ground or base is totally fluid, place no longer can be used as system for belonging and their identity has become represented by an emblem.

Sunday 4 June 2017

final workshop at Root and Branch

everyone is a gardener at Root and Branch
 I thought it was worth mentioning that the gardens here are amazing, this is a view of the straw bale house. The work invested into this garden over a long period of time is very evident. They are also full of little sculptures and a works of art.

the forge and metal workshop

the wood work shop

On the site are these two very well equipped workshops, they are great places and I wished I could have made use of the equipment here. They did seriously ask me if I wanted to buy a large obsolete lathe? Sadly my workshop not large enough to accommodate a machine as large as that....shame.

my group worked hard as this was their last session

I was asked by the organisers here at the end of my last session if I could run more of these workshops as people had really got a lot from them? The answer was I could do one more  as I would be in Watchfield working in the Village Hall, so I squeezed an extra session in and the work is shown here.
I have really enjoyed working with group and got to know several of them and their contributions have been central to the project. Their local knowledge invaluable and they readily shared personal stories, interests and childhood memories of growing up in Watchfield. Many of these are indicated on the map.

the final session with this group

The final thing to say below is a little scene of Shrivenham church, one persons work and it is in the boarder, the opposite corner to where Faringdon is!
I was impressed.

Shrivenham Church

Monday 22 May 2017

Back In My Workshop (part two)

Back in my workshop.

Looking over what's been done, things are at an interesting stage as I am now looking for ways of making this all tie together. Make it look coherent.

Watchfield Primary School

There are still public workshops to come, contributing to the village map so I still need to be flexible around that one and I have not really worked on it to any great degree.

But the Primary School Map workshops are now finished and I have put more time into developing that. I am well over half way through perhaps approaching two thirds done. I will bring it to the workshops at the Village Hall even though it wont be finished and people can see the progress and development as well as how the overall look and feel builds up as things get added and included.

Below are two details. I hope people can get some sense of style and what the end piece of work will look like when the Village Map is complete.

Watchfield Primary School (part two)

Three workshops with the younger pupils at the school. This was more of a challenge compared with the older ones before, younger ones have less experience about the town to draw about and even though I tried to make the project accessible to them I felt many struggled with what to actually do, even though they understood it was a map. I showed them a very simple slide show  introducing repeated patterns into their imaginations to help make things less technical.

We worked on the map of the village and on the map of the school and we also worked individually on separate pieces of paper. I watched the children working together and saw that a handful had ideas and proceeded to draw them out. Some of these ideas were to copy what was already drawn on the map by others in earlier sessions. The others all seemed happy to just copy their friends idea and a lot of repeated drawings appeared and nothing new was being introduced. These same drawings appeared again and again on both maps, just done by different people. This is almost interesting in its own way, as it reminded me of something I read about in the history of religious Icon Painting! Monks copied earlier drawings of saints and scenes and did not create new compositions, so for a very long period of historical time the same core imagery was copied again and again and it is believed that is how the very stylised imagery associated with early religious painting and manuscripts developed. Kind of what I was getting here.

pupils enjoyed carrying the maps and handling them

Some of the most successful work was done with the classes that were able to walk around the school make some kind notes about what they saw and where, then came back and added the information. There was some repeated material with this technique as well but it worked very well for the pupils as they were doing their own surveys and transcribing from their notes.

copying what was already there was a popular technique!
The most successful work was done individually
Most surprising of all to me was the fact that the best and most successful work was made individually on separate pieces of paper. Pupils were perhaps phased by the free-form approach I used to make these maps and working in groups on the floor with materials all around was not a familiar setting. But sitting at a table working on their own, many more children were able to visually articulate their ideas and also able to modify and adapt their own ideas from slides I had shown earlier. I have come away with extensive visual lists of things used in school. And the concept of working with pattern and imagery together did compute for some, when earlier I thought I had missed the target.
The individual work on separate pieces of paper from these sessions has the biggest value. These are in the form of small drawings of things, sometimes from imagination, sometimes from reference books and others were able to draw simple but complete maps of the school or the village. This group (or age?) worked better on their own. I think the group dynamic confused, them well that's a bit sweeping, perhaps many of them.


Defence Academy Friends and Family (DAFFY's) part two

This group are so enthusiastic they sweep you along with energy, and it is very entertaining just listening to them exchange news, gossip and ideas. Well organised with snacks drinks prepared for a long working session phones already charged, ready to google things for references. These searches range from images of people falling off their bikes to Services Command Insignia.

So here's the thing with this group:
They are so well organised around planning, logistics rotation of personnel its runs so smoothly without a hitch.....yet their drawings on the map are totally chaotic.... no order or relationship to the near by elements, placement is confused and I could go on and on if I felt maps were only supposed to show where things are! I was a little taken aback at first at just how unorganised their reference to placement was. But then I remembered that higher up the management structure instructions were passed down not to identify any critical buildings or label things that compromise security, (those instructions have clearly been given without seeing other visuals about how communities view themselves). This is not ordinance survey detail/location type info were are dealing with here. But I did wonder if this group were really acting on instructions not to locate buildings or elements on the campus. 

Half the town on my map is taken up by the Defence Academy and it is a very significant proportion of what is depicted. I noticed that on the civilian half of the map they played by the rules of location and placement, by identifying key roads and placement became accurate. This strengthened my theory about not identifying places in the Academy, but watching them work unselfconsciously in groups spontaneously I thought this was the wrong conclusion.

mobile phones charged ready for googling images for references
working together spontaneously as a group, chatting getting news and gossip

This group are all families in the services and firmly knitted together by the use of Facebook as the fabric which keeps everyone informed with local news. 'Heads up' on communities issues are all posted on Facebook and their community seems structured around this social network set up. Day to day issues are solved using face book, lifts to nearby towns, borrowed garden equipment, unwanted items exchanged etc. Something I had not seen as evident in any other civilian communities. These families are operating in an unfamiliar environment to the one my children knew. One family moved twelve times in sixteen years. That's a different life style from most of us.

I was in the services and moved house a lot, but
 I have retired and live here now ..... I am a resident.

So I reflected that their lives are unstructured and may be a little chaotic sometimes, rethinking my conclusion about their drawings wondering if this was how they visually depicted their lives!
I don't think that is true either.
I think what might be happening is that they live on a campus where roads and traffic are minimal. The layout is not orientated to traffic flow or traffic needs, pedestrians and bikes are probably at the top of the pecking order with vehicles of little significance. Building layouts not orientated along roads and the whole space a lot more organic with clumps of trees everywhere, larger open spaces with nothing particular going on, football pitches here, large manor house over there, much less structure, a random spread of building development. The regimented road network on the civilian side making things much more formal and a precious use of limited space! ....maybe?   

Lastly I thought I would drive in and just take one or two photos of the buildings I could see of the Defence Academy near the perimeter fence. I thought it wise not to go up to the entrance kiosk and say 'can I just drive in and take a few photos'. I expected a cross examination and even when the authorities understood why I wanted to take photos the out come would probably still be no 15 minutes later. So I opted to take a photo or two while doing a 'U' turn in the car park outside the main entrance, just to get some kind of reference for building type, what material they might be made from, colour any kind of clue to what is there really?

The Defence Academy remains secret. the best of two photos, no use whatsoever (I'll draw trees there instead)