Colin Hambrook’s double launch on Saturday 12th October at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester was – it’s too easy to use such vocabulary – the most inspiring Survivor event since the 21st Birthday bash last year. Partly it was the event itself, curated by Pallant’s Deputy Director Marc Steene who spearheads theOutside In series of galleries and Outsider-led art initiatives currently on exhibition at The Public in West Bromwich and Project Ability in Glasgow.
Mostly it was Colin’s twin arts on display here. The volume of poetry, Knitting Time (Waterloo Press) astonishes with its harrowing journey, through surviving the attention of Jehovah Witnesses and in this case (as alas in many like the silencing of fine poets Lynette Roberts and – it’s suggested – Rosemary Tonks) their catastrophic effect on his mother. She ended up destroyed by ECT and the wrong kind of care in the NHS.
The book was illustrated in monochrome with the extraordinary polychromatic paintings and drawings on display at Pallant House – remarkable works half-way between Arthur Rackham and Cecil Collins – an extraordinary visionary neo-Romantic like David Jones, but nearer to the 1940s school. What Colin does with these influences and phenomenal technique is by turns breathtaking, touching, terrifying and ultimately affirmative.
Beyond all this, however, and the show of loyalty to Colin (also an original SP Constitution signatory in 1994) from so many survivors or those who work with survivors, was the meeting of minds, ideas, and plans for the future.
Joe Bidder and Hilary Porter were there, on hand to listen to my tribulations and offer advice and a few corrective notes. Dave Russell played a suite of his finest songs just preceding Colin’s final flourish of poems, and in the generous inclusiveness we know Colin for, there was an invitation alongside Marc Steene to make this a survivor-led event with a first half showcasing many survivor poets.
Dave Sinclair (editor of Outsider Poems) opened, followed by Monika Richards who contributed with a reading of poems from her title ‘Ink on My Lips’, a black writing anthology just out fromWaterloo Press alongside Knitting Time. Allan Sutherland read a selection of transcription poetry from his Neglected Voices cycle, concluding a very strong first half. Several other readers arrived from London and farther out – not so easy when negotiating Chichester at the weekend.
Also present and reading her fine work was Victoria Hullatt, from the Big Blake Project at Felpham, also linked to DAO and now to SP. SP’s library is on its way to the project via DAO, when arrangements and due care and process are completed. SP’s resources are increasingly at the disposal of joint DAO/SP initiatives where we hope to stream them for general survivor use.
Survivors and survivor discussions are indeed knitting time together. A new chapter for us is opening, one of collaboration and dovetailing, aesthetic quickening and the chance to secure refuge for archive and a sue for the archive itself, from recordings to library to board minutes.
I don’t quite know what the future holds for SP as an Arts Council recipient of NPO status, but as an organisation – and above all a vision – it’s repositioning itself where its life will be: back with its roots – its founders and curators; and even more where it has always been, with users, artists, supporters, enthusiasts and witnesses.