Chester Performs, Roam the Rows Festival: Postcards from the Edge

This project aimed to encourage participants and festival visitors of all ages to explore, document and record Chester in different ways. It provided the opportunity to try out new ways of defining place - making images, drawings and developing narratives which were then turned into a series of postcard images.

I worked with two groups, a mixed class of Y3 & 4 pupils at Tushingham with Grindley Primary School in Shropshire, and also a youth group based at Save the Family in North Wales. Interestingly, my project plan was submitted before I knew who I was going to work with as the idea was for different groups to choose the project they most liked the sound of. This is different to how I would normally work as I believe it is useful to plan a project in collaboration with a particular group of participants.

I was hoping to work with a group who were based near Chester as I had been given the brief of responding to the city centre and its surroundings. I hadn't expected to work with groups who were positioned in more isolated, rural areas and this, perhaps, changed the dynamic of the project, particularly as my aims had been to work with participants to explore their city and its people, buildings, sights, sounds, textures, stories, etc. The emphasis of the project was to document with cameras, drawings, mark-making, charcoal rubbings, sound recorders to capture words and sounds. However, time to explore surroundings was limited, and cameras were also in short supply. Despite this, I feel that participants from both groups responded well to the task and captured some interesting snapshots of their surroundings, in order to

Time was spent with both groups, photographing the outdoor areas surrounding each group base and themes were co-developed as focal points for pointing and shooting. We were incredibly fortunate to be able to organise transport for the youth group from Save the Family to visit Chester one morning. It was here that I met a rather excited group of people, ready to hit the streets.

Their first task was to find some people to interview and photograph. Then to collect images which related to a particular theme such as 'close-up', 'people', 'in the crowd', 'words and signs', 'window displays', 'buildings', etc. You can see a sample of these images taken (see above). Unfortunately, the multitude of great shots taken couldn't be uploaded onto this blog!

The pupils from Tushingham-with-Grindley primary school spent time documenting their outdoor areas, taking photos and tracing textures on different surfaces using graphite and o represent where they lived to their exchange partners in France. Initially, they worked on their own and then, as larger pieces of lining paper were placed on their tables, they began to explore different ways of designing images with a partner or in a slightly larger group. They began to create their own imaginary maps of their town (or ideal town). The images were later photographed and the children also wanted to be photographed holding their work outside.

The final part of the second day was spent creating models of a particular building or place which could be put together to create a model town out of recycled cardboard boxes. The imagination really did get to work here, as the children created a zoo and a shark-infested football player's swimming pool (out of a Kleenex tissue box), a toxic waste disposal centre, 'Harry's Hotel' and a carefully considered bungalow, to name but a few!

Finally all the work was captured on camera and selected to create postcard images which somehow recorded these different responses and explorations. The postcards were pegged to washing lines along the rows on Watergate Street and lining paper, blank postcards and different drawing tools were provided for visitors to add their own ideas, drawings, messages to the ever-evolving installation.