Eeeh… it’s a bit nippy out there! Storm whateverthedumbassnameitsbeengiven has been wreaking all manner of havoc in style… WAIT A MINUTE! Didn’t we write this last weekend? Indeed we did, and here we are with yet another storm in full swing. Last weekend’s storm droned on until Wednesday… and as a result of that, the early part of the week saw me lying low, hibernating indoors as I didn’t fancy getting sand blown in my eyes or run the risk of a loose tile crashing down upon my bonce resulting in either a trip to casualty or worse.

So, a very boring week so far and then Wednesday night came a surprising email which changed everything and flung the week in a much more interesting and unexpected direction. Last October, Alexis Johnson had told me during a brief lull something about some project featuring female pirates, Sweden and wanting to work with me as an artist. Before we knew it, with support and help from Arrested Redevelopment, the Libertalia exhibition opened in December. Last month saw a live performance event which went really well and now with the exhibition about to close, the grand climax was to be a visit by the artistes from Sweden who have worked on the project with Alexis – Isabel, David, Joel and Joerge. Adding to the mix were two artistes from Liverpool – Austin and Ruta. Representing Blackpool was yours truly. So… 8 different artistes to work on developing Libertalia for the future and we would be meeting the following morning!

So began an extraordinary three day adventure full of sudden twists and turns that certainly took me by surprise. First, I could not have worked with lovelier people. Seriously. It was so strange as we all didn’t come together until Thursday morning yet in no time at all, not only were we getting along beautifully but it felt like we’d known each other for much longer. So much talent, passion and invention between us all that it made for quite an intense experience as our Swedish pals would be departing on Sunday and there was a lot to be cramming in. So, much discussions on Thursday first in the Libertalia space at Hive then back at their temporary lodgings where the ideas flowed. We laughed, we cried. So much love, warmth and good humour and I think I’m safe to admit that for each and every one of us, this was an experience none of us can ever forget. We ended with a gathering at Dirty Blondes which was my first visit to this recently opened establishment where we were greeted by a host of other local talents and friendly faces. I left after nearly an hour having enjoyed the day.

Friday morning I received a message informing me that we would be heading to the Town Hall at 11am for an audience with the Mayor! This was certainly a surprise as we were due to head to Bootle later in the day. Well… what can I say about our current Mayor Amy? Lovely, very down to Earth and it was fun having a tour of the place. My Swedish pals were gobsmacked, having never seen anything like the Town Hall before. Afterwards we had a meal at The Bank with Amy which was positively delightful. Then we were on our way to Bootle for a further meeting and a recce of a most remarkable location, some Arts hub that is expanding into some kind of Arts village. It was very strange for me to be in Bootle again after an absence of 12 years and walking along the canal which I did regularly when I lived in Liverpool. The evening had us in the Lock and Quay pub for another conference followed by a rowdy and lively open mike event. Truth be told, I was feeling very overwhelmed and tired so kinda sank into the background and got on with documenting the evening and everyone enjoying themselves filming on one of my phones, getting some charming footage in the process. Alexis and Isabel later told me they were delighted I was documenting all this stuff as they regretted not doing so themselves before the project reached Blackpool. I figured they’d enjoy a little film of their time in England and I have 2 hours worth of footage to be editing from over the next couple of days. I left early with Austin and Ruta and we had a very enjoyable drive back to Blackpool having a singsong and a general good all round laugh. I got home at 23:45 and was absolutely knackered but then had to spend the next two hours typing it all up in my journal before I could head off to the land of nod. Ha… that was nothing as Saturday night saw me spending two and half hours writing that days events!

Saturday there was initial confusion as to where we would be meeting so I was back in the Hive when I should had been at the lodgings… but that was thanks to a simple communications error and my time in Hive was certainly not wasted as I enjoyed good natters with a few creative pals all of whom were enthusing about the Libertalia project. Reunited with everybody, the work continued and we had to prepare a couple of pieces for the afternoon as we were having a closing event at the exhibition and wanted to make it special as well as chat with everyone about where the project is headed next. Cue some intense work preparing something very unusual unlike anything I’ve ever done before which was fun and demanded intense concentration of my part as I had to move slowly using the top half of my body and move fast with my lower half… all very conceptual boys and girls and I’m not gonna give anything away!

We then trooped back to the town centre for a fish and chip meal before gathering for the final time at Hive where Kate Yates begifted my pals with sticks of Blackpool rock. A rather intimate do all round and very charming. We did two pieces – Isabel recited a poem whilst Alexis drew on a scroll and the rest of us spontaneously joined in with humming accompaniment. Then came the movement piece which I had rehearsed and that was very interesting to do as was the reaction to it. Cue much debate and banter which was great fun to photograph and I got a ton of lovely pics. Austin and Ruta had to depart early and it was genuinely sad and moving saying our farewells for the time being with everyone giving huge hugs. We all got along so well it was almost tearful. We ended with a session back down in the cafe and then it came to my turn to say my goodbyes and that was very emotional. Outside just before we parted, I insisted on a group hug which was delightful and then we went our own ways… for the time being. We’ll all be back together very soon to work more on the project as it has some big plans in store to progress. All I can say is “watch this space” and that I look most forward to it. I’m missing all these people already as it was just so liberating and lovely to work and be treated as an equal amongst them. I know all of us had our own revelations… it’s a fascinating project and process.

I’ve just spent most of today editing the photos and I’ll next be going through all the footage to edit together a mini documentary film to share with my colleagues which I’m sure they’ll treasure and enjoy for as usual, I kept busy and photographing whilst they were mostly unaware so the footage is very natural and captures some of the fun and good humour we all shared between us. It’s surprising how many mini-films I have made so far here in Blackpool… it all started back in 2015 when I had two vacations here, shooting several hours of footage from which I made 5 separate 20 minute films… then since living here, I have made films of various events I’ve captured and none of you have seen these things but we have full films documenting last year’s St George and The Dragon performances, the North Pier show with the Electric Sunshine mob, Wordpool, SpareParts, the All Souls Ball and more… It’s what I do best, capturing and preserving these unique occasions which I suspect will be better appreciated in years to come.

This week just starting looks and feels utterly empty by comparison! But by goodness, last Thursday to Saturday were three extraordinary days I can never forget, a real epic journey with a lot of fun and surprises!

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