‘B-Wing’- Shepton Mallet Prison
21st September - 6th October 2019
In 2019, I co-curated B-Wing with artist Fiona Campbell. B-Wing was a multi-disciplinary arts event involving 6 artists and 2 writers making site-responsive works leading to an exhibition and performances in the unique spaces of B-Wing at Shepton Mallet Prison during Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2019. The project was supported by Lottery funding from Arts Council England.
Lou Baker, Fiona Campbell, Luminara Star Florescu, Geoff Dunlop, Rosie Jackson, Lucy Large, Alice Maddicott, Scott Sandford,
Artworks included sculptural installation, textiles, light, film, sound, performance and poetry transforming B-Wing through new challenging work, confronting current political and environmental issues, while reflecting past histories. Artists used the research-based project to collaborate with each other and the community, and develop their practice, mostly using recycled and found materials, considering waste.
British Journalist, writer and broadcast John Patrick McCarthy CBE opened the Special Events Day by reflecting on the artworks and their relation to his experience as one of the hostages in the Lebanon hostage crisis, where he was a prisoner for more than five years.
Community engagement was integral to the project. Young people and adult groups took part in free workshops creating collaborative artworks that were exhibited in the cells as part of the exhibition. The Shepton Mallet Community Choir accompanied my Blessing Ritual performance during the Special Events Day. Artist talks, exhibition tours and educational workshops were also offered as part of the project.
‘One of the best experiences of art I’ve encountered in years.’ Dominic Weston
‘Powerful, disquieting, dark and fascinating. Not an easy show but I thoroughly recommend you get to it if you can.’ Iain Cotton
‘A remarkable series of works to fit an extraordinary space’. John McCarthy
‘Absolutely amazing exhibition with astonishing works exploring a rich tapestry of ideas and interventions.’ Adam Grose
‘Incredibly sensitive use of space and levels. Darkness, depth, hope and light. Solidarity. … I loved the anchorite cell, the poetry - the use of levels, the ‘chapel’s’ sacred invitation. The ladders - exploring movement and dimensions - spine and prehistoric relic..’ Amanda Miles
‘Absolutely fantastic!’ Duncan Cameron
‘Brilliantly conceived and executed’. Justine Bonner
‘A very full emotional experience, the work, its placement. Very poignant.’ Rachel Leach
‘The Gathering’ – Cell 29
During time spent alone in B-Wing, I felt myself taken over by a sense of peace. Since that day, I have developed a relationship with the building based on a form of endearment.
Echoing the flower posy in Cell 22 (ground floor), The Gathering was a posy of wild plants collected from the hedgerows of Somerset on my daily dog walks during the exhibition. The posy is a gift from me to the building. It honours the circle of life and mother nature’s reclaiming of everything as a sacred process, which no human being or building escapes forever.
Skuggi (Shadow) was situated inside three Cells (no.s 6, 7, 8). Cell 8 has the reputation of being the most haunted cell in B-Wing with many prisoners assigned to the cell reporting ghostly experiences.
Inspired by the ancient language of Icelandic rune staves, I spell cast with embroidery. The staves called Prisoner Binding, The Lock Breaker and End Strife were presented in a way that ensured a domestic reference within each of the cells. A final stave, to complete the spellcasting was revealed as part of my cleansing/healing ritual performance on 28th September at B-WING’s Special Events day.
“Each spell is a creative attempt to undermine any kind of authority and revolutionise the conventional conceptions of society, in order for the individual to regain power over his own existence. Perhaps it is indeed by casting these spells that a cognoscente removes the shackles of society and finds his true natural place in the universe” – Sorcerer’s Screed – The Icelandic Book of Magic Spells