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UNION 0; Before the Kick Off

By 8th January 2019 March 27th, 2019 Blog

This time next week, I’ll have finished my first of the five weekend residencies and officially embarked on the UNION journey. I’m honoured to have been one of the 20 artists, activists, makers, writers, musicians, changemakers to have been invited onto this programme.

For those who haven’t heard/read me going on about it before, UNION is a sector-based coaching programme for emerging community artists and social activists across the north of England. It’s a year long initiative involving residencies, one-to-one coaching sessions, opportunities and a lot of changemaking ideas.

Last Saturday I found an invite in my emails to Basecamp, a sort of communication programme which allows everyone to be connected and organised in what seems to be a really collaborative and supportive way. I’ve never used Basecamp before, but it allows you to share documents, ‘ping’/instant message one another, manage a shared calendar, discuss things on forums and post mass messages to others in your group on message boards and around the metaphorical campfire, and provide encouraging ‘boosts’ for things you appreciate. It seems you can also organise your time/assignments too. It’s pretty good. Useful to know about. I wonder if it could be utilised with The Critical Fish if we end up with a bigger team, or within later projects which involve a number of people.

We have been given a list of participants (the nosy part of me has been looking forward to that!), a handbook about the organisers, Chapel FM, some other bits and bobs, and the outline for the first weekend.

Friday night we’re meeting and greeting, eating, and going back to our hosts’ gaff (whoever they may be!), with an optional ukulele night. Ukulele night sounds good – my interest is piqued! I’m conscious of having been at work ALL day though before driving for just over an hour, so I’m hoping that I won’t be too knackered.
Saturday, it looks like we’ll be getting a more in-depth introduction to UNION, getting to know each other in the room, going to LS14 (which from a brief Google looks to be a really heart-warming community centre) before heading back to ChapelFM to explore community engagement. Then we finish, eat and then…? I come alive at night so I’m hoping that there’s something to do, somewhere to go, something to engage with… I’m adamant to be respectful of my hosts and their timings etc so I’m not going to go out partying or anything!

Besides, I’ll need to be up Sunday morning to discuss ground rules of the project, engage in ‘Creative Alliance’ work before preparing and presenting proposals (??). We finish around 4pm, and I guess I’ll just head home – I’ll bet the other half will be pleased to have me home for dinner. And then I can have a chill before getting back up for work Monday morning!

There’s four of us from Hull (I am aware of two out of the three), and the rest are scattered across Burnley, Newcastle, Bolton, Sunderland, Leeds, Wigan, Bradford, Manchester, Sheffield, Gateshead and York. I’ve had a Google/Twitter search for all of them to try and find out a bit more of their practice, but I can’t find most of them or are unsure if it’s them that I’m reading about, so I’m just going to have to wait to meet them!! I’m excited at the idea that all these people are passionate do-ers, artsy types and people with a conscience and a heart (otherwise they surely wouldn’t be interested in a programme about activism and change?).

There’s 15 women and 5 blokes (why is there always more women?), and 7 visual artists, 1 graphic designer, 2 musicians, 2 theatre-types, 1 puppeteer, 2 digital workers, 2 ?lm-makers, 3 activists and 1 writer.

I’m really looking forward to this programme. I’m anxious though. I’m worried a when I first meet people – but I know everyone else will feel the same. I love getting to know new folk and appreciate new friends and I’m generally okay at doing that.

Few more days now! Still dead chuffed to be on this programme and I’m proper keen to see what comes of it – not just within the programme itself but the connections and ideas and collaborations that are likely to spring up from it. I’m going with 100% an open mind and no judgement (wrangling nerves aside) and look forward to seeing what happens!
I intend to blog about my UNION experiences over the coming year, and post them on my website and a-n. Writing is something I enjoy and have found it a good way of getting my thoughts in order, so it’s one of my New Years Resolutions; Get into the habit of writing regularly.

Until next time, which I anticipate will be Sunday night or early next week as I reflect on the first weekend residency, tatty-bye!

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