Evaluating the work we do is not an easy task. As this letter to us illustrates, the positive impact art has on our lives can take years to realize.
NOT ALL THE THINGS THAT SCARE YOU ARE BAD.
I had a less than extraordinary childhood in the Pendle village of Barrowford but when I was seven years old (in 1971) an extraordinary thing happened. This event changed my perception of life and had a massive influence on where I am today, how I chose my husband, how I raise my children.
On my way to the village shop to buy sweets I met a man in a ragged top hat and strange clothes sitting on a tiny stool on the corner of a street. He didn't speak to me but as I walked past he silently handed me a leaflet. It said there was to be a Mystery Tour that night, leaving from the corner where the man was sitting.
Forgetting my sweets I ran home and begged my mum to allow us to go. Uncharacteristically, she agreed. We left - mum, me and my elder sister Janet - to screams from my Aunt that we would be kidnapped and the children taken away for dark deeds. She wasn't joking.
I was terrified as Aunty Pat screamed, I was terrified as we boarded the coach with its mysterious crew - men with make up and silken tailcoats, a beautiful Geisha who looked like a China doll. I was terrified when 'The Baron' appeared in the path of the coach in Wycoller, flagged it down and then came on board, barking at us in German, scrutinizing me through his monocle. I was terrified when the coach got stuck on a narrow lane and we had to walk home for 6 miles.
I shook with fear, I shook with excitement and I knew back then that what I was experiencing would be a defining moment in my life.
The Mystery Tour was brought to us by the Mid Pennine Art Group, although none of the present group remembers any of this making it even more mysterious. Nor do they remember the subsequent yearly event of setting fire to a man with a bathtub on his back before throwing him in the village river. This was a celebration of the New Year.
What I learned on the day of the Mystery Tour was that sometimes you have to push yourself out of your box and feel the fear of the new. If you don't you begin to shrivel and die.
Every time I feel the fear, every time I think it would be easier to stay at home rather than schlepp all the way to London to see the Bowie/Pearls/Isabella Blow exhibit I kick myself and do it. I married a man who kicks himself too and dons a dapper suit and a diamond bow brooch for the event. We take our children.
There were many questions at the In-Situ meeting as to how the group’s worth could be measured and validated. Maybe it can't. Who would know what changed my small outlook on life all those years ago? Even the arts group itself can't remember it.
In-Situ rekindled the excitement I felt when I took that leaflet form the strange man. Kerry on the streets drawing in chalk, adding a new dimension to our mill with her waterwheel, changing our landscape.
The film club celebrations of our old Unit 4 cinema, the excitement created in the town with William's Northern Soul project. The talk of outdoor kitchens and indoor farms, In Situ is planting life-changing seeds in Brierfield. Amidst poverty, disillusion and acute boredom its tendrils are creeping through our community and bursting into blooms that will stop people in their tracks and shock them into realizing that there's more to life than ordinary. And, that not all the things that scare you are bad.