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From 7–19 April 2020, Open House artists in residence for 2019-20, Wright & Vandame, were scheduled to host a display and series of events in the Ede Room at Kettle’s Yard, which celebrated and reflected upon the outcome of their year-long residency, Meeting Ground. Unfortunately, this display is unable to be realised in its original form due to the temporary closure of Kettle’s Yard in light of government advice responding to the Coronavirus pandemic.

We are delighted to invite Wright & Vandame to instead share their experience of collaborating with North Cambridge communities through our blog and social media platforms. Wright & Vandame will host a take-over of Kettle’s Yard’s Instagram feed from 17 – 19 April 2020, reimagine their meditation and artist talk events on Kettle’s Yard Facebook page on Saturday 18 April and share their thoughts, experiences and artworks through the Kettle’s Yard blog over the course of the week.

One of the key elements we wanted to explore in the residency was this idea of a guided meditation. It is one of the few things about wellbeing which is perhaps more mainstream and accessible in popular culture. At the same time, we didn’t want it to be overly clichéd or obvious. It’s a difficult balance to get right and something we wanted to handle sensitively.

Between November 2019 and February 2020, we curated a display of works from the Kettle’s Yard Reserve Collection, with consultation with the Open House Community Panel, and used this exhibition as the inspiration for a series of guided meditations made in collaboration with three local community groups: the Grove Primary School, ESOL Café and members of the Grovebury Ladies and Not Quite Over the Hill Club

Guillaume Vandame (GV): After attending the Mind Body Spirit Festival and “Art as Prescription: Mindfulness in the Museum” at the Courtauld Institute of Art, a key turning point in our research happened when we came across Christopher Andre’s recent book, Mindfulness: 25 Ways to Live in the Moment Through Art (2014), where he writes these painstakingly beautiful and concise descriptions responding to a work of art. We used his narrative of a quiet Monet landscape as an example, which worked really nicely. It was somehow more accessible to create a mindful story, slowing the experience of viewing than to make something more prescribed like a traditional meditation. Each group selected a painting from the display and really made it their own, through their own words and ideas, even a sea shanty and a translation from English to Japanese!

We worked closely with my brother, producer and musician, Thibaut Vandame, to make a guided meditation for World Mental Health Day in October 2019. I feel so lucky and blessed we got the chance to work with him again to produce and record the final three guided meditations or ‘mindful stories’ in early February 2020. He’s just as passionate and driven as me so I knew we were going to have something strong in the end.

Josh Wright (JW): The highlight for me was the challenge of recording all three groups on one day! Each group brought new challenges, a new location and differing needs. Thibaut was really resourceful at responding to each space and ultimately using whatever was available to soften the echo and background noise. It was a very special day too as in many ways it was the culmination of 6 or 7 weeks of workshops with each group and most had never been recorded before.

‘White Saxifrage (aka Wild Lilies, Greece)’, 1966, Winifred Nicholson

The first sound piece is by the ESOL Café, a group of individuals who are studying to speak English as a second language and meet regularly at the Chesterton Sports Centre in North Cambridge. The group were inspired by this watercolour of a beach in Greece made in 1966 by the British artist, Winifred Nicholson.

This piece is read by student, Hiroshi, with the text collaboratively written by the whole group.

Listen to the sound piece here

‘Littlestone on Sea’, 1936, John Piper

Here we have a sound work by students at the Grove Primary School, a group of school children living in North Cambridge. The group were inspired by a collage of a beach in Littlestone-On-Sea, a small coastal village in Kent, made in 1936 by the British artist, John Piper. As you listen to their words, try to imagine what the picture looks like and slowly notice how a dull day suddenly becomes full of possibility!

This ever-energetic group are: Marley, Cerys, Rhyley, Chanelle, Hayden, Aafreen, Zoe, Orlaigh, Shanice, Alessha, Jack and Tyler.

Listen to the sound piece here

‘Coal Boat’, 1960s, Bryan Pearce

This sound work is by members of Not Quite Over the Hill Club (NQOTHC) and the Grovebury Ladies, a group of individuals over the age of 50 who meet regularly at the Arbury Community Centre in North Cambridge. The group were inspired by a painting of a coal ship made in 1965 by the British artist, Bryan Pearce. As you listen to their words, try to imagine what the picture looks like and how it might feel to be on the boat drifting off into sea…and keep your ears open for a light sea shanty at end!

This wonderful group of women consists of Gill Calcutt, Valerie Cutting, Pauline Nunn, Rosalind Rowlinson, Lesley Taylor, Barbara Watts and Christine Wright.

Listen to the sound piece here.