I am delighted to have been selected as the Artist in Residence for Portsmouth City Council’s City of Stories, funded by Arts Council England. For the next three months I am working with the city archives and making work in response to my research.
There is something intoxicating about walking into a room filled with metal shelving, each stacked with grey archival boxes and bound ledgers tied with cotton tape. There are codes and organisational systems that ooze a seductive sense of mystery to the untrained eye and there’s the smell of ageing documents that penetrates the air. Within these walls there are so many stories both personal and civic. There are fragments of lives, visceral accounts of events unfolding and methodical records of facts and figures. There are pictures and maps and catalogues and pamphlets each playing it’s own part in the story of the city.
Over the next few months, my own investigations are focussing on the construction of social housing during the first half of the twentieth century, the national and local rationale driving this development and the impact on Portsmouth’s residents. There are some key players in this particular story and visions for the city that have striking contemporary relevance as regeneration programmes proliferate up and down the South Coast. I’ll be exploring what’s left of those ideas and to what extent people are still living amongst them a century later.