The iconic Victorian mansion house at the heart of Calderstones Park is home to The Reader Organisation, a tranquil hub where their highly-praised community reading sessions have found the perfect home. The early evening sunshine adds to the splendour of the setting this evening as the venue plays host to the first-ever AD HOC CREATIVE EXPO. In a darkened room, large sheets of black netting are stretched tight across six large frames to create screens onto which projections of geometric shapes regenerate and distort themselves. Quotes from No Worst, There Is None, a poem by Gerard Manley-Hopkins – a beautiful piece which deals with his well-documented depression – are cast across the screens, and interspersed with strongly contrasted images of vast, sharp, mountainous landscapes. The viewer’s perspective, moving above and across these dark, intimidating spaces, illuminates the poem’s themes in a singular and dynamic way.
The soundtrack to this swell of visuals, composed by BILL RYDER-JONES, evokes the darkness of the poem, and the demons with which Manley-Hopkins battled. Layers of deep cello notes form a lilting drone with violins, and a beautifully stark piano weaves gently through those strings, bringing a rich depth to the whole.
Ryder-Jones’ part in this creative installation was undertaken separately to the work of London-based visual artist MARCO LAWRENCE (and brought to life on the night by Sam Wiehl), but they both took the poem as their inspiration, and an impressive work has arisen as a result. As a child, I was always taught to look up at my surroundings, to appreciate the unexpected as well as the obvious; perhaps an unexpected and unplanned strength to Lawrence’s visuals in this piece is the way in which they layer and clash on the ornate Victorian coving on the walls of the space.
The event is the brainchild of Ad Hoc Creative, a project which aims to showcase the talents of the many people involved in Ad Hoc’s guardian scheme (a scheme which gives empty space to artists, for them to act as building guardians, in return for low rent). Hundreds of artists, musicians and performers – Lawrence included – are part of this Europe-wide scheme, which frees up disused properties and makes them available to potential tenants who are looking for more flexible accommodation. Tonight’s event is made more apt given that Calderstones Mansion is presided over by Ad Hoc guardians, in conjunction with The Reader Organisation.
Unfortunately, Ryder-Jones is unable to attend the event, but expresses his thoughts regarding his involvement in the project (discussing the installation and his contribution in a little more detail) via a filmed video statement. A reading of No Worst, There Is None brings a poignancy to both the visual and the audio work, existing as a one-off piece to be experienced only once, here and now.
Ad Hoc Creative is a breathtakingly simple, innovative and worthy scheme, and more of these awareness-raising collaborations would be a key by-product. It should also be remembered, in these difficult times, that there is a clear model within the scheme which works in supporting creative culture, artists and forgotten spaces. Would that we could see more collaborations like these. Like Manley-Hopkins, we can but hope.