Talking Birds has been involved in many creative consultations over the years, and arguably many of our site-specific projects could also be re-framed as consultations. We think consultations should always be bespoke, not least because the issues you might want to discuss will often be keenly felt by the people involved, but these projects give an idea of how we might work and structure such a project. Do get in touch if you’ve an idea for a creative consultation project that you’d like to discuss.
The Cart is Talking Birds’ Mobile Social Space. It’s a kind of flexible kit we can set up anywhere to create a special space for social interactions, engagement, workshops, play and conversation.
It’s something that can pop-up across the city (and beyond) offering a friendly, relaxed, comfortable and welcoming space to have a conversation over coffee, over a shared activity such as stitching or a game, or maybe even over a free haircut. An exchange of some kind. Something which allows parents to stop and chat whilst their children play. Something that can go to where people are, and engage them on their terms – visiting neighbourhoods, parks, nurseries; joining existing events or forming the focus of new ones; mapping the cultural engagement in the city on a micro-level, where it’s about people rather than statistics, about communities rather than about wards, about human connections and the things we do together.
It was first used out and about in Coventry during the bidding process for City of Culture, when we parked up in Coventry neighbourhoods and offered passers by a free cuppa and cake, and sometimes some music in exchange for conversations about what a city of culture could or should be. Read up on The Cart’s travels here.
The Virtual Fringe
The Virtual Fringe was a festival of non-existent events, programmed into unused, underused or unfulfilled buildings and spaces in Coventry. It was conceived as a way of entering into the debate about what makes a vibrant city – and what artists can do to be involved in the discussion and to help that to happen. Alongside the consultation, it was also very much about Talking Birds curating the artists and pairing them up with real spaces to produce their virtual works.
From the brochure: “You are the audience for the Virtual Fringe: We ask you to look through the brochure and imagine your presence at this festival. We ask you to imagine the buzz on the street and to enjoy looking at your city with new eyes. We ask you to imagine your role in realising such a festival, given that Something, like Nothing, can happen anywhere.”
“It is a very creative and practical exercise in showing just how vibrant the city could be…How artists can influence the arts policy of their local council is a difficult question to resolve: Talking Birds’ independent but engaging approach could be something of a model.”[a-n magazine]
The Space of Possibilities
A cultural strategy.
Sounds dull, sometimes it is dull, and the process of writing can be even duller. Its impact on a city, though, is huge, or at least it should be. And if it isn’t, then what’s the point of writing it at all?
We wanted to explore a different way of creating, and then presenting, a cultural strategy. We thought a good way of starting would be to ask people who’d never heard of a cultural strategy.
Masterplan was a 3 year project in association with Creative Partnerships in two Coventry schools. It involved a number of investigations, at least one sculpture, 13 sets of school toilets and a mention on (sadly no longer John Craven’s) Newsround.
At Stivichall Primary School, the project was very much about transition – straddling the period of the ending of one school and the start of another. Initially, Talking Birds worked with years 2 and 5 to investigate the outdoor space of the school site and to create a sculpture that would act as a focal point for parents gathering at the end of the day. We treated this as our ‘levelling stone’, and made something which echoed the roofline of the existing school building (which was to be demolished once the new school was built), and incorporated objects and lenses through which we would literally as well as figuratively see the school differently.
Talking Birds worked alongside the architects at the start of the design process for the new Stivichall school building, getting pupils and staff involved in looking at the exisiting building with a view to making the most of the site, transferring features that worked and determining what a twenty-first century school might need to be. Once the school was built, we worked with a mixed age group of children to design all the new toilet blocks.
In Finham Secondary School, it was more of a straightforward re-design of existing and badly-vandalised toilets. We now hold the view that, actually, the toilets are pretty much the most important thing to get right in a school, because they are the one place where children and young people are unobserved and vulnerable – we could go on, but we wouldn’t want to put you off your tea, but if you are interested in a further conversation about this, do get in touch.