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Diary of a campsite retreat…


Arriving as the rain stopped. Putting up tents and hello’s.  Nervous butterflies and the grip of imposter syndrome.

Committing to a midnight performance with Ben within the first 5 minutes of our first ever conversation.

Being presented with an enamel mug and invited to decorate it. Fear! Can’t make a mark. Write Lang on it and draw a footprint on the bottom. And inspired by Ben’s chaos symbol make the mark of the sound of the world beginning and think of Phil Smith, the Crab Man. Laugh about not even being able to write on a mug in case I get it wrong.

The stew (seafood tentacles and mussels making me question my commitment to vegetarianism) Hunk of salty focaccia with a rich veggie stew.  Eton Mess for desert and resident tiny son eating a gazillion strawberries that were bigger than his fist.

Wanting to swim and not making it – frustration, born of expectation.  A recurring theme….

A wonderful tent sleep until late.


Eggs for breakfast and check in and the huge list of things I wanted to work on.

Today is a barefoot day. The earth feels warm and pillowy beneath my feet. I wake up all of me gently, starting from my toes.

A clamber down to a rocky cove and swimming in water that is too deep and makes me scared but can’t chicken out in front of everyone. Once in it’s wonderful. Clear water and diving off half submerged rocks.

swimspot swimspot1

Walking back in the rain and deciding not to put my clothes on but stay in my swimsuit – raindrops on my skin and the feeling of waking up my whole body. Laughing with a middle aged entirely waterproofed goretex couple who are warm and friendly as we stand in the driving rain, me in swimsuit them top to toe in Peter Storm. They share tips of places to go.

A conversation about making work for small spaces.  Some reading and list reviewing and more than a hint of panic.

A walk with Oliver in his wheelchair – an awareness of how difficult access to wild spaces is for people with a disability – what can I do to change this? A project / mission emerges… Conversations with Patrica and Lekeisha on the cliff edge – they are so young!  I choke back feelings of having left it too late.  A meeting with locals who tip off about the beach to scramble down to, promises of sand.

Roly polys down the field with resident tiny son. Joyous baby laughs.  A tonic.

Dinner of bean chilli and garlic mayo and pitta bread. Peach crumble and cream.  The food is amazing.  The camper van it’s cooked in gorgeous.

Check out terrifies me, everyone talks about the things they have done, I feel a little paralysed and choke out ‘ Had a lovely day’.

Walk to the standing stone with Patricia – she (this is definitely a she stone) faces west with her back to us. Massive moon moths dance around. Feeling unsettled.

Crawl into my tent feeling small and defeated and like a fraud.

Wednesday (already???)

Breakfast of eggs and some honesty with Gwen and Ben about feeling terrible and like I’m failing. It’s all doing says Ben. Gwen proposes a fuck off critic chat.

At check in I share my fears– that I was comparing myself, that I’m a fraud who should stay working in a shiny office – and hear them echoed back. That I had had a lovely day and that could be enough. Principles vs expectations.

A conversation with Kier about the economic crisis and the book. Maybe we’ll collaborate on my DIY workshop with Lucky Pierre? The Big Ideas Book Club get’s an injection of life. He is a warm and lovely human who thinks so differently.

Lunch and a walk to the nudist beach with Chloe, Katie and Bradders. A wonderful time with female artists, laughing, talking about hero’s (Phil Smith) and marvelling at beetles feet. Getting lost and then stripping off and swimming naked in the sunshine on white sand with a deep drop off. More wakening of my body, brining all to life, settling into and revelling in my own skin.

A race back for the critic chat, a little late but we have a rich conversation with Chloe and Katie and Gwen and Ben and Sophie and Patricia. We share our biggest fears and tactics for vanquishing the critic.

Aubergeine stew and cous cous, orange scented sweetly spiced chilled rice pudding.  Oh, this food….

Check out and an invitation to join us at the merry maidens.

Gwen, with cello, Ben with weed and Bradders with baby in her belly and I head out with candles and paper boats with our critics letter words written on them. I have a boat with “I let go of perfectionism, and guilt and shoulds and musts to make way for the possibility of being prolific” written on it. The stone circle is slightly too far away…. We arrive and it is still and potent. Setting up camp in the middle I mark the entrance to the circle – the campsite is so windy and yet here, more exposed – is still. We light candles and talk. I speak out my bedtime text and it is warmly received.

Gwen plays her cello, with resonant plucking.   I circle the stones settling quickly on a matronly large lady to the southwest but checking out all the others.   I follow Ben as he sews himself into the circle, I stay safely inside. A sip of wine then an offering of the rest spilled at her feet and then I light my boat and hold it to the heavens. I supress feeling silly and let the flames roar and the cello fill me. I keep a burnt corner.

Gwen can’t burn her boat at first. She criticises herself for not being able to set it alight and how much we must all think she’s rubbish for not being able to set paper on fire. We laugh about it later but it is a painful moment.

Ben reads some of his writing – we are transported to a conjurers world.

We let the candle line blow out and head back to tents. No hedgerow creatures.


Breakfast of eggs. And toast and marmalade and coffee – delicious coffee. And promises of bbq for dinner.

Check in and then I straight away set up the Resilience project installation in the Bell tent. I fashion a stopper for the space hopper and people visit. I think I see the way forward with this project. I lunch and lie in the grass and listen to people around me. I think I should swim. Then try to shush the should and lie a bit longer with occasional tiny son visitations. I comment on Flora and Grace’s mindmap which I find confusing.

John heads off for a walk and a swim and inspired I follow, at a distance towards Lamorna Cove. I intend to return to work with Fergus at 5pm on creating an artist mission but I walk a long way and bump into Lily. I take photographs of a huge rope and wish I could take it with me. She asks if I’d like to swim and we walk back to the cove. We talk about her offer to go to the Slade and the arts admin bursary and how it could all work. At the cove we find Bradders, Laura and Lexi. Lily goes in first, it’s less sunny more wavy the water a little scary. Once in it’s glorious and I swim and dive and feel like a seal. Bradders is trying to summon a seal to us. And then, just before we leave we see a wet whiskery face off the rocks just watching us. Clearly curious.  I discover the phrase unexpected animals (one of Mr Bradders, Murray’s favourite things).

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I sing a song to Fergus from my childhood and talk about the setting – Borth and Morning town train.

I go to Sophie’s Tea with Grandma performance and laugh so, so much. I set Katie off. It’s all about feminism and your matri-lineage and Sophie being funny and domestic in a tiny caravan. I get a hint of a hard life.  It stays with me.

We conga’d back from the showerblock with Ollie, all following / pushing his wheelchair then danced outside his tent with tiny son in the centre of the circle.

BBQ excitement – the tables arranged into a banqueting line, mugs of hedgeflowers set. Courgette and aubergine and mozerella and homemade barbeque sauce and salsa verde and salsa and potato salad and green salad. Trifle (no jelly) in a cup with creamy vanilla custard and crunchy sherry biscuits and lots of fruit. So good I have two portions. Cheered on by the whole table as I sprint for one of the few second helpings.

Tonight I drink wine – all of it. And smoke with Ben.

At the silent disco I hold up a glitter ball in the field and feel a bit distant. Then Laura raves about playing loud music and dancing aggressively. I borrow Bradders tablet and dance REALLY hard to Walk like an Egyptian, tuned up LOUD, until my lungs are burning and my ankle hurts and I have to sit down when the song ends.

I am booze bold and go to the bell tent to play Nivea crevice (squashing down fear) and am delighted to realise that all the cool kids that I haven’t really connected with think I would willingly lube up any part of my body and offer it for a poke. It’s actually very innocent and not at all scary but deliciously childlike. And it’s got pedigree – it’s a Forced Entertainment game – and you don’t need Nivea. We use malibu sun cream and all smell coconutty.

I return to smoke and drink wine and talk shit and truth until 2am.

I go to bed and write Very Important Notes for closing.


Breakfast of eggs and closing. I draw all over my mug with seals and chaos symbols and waves and write Anne Artist across the middle.

I can’t read my Very Important Notes from the previous night apart from Nivea Crevice and Meet Gwen.

I talk about the space hopper slowly going down while I sit on it and hear everyone’s closing. About being not able, then being able to decorate my mug. About feeling nourished. About the list of things and the fact that the one I didn’t work on, would work in a small space. That I have an abundance of ideas. That I’ve affirmed that I’m in the long game. That I want to be doing this in 35 years so if doesn’t get made now that’s ok, as long as I’m still working. That I’m pleased that the Resilience project hasn’t withered from neglect.

I think about pace, about putting it out there, about asking for what you need, about generosity and gratitude, being brave, breathing. “If you aren’t grounded in communities the wind can blow you away.” About being prolific, about things fermenting.

Then it’s all goodbyes and wavings off. Punctuated by a mind blowing one to one from Chloe in Sidney. It was so simple, yet so sophisticated.   It felt balanced and whole, warm and full of possibility. I can’t remember the last time I had such a deep emotional connection to a piece of work or the artist creating it.   Her openness and care created a joyous, safe and expansive experience and when it finished I sat in the grass and wept. Good tears.

More goodbyes and then all remaining piled into the bell tent to be ears for Megan’s muscular, angry writing about squalor and the pay gap and the feminist lineage. A treat. The tribe supporting our own (she’d found it hard to ask for ears) and a unified answer to her question – does it need something visual? more than words? No. No it doesn’t.

More goodbyes.

I have an open return so decide to stay longer.  Then I strike out for the beach alone. My ankle a little sore from dancing to begin with but soon settling down. I think about taking the helm. All I come to the conclusion of is that I know which pants I need to wear on day one. I write a draft application for a workshop about boats while looking at some lovely little boats. The lure of the sea and the urge to swim.


Boatslobster pots

And then a slow worm and two mating dragonflies like pre-historic space monsters.

I scramble over an iron age hill fort to find Logans rock, scrambling and climbing, it’s exhilarating, I feel strong and fit and the sea and sky and rock work on me. And then the dolphins – an amazing aerial display. I make good time along the cliffs and scramble down to the beach to sit and watch more dolphin acrobatics and enjoy the sun until I’m joined by Bradders and Laura. We strip off and dive in and it’s glorious. And the dolphin display continues and the sun is warm and it’s so, so good. I sunbathe naked for a while – enjoying the feeling of sun on me and not feeling self conscious which is nice and a bit weird.

We walk back hoping for chips and stopping for wees at the side of the path and talking about life/work. And the horror that our chefs may be cheating with each other – the love bug of nourishing food, is it tainted? I decide not to give them my half written poem about crumble baked in love.

And the campsite is empty, little green grass ghost patches where once were sleeping bodies. I want a photo series of people sleeping in the space where their tent was.

I wrestle with a pop up tent repeatedly. Finally triumphing.

Tiny son takes me to the swings and the slide and the sand pit and we play, me trying not to break him, until chips arrive. When I carry him on my back like a pony back up the hill (I’d never noticed it was much of a hill before today) Pea fritters and chips with tiny son on my lap.  It’s lovely borrowing a little person.  Prosecco from a tin mug. Melted dairy milk with whole nut and some raspberries. Sharing of memories. Feeling grateful. Flowers and candlelight and the rain coming in.

A review of the week…

Unexpected animals (thanks Bradders Murray)

  • A slow worm
  • A seal – watching us, watching him (was his name Reginald or Stanley?)
  • Four shiny fat ponies (not entirely unexpected but very welcome)
  • Two prehistoric, space age dragonflies (shagging)
  • Five dolphins with an hour long aerial acrobatic display
  • An iridescent shiny green beetle
  • A beautiful black beetle with feathers for feet
  • Lace wing beetley bugs
  • Furry caterpillar – all black and spiky
  • Milky green moths around a standing stone
  • Bold bunnies playing chicken

The week in numbers:

  • 1 shower, 1 slow worm, 1 seal visit.
  • 2 nude swims, 2 suited swims.
  • 3 offerings from me – the Sidney history, the midnight reading, the installation.
  • 4 delicious puddings in a field.
  • 5 days of nourishment and 5 spinning, leaping dolphins, 5 hours on a train each way to write and adjust.

July 2014

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