1st July, 2019

opening event on 1st July, 2019. (c) Anna Goodchild 2019

The day I had been waiting for for 12 months dawned. I set off at 8am for the hour’s drive through rush hour traffic to open the doors to the throngs!

There was nobody around but the cafe was open as was the exhibition space.

It was then that I discovered that the moisture in the gallery had warped all the prints. I called my husband and asked him to make 32 wooden slats and put double-sided tape on them so that we could stick them to the tops and bottoms of the prints to hold them straight! Fortunately we only had 3 visitors that morning – I was mortified in case any more came to see the warped display.

The opening event was scheduled for that evening at 6 and the Guildhall was hosting a wake at the same time so there were a lot of people milling around.

I did not realise that there was no signage to say where the entrance was so my husband and a friend stood outside to guide people to the right place. I heard later that several locals had done the same thing!

As it turned out, 54 of the 200 invited guests turned out which was considerably better than I had experienced at the OCA SW exhibitions and that I had therefore expected. the gallery manager had asked me how many guests to prepare for and I said 30, pertly because at that stage I was going to have to pay £1.80 per guest and I did not really know how many were going to arrive.

Guests at the opening event.

The people had come from as far afield as Penzance, Bristol, Ireland and Germany – I was really pleased.

The gallery manager tried to come in but could not get through the door. (c) Ruby Barter. 2019.

I had had cards printed with my details and a short synopsis of the project on the back while on the front there was the diptych of my poem. The idea was that people could take these away with them. I also had copies of the press release for more information.

The memento card . (c) Anna Goodchild. 2019

The Friday before the opening, when the cards had not arrived from the printer, I suddenly thought that I had not sized the diptych to print on A6 so the card would be blank. It was then that I decided to cut out small pieces from the rejected prints, I would glue them to the side that the poem would have been on and I would ask the guests to find the matching piece on the prints. I made 60 game cards.

The game card. (c) Anna Goodchild. 2019.

As it turned out, the memento cards were fine. The card game added a fun element to the exhibition and, as I had 6 left over after the evening, I knew I had had 54 guests.

On the Tuesday, my music collaborator Dorothy and I worked on our London performance for the music-visual arts collaboration.

As the flow of visitors was nothing like the 50 per day that I had been told, I was starting to regret having signed up for 2 weeks. By the Friday, I was quite pleased I had as numbers started growing, particularly from the people who worked at the Guildhall.

On the Monday, I decided to remove 4 of the prints as I felt that they did not add much to the hang. The result was much better because those images that were left had more space to breathe.

Over the 2 weeks there were 168 visitors through the doors and 2008 people viewed my video of it on Facebook.

I really enjoyed meeting so many people, reading what they thought and listening to what they had to say. I was very pleased to have put out a reflections book rather than the normal visitors book which, in my opinion, does not add much to an exhibition experience unless you are collecting contacts for future exhibitions.

29th June, 2019.

A friend had come over from Germany for the exhibition and my husband and I were very grateful to have an extra pair of hands to hang the work. The maquette was really useful because everything was laid out as I had planned and so I didn’t have to keep telling people what went where. Consequently, as had happened at the OCA SW exhibitions in Wellington and Bristol in 2017 and 2018 respectively, everything went up very quickly and we were finished in 3 hours.

What did not go as it should have was the fishing line to hang the 16 prints. The paper was too lightweight to pull the fishing line straight so my husband went to some chandlers to get white twine. As soon as we had that and had worked out a system to attach them to the bulldog clips, they went up very quickly.

Meeting with the gallery

Meeting on 5th June 2019

  1. teas and coffees: I could not provide my own as the gallery has refreshments as part of the service. I asked why this was not in the contract & the manager said that they are about to change the contract. I would have to pay £1.80 per cup of tea or coffee. Initially I had been told that it would cost £1.50 but they said they had not included VAT. I queried adding VAT to hot drinks as this was not normally done & I was told that it was because it was a catering service and therefore they were allowed to charge VAT. Two months later & I have not yet been sent the bill for the drinks.
  2. I had to check to see if the boards in the cells were magnetic because I wanted to attach magnets to the card Leporellos. No, they are 2cm hardboard screwed to the walls.
  3. I queried the fact that the exhibition was not on their events page & nor was the poster or the press release which I had sent in in February when they requested it. I was told that there was a problem with the website & that they would try to get hold of the website designers. It was all rectified about a week later.
  4. I handed over the poster and flyers for posting at the Guildhall and at their Prince William Yard branch.
  5. Is there a PA system in place? No. I would have to get my own. Which I did.
  6. Installation date: could I put up the exhibition on the Saturday? No – there would still be an artist in there. The Friday before my Monday opening, the gallery called to say that the artist was leaving early & I could, therefore, hand the exhibition on Saturday. they also kept the space open later for us. Great!
  7. As the contract stated that there was the likelihood that the double cell to which I did not have access could be hired out during the exhibition, I asked if any meetings had been scheduled for it – no, the space had not been hired out for it.
  8. Was I going to be charged for using the double cell to serve drinks on the opening night? No. Great!
  9. Was it ok for me to put silicone on the trunking to stop the tiles from slipping off and breaking? Yes, I could do that provided I removed all trace of it after the exhibition. While I was there I realised that I could use magnets to secure the tiles.

Meeting on 21st March 2019

  1. Parking: there is no designated parking area but I was assured that there is never a problem with parking.
  2. How dim can the lights go in the projection cell? As I intended to show the video as well as have the vitrine in this cell, I wanted to see how dim the lights could go. They are either off or on, no dimmer switch. I therefore cannot put the vitrine in the cell – it will have to go outside.
  3. Insurance: As the gallery has only been operating for 7 months, I wanted to know if there was any chance that I had to have an ‘insurance’ venue in case things went wrong. I felt awkward asking this but I did not want to find that, having booked it a year in advance, I would be without a venue. I was assured that they had no intention of closing and that they had bookings for the rest of the year. It still did not reassure me but sometimes you just have to go on trust.
  4. Insurance: Would my projector and amplifier be insured for the 2 weeks? No. I will either have to insure them myself or take them in and out every day. I chose the latter since I was going to be in the space every day anyway.

Meeting on 19th February, 2019

Last week I thought I had better go down to Plymouth to meet the latest administrator who is in charge of the gallery lettings, so I arranged a meeting.

Devonport Guildhall exterior.

In preparation for it, I made sure I had some printed material as they had never seen my work, and, although I had sent them a copy of my publicity material, it and any record of the conversations and correspondence I had had with the previous administrator, seem to have been mis-filed.

  • I was pleased to see that the info on the publicity material was correct.
  • Catering: I said what I wanted to serve and where as I had previously been told I could use the ‘meeting room’ = cell 3. We then had a discussion about whether or not I should pay for it. My decision was that if I was asked to pay, I would have the food and drinks opposite the entrance on a table. I should hear next week when the manager returns from her leave whether or not I am expected to pay for the space.
  • Poster distribution: the gallery would put the poster, publicity flyer and invitation on their website and on their Facebook page. This differs from the info I was given before which was that the gallery would do a mail shot to its subscribers. I will do a flyer drop and send out the invitations as well as a press release – I had been previously told they would do the press release. I have just spoken to a colleague of my contact to ask if they have a distribution list of contacts but they don’t. She added that they advertise in Visit Plymouth and in Visual Arts South West.
  • I said I would not be selling anything.
  • Vitrine – they don’t have one so I will make my own.
  • Plinths – on inspection, we discovered that they have 2 plinths, which is perfect = 1 for the made up cell and one for the book of letters.
  • The first cell would have my projector above the doorway which would play my ‘time and place’ looped videos. In this cell I would have the images of the plants used on my quilt – if I make and display it – as well as, maybe, the seasonal blobs images. There was mention of a risk assessment regarding the cable from the projector to the socket. I will cover it with the same tape we used for our OCA SW exhibition and which worked very well.
  • The second cell, the “reflection cell”, I will arrange as a cell with a metal bed and a writing table with the plinth in the far corner holding bathroom artefacts from HMP Dartmoor. I will also provide a soft board notice board as the centre does not have a spare notice board, on which I will pin Ian’s cards (with his permission). On the table will be the alternative to a ‘visitors’ book, a ‘reflections’ book in which visitors will (hopefully) record their thoughts on how, what they have seen, makes them feel about prison and prisoner identity. This cell will also have a recording of Ian’s letters being read and the sound will go around the whole space. A problem with this is that if the 3rd cell = meeting room = is rented out, they might not like the interference of the recordings. As I am in the space stewarding the exhibition over the two weeks, I will deal with that eventuality as and if it occurs.
  • We confirmed that I would be doing an artist’s talk on the fist Saturday.

On reflection, I was glad to have followed my instincts to check on the arrangements since the gallery had had a change in administrators. There are subtle but significant differences in the arrangements.

The QR code next to the print.

My project too has evolved: whereas I had previously wanted to use QR codes for each image which would contain recordings of the readings of the pertinent letter for each image, I am now planning to have the letters read on a continuous loop permeating all the space.

The change in audio arrangements came about because I had spoken to my tutor and had put up a question on the OCA forum page regarding QR codes and sound systems. Several people had mentioned: (i) that WiFi reception can be intermittent; (ii) not everyone has smart phones so they could not have been able to access the letters; (iii) I would have to get ‘over-ear’ head sets to reduce the health risks, and they are much more expensive than the ear phones; (iv) having people standing at the first print would mean that others would not be able to access the QR code and so would have to queue. All those things considered, I decided to use a broadcast system rather than print-specific audio.

I now have a firmer idea of what I am expected to make and do.

My latest preparation for my Format reviews: