Katie Jo Anderson

Artist based in South West Scotland; interested in people, places, materials and collaborative practice.

Tag: public art

Tattiefields Community Evening

Tattiefields has awakened a true fascination with all things tattie-related as I’ve spent the summer working and re-working ideas for a new public space as part of a housing development in North West Dumfries. From the names of potato breeds, to their origins, growing seasons and varieties, good recipes to creative projects – I’ve started to go a little tattie-mad.

We decided to host an evening to share this new obsession, towards creating a bit of identity for the Tattiefields site, and also to become the first point for sharing the proposed designs for the location. Exciting times.

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The evening included a creative workshop inventing potato men, women, children, animals and aliens…, a curry cooking workshop, the sharing of new designs, a tattie buffet and ended up with some film screenings and the impromptu judging of the best tattie people creations. The event allowed Kirsty Turpie and I to really embrace our love of food as art and art as food, with (I hope) excellent results!

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I had some really great feedback to the designs, and also support from the clients to take the designs forward to we are now looking forward to getting into the production phases for the project! I am still very keen to speaking to anyone who is interested in developing a project to support vegetable growing, either in gardens in and around Lochside, or on site at Tattiefields in the Spring. If you have an idea or are interested in sharing some vegetable growing skills, please get in touch katie<at>the stove.org.

Tattiefields is part of The Stove Network’s Lochside Public Art Project, working in partnership with DGHP and Creative Futures Lincluden and Lochside. Big thank you to project assistant Kirsty Turpie, Michael, Liam Templeton, Agne and Jimmy and Matt B for all the support in pulling the evening together. Thanks and image credits to Kirstin McEwan and Michael. To see the extended photograph album, visit The Stove’s Flickr page here

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The beginnings of a new project that has been under wraps for a while, but is now just starting to emerge! Myself and Kirsty Turpie will be effectively artists in residence in Lochside, popping up at the Family Centre and at various events over the next while. Drop in for a chat and to hear […]

Durational Time, and Place

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These have grown steadily from a rough idea, exploring genetic chromosome mapping, clockwork mechanisms, and tree rings. The outer ring, made up of 23 bands has grown visually from similar circular chromosome maps, abstracted back as one of a series of slow moving rings. The piece, to move in it’s own timeframe forms the first in a series of works focused on staying and waiting within a hospital environment.

 

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Thanks to Samuel at the Dumfries MakLab for helping me get started with these. I’m currently on the hunt for someone clever with mechanisms and kinetic artworks… if that’s you, drop me an email!

 

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Did you know yellow is a bad colour for those suffering from migranes? Neither did I. Apparently it’s a much more anxious colour than it’s sunny disposition might suggest..!

 

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I shouldn’t like these colours. But I really like these colours. These colours are in the process of being toned down appropriately. Turns out I like coloured vinyl more than I thought I would.

How can we influence the experience people have when in hospitals? Can works be stimulating and engaging but still remain sensitive to the needs of all hospital users? How can works engage with the fluctuating community of a hospital environment? What is the role of art in hospitals? How does creative environment interact with the medical one?

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To be able to locate ourselves within a wider sense of landscape, I’ve started to look at different scales and details of our surrounding environment when reflecting on the spaces where people will be spending long periods of time.

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A transparent vinyl landscape to cross the windows, letting in light and seeing through, bringing colour into the room during sunnier days.

Conversation has largely grown around about balance and challenge, finding an intersection of interest and placing a contesting object or artwork at the point of meeting and testing the possible responses. Hospital typography and signage, floor materials and the typical vinyl backed hospital furniture, mysteries of infection control and some violent cleaning products – the language of a hospital is a new one full of new approaches and conversations.

The authentic material – real materials of the earth, are rarely present in our hospitals, with the predominate choices being vinyl surfaces (floors, walls, some ceilings, most furniture), laminates and plastics, the sense of identity through tactile experience is pretty limited. This calls for a whole new set of approaches, as these materials are all invested in the easy-clean approach of a busy and constant working environment, and alternatives are eschewed in favour of more reliable constants.

Things are getting interesting.

 

Huge thanks to Dress for the Weather for the opportunity to work on this so far, and looking forward to the next stages!

Wave Decay

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Site Specificity.

Step outwards and pause, listen.

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Sound. Wave | Decay.

The announcement of a new collaborative project with Justin K Prim, exploring a favourite, secretive spot in Annandale. Walk out into the world, neither rose tinted nor of true reality. Tune in to space.

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Keep your ears pricked. Approach with caution. It’s wild out there.

18th and 19th of August 2016. Annandale. Details to be announced soon.

With thanks to DGUnlimited and The Stove Network.

what is valuable about workshops?

Following a recent spurt of workshop facilitating and leading on various projects, the art of running a workshop has been sifting through my work, with a particular focus on ‘what the point’ of workshops are. Aside from the obvious, artist goes into a place and shares their ideas, skills or inspiration with a ‘community’ of peoples, gathered whether in interest, geographical location or as a captive audience – schools groups etc and produces some kind of output, of artistic merit or otherwise. (what community? for whom? to inspire what? in order to achieve what?)

Now call me pessimistic, but these seem somewhat large demands to achieve in one to three hour time periods with a bunch of complete strangers gathered without necessary a common thread between them.

Conversations have begun to focus around several key areas or ideas towards the making of something with true potential to be useful, to grow something new, and to inspire possibility in a near future sense. These are potentially starting points towards more carefully examining the role of an artist within a ‘community’ setting (other words or terms for these groups of people very welcome).

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What does it take to provide a real sense of attachment to our ideas or projects? How can such a short time period spark interest and create future inspirations, ask broad questions about our places?
How do we grow relationships and connected-ness with other people?
We ask a lot of workshops.

Share and Exchange
There is a basic trade between artist and ‘community’, where one party can exchange knowledge, connection, place-based meaning, history and heritage with the application of skill-sharing, whether introducing a new skill or more a way of looking at a problem/point of view.
Questions: Value exchange – how do we place value and hold value to knowledge/skills etc? How do we preserve these values once exchanged?
Ownership – keeping respect, and consideration for all parties, and an openness towards the future prospects of such trade and exchange.

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Making as Conversation
Repetitive actions, learning exchange and the complexities of ‘figuring it out’ make for interesting conversations for groups or communities without necessarily having a lot of common ground or relationships already. These are safe places, neutral environments for casual discussion, exploratory conversations and open questions. Like sewing circles or knitting bees, where ideas and gossip can be exchanged without fear of retribution or exclusion, the act of making provides a rhythm for questions – both big and small.

Meeting points and Common Ground
Creating connection via a sense of shared environment, time and skill. This is less of an instant reaction, more of a sense of collective space and ownership – and can only be built up gradually, and through repeated or regular activity.

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Invitation and Hospitality
Space creation (see neutral environment above), and welcoming. Creating the right invitation to encourage interaction, and participation. Openness and flexibility to unexpected factors, playing with and being responsive to already existent structures.

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The Authentic self and an openness to change
All the while keeping hold of a sense of yourself and your work, creating environments, events and activities where this can be openly shared with a collective group/‘community’ etc. This is the artist not as all seeing, applying a template to whichever community they land in, but as open and willing to change and adapt to suit to localities.

Housing Activism and the Artist – Inspirations and Thought Processes

Question #1: Can artists be part of changing and creating residential activity on our high streets and in our town centres? Can artists and artist-led projects impact change in these ways in our towns?

We discussed examples in America, including the work of Theaster Gates, who’s creative property development in parts of Chicago, through the founding of the Rebuild Foundation, such as the Dorchester Art + Houseing Collaborative which provides residence for both artists on residency and local community members, growing collaboration, conversation and activity between both groups.

Theaster Gate's Dorchester Projects. Image: House past and present (2013) Image: Sarah Pooley

Theaster Gate’s Dorchester Projects. Image: House past and present (2013) Image: Sarah Pooley

Could such a thing be possible in Scotland? Could planning laws, available funds and communities allow for such a growth? Do artists have the skills necessary to do this? (This was a bit difficult to answer in a straightforward way). The Vennel in Dumfries was quickly brought up, and it was agreed by most that it was high time they got back to Dumfries to re-think the place. (I mentioned there was no need to rush, town centre change is a gradual thing we are in early stages of!) This was part of a series of discussions exploring what a more cultural high street would look like, as part of Architecture and Design Scotland’s annual Place Challenge conference in Arbroath.

Four days later, location: The Black-E, Liverpool. Context: Liverpool Biennal’s Community Arts Conference. The final panel is up after a day of sometimes heated discussions, and a definite division between audience and panellists/organisers. There is a palpable tension in the room, and a twitchy-ness from several hours sat listening in artificial light.

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This is the panel of my dreams; artists Jeanne van Heeswijk and Nina Edge, members of Homebaked and the Granby Community Land Trust, and design collective Assemble. Individually, each of these speakers presents an inspirational story of collaborative approaches, creative process, community intervention and making the impossible possible. Collectively, this was a place that stood up for their place and worked together to fight back for lost causes, and the history of many.

Nina Edge raises a curious point – of seven areas in Liverpool threatened with demolition, only three remain currently intact, and each of those areas has worked directly with creative practitioners of some form. It seems like creativity can galvanise and help create change in these communities. Nina’s work on committee evidence documents, and affecting legislature did not go un-praised.

What was most notable was the way these different artists and organisations had worked together, in support of each other and in solidarity. Also of note, from Homebaked was that without the support of the large scale ‘institutions’ (demonised somewhat throughout the day), in this case the Biennial, for being the bolster to push through small independent projects like Homebaked into securing the premises and holding back the bulldozers.

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(Apologies for any paraphrasing, it was a long day)

Interesting week! Arbroath was an interesting challenge in discussion leading, in lots of ways not super successful as a discussion – but a useful opportunity to speak about the Stove in a slightly different way to a new audience, and to think about the aspirations and potential of creative practice, as an alternative way of problem solving, communicating and creating change in our places. Liverpool was intense listening to a pocket-sized history of community arts in the city, and looked to focus predominantly at ‘what we could learn’ from what had gone before, a slightly idealistic notion of teaching the upcoming artists to appreciate what had come so far (noteably the audience, was not predominantly younger – by my eye at least.)

Notes: It’s not all black and white. Large scale institutions have a responsibility, as –largely, comparatively- well funded organisations, to be risk-taking and forward thinking about any ‘outreach’ work they undertake. Larger institutions should not, by right deliver all ‘community art’ outreach in their areas, as are often not best suited to doing so, however much they may be required to reach their organisations out to wider audiences, the real-time benefits to their communities appear to be limited.

Artists equally have a responsibility: we are not outwith ‘community’, but should perhaps be an integral part of it. We should be part of creating our places, and can input from being pebbles in ponds, to being connectors and links, question-ers, provokers, testers, builders and researchers. This isn’t to say that artists should only work locally, this sounds to be a balance, between building long term connections with place to growing new opportunities and bringing fresh energy into other places, either those with less creative energy in them or to work alongside the creative energy already present.

Now, to spend the next while not using the word ‘community’.

All Paths Lead to Morton – EAFS Offgrid

This summer welcomed the second Environmental Arts Festival Scotland – an international biennial of contemporary art practice in landscape – which for two months this summer absorbed me whole. My last EAFS experience in 2013 (blog here) shook and rattled my perceptions on place-based art in all the right ways, and has been an important part in prodding my reflective process into the art practice that it is today.

But moving on from the hectic, region trailing festival that was EAFS 2013, this year took a marked-ly different tack. Exploring themes of pilgrimage and journeying, hospitality and generosity and – my favourite – inventiveness and foolishness as a way of understanding the world (Have I reinvented that a little? Perhaps it has grown from the original intention), EAFS Offgrid 2015 looked as a large scale collective artwork in which all parties became part-artist, an experiment in co-created community, temporary place making and exploration of landscape.

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I had lots of questions during the lead-up to the festival. (Apologies to all who endured my constant questioning)

One of the most persistant was in the meaning of ‘festival’ in the first place. Contemporary associations of festival – through the prolificy of large scale music and arts festival – put us the audience, in a passive state, consuming entertainment, resources and activity, these are free spaces for new experience and free partying; but everything is largely provided for us, from music and activity to food and water, the festival crowd is encouraged to participate by consuming. This seems mis-matched for our free spirited and independant festival idealism.

The alternative? EAFS Offgrid, whereby attending a festival made you an active participant, a sense of generosity and hospitality grown by all involved encouraged an active bringing and sharing, from extra food to additional programmed content – some of the quoted favourite moments at EAFS were the ones we never even programmed. From this generosity grew an amazing atmosphere of a community, caring and growing itself and each other. The EAFS team looked to create a space to be activated by others; in this way everyone had the opportunity to be a participating artist at EAFS – and in this collective making, everything from eating to sign-posting could be considered and created as part of the larger EAFS artwork.

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Who can claim ownership of EAFS? Creating a community or a place felt less concerned with ownership of artistic direction, and more to do with a growing sense of collective intent (count the number of uses of the word collective in this post). Interpreting and understanding of the festival was a big question in the run up to the festival; how could we encourage a sense of shared ownership to grow ‘open-source’ interpretation, conversation and development of EAFS’ themes and ideas? The core team (artists, interns, volunteers and management) became the knowledge ambassadors, pioneers of information sharing to spread throughout the festival over the course of the weekend, conversing over hand outs and newspapers. My own corner fell to signage as installation, signposting as artwork. The role of art/ist as a communicator may have been over-stepped in my new found blackboard and road sign obsession (sorry to any who crossed my path late one night with blackboards under torch-light) but allowed for an intense period of questioning, development and ultimately understanding.

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To the artwork itself, EAFS as an installation created a central festival village, an information hub and home for just over a week. Some of our visitors never left this safe haven of conversation, freshly cut field and idyllic viewpoints. This was the cluster point, teams gathering before heading out, the return point for artists, performers and our four legged friends; all paths lead to Morton. The landscape was our context, and growing out from the castle and festival village were walks into the unknown – opening up a vastness of purple heather, braken, running water and clear sky. These were the lands of EAFS.conspectus 1

An early decision was taken for artworks to be minimal in their occupation of the landscape, long walks to distant locations or installation points yielded time for reflection, discovery and understanding of the place-context (nobody mention the partridges). The artworks themselves allowed for moments or glimpses into an artistic perspective – this was art as investigation, as questioning and framing. Art as walking, art as looking closer.

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One of the downsides of being so absorbed by organising was how little of the festival I managed to absorb, however my highlights included:

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Sitting high above the reservoir, hidden in heather – eating bleberries and listening to the rising sounds from the Art of Expeditions’s boat house.

Gathered around Andy McAvoy’s Tea Caddy, passing around objects from George Wyllie’s studio box.

Being entirely submerged in The Terrestrial Sea late on Saturday night.

Late night conversations by the embers of the River of Fire.

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The festival was designed to be light on the earth, leaving without trace – there was an importance to the act/actions of leaving. Within 24 hours there was hardly a mark of our being, and it somehow felt right – sat on the last picnic bench in the fading sun.

Food. Firesides. Conversing.

Rhythm. Sustenance. Placemaking.

Collect. Curate. Create.

Landscape. Our land. The Lands of EAFS.

 

 

 

All images my own. Huge thanks and love to Robbie, Matt, Jan, Debz and the super-cool EAFS team. This year I participated in EAFS as one of five interns supported by the (fabulous) Holywood Trust.

Some beautiful image blogs of EAFS available on The Stove blog, check them out here

New Distractions

Wee while back I blogged about ‘New Distractions’ over on The Stove Network’s blog

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We asked ourselves a question: “Can a sign above a High Street building ever do anything other than promote and brand; can it ask questions, be part of a conversation with other signs… can our High Street ever be a space that prioritises people as well as sales?”

what true opportunities are there between the moss and the ‘for sale’ signs? How do we re-make the spaces between the High Streets we remember and what is left when our High Street no longer meets the bottom line of the multinationals?

Our town centres have grown out of a need to gather, connect, meet, barter and exchange. Dumfries owes its place to the river, the cattle marts and the passage of people. But from our largely rural context, Dumfries has also been the gathering point, the melting pot of communities meeting and exchanging, not just economically but socially, our connection out into the world.

Dumfries is not dead, only sleeping. Hidden Dumfries is in plain sight, behind the sagging bus stances and single occupancy street furniture.

Now is the time to act.

This action does not require grand master planners, or large scale redevelopment, but a little collective energy and small positive acts. Testing and experimentation, problem solving and lightweight interventions can lead the way to a more active high street, looking forward to a more valuable town centre. Small actions can highlight, question, explore and initiate discussion, growing from an inquisitive response to our everyday.

This is a call for new distractions.

Can we create a new visual language for our high streets?

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Read in full over on The Stove page here

Artists as activators

A few weeks ago, I took a detour on a trip from Edinburgh to Dunbar, to attend the first day of the Fertile Ground – Environmental Art for Change conference, led by North Light Arts and Chris Freemantle. It was an intense day, from ten until 7pm there were about 14 speakers, of artists, activists and locals intent of re-inventing Dunbar for an environmentally conscious future. There was a lot to take in, and I admit to sneaking off for a jaunt during lunch off in hunt of the harbour and the sea, rather than networking which is quickly becoming my least favourite thing about these events.

Part of me went for the fresh air, part of me in hunt of some salt water (more on that another time), but as ever the air – with it’s slightly wild wind – just helped to disentangle my thoughts a little, so I bounced back to the conference to find Matt and Robbie and drag them back to the harbour with all my new found questions.

What I was really thinking about quite quickly was about the role of artists as activators. Before (see previous post here), I wrote about the audience as ‘activators’ but the thread of conversation in Dunbar led me towards the way in which artists can become activators, engagers, inititating, inspiring change. I was thinking about local artists leading, potentially disseminating/translating the global to a local, community-based perspective.

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Matthew Dalziel spoke during his talk about he and Louise Scullion’s Tumadh:Immersion project, in particular I picked up on his thoughts about the amateur, and making space for unspecialised exploration and appreciation of the outdoors in one of their custom made tweeds e.g. the gathering jacket. More on that here

So, one of my first questions was a pretty big one – why art? Is art the most useful mechanism for this engagement within communities? Or perhaps, if not ‘the most’ useful mechanism, then what is it that artists bring to the table that can add a truly important dimension to active change? I guess I was trying to picture who I thought ‘should’ be getting on with this change. It’s perhaps funny that we could expect that there would just be someone, some other who would be out there sorting out these necessary changes for us as we move forward… be they councillors, government representatives, specialists, or some kind of other that separates a sense of controlling the space around us. Perhaps artists are useful in their humanising, stripping back or removing the other [man in the suit], the facelessness of percieved bureaucratic change.

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Jo Hodges spoke about her and Robbie Coleman’s project a New EIA for Natural Scotland during the artists presentations, which looked at reimaginging the planning process, more info available here

A particularly interesting point about artists, an ability to ‘engage on equal terms’, to explore collaboratively or collectively, not as architect but as instigator, connector, gatherer started to turn some cogs. Can we co-create the future of our places?

(At this point, I realised of course (with a bit of a prod) that I was talking about a very particular kind of artist, and a very particular kind of methodology and approach that I have been picking up on from artists who’s work inspires me.)

So what is it about public artists that can make them key ‘instigators’ of this change? What is inherent in their artistic practice that makes art an effective mechanism for engaging communities in a much broader conversation? What other people share these attributes and skill sets? (Planners and activists were both mentioned.) Why do some politicians/councillors/policy makers appear to lack these?

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Of course, the artist as activator needn’t – probably shouldn’t – work alone. The key skill holders, be they bridge builders, growers, are all a part of a much wider movement towards change

Agenda. This was a pretty fundamental one in our conversation, the personal agenda’s of those engaging with the community are important as to how well this relationship builds. The bridge builder that arrives and proclaims that what will fix the communities problems, is a bridge, is likely to be more personally motivated than then activator that arrives saying they want to explore and understand the problem first. Perhaps artists can also be guilty of the same problem though?

Approach. Less about a standard methodology, more about an exploration and questioning of the context/community/local.

Communication. Communicators. This has to be one of the primary roles of artists right?

Openness, questioning. There was mention during the artist talks that artist’s perhaps shouldn’t be expected to have the answers, but more to provide the right questions. We were thinking again, about how our own art practices were led by an investigatory questioning, a curiousness, without necessarily a specific end point (e.g. a bridge) in sight.

Of non-linear practices and thought processes, finding a more approachable method than one embedded in a standardised protocol. Community specific action over globalised strategy.

This is for us

Of ownership

ownership of vision

ownership of place

Of giving a sense of our own place within the wider whole, a personal, individual, tailor fit – shaped by people, not standardised policies.

Thank you to all the organisers, speakers and artists on the day, for finally kick-starting something of a thought process – I was quite miffed to have to miss the following day’s discussion!

Mapping Annan

Last week found me sat in the football club in Annan of a Sunday afternoon, in itself a bit of an unusual occurance, and all before I even mentioned that I was there as part of a ‘scoping’ workshop, chatting to people ahead of a project we are looking to kick-start in Annan next year. More of that later.

We did have a fairly lovely afternoon at the club (thanks Annan Athletic!), but I thought it might be nice to broaden out my chat to those who couldn’t make it. (Yes, if you said you were coming at the party the night before, you owe me a comment in the box below..)

Taking my favourite starting point of looking for interesting sites and places, I asked people a few questions to add to our map of Annan. Rather than looking to map out all the normal amenities, I wanted people’s favourite or most significant spots on the town map – like a local history of the town in map form.

It’s got a bit of a way to go, but this is where you could come in.

1. Where is your favourite place in Annan?

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Where is your favourite view? Is there a place in Annan that is particularly significant for you? (I’m thinking the Fish Cross is a pretty special one for ROM Cornet’s and Lasses) Perhaps it’s a personal place – your childhood home perhaps? – or a more public one – such as your favourite place to stop for an ice cream, or walk your dog.

2. If you could describe Annan in just three words, which three would you use?

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They could be positive; growing, changing, everlasting, or less so – ageing, comatose, crumbling? ‘Best [in] southern Scotland’?

We also did quite a bit of chatting about how our relationship to our home town is built on knowledge, stories and names passed down through people rather than documentation. How many of these close names do you know?

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Thanks to everyone for coming along last Sunday, expect to hear more about this in the future! Answers in the comments section below please, whether you are a true Annanite, or just have a bit of a connection to the place, or live somewhere at a safe distance (!) I’m open to suggestions!