I have been asked to put together a proposal for a commission for the Cumbria Museums consortium. Having assembled an optimistic statement of interest I have a month to prepare my ideas. This is a paraphrase of my promise.
In my twenties, through no fault of my own beyond a propensity for saying yes, I ended up teaching The Prelude to a group of keen 2nd year BA English Literature students. I had not read the poem and knew no more about Wordsworth than most daffodil lovers. Although at the time I was able to talk more or less convincingly about some of its major themes and stylistic revolutions, I still have read only very little of it. Mainly I remember that it is cyclical in nature and investigates the observable world.I am interested in proposing a heroic bicycle tour between the three sites: Carlisle, Kendal and Grasmere. On my journey I would like to take in some of the less obvious tourist locations in Cumbria and visit the beautifully named Whitehaven and Maryport. I will make a series of works in response to the places and people I meet and observe along the way. I might even produce my own epic poem in the form of words, films and objects. Each leg of the cyclical journey would result in a new set of work for each venue and I would like to end up where I started.
There is an obvious perversity in mentioning Wordsworth in answer to a brief that specifically states “We also want it to challenge the usual descriptors and to reveal contemporary Cumbria to our visitors.” But it seems strangely relevant to me to focus on the history of the sites along with the realities of Britain today.
Always one to focus on the important things I have almost completed putting together a bicycle for the journey that may not happen. I rescued the frame from some railings where, abandoned, it was slowly, and violently being relieved of its parts. The frame was a Carlton, nearly as old as I, and hand painted in black spray paint. Now dismantled, cleaned, resprayed, mantled with shiny trinkets gleaned from near and far, I have just ridden it up a hill for a suitably romantic photoshoot.
It occurs to me I may need to get the front chain-ring gear working. I have heard that the Lakes are quite hilly.