Down To Earth 2 - Oct/November 1984

Submitted by root on Tue, 08/04/2015 - 11:42

Down To Earth has had two outings, the first being staged as a day-long game in February 1978.  See Down To Earth 1978.

This is the second version of Down To Earth - it was a multi media event which  took place at the Blackie in 1984.  It  ran for  5 days, (October 31st to November 4th). There was an average of 112 visitors each day and 150 people joined in creating the woven "Garden of Cultural Thought".

The Idea

The earth's natural resource of soil, exposed to exploitative agricultural practices, is being ruined.  People's natural gift of creativity, exposed to the stresses and inadequacies of urban life, can be ruined too.

Down To Earth was a multi-media event that explored cultural deprivations through parallels in farming practices, and then offered examples of existing agricultural remedies, and suggested analogous cultural remedies.

How It Worked

The Exhibition

The two 1978 photographic exhibitions were combined together and arranged into groups, so that images of agricultural 'problems' (the devastation of severe soil erosion caused by mismanagement) were displayed alongside images of the positive impact of soil conservation, and with possible equivalents in terms of community art 'solutions' to the devastation of cultural deprivation.

The exhibitionEach  group was accompanied by texts that explained what the photographs were about, and offered thoughts as to the regional or international implications of the soil problems displayed.  Relevant quotations from novels, poems, etc., and thoughts on the state of the culture of our society as opposed to the culture of the soil were also displayed. Above the exhibition (For some of photographs used  of soil erosion see Down To Earth 1978).  The Exhibition itself will be come part of this archive at a future date.

The Weavings

There were four large-scale communal weavings.  Players singly or in groups wove their 'soil' on these vertical looms, in specially obtained or dyed earthy colours and textures - jute, hemp, flax, rope, cotton, both in raw and finished states, and scraps not normally used in weaving. Each looms was 10 feet wide x 8 ½ feet high, with warp threads strung on scaffolding bars attached to two of the Blackie's Ground Floor pillars.

Two of the weavings beginning to be worked onside view of the weavings

Above two of the 'looms' suspended between the pillars.  Below a partially worked weaving and a completed weaving

A weaving three quarters finishedA completed weaving

Much of the weaving was accompanied by a variety of  folk and blues music.

 Folk musicians accompanying the weaving Folk singer in the basement
As each of the four 'soil' weavings were completed, they were laid out on the floor.  P
layers then turned to 'sprouting their growths' - that is, creating sculptures to represent what they would like to see growing in the soil that would enrich our culture. The materials available, and the possibility of using wire or some other material as a solid base on which to build, allowed for a wide range of weaving abilities, as well as different levels of sophistication in the ideas represented. 

People working on 'growths'People starting work on the 'growths'

Above people working on building their growths and below close- ups of some of the growths.

One of the growthsOne of the growths

One of the growths

Once all the growths were completed and installed they created a veritable "garden of cultural thought".

One of the finished gardens

The Conferences

Down To Earth 1984 also included 5 conference sessions  in which speakers from European and non-European countries - including artists, those from government in the arts, those involved in ecology and soil conversation for all, and those working with projects committed to creative opportunities - were invited to discuss parallels between the work of artists in the community and the ecology movement. 

The conference sessions pursued a number of interests and themes - amongst them:-

 What are the conditions for creative activity in our technological society?

What can we learn from other cultures and other political systems about how to work towards 'creative opportunities for all'?

The soil and human creativity as gifts, and the implications for how these gifts are used and shared (as opposed to exploited)

Time span, and the arts within the community

The translation of traditional art forms into the contemporary idiom.

Conference session led by Wendy HarpeConference session led by Mapopa Mtanga

Above two of conference sessions one led  by Wendy Harpe and one by Mapopa Mtanga.

Speakers were Wendy Harpe (one of the founder members of the Blackie), Christoff Joachim Schroeder of the West German Greens, Frankie Armstrong (folk singer involved in running voice workshops), Rod Brookes (active in the British community arts movement for over a decade), and Mapopa Mtonga (dancer/drummer from Zambia, and at the time researching Social Anthropology in Belfast).

AThe coffee bar/cafe area longside the conference talks, several much less formal 'conversations' took place with conference speakers, guests, players, and weavers all contributing.  A small coffee-bar providing drinks and snacks was available for participants, and a number of jazz, folk, country, and blues bands contributed musically to the atmosphere. Left the coffee bar in operation

There was a follow up conference - The Seeds of Creativity - what are the conditions for their growth?  Which took place on February 6th 1985 to view further details click here.

The Booklet : after the event it was decided to publish a booklet. Starting with the question "The Seeds of Creativity : What are the conditions for their growth?":  it contains poems, quotes and sayings which try to respond to that question.  To access the booklet click here


The Team

Down To Earth was created by

Sally Morris, with assistance from Sarah Norman, Wendy Harpe, Judy Bates (now Gough), Dermot Dunne, Sally Fraser, Bill Harpe, Janet Hodgson, Helen Littleboy, Eric Marshall, and Alan McDonald.

and with help from

Tony Barmen, Karen Bowden, Flo Bowdell, Becky Brent, Khris Brown, Dave Calder, Hew Currie, Rachel Curtis, Hester Dagenharet, Andy Davis, Beatriz Diaz Martinez, Enrique Diaz Martinez, Mark Drummond, Arthur Eyo snr, Arthur Eyo jnr, Amanda Gizzi, Anneke Grabowsky, Brian Hassan, Val Haynes, Stephen Knox,Tony Mercer, Thembe Mutch, Kevin McIntyre, Hugh Osborne, Sandra Rice, Chris Rodis, Scottish John, Fred Tomsett, Christine Trenery, Billy Walshe, Dave Ward, Steve Waters, Anne Weber, Alexandra Wright.

with thanks for their help and advice to the weavers:-


Dorothy Colley, Christa-Berta Kimmich, Margaret Seagroatt, and Rosemary Williamson.

Thanks To

The Blackie would like to thank the following companies and individuals for their support either through donations, or concessionary rates on supplies, or for loans of equipment, or for permission to use research material.

from Liverpool

Alexander Eccles & Stem Ltd, Bellews & Co, British Ropes Ltd, Fringe '84, John Holden (Merseyside County Engineers), Kent & Co, Littlewoods Organisation pic, Liverpool Cathedral, Liverpool Cotton Association, Liverpool Cotton Services Ltd, Liverpool Workshops for the Blind, Liverpool Water Sports Centre, Merseyside Arts, Merseyside Council for Voluntary Service, Professor Frank Oldfield (University of Liverpool), The Print Factory, Rice Lane City Farm, Councillor Vera Ruck (M.C.C. Waste Disposal sub committee), Warr Screenprints.

and elsewhere

Michael Abakhan Ltd. (Mostyn), John Blakey Ltd. (Radcliffe), British Ropes (Doncaster), Bryden Fibres (Gateshead), Courtaulds Ltd. (Oldham), Dylon International Ltd. (London) , Fleming Ropes & Twines (Warrington), A.K. Graupner (Bradford), Grayston Scaffolding (Prescot), Robert Hamilton Ltd (Royton), Samuel Handley & Co. (Manchester), Professor Norman Hudson (International Centre for Soil Conservation Information, Silsoe), Hutchinson Yarns (Bradford), Hugh Mackay pic. (Durham) Mercia Weavers (Runcorn), Frank Monkman Ltd (Bradford), Dr John Roberts (Institute of Hydrology, Wallingford), Sidlaw Yarns (Dundee), Texere Yarns (Bradford), Twilleys Ltd (Stamford).