The Light Ships voyage is completed and, with the turn of the year, A Wider Horizon comes into view. It’s the slowest Regular Marvel yet, and it has given me some difficulty. Partly, it’s been about managing my time over several years. It’s also that the idea started as a request, so it has to meet other demands. But mostly, it’s because I’ve written about arts touring in rural areas before. The result was published by the National Rural Touring Forum: 60,000 words based on dozens of interviews, shows and visits and a huge audience survey. What have I new to say?
As I sit down to draw all this together – starting by reading what I wrote 10 years ago – I’m struck by what has changed since then, not least because of the 2008 financial crisis. The landscape looks far more uncertain today than it once did, especially for artists and those who value and support their work. Unbidden, a line from an old Lindisfarne tune, January Song, comes to my mind as I write: ‘I need you to help me carry on / You need me need you need him need everyone’.
Now, I’m thinking, how rural touring happens, and the bonds it creates between artist, funder and community, might have a wider application than was apparent in 2004. And today, by email, comes the gift of a new drawing from Rosie Redzia, who has been with me on this long journey, its fiery red a cheering winter fire… And so, the process begins, thinking, reading and writing… above all, thinking. News on progress will be posted, as and when. In the meantime, if you’ve not downloaded a copy of The Light Ships, please do so – it’s free and it’s here, and it too echoes those words of Alan Hull, ‘You need me need you need him need everyone’.