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Sad to say goodbye to everyone and just as things seem to be coming together. I have to be back in the UK to look at the pile of stones that was Lawson Park and to fight about access to the Love Shack, a build about to go on site that suddenly has ‘access issues’. But most importantly I have to plant, the spring was delayed in Britain so we did ‘nt get so much in before leaving for China, seeing all the planting and growth in Nanling made me eager to get going with the new paddy fields – all ready and waiting for planting.

As I drive out of Nanling I am struck by all the things I didn’t notice on the way in – mostly to do with the farms and villages. Through the village all the front gardens have been given over to vegetable gardens, I love that about the village, that all the plants are productive, so the elegant avenue of trees leading up to No 37 the Hutong (our house) is in fact lined with fruitful figs and persimmons (dried these taste amazing, like sweet and sour chocolate). I think I understood that a previous art project and had rather unfortunately galvanized the children of the village to plant the most revolting red lilies throughout the village, they are quite interesting as they show you which people are popular with the children – our landlady’s house is surrounded by them. They are the same lilys which are formally planted in the hotel (not so bad when formal). These are almost the only purely decorative plants in the village, not sure what the artist idea was. It does make you think a bit about meddling, upsetting the balance and irresponsible intervention, a warning to us - the Cane Toad syndrome. I recall a similar intervention on the remote Western Isles of Scotland where a doctor mobilsed the unemployed to plant daffodils - some government employment scheme rather than art – it may not have caused any damage but it sure puts anyone off visiting the island in the spring unless you require the weird site of avenues of multi form daffodils cutting through the utterly flat and arguably dismal landscape of North Uist. Bar the houses they are the tallest things on the island and that includes the people.

The further down the Nanling valley you get the more developed the farming becomes, tabbaco becomes a significant crop, taking over from the rather more useful peanuts and soya beans. Plastic membrane/mulch starts to dominate and the crops are clearly benefiting from chemical fertilisers, as evidenced by the uniformity and density of planting and that they are way ahead of the plants further up the valley.

On the drive to Guangzhou I again marvel at the motorways lined with hand clipped single trees, this really is a rod to beat yourself with. The labour expended must be astronomical, and not a productive tree in there, although not sure who would want to buy motorway fruit. I suspect in a few years all this topiary will be removed, maybe it's market gardening and they will sell the individual plants to ornamental gardens, boy would that make some money.

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Bryan bought a hammer for no discernable reason. Everyone is a bit itching to get on with something practical - enough discussion of the complexities - simple working.

We have arranged to rent a house in the old Hutong style bit of the village, somewhere we can work, exhibit projects in progress, cook and generally enjoy the village a bit more.

Everyone has formulated approaches:

Bryan is building something, possibly a giant bread oven, a conceptual project in that he wants to buy the materials from B&Q and make pizza.

Maria is developing ideas about a folk museum and taking glossy photos of the house restaurant for a possible real eco holiday brochure

Harrold is working on a schools project working with the kids on a small performance

Laura is looking at marketing, making a stall - re presentation of the village products

Jay is developing narratives with locals and thinking about the longer term exchange possibilities as well as a packaging project

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Don't know which way to turn
Don't know which way to turn

The village is divided by a river, the west bank is where the company hotel is situated
We are living at the back of the boutique style Orange hotel, which is very nice but does distance us from the community, just staying on the west side does.

We get a lot of feed back about the art programme and how unsuccessful people found that to be, everyone we meet says it would be good if we did something useful.
There is a lot of resentment that the company had supported art works that were of no value. What was perhaps a bit shocking about the art works previously made here, in 2004 is that the artists took the work away with them, and left nothing but the experience of helping the artist make the stuff. One of the artists is remembered for his ability to make friends with the village square drunks, through the use of body language, which is I think a universal language of drunks, verbal communication being incomprehensible shouting. Bryan and I left Maria and Laura in an embroidery class and tried to get a beer in the village square, we were immediately surrounded by very drunk men and women, and accidentally ordered a bowl of noodles and a tea, but no beer. Bryan manfully struggled with the art form of body language, which appeared to result in him being nicknamed pussy pussy, (we later found out this meant no, (actually Bussy bussy)); clearly they did not enjoy Bryan’s body language any more than the rest of us.
The teachers of the embroidery class were engaged in a very Ruskinian endeavour, to develop a local and idiosyncratic lace as a local craft industry. The class was full of interested women, all keenly making doilies.

With further meetings and discussion we begin to draw some conclusions about the issues facing the village and eventually Jay has a conversation with a power worker who explains succinctly the very things we have been thinking

There is no attraction in the forest to draw visitors
There is no attraction in the village to support the forest and connect the visitors with the village
There is not enough accommodation and what there is is too expensive (needs a range)
The quality of the built environment and the restaurants is not good enough (much as we love eating in the square at Uncle Joe’s)
The transport system is not adequate
And finally to Bryan’s delight he said the walkways needed improving

So the improvement of the tourism industry in a way that benefits the village communities and supports and develops the existing rural industries. In short good tourism, participatory, engaged, a learning/development experience on both sides

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Notes on ideas development discussion drawn from various discussions and ideas floating around

series of projects to ‘get to know’

5 minute power point, originally suggested at 40 mins but this was thought to be far to long – so brief presentation for people we have already talked to – there is little interest in us or who we are. Feel it would be good to demonstrate that there is some commonality, we have experience of tourism and have worked in this context before and successfully. There is a need to demonstrate that we have something to give and that we are not looking to do a standard art project
Grizedale tourism history
community projects
farm projects

evening classes – to offer maybe 2 evenings a week led by 2 or 3 of the artists, discussion as to what we could offer and what would be wanted included
computer skills – photoshop, video editing etc, concerned as to whether people would use this or had computers, would only be of benefit to the more wealthy villagers, people who already had good jobs
craft skills – pottery - printing – slight concern as to whether this was coals to Newcastle, what long term benefit could there be, instituting a crafts business to feed from the tourist industry, replicating the high volume craft production of the sweat shops.
Ruskin’s ideas about starting crafts businesses in Coniston get discussed, is intense poorly paid labour a good thing, is there some quality work idea in craft, benefiting the crafts person
Languages – teaching English seemed to be the most likely and popular idea, to do this in a creative way, making it a fun interaction with us. Certainly of what we have to offer English would be the most desirable
Cookery – teaching some international reciepies, this was really popular with the Japanese village. The use of local product, there are lots of potatoes at the moment and lets face it we in the west have many ways with a potato. Problem with this is we don’t have a kitchen, maybe it would be better to show some recipies to the stall holders, cook with them

Market stall possible to make/develop a stall
artist products, craft product, a repackaging of local product for a tourist market or just to accentuate the value of the local product. Discussion was again to what end, would this just make a better connection to tourism, could there be other benefits.

Breakfast stall – to work on one of the market village stalls a couple of artists cooking breakfasts each morning for a local population – maybe a good get to know, possibly of little longer term benefit
English breakfasts American breakfasts
Alternative uses of local produce

Bread oven – tried in Japan, bread being relatively unknown in the village, could this be a part of the social life would people use it, discussed with no conclusion, further research as to where, use etc

Clean up day – initiate a day or two picking up litter, maybe to clear the river, maybe to include the village, how would this be read, could be seen as an insult, further research

Performance film showing food expo evening – considered inappropriate as an introduction, maybe do some sort of end of project party in the theatre, show material and cook

Strategy – a more general discussion on how to evolve and deliver a major project. Adam pushed ideas around using art tropes, developing a programme that utilizes art forms that are fit for purpose. A programme that is an amalgam of disparate ways of working. Falling into different types of art so ‘Stunt art’ is used for marketing the project, getting media attention, creating a media friendly image that will be published across the media not just in art press.

Stunt art
to market the destination – pr friendly art. Discussion around ideas like colouring all the boulders in the dry river bed, light installations in the forest/mountains, and other similar things. Need a cheap and effective solution, discussion around the fact that everyone hates this sort of art – but perhaps if it has a purpose it is ok, ie it’s the marketing

Destination art – work that people will visit i.e you have to experience it - Turrell etc.
Discussion around architecture – Bryan’s favorite term artitechture. Needs to be experience dependant, ie lightning field etc

Engaged practice/community art
engagement with the community, community development, useful art
Suggestions for developing eco farm holidays, web site to book etc. Developing an ornamental village farm/garden, based on the farms but accentuating the design and decorative elements using edible plants to help the garden to be maintained and of value

Village museum – local curiosity folk museum
To develop the folk elements maybe linking to the formal museum, tourist selections from local environment t give locals an idea of how people see them and what they value. Could be centred around the reclaimed Camilia tree, open structure

Connection to academic institutions – Bryan raised the idea of trying to develop links with academic institutions, using academics and research as the visitor industry low volume, high income.

Posters – Local signwriter poster production, style is very sloganeering, maybe not appropriate however much we might like them.

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I have been super stressed for days from the pre horror of travelling. Mostly based on the thought of being in close proximity to people I don’t know and can’t control, and sure as hens have teeth I find my self sitting on a bus, superheated, super packed, stinking of sweets, like children’s sweets, a sense that the whole interior is slightly sticky and hairy. I am forced to sit tight up to a string teen yoof, trackies tucked into white socks - hot or not? He - as is common amongst male teens - needs to vibrate vigorously for the entire journey. I think this is a bit of an animal thing, Guinea pigs do it; it suggests they are ready to mate. I think teens do it through learnt behaviour rather than the sheer pressure of semen seeking an exit. It is however extremely annoying. My own sex drive has diminished from what was probably a rather low level anyway – even as a teen I could only just tolerate annoying girls on the off chance of a shag – a sex drive does help a lot with tolerating other people. Anyway nowadays I have the libido of a eunuch in an old peoples home, which does greatly adds to my lack of tolerance. My tension over travelling is akin to a visit to the dentist for a double route canal. I am actively nervous before hand, my stomach turns over, it’s not a fear of flying - although there is that, it is really just the thought of unavoidable human interaction and my fear of that – in the unknown, will there be a wailing baby, a mobile screamer, a jigger, a laugher, a smeller, a bulimic, a talker, a incontinent, a leaner, a drinker, an agitated mover, an American, a movie watcher that laughs unfeasibly loudly, a farter, a snogger, a scouser, an eater, a drinker. I once advertised a room in my house as suitable for a small quiet oriental, a 21 stone Corstophine Scot moved in.

The train service has it seems really given up operating on a weekend, the station is deserted, and travel is by bus, I finally get a train in Preston and after having my seat in an empty carriage entirely taken over my Americans, who then proceed to clean the entire environs with wet wipes, well of course I moved as the fist wet wipe was eased from its wet reeking socket.

I attain a kind of peace. I have those sound block headphones which make you look like Phil Spector and probably feel like him too – anyway in the shooting models department. I did once sit next to a super model on an airplane - a story I have told many times, it was that German one who married an Magician. And boy was she annoying, I did eventually spill a gin and tonic into her bag as some consolation for the incessant chatter about health and wealth – obviously my libido had already dropped away at his point in my life.

The flight to Hong Kong was uneventful despite the plane being full packed; it was virgin like the train but definitely more bearable. The principle downside was a man behind me that spoke excitedly to his companion for the entire trip, and this irritation was tempered by empathy for the companion, I was tempted 10 hours into the flight to ask the man if he would allow a reply to his monologue? Just a faint word, just a whisper, a mumble from the silent companion.

Whoever suggested flying into Hong Kong and getting a bus to Guangzhou clearly had not attempted the trip in some time. 5 hours later and after multiple checks and double checks, through ‘no lingering’ areas, accompanied by the sound of Chinese pop, instrumental versions which Brian found wholly to his liking. He later asked our companions if they recognised the song - signing it to them – turned out to be ‘The East is Red’ a song Brian’s dad sang every morning.

Monday Morning we spent in Vitamin space and we had a nice lunch with Sue and Vincent and then a long drive to the village.

The programme was of course immediately punishing, a sense that no one was exactly pleased to see us pervaded. We met with people from the Eco development company and had dinner in the company restaurant. Followed by a meeting lasting a couple of hours. The most interesting bit of information was that the ambition for the village and the park was to become a centre for ‘silent Tourism’. An idea I have a great deal of sympathy for – I think they meant peace as a destination, rather than silent tourists – of which there is little sign in China. After a universally sleepless night we were up early for breakfast in the market place feeling a bit universally pole axed. The market was all local produce including fish, vegetables and a rather disappointing sign saying ‘it is forbidden to buy or sell wild animals’. We had warm liver porridge, very nice, Pork chow mien, super nice, rice noodles and leak broth, very nice, all washed down with warm Soya milk, very nice – there was the odd slightly anxious face in the group.

First visit of the day was to a farm. All laid out in perfect order, the complex watering systems each field draining into the next and raised beds within each paddy. Brian took special interest in the humanure composting system which also supplies gas for the cooker. Its basically 2 holes in the ground and a chute to take new waste to the base of the first chamber. We got a diagram drawn up for future reference. So this little plant provides cooking and fertiliser for the abundant crops and avoids the necessity of a complex sewage system. Not sure what the drawbacks are – I guess you have to move some smelly shits around.

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