At the end of October I went to The Lighthouse arts centre in Poole for my induction as Poet in Residence a role that’s supported using public funding from Arts Council England as part of the Lit Up! literature development project run by Borough of Poole Arts team. Below are seven facts I didn’t fully appreciate before taking up this role.
- The Lighthouse is easy to find
Probably the most obvious one, but I realised that although I had driven past The Lighthouse before and vaguely knew its location in relation to some landmarks I had no idea where it was in relation to the station. A quick look at Google maps made it look nice and easy. However arriving at a station and mentally comparing road layouts when the buildings are towering above you is different to looking down at a map. Luckily though the Art Centre is very clearly signposted and the usual inclement weather didn’t have much impact as it is so close to the station.
- The Lighthouse is huge
As I mentioned above I had driven passed The Lighthouse before and I had registered it vaguely as a largish building. When I arrived for my induction I was shown through the usual public areas, the entrance to the concert hall, the cinema, café areas, galleries, and so on. Then I got a tour of the behind the scenes. It was an amazing rabbit warren of passages, leading to changing rooms, behind stage areas and hidden rooms containing people working away at keeping everything running smoothly. The sheer number of people involved in this process also took me by surprise. There is so much more to running of a successful Art Centre than I would ever have imagined.
- Film poems are extremely enjoyable
Of course I had seen film poems before taking on this role, but one of the initiatives set in motion by my predecessor Simon was a film poem competition. I had a number of entries to sit and watch. My engagement this time was far more active as I had to weigh them against each other. How do you weigh the humour of a poem called The Goose set to a black and white film of a fashion show against a poem comparing runners, dogs and cyclists to see who has the best lights, filmed on Bournemouth sea front?The sheer diversity of poems and the way they were backed up by film made this an enjoyable task. In the end I feel my selections captured that range of expression and I think there will be something for everyone among the films that will be shown.
- Performance can have such a wide meaning
The other task I faced at the start of my residency was the organisation of poems and short stories into the first issue of The Beacon. The pieces submitted were in some way related to the theme of performance. As I read the pieces submitted I realised just how far the term performance could stretch. Some pieces obviously matched the theme; ballet dancers, footballers and actors. Then there were the ones that showed another layer of meaning, the performances we put on in everyday life, whether graduating or going to work. What about a story itself? It is a performance on the page. Then there was a poem about someone being violently ill in an art museum. Poems about war initially made me wonder where they would fit the theme of performance, but a common term used in the news is the theatre of war.Selecting the works that would fit together in the limited space of a magazine was an extremely enjoyable task. I am now very excited to see what the designers do with the layout.
- Children have great imaginations
As part of The Lighthouse production of Peter Pan local schools have submitted artworks on the theme of Neverland. These are on display in the top floor gallery at The Lighthouse. The number of variations of Captain Hook’s ship and the land of Neverland is a pleasure to look at. The pieces of work vary from small individual pieces to large scale 3D pieces. A huge portrait of Captain Hook’s face is particularly arresting.
- Clocks can tell stories
Halfway up the main staircase at The Lighthouse is the most incredible clock. For a start it is huge, the face of it is a map of the local waters engraved on metal. The hour hand has a slider that runs along its length depicting the current tidal height. Each hour a variety of voices telling stories related to time. Sat there at four o’clock I had to put my ear very close to the speaker to hear the voices as the next floor up was full of excited children who had just come out of Peter Pan. The volume of their excitement was a testament to how much they had enjoyed the show.
- Art centres aren’t just for going to see a show
I know it probably says a lot about me that I always think of an art centre in terms of what is showing there and does it interest me. The Lighthouse though contains so much more than just a cinema, concert hall and theatre space. The windows on the lower level conceal a lovely airy café area and during my time here each of the levels has contained some truly interesting art displays. The Lighthouse is also involved with local schools working with younger age groups by means of workshops teaching them many of the skills needed to follow a career in the arts. Amazing opportunities that I wish had been available to me in my last years at school.