Quirkus Exhibition – Soundscapes & New Found Words

Quirkus Exhibition & Workshop: Soundscapes & New Found Words
By Lydia Allison – Young Poet in Residence at Darts – Doncaster Community Arts

Quirkus (n.) /’kwɜkɘs/ 1. as in /quer.cus/ plants of the northern temperate zone; oaks from shrubs to great trees, as in “great acorns begat small oaks”. 2. as in /quirk.us/ this quirky choir, this song, this raising of voices, this blending of music and words. 3. as in quirky + us. Together and different. 4. as in quirky + circus. This theatre of unexplored ideas. 5. as in together and growing / as in join us / as in / 6. come in come in come in…

On 7th February I had the pleasure of running the first of three writing workshops based around The Point’s first exhibition of 2019 – a celebration of the Quirky choir’s 20th anniversary, with a lively group of adult writers at The Point.

The Exhibition
I knew of the choir and was eager to learn more about it. The exhibition sits in the lower gallery space and spreads up to the mezzanine where a documentary plays showcasing different contributors describing the choir and the various doors it’s opened. I found this extremely moving, particularly Ian McMillan’s fond descriptions of Janet Wood, and her open gestures embodying the general inclusivity of the group.

The photography on display is alive with personality and song, including images capturing the choir singing, rehearsing, and writing. Some of the photos are complemented by lyric extracts, and clips of traditional and ‘Quirky’ songs being played as well.

There are also a number of metal ‘Q’s which you can touch to make a sound – ranging from unusual sound effects to harmonious tones. I personally had a lot of fun trying out sounds, and combining some sounds to make my own kind of music with the choir!

The Workshop
We explored the gallery together making more combinations of sound, as well as starting to tap into the significance music can have to memory:

When I hear that song …
… “on the radio I explore life in a world of love and not what brought on the pain of 41 years […] back then I didn’t know any better, but now I have to turn it off when I hear it.”  Phil Maginn
… “I know I’m alive. The gentle hum reverberating through my body, my blood flowing in rhythmic pulses as my foot taps of its own accord […] this is it, this is life. Sing as one.” Louise Kerkoff
… “happy memories do appear, of joyful tears, of fatherhood as I but cradle my new life creation and dreams of what is to come […] how life’s wonderful” Neil Foulstone

The documentary inspired further writing activities, one of which was based on Ian MacMillan’s near-manifesto explored in the documentary “If you can’t read music, come in. If you haven’t sung before, come in. If you don’t think you can sing, come in.” We thought of further invitations, addressing ourselves or loved ones:

“If you can’t, won’t, work at your comfort while playing the piano, come in. No-one has to be an expert. The secret is to enjoy.” Mal Perkins
“If you can’t swim, come in, the water’s warm […] catch that wave!” Gareth Pendry
“If you can’t come in to socialise with other people, have a day off to an introverted dreamland […] lose yourself for a few moments” Sima Sha

We also worked together on making our own new words and definitions, based on the fascinating title of the exhibition. This led to a number of great insights into the significance and hidden meanings in everyday language, as well as some fantastic new blends, such as:

“Thive: a derivative of being alive and thinking.” Louise Kerkoff
“Thinkberries.” Rosie
“Pashappysion.” Phil Maginn

There is a strong feeling of community, inclusivity, and creativity surrounding this exhibition, and I can’t wait to be back again next week for another morning of writing and sharing at The Point!

For exhibition details, visit here

Lydia Allison is a Sheffield-born poet, writing facilitator and creative mentor. She is a graduate of the Manchester Writing School (MA) and the Writing Squad.  Her work had appeared both online and in print, including in Introduction X: The Poetry Business Book of New Poets, PN Review, Now Then, Ink Sweat & Tears, United Jotters, and PUSH. She enjoys a range of modern and contemporary writers. Her other favourite things in life are the Yorkshire countryside and cake for breakfast. Follow her on twitter @LydiarAllison

If you’re interested and an adult attending a group at Darts, let your group leader or Darts reception team know. Or look out for workshop announcements in the near future open to the public!

Part of the Hatch programme – Next steps for young writers in South Yorkshire. Supported by Darts (Doncaster Community Arts)