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Exploring hidden narratives through research and conversations with locals, seven artists have visited three locations – Port Sunlight, New Ferry and Spital – each with rich unknown histories to share.
FOUR WORDS: WIRRAL was funded by Arts Council England and developed by artist Alan Dunn during lockdown as he began to explore in more detail the Spital neighbourhood on his doorstep whilst walking his dog Lulu. He discovered, for example, that Italian prisoners of war were once housed in scout huts on the edge of Dibbinsdale Nature Reserve woods in Spital, not far from where Harold Wilson lived. The paths through the woods were built by those prisoners of war, which is now a nature reserve and park filled with birdsong.
Dunn invited other artists to explore the stories in nearby locations, those artists being The Singh Twins, Malik Al Nasir, Steve & Phaedra Hardstaff and Joseph Cotgrave who each unearthed historical and contemporary stories from Spital, Port Sunlight and New Ferry, some light and some very serious. The thirty final stories – all distilled down to FOUR WORDS each – reveal connections with slavery and Africa, a community in transformation after a massive explosion, hidden viruses and the power of nature and wildlife during a pandemic. The project also unearthed other unexpected links to ‘A Clockwork Orange’, Batman, PLUTO and even the Beach Boys.
While each of the stories relate to these three neighbourhoods in Wirral, they resonate with Merseyside. And the augmented reality aspect, designed by Field.Studios and Alan Dunn allows people to create artwork in their backyard, whether they are in Spital or Huyton.
Phaedra Hardstaff | Steve Hardstaff | Malik Al Nasir | The Singh Twins | Alan Dunn & Port Sunlight | New Ferry Community Land Trust | Joseph Cotgrave | Alan Dunn & the dog walking community of Dibbinsdale Local Nature Reserve, Spital | Jo Lansley & the Dibbinsdale | Field Studi
“I had the idea for this project during lockdown 2020, sitting at home and needing to savour and find out more about these areas that are all within a 4km radius of where I live. I wondered if we could look afresh at the familiar and I wanted to work with regional artists only and have socially-distanced walks with them in these places, just looking, chatting, researching and meeting people, gradually peeling back the layers to reveal stories that are not just history but part of people’s everyday lives who have lived here.
I’ve been doing these FOUR WORDS projects since working with Metal 2016 when we hired the huge Media Wall opposite Lime Street, thinking that they are already too many words out there and not wanting to add many more, and I wanted to explore AR as it kind of reflects our interest in narratives that are hidden until you start looking. Some of the things we found were heart-warming, funny or occasionally disturbing but wanted this free app to encourage people to look further for themselves into various important topics.”
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