When Waterstones, Broad Street agreed to host work for the WordUp! project, I was delighted. It had been the first building I thought of when Robert and I started brainstorming ideas for the project over a bottle of red at the end of last year. I wanted to make work that reflected the history of the building as a Dissenters’ Chapel but that also linked it to the current use as a rather splendid bookshop. Liz is my technical assistant: a practical genius and banner-maker extraordinaire. In fact apart from me having the initial idea, it was Liz who did all the work (just like childbirth, as our daughter observed).
The phrase ‘let us dissent’ plays with the historic context, a corruption of ‘let us pray’ and also includes a tension because it can be read as a declaration of intent or as a request for permission. Meaning and ambiguity are important elements of much of my recent work.
I originally wanted to show just this one banner but when Liz and I made a site visit to Waterstones to discuss where it could be installed, it became clear that two banners would work better, one either side of the balcony. We both thought the second banner should say something about the power of words, as that is the focus of the WordUp! project and the main point of a bookshop! The book and communication of ideas through literature have been a major contributor to the development of society and radical thought over centuries. Words encapsulate ideas and have built the world we live in – so after some family debate about the exact phrase to use, we arrived at Words Build Worlds.
The heavy velvet fabric and gold fringes and trim allude to the world of the pulpit and the sermons that must have been preached in this lovely old building for decades, even centuries. I hope the banners convey something about the role of literature and radical thought in human development and communication and cause shoppers to reflect for a few moments while browsing the bookshelves.
Two quick acknowledgements:
Part of the inspiration for this installation came from reading my friend Geoff Sawers’ delightful book on Broad Street Chapel and the History of Dissent on Reading, published by our wonderful local publishers Two Rivers Press. http://tworiverspress.com/wp/broad-street-chapel-second-edition/
And secondly, the banners were made with fabric and sundries from Reading’s finest fabric shop, Fabricland, on Cheapside. http://www.fabricland.co.uk/reading.htm [They’re obviously too busy selling fabulous fabrics to have time to attend to web design but pay them a visit and you’ll see why it’s Liz’s favourite shop.]