We are looking for contacts, local community groups, interested individuals, routes into funding, places to exhibit, support, volunteers, publicity and people to network with in order to develop our projects.
Please contact us by emailing milesanddacombe@virginmedia.com.

Friday, 30 July 2010


I feel as though I am in the Waiting Room – in the time before activity or before our proposed journeys can begin, I am pacing round the room, looking out, watching the clock, ready for the off. There are walls and windows between me, and where I hope to be. There is excitement, a sitting on the edge of my seat feeling, so many things may yet be possible.

The Waiting Room itself could be a place of creative activity, convention dictates that the passenger must sit and wait, but other activities could take place in this ‘waiting’ space. It could also be seen as a space waiting for something to happen. I can see all the possible activities that could take place but I must sit on my hands for the time being, and wait. In this time of waiting, I’m taking the opportunity to make other sorts of journeys on different, pre-existing networks.

Out on winding country roads hardly a car wide navigating by ordinance survey map learning to look for landmarks – pylons cutting across the road and changing direction – seeing first the diagram on a map before the pylons appear in reality. Very little traffic, apart from the inevitable, impatient 4 by 4.

Cradled inside an old landscape of gnarled trees and bountiful fields, villages connected by many small roads that crisscross and intersect each other. Small wonders that can punctuate the day, a well- stocked gift shop, a recycled wool blanket at a bargain price, the impromptu cream tea in a tree shrouded car park.

Striding out on tow paths beside canals, walking along networks and systems, which were designed to transport all kinds of goods, routes cut into the landscape, engineered and manmade.

As with trains, these walks can afford a glimpse into the gardens and backyards of others, some well tended, some a blank canvass, others chaotic and uncared for.

Passing alongside once thriving industrial buildings, the landscape bearing traces of change, decay, renewal, the ghosts of problem solving, remnants of the places where networking systems met and moved on, leaving one mode defunct once a new form of transportation took it’s place.

Monday, 26 July 2010

myth strata

More on Mythogeography...

Having thought about maps as visual representations showing us things that we cannot see, revealing connections and networks, mythogeography introduces the idea that each place is also an interweaving of myths, stories and histories, a network of meanings that cannot be seen but become part of the fabric of the place...

(Public art can be a way of making the meaning of a place visible.)

The threads that link a place to another place (or person connected to that place) are also part of this interweaving, overlaying of networks forming new nexus points, connecting stories, themes, imaginative responses...

These connections all exist in the imagination.  If made physical they might look like rock strata - building up layer upon layer over time to produce a rich fabric of meanings, compacted together to create the place that we now inhabit.

- oh!  and there's another word I must blog about!  I came across something the other day about the word "inhabit", the physical occupation of a space with one's body... I must look that up again, another blog post coming soon!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Navigation, Signage and the Wonderful Jock Kinneir & Margaret Calvert

A few weeks ago I found myself driving to London, I’ve made the journey before but hadn’t driven there myself, for quite some time. At the end of the M1 my heart always starts to beat a little faster, will I remember to get in the right lane, will I come off at the right exit, will they have moved the Edgeware Rd, will I find my way to Vauxhall Bridge? It was the end of a scorching day, the motorway was a clear and beautiful space to drive on (after Luton), Map Man was beside me navigating – he doesn’t like parties, is not too keen on London, he was hot and a bit fractious.
The last time we’d been on this route, he had been driving and my Dad and I (both used to the route but not quite paying attention) were being hopeless navigators, there was a detour, which took us onto Abbey Rd – Map Man was really getting pretty frantic, we were lost, we would be late and Miles & Miles weren’t helping at all, eventually he gave us up for a bad job and got out his compass, yes, the old fashioned kind not Sat Nav and we did eventually get to where we were going.
My hopelessness with maps was the reason I was designated driver on our most recent trip, almost time to leave the motorway and Map Man was getting agitated, my instincts and prior knowledge (which I should have trusted) told me to go one way, he was directing me elsewhere (Golders Green, to be precise). Map Man loves maps, understands where he is in relation to physical world and paper representation of world, I navigate by landmark, if I’ve seen it, I’ll remember it. I was swayed as things were looking a bit unfamiliar.......
Having taken the wrong exit, it was quite hard to turn off or turn round, so an unguided tour of familiar sounding places like Highgate, Primrose hill, Camden Town etc ensued, we seemed to be travelling across London in a series of circles and the maps weren’t really helping. I tried to reassure my companion that the rules of navigation by map didn’t really apply in the city, things were apt to change, there may be diversions or direction changes, signs were likely to disappear for long stretches of time but most things tended to reconnect to somewhere familiar at some point, you just had to take a kind of leap of faith. Staying calm also helps, even when some other lost soul is driving towards you the wrong way in your own lane.
Finally we found the Thames and a bit later, Vauxhall Bridge – I almost wept for joy. I recognised a section of wall, some buildings, a roundabout, it’s a bit of a hit and miss way of getting around, but it generally works for me! I think I would probably fare better with the medieval maps Jo described a few entries ago, the ones with the small illustrations of landmarks, today, Street View is very helpful to a ‘by sight’ navigator like me.
What the journey did make me think about was the signage we have on our roads, designed by Jock Kinneir & Margaret Calvert in 1958. They are so part of our everyday that we probably no longer register just what marvels of graphic design they are and how simply and effectively they manage to direct us on our travels, how great they still look and how grateful I felt every time a sign appeared that confirmed I was still heading in the right direction or at least towards somewhere I recognised.
Quote from
“It is sad but true to say that most of us take our surroundings for granted,” Kinneir observed in 1965. “Direction signs and street names, for instance, are as vital as a drop of oil in an engine, without which the moving parts would seize up; one can picture the effect of the removal of this category of information on drivers in a busy city or on pedestrians trying to find their way in a large building complex. It is a need which has bred a sub-division of graphic design with more influence on the appearance of our surroundings than any other.”
I love the fact that Margaret Calvert designed the typefaces (web links below)
to help us on our way.

Monday, 19 July 2010


"Mythogeography describes a way of thinking about and visiting places where multiple meanings have been squeezed into a single and restricted meaning (for example, heritage, tourist or leisure sites tend to be presented as just that, when they may also have been homes, jam factories, battlegrounds, lovers' lanes, farms, cemeteries and madhouses). Mythogeography emphasises the multiple nature of places and suggests multiple ways of celebrating, expressing and weaving those places and their multiple meanings."

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Slowing it Down

For the last 6 years I have been working in a small and lovely school in Bedford, the time is short - 6 to 8 mornings a year but we are never tied to a rigid format. I choose artists to look at, take the children on a walk through their work, ask them questions, ask them to look and think about what they are seeing. They are all longing to get straight into the drawing, painting or making but taking a few moments to look and discuss adds to the quality of the work they move on to produce.

Whilst there last week I was brought a cup of coffee in the mug above, a lovely coincidence combining a map describing a network showing relationships "connecting the education sector across the UK". The network seems to be making connections, but the more I look at it, the more the diagram seems to describe branches that cross each other but place its practitioners in isolated bubbles.

Today we are used to a world of immediate communication, speedy responses, words broken into fragments, tiny shards of meaning, we are in such a rush to be here there and everywhere all at the same time, we forget the value of slowing it right down. This is particularly true of delivering creative outcomes in schools, we believe that children have a short attention span, will get bored, run riot, if we ask them to slow down.

During these activities the teachers and I also try to take the children on imaginative journeys, for the past two Fridays we have been in China looking at surface decoration and ceramics. Their teacher had recently been on a school exchange trip to China, her experiences helped to bring the vases to life for the children.

We could have thrown ourselves straight into the planned printing activity as soon as the children had finished their designs, instead we asked them to add to what they'd cut out and to plan out their designs by placing them inside the paper templates.

Slowing down creates space, there is nothing lovelier than drifting into a bubble of relaxation, of quiet and creative contemplation, the rush and buzz of the rest of life shrinks away, there are your thoughts, the materials and the many possibilities they present. The first mark needn't be the finished item. Everyone should give themselves the time to take that journey, not everyone ends up making images but we can all walk around inside them and enjoy or learn from the artist's chosen viewpoint.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Travelling slowly

I think a lot about travelling slowly.

I have a project, Paths of Desire, which has been running since 2004, off and on.  Paths of Desire is about walking.  About the Dérive, wandering, exploring, choosing where you want to go instinctively rather than following set routes.  We try to explore the unexplored, to wander across dug up land and find the edges not yet touched by town planners.

Walking is about travelling slowly.  When we take our walks we spend more time noticing, appreciating the small things.

Just the other day I heard artist Grayson Perry interviewing a neurologist who said that when we are being creative the brain's neurons make its connections more slowly.  Like Grayson I love the idea that creativity is about being slow.... it happens when your brain is relaxed.

Travelling by train suggests an oxymoron to me.  The train moves incredibly fast, and therefore I as a passenger am moving incredibly fast too, but as I stare out of the window at the blurring world it seems that I slow down.  My mind drifts and wanders, I have more creative thoughts.  Unlike on a walk I cannot dwell too long on one thing as each image I see lasts only as long as a blink before being replaced.
Train travel jumbles up images, one blurs into another, throwing together visual connections in random fashion.  A collage.

Paths of Desire is exhibiting some of its routes around the edges of Corby on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th July.  Pick up a map from Corby Swimming Pool and follow a walk through the woodlands to find our images.