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.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Whatstandwell Ticket Exchange

Travelling between the Derbyshire stations of Belper, Ambergate, Whatstandwell and Cromford, artists Miles & Dacombe staged their first Ticket Exchange on 23rd August.  We offered a ticket with a question on it, in exchange we asked for an answer!

We made ourselves badges, tickets, bags and postcards, and jumped on and off the trains all day to talk to as many people as we could.

It was remarkable how friendly and open most people were.  We are always delighted by the staff on this stretch of railway who all seem to be having such a happy time of it and love their jobs.  They were all really supportive though rather bemused by our antics!

All the railway staff we met seemed really happy in their line of work
and were friendly and welcoming to the artists.
Reasons for travelling were varied.  Many were going off on day trips and felt that the train was the most enjoyable way of doing this.  Others had more serious intentions.  A man from Leicester was cycling alone to Telford for charity, dipping on to trains with his bicycle to link up parts of his journey.  A couple were laden with flowers, on their way to place them at the grave of a loved one.

Passengers alighting at Belper Station

A family group on their way to Matlock Bath for a day's outing
The theme of connections grew stronger throughout the day.  Our ticket designs and strange request helped us form an instant connection with passengers - people were intrigued and curious to know what question would be on the back of the ticket they picked.  Our questions opened up conversations straight away.

This is one of the first passengers Carole met at Whatstandwell waiting for the return train from Belper. Carole had spoken to her and some of the other passengers, asking whether the trains were well used. It seems that since the introduction of parking fees at the station car parks there has ben a drop in rail usage, but the parking fees were introduced as many visiting walkers were parking before exploring the canal side walks. The passengers thought it might be fairer if parking fees were refunded to those who were travelling on the trains, as is common practice in supermarket car parks.

A husband and wife sitting in different parts of the train in order to capture parts of their journey on film.

Walking on up the carriage, we often turned around to look back and see people discussing their ticket questions with each other and sharing them around.  Connecting again.

We felt we had changed their journeys.  Intervening and asking challenging questions about train travel, asking them to consider a new viewpoint.  "Have you ever thought of a network of rail travellers as a community?"  "Are you leaving or returning, and how different do these feel?"  "Do you ever imagine the story of a stranger travelling near you?"

Jo giving out her tickets

Some people wrote us answers on the postcards straight away.  Others took their postcards with them to think about it more and post them back to us.  We really hope they do.

Mother and daughter

Fabulous friends

We made new connections with 71 people that day.  Some were travelling short distances, others were going a long way.  Jo met a man who works at the Brush company in Loughborough, a place not only visible from the train but also just up the road from where Jo used to live.  Other people connected to us through art - we met art students and art teachers.  A small child drew us a picture.

This lovely lady took one of each ticket as her husband was an art teacher!
We experienced parts of other people's journeys.  Jo sat with a couple who pointed out the bits of the journey they liked - the new log cabins being built just past Whatstandwell.  They watched the lorries trundling down the road below us, parallel to the train and matching our speed!

We met Jim and Pat at Belper Station and travelled with them for a while
We hope the postcards will further connect us.  We imagine a network of postcards which have all started on that particular short train route, travelled to different places and hopefully been posted back to us in Corby.  Jo met a lady from Australia who took a postcard to write back to us!

It was good to visit the Stations again at Whatstandwell, Cromford, and short stops at Ambergate and Belper.

At Cromford, yet another Handy Andy helping to collect his Aunt's camper van and take it back to Devon

Beautiful nasturtiums in the planters and the commemorative sign at Whatstandwell Station. There are no longer any station buildings there but we did find this link with wonderful images of the station and lovely recollections by William E Glossop.

On the same site there are also the recollections of Mr A C Phillips a former Station Master at Whatstandwell Station.

Whilst waiting for Jo to arrive, Carole's eye was drawn to the house, some of which was built during the 1700's, which has a tunnel running beneath it. The previous evening, whilst Mac Canonymous was filming, Carole walked over the bridge and onto the towpath by the canal, only to meet Sheila, the current owner of the house.

Sheila very kindly invited Carole into her garden to see the railway line from the less commonly viewed direction.  Carole invited Sheila to come and take part in the Ticket Exchange the following morning, but sadly they missed their connection!

A slice of train heading towards the tunnel under Sheila's house.

A view of the house behind the restored Cromford Waiting Room
It was a great day and gave us lots of food for thought!  Mac Canonymous is putting together a film of the day, and we'll let you know when that's up to see.

We're looking forward to doing our Ticket Exchange again, this time at Whitwell, Cresswell and Langwith Whaley-Thorns, where we will be visiting on 15th September.  Perhaps see you there?

Last train from Cromford Station

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Wellbeing Walks - Maps and Sand-Beans

Having completed our four points of the compass Wellbeing Walks, we have had some studio time to make the maps. It's always an enjoyable process sharing ideas and working on allotted tasks, it's almost a dance between studios, thoughts and actions. We decided to use the Miles & Dacombe hand stamped logo we developed for our first Undiscovered Networks postcard as a unifying element. It may seem odd that with easy access to dozens of typefaces on the computer that we should choose such a low tech method of printing, but we like the fact that the pressure of our hands creates a different intensity of colour and ink, sometimes parts of letters are barely visible, sometimes the alignment of text is a bit wobbly, but we feel this adds something to the end product.

For each Miles & Dacombe header and footer we print our own surnames and often chuckle at the incidental words SAND and BEAN created at the end of each surname. The border strips of colour are also hand mixed and rolled because we enjoy seeing the uneven line and spread of the inks.

Our studios are in the annexe of a primary school and during term time in the lunch hour the atmosphere changes, there are shouts, laughter and activities in the building and out on the playground, so we generally de-camp to another venue. One of our favourite haunts is the Skylark Cafe in Fermyn Woods Country Park, we've had numerous planning meetings and making sessions in there.

We added the paper cutouts to the first two maps in the cafe whilst a group of people from Paperchase were taking part in a team building exercise. The food is lovely and the staff never seem to mind us turning our table into a mini studio space or portable office. A recent British survey discovered that a brisk 15 minute walk reduced chocolate cravings in response to stress, but is is very hard to resist Ellie's home made cakes when ordering food! Through the windows you can see a host of birds hopping in and around the picnic tables and people of all ages taking advantage of the rambling spaces in the country park.

We chose the paper cutouts because they had tiny luggage labels in a variety of colours which reminded us of the labels we attached to our balloons. Jo drew all the map outlines and placed the paper shapes, Carole added areas of colour and the dotted lines that described the four routes.

Jo also made some lovely, tiny paper windmills to record the area we staged our windmill intervention and we decided to scan the maps rather than photograph them to preserve the textures and give a truer representation of the colours. Whilst Jo was sticking and placing, Carole was scribbling and reading back the memories of places and journeys during the walks, each map has its own 'story' printed on the reverse of the map.

We have a limited edition of A3 maps and an unlimited edition of A4 maps, the printing of the A3 maps were an In Kind donation from CTB Print & Design, who Carole has had a working relationship with for over 20 years.

Folding the finished maps

A3 maps rolled and ready to go!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Just the Ticket

When we first started thinking about Undiscovered Networks we took an Away day to the London Transport Museum and were both struck by the the huge variety of tickets and travel tokens. The ticket above exhorts the traveller to buy Bryant and May matches to support local workers and to enable the company to "pay £1,000 a week more in wages". We didn't take note of the date of the ticket above but it seems ironic as in 1888 the first recorded strike was staged by the Match-girls working at the Bryant and May factory and prompted the women's rights activist Annie Besant to write a paper "White Slavery in London" in The Link on 23rd of June 1888.

A selection of tickets and travel tokens

An early Bus Conductors's ticket dispenser

We decided that our tickets should reflect the format of current rail tickets which have two distinctive bands of colour at the top and bottom of the front face. These were hand printed and stamped with the Miles & Dacombe header and footer and each ticket was stamped with a different selection of images.

The tickets will be dispensed from a specially constructed shoulder bag with almost transparent pockets in front and a larger pocket, lined with a Liberty map fabric, which will contain the postcards for travellers' responses.

Five tickets, five questions

10 different postcards with images from
Whatstandwell, Cromford and Langwith Whaley Thorns

awaiting our first Ticket exchange!