Fresh Milk announces participation in the international programme ‘CONTESTED DESIRES’

Fresh Milk is delighted to be a part of the team of cultural entities headed by D6: Culture in Transit whose collaborative project “CONTESTED DESIRES” was awarded funding by Creative Europe. We are the only Caribbean cultural organisation on the team, and we very much look forward to working with our EU partners between now and 2021 as the project unfolds.

See the original press release on the D6 website here.

CONTESTED DESIRES

D6based in Newcastle upon Tyne, has been awarded €199,937 to promote creative international connections and development opportunities between our region, the rest of Europe and beyond.

D6 is one of only a handful of UK organisations leading these international cultural projects, and the only one to be selected in the North East of England. CONTESTED DESIRES will include partners in Italy (ECCOM), Spain (La Bonne), Cyprus (Xarkis), Portugal (Lac) and Barbados (Fresh Milk). Through contemporary visual arts it explores our colonial histories and the impact this has had on our understanding of European cultural heritage and identity. At a time of increasing right wing populism, CONTESTED DESIRES aims to challenge the de-stabilising and divisive impact of political discourse where the complexities, diversity and expansion of our communities continue to be met with the power play of fear-mongering, discrimination and exclusion.

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CONTESTED DESIRES will work with artists and producers to engage with communities both in the North East and further a field to create spaces for intercultural dialogue. The programme will begin in September 2019 and over the next two years will offer unique opportunities for artists and communities, further enriching the cultural scene and supporting creatives to grow their experience and knowledge of the wider international arts sector. The programme will include artist residences, capacity building, exhibitions, public events and new digital work.

This is not the first time that D6 has attracted Creative Europe to the UK.  From 2014-18 Corners connected communities in the North East of England to communities across Europe. Through a creative programme, Corners drew threads between neighbourhoods built for industries that were no longer there or that had significantly changed.

At a time of such uncertainty with our relationship with Europe, we are pleased to have been handed the baton by the European Commission to continue to grow this region’s international collaborations, and by our international partners who chose to invest in D6 and in the UK when the political landscape is so uncertain. We are delighted to once again be bringing this investment to our region and look forward to the journey ahead.

Clymene Christoforou, Director, D6: Culture in Transit

Kia Redman’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 4 Blog Post

Barbadian artist and aspiring writer Kia Redman shares her final blog post about her Colleen Lewis Research/Writing Residency at Fresh Milk. The last week was somewhat stressful as she prepared for her first public reading at the event FRESH MILK XXII, while also offering moments of relief through outings and interactions with her fellow residents, the Fresh Milk Team and the wider creative community. Spilling over into a 5th, unplanned week has been just the thing for Kia to comedown from the intensity of her performance, continue her research, and even embark on a new visual work to complement her written/spoken word piece. Read more below:

This last week was stressful. I spent the entire time completely dreading Friday night, when we would have to read what we wrote in front of people. It wasn’t the public speaking that bothered me. That is a necessary evil in life. I just had no idea what I would write. I tried for days, and I ran myself around in circles. Ideas would fly out of my brain, imprint themselves on a page and just as soon disappear when I scrapped them. I was embodying a clichéd rendering of writer’s block.

Eventually, I settled on a concept. I was spending a lot of time researching ‘How to Escape from Paradise’ and I knew I wanted to write something from the perspective of the island. When I thought of all the possible instances from history I could reference, there were so many players and so much turbulence and trauma surrounding them that it seemed like the island was having a series of terrible relationships. Initially, I was only going to have the island reminiscing about her past paramours, but the voices of her current lovers kept invading my mind. This is how “A Paradise Escape?” was born. I read the part of the citizen, and with the help of Ethan reading the tourist and my mother, Donna, reading the Island, we performed the piece.

While most of the week had me in a panic, the beginning was amazing. We had a town-adventure day and visited Israel Mapp at the incredible Union Collaborative space and Kraig Yearwood in the midst of setting up his installation “Retro-Future Landscapes” in Norman Centre. It is inspiring every time I witness contemporary art purposefully intertwined with everyday public life. Our adventure day was no letdown. Creativity ran rampant, in tune with the frenzied pulse of the city. The perfect day ended in much the same fashion. We sat upstairs Norman Centre, looking down at the city as we ate some delicious vegan food, family style.

I couldn’t have asked for a better final week. While it did incite a massive amount of stress, it also helped me get over the mental creative block I have had for a while. There’s nothing like the threat of public embarrassment to light a fire under your ass. I’m still humming from the thrill of that experience. So much so that I’ve now found myself back at Fresh Milk for another week, keeping Ark company as they finish up their final week.

My work for this time isn’t going to be strictly literary. I loved the way the performative-like presentation of “A Paradise Escape?” left room for me to incorporate this and other future literary works into my visual practice. This is what I’ll be experimenting with in my bonus week at Fresh Milk and back in my space in the time to come. But it hasn’t all been work. The stress of the last week really made me crave curling up with a good book. Earlier in the residency, Annalee had placed a copy of Jean Rhys’ “Wide Sargasso Sea” on my desk, telling me it was one of Colleen’s favourite books. It’s certainly been on my ‘to read’ list for a while and seemed like the perfect way to end off my time as the inaugural Colleen Lewis Research/Writing Resident. The addition of the beautiful, sweetheart Roo made it impossibly better.

I didn’t know how much I needed this residency until it came. The peaceful surroundings were a great escape from the bustle of my everyday life in the city, but it was the camaraderie that made it a truly unforgettable experience. Spending time connecting with Ethan, Ark, Katherine and Annalee has been healing in a way that’s as vital as it was unexpected. While I have been in the company of people who have encouraged my writing before, I have never been in a space so devoted to celebrating literature. It made me distinctly aware of how much I rely on the visual to translate my experiences, and how out of my comfort zone I was. It was great to be pushed. I’ve felt my perspectives broadening each day in the last few weeks. It almost feels like I have developed a new way of seeing…of being. I’m excited to explore this new addition to myself and see where it takes me. I’m sure it’ll be somewhere I could never imagine.

Thank you to all who made this journey possible. You are appreciated in ways I can’t express.

Ark Ramsay’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

Ark Ramsay shares a blog post about the third week of their Fresh Milk residency, beginning with Barbados’ second Pride Parade  organised by Equals Barbados on Sunday, June 30th; punctuated with a midweek visit to Bridgetown to see the developing creative hub Union Collaborative and the exhibition ‘Retro-Future Landscapes‘ by Kraig Yearwood; and ending with the event FRESH MILK XXII: Residency Readings. Read Ark’s poignant thoughts on the intense and challenging week, which required strength and vulnerability to absorb and process both publicly and in private:

Ethan and I celebrating Pride. My sign says “protect the non-beenary baes” with a little bee on it.

I was putting my mouth on the future in my last blog post. When I wrote: the way forward requires that I think about structure–I might as well have said, the way forward requires that I live in a week other than this week.

Sunday was Barbados’ second Pride Parade.

And I don’t want to siphon the joy/abandon/celebration out of that–or sit here and tell you that I did not get on wild and dutty–or claim that the light in me did not flare up at the touch of the light in my Bajan queer family.

And I don’t want to deny ‘bravery’, or ‘resilience’, or ‘beauty’, or ‘at-homedness’.

And I think it ironic that I have to preface the somber and vulnerable with a defense of pageantry. But I do.

Come Monday, sore and filled to the brim with love for this place, I was sitting on the deck at Fresh Milk–video-chatting a queerabian artist-friend who could not be at the parade in person. We started out the same way this blog post started out. In defense of love and glitter. Halfway in, this became untenable.

“Me and belonging just don’t pitch marbles,” they said, as we lamented the long (pothole-filled) road we had taken to arrive at this shifting place. And the cows, chickens, and small dogs all around this farm made effortless song–lampooning our attempts to ground ourselves, or think through the vast human-centeredness of ‘belonging’.

The price paid to dance to “I’m Coming Out” by Dianna Ross in front of Cave Shepherd on Broad Street was (and still is) steep. I pay it every day. All queer Barbadians do. And for some the charge is pulling from a sum they don’t have (and may never have), and whittling away–a slow, drain–until ‘bravery’ is rendered skeletal and impotent.

I volunteer to pay the price, knowing it has to be paid, knowing what’s asked of me is a fraction of a fraction of what is asked of others.

The truth is, all I have to offer is open heart writing surgery, performed on myself. And, the question is not whether it is ‘enough’ (no, possibly not), or whether it can effect change (how egocentric)–what remains is the stubbornness to root through these questions despite their nature–despite the manifold unknowns.

I am reminded this week, after getting back “Cereus Blooms at Night” from Ethan Knowles–and leafing through it–that it appeared for me right when I needed it. I read it when I was nineteen and leaving the island for the first time. I felt then (as I feel now), how unpayable the price of this book must have been, its very existence, the toll it must have taxed out of Shani Mootoo. Her expense is my enrichment, and so the circle of the word continues. I guess all I want to do is pay forward what I was given.

This rambling, guilt-ridden, wishing-I-could-do-more, lamenting-things-as-they-are, swarmed my week. I moved in careful silence, rebuilding what was knocked down, knowing that what was really happening (within me) was the fermentation of things that I could (gratefully) rage back into art–motivated by a Rainer Maria Rilke quote given to me by someone long ago: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves.”

So I repeated that quote like a mantra, knowing it is a rickety bridge from unsurety to unsurety.

At Union Collaborative for a tour of the site

On Tuesday, the whole Fresh Milk family visited “Union Collaborative”, this newly developing hub that seeks to create a space for dialogue and side-by-side creative flow–all within the remnants of a gutted commercial mall.

As Israel Mapp walked us through his vision (fashion designers working across the courtyard from metalworkers and chefs), it seemed like he, and his team, were inexhaustible. That the abundance of love they have for this place, and the whole idea of a revitalized, artistically-thriving Bridgetown, was enough to power the lights. His whole energy seemed to suggest: this is happening with or without anyone else’s input. I was bowled over by the whole enterprise because it was the complete antithesis to the questions that I had been carrying around. It was so rooted, so part-of-things, so not-in-your-own-mindcell.

Yearwood’s work “Aquifer”–inviting us to question the bedrock

Afterwards, we went to Norman Centre, where artist Kraig Yearwood had installed his work “Retro-future Landscapes”. It was right next to a leatherworking stand, and beside the gutted space where a shoe store used to be. Here was this room (fitted for a boutique store), filled with Kraig’s huge pieces rendered from concrete and found items. He cast these objects with the innards of cellphones and plastic detritus–creating these sediment layers that reflect what we may leave behind in the bones of this island. It seems like everyone this week was pondering island, in some form. Who we are, what we build, what we leave behind.

On Thursday, jackhammering at my work (revealing nothing of substance), the rains came. The roof at Fresh Milk is itself a drum–inconsistently played by mahogany pods–but here was this persistent percussion. Annalee (convinced that she practices some sort of Obeah) appeared with “Calling a Wolf a Wolf” by Kaveh Akbar, a book of poems that I’ve been trying to hunt down (or wait to arrive), for years now.

“We all want the same thing (to walk in sincere wonder, like the first man to hear a parrot speak”

Kaveh is an Iranian-American poet, whose work is staggeringly beautiful. In fact, the latter half of this week was about reconnecting with old collections that I treasure and champion (“Everyone Knows I am a Haunting” by Trinidad’s Shivanee Ramlochan), and finally getting to read this work. I was able to put them side-by-side. Their work, so different, yet both so brutal and honest. They both stare it down. They both inhabit ‘bravery’, ‘resilience’, ‘beauty’, and ‘at-homedness’.

I channelled them when I was called upon to perform.

On Friday the trio of residents decided to host an open house, where we would pull from work-in-progress and untested writing. We would essentially give what we had never given before.

I read a short story that I have been carrying with me for years. Every time I changed as a writer, a transformation would be stimulated in my personal life, and I would see a new way into the story. But I had never read it. I had kept it safe, kept it mine.

Sharing it, and then inviting the audience to engage with me afterwards (when I was rawest and shaking), was one of the most rewarding experiences of this entire residency. My Q&A moved from ‘process’ questions into the realm of climate-sorrowing–and because of this–I felt less like I was going through the motions, and more like I was trying to share something I feel deeply kinned to. Less like I was manufacturing something artificial, and more like my soul was on the line.

This is Ethan and Kia’s last week at the residency, and the space will be worse off for their absence. I will miss what was created here (even if it lasted a few weeks), with the strange interplay of personalities (including Katherine and Annalee)–who all helped me return to this island. Physically. Mentally. Creatively.

Thank you.

I have one more week. Flying solo.

Kia Redman’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

Barbadian artist and aspiring writer Kia Redman shares a blog post on her third week in residence at Fresh Milk. In addition to activities such as attending a reception for the ‘Trio of Residents’ held by one of Fresh Milk’s patrons, returning to Workman’s Primary School to reveal the result of their group time capsule project and taking part in a collage workshop about Caribbean identity hosted by Ethan Knowles, Kia also began the daunting task of venturing into creative writing – something she has not done in a very long time, but that she is eager to take the leap to explore. Read more below:

Creative writing has been a big fear of mine for a long time. I remember it being something I fearlessly enjoyed once, but that time passed so long ago I can barely remember the words I wrote and the feelings they conjured within me. It has been so long that I don’t even know where to find the stories, and if I did, the papers would probably be in tatters, darkened and consumed by time. So many years have passed since then that it almost feels like another person’s story; another person’s path not taken. But the best thing about life, at least mine, is that the path is hardly ever straight and easy. There are steep inclines, rugged terrains and winding roads that if you’re lucky, wind back around to give you a second chance at exploring a previously untrodden path.

This unfamiliar journey started with this residency. I spent the first couple weeks researching for a critical essay that I hoped would inform my visual work. It was what I had planned to do, it was what I felt comfortable with, having written strictly academically for the last few years. It was the safe option. However deep down, something just felt a little off. Residencies are supposed to push you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to explore and experiment – something I love to do – but I was resisting it. It has been a long time since I’ve felt truly afraid to do something creative.

My visual work still scares me, and I hope it never stops. Having to learn and discover, fail and adapt is what excites me. Yet, while that has become a fear I have learned to embrace and use as fuel to push my visual practice, this fear is as yet uncharted. There is no evidence that the failures I’ll endure along this path will result in something fruitful. It has not yet proven itself to me, nor have I proven myself to it. It is my hope that this confrontation will clear the way for a bridge between my visual and literary work. I love combining different techniques and art-forms in what I create, and the challenge of merging both of these worlds into one thrills me. Sonia Farmer’s “A True and Exact History” stands on that bridge. The fusing of visual, tactile and literal is simply breathtaking and stole away much of my time this week.

This third chapter has been packed full of reading, thinking, creating and socializing. I’ve walked and explored with Ethan and Ark and stood beside them at Dr. Clyde Cave’s house for the vibrant yet relaxed evening he hosted for us, amongst his incredible art collection. I returned to Workman’s Primary to show them the video they shot and give them copies. Ethan’s collage workshop on Wednesday was a fun experience that allowed me to tackle my topic in a lighthearted way without the pressures I usually inadvertently place upon the process of creating. It was a breath of fresh air just being able to enjoy the act of making without all the strings that somehow get attached along the path of being an artist. Perhaps it was the reminder of that feeling that made me finally agree to confront my fears to write creatively. It is a feeling I must remember in the final week as I commit to setting pen to paper.

Ethan Knowles’ Fresh Milk Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

Bahamian writer Ethan Knowles shares his third blog post about his Fresh Milk residency. Ethan begins with an excerpt from a piece he is writing in Barbados, specifically after walking along south coast and observing people along the way – both locals and visitors – and imagining the thoughts that might be going through their minds. He also shares the outcome of his collage workshop ‘Dis We Tings’ held at Fresh Milk, which prompted a similar kind of introspection about Caribbean identity, and how we can express the many things that means despite being subjected to a touristic gaze. Read more below:

Bus stop ‘To City’

This week I walked along the south coast. I wrote the following at a café along the way.

I am walking along a Bay Street not unlike my own. It is not a long road, but it is – when travelling by foot. It traces the curve of Carlisle Bay, carrying me out of Bridgetown and into a place I have driven through but never before tread. It feels familiar, and yet I cannot be sure what waits around the corner. What building, business or bus stop comes next, I cannot say. That I am going somewhere – that I am on this walk – is all I know.

And on this walk, down (or maybe up) a street I feel I went to high school with some time ago, I see the same image. It repeats itself, though in different forms – always altered but somehow undeniably the same. I see backs: sometimes slouched, sometimes straight. Always shaded, and always, without exception, alone. And though I never feel isolation in these solitary figures, sat like anchors looking out at a sea they left behind, I do feel longing. Indeed, I feel a pining – a pining that could very well be my own – gathered up on these shaded benches without backs holding up backs.

I wonder where their thoughts go, these ocean watchers. Whether they drift to a life they hope to live, or a life they’ve left behind. Whether they wrap themselves up in what’s been going on in the news, or whether the present is the last thing that passes through. Whether they worry about money, or the mortgage, or if they’ll make it to their next vacation. Whether they’re eating enough. Whether they’re drinking too much. Whether they’re pregnant. Whether the rain will come, and the laundry will get wet. Or if they have good credit, or what good credit even means. Whether it’s worth it or, in the case of their house, it’s worth enough. Whether the dog needs to be walked or if that cashier was just being friendly or if the gas light, like the yellow traffic light, is really just a suggestion. Whether the crabs like it better on land or if they themselves would be better off at sea. Whether the bus fares will go back down. Whether to laugh. And, in rare cases, whether to lip sync. Whether this was the way it was supposed to go all along or if the guesses were all just lucky. Or unlucky. Whether the end was near or if there even was one and if it mattered anyway. Whether it was time to go. Or, as it often seemed on that walk along Bay Street, whether there was all the time in the world.

I am thinking of extending this piece further but am fairly content with how it’s already developed.

In other news, on Wednesday I facilitated “Dis We Tings”, a collage workshop exploring Caribbean identity, and I am very pleased with how it went. The workshop encouraged reflection on such questions as:  What does it mean to be Caribbean? Who are we? Where are we going? And how are we working to construct our own images and identities in the face of increasingly pernicious touristic representations?

Using tourist brochures, maps and magazines, participants deconstructed one-dimensional representations of the Caribbean in order to craft collages which more meaningfully expressed their (cultural) identities. In this way, images produced with the tourist eye in mind were reconstructed by and with a focus on Caribbean people themselves, many of whom are disadvantaged one way or another by the industry.

Later in the week the whole Fresh Milk cohort met up at the exquisitely decorated home of local arts patron Dr. Clyde Cave for a wonderful evening filled with remarks on our time as residents, warm conversation, kind company, and delightful hors d’oeuvres. This week I am also proud to note that I ate what must be by now my eighth roti from Chutney’s! Fingers crossed I keep the streak alive.