Pippa's blog

Hollie McNish reinvents your mum poem

exhibition buttonThe amazing Hollie McNish curated our communal Mums' Poem at our Make Date at The Photographers' Gallery in London on Friday.

Hollie chose from all of the lines submitted by mums from all over the world here, adding her own words and bringing her unique style to create a brand new mama poem.

Many thanks to Takbir Uddin at Words By Communications for filming the performance for us. And to Pat Kelman for this lovely photo of Hollie (with imaginary baby...)

Watch the film of Hollie's perfomance below...

You can also visit the previous 'curations' of the poem by Caroline Davies and Sally Crabtree in this post.

 

 

 

 

How to find out you're a good mother

The Photographers Gallery brought a new audience to the exhibition tour: sons and daughters, young and old, reminding mothers, very directly, of just how amazing they are. 

wall of mama mash-up collages from the story of mum exhibition

I'll be posting about our inspirational evening Make Date soon, but this post is all about the stories we encountered on Saturday when the sun was out... and so were the sons!

We're grateful to Jai and Janice at the gallery, to Sharon, Baobab Puppets, and everyone who came along and played (especially our twitter and story of mum friends!), Thank you.

Because we had Sally Crabtree’s wonderful edible poetry, we were able to tempt lots of lovely young women and men to play amongst the creative mothers...

You can see their creations in Caroline Smith’s lovely photographs below.

edible poetry

Every interaction had a story. One young man sat alone, quietly and carefully arranging his words on a biscuit. When he was done, he explained that he had made a poem for his mother, including things he knew she liked.

boys with edible poetry

And he took a picture and he tweeted it to her straight away to show he was thinking of her.

Lucky to have had such a good mother

An adult family of four explored the room together - mum, dad, two grown up sons. They thought of lines for the mums’ poem, browsed the Mama Mash-Ups and the washing lines.

As they left the room, we heard a delighted mama noise and turned to see a huge hug between beaming mother and slightly embarrassed son.

The son had just completed one of these fabulous feedback forms for us - the blue one...!

Puppet-making from Baobab Puppets was so much fun that even a grown-up daughter on a London shopping trip made her way to the kids’ table to get making with her mum and Auntie.

As Baobab’s stories engaged the children, their parents snuck away for some creative me-time. Catherine, a lovely mother who came along on Friday night even came back for more with her happy family in tow.

We met a German-Portuguese couple taking their first holiday away from their children, thrilled to be exploring a gallery in London, but missing their kids.

We met a man who had come to parenthood late in life and found it transformative (and a man who thought our project banal, but stayed for a LONG time to tell us that so it can't have been completely banal...).

We met a great-grandmother, proud nanas and granddads.

We talked to young women feeling broody, and to women exploring how friendships change as our friends have children and we don’t.

And we talked to mothers.

Mothers taking time out to make Mash-Ups, thinking of words for the line, and avoiding photographs.

Mothers sharing their stories as they chose pictures that represented who they really are. Mothers unable to find faces like theirs in the magazines we were using for collage. 

mothers with their mama mash-ups

Mothers feeling lost. Mothers feeling lucky. Mothers who love cuddles. Thigh-slapping mothers. Singing mothers. Mothers who dream. Mothers who love beards.

And mothers who had just heard how much their son loves them.

Join our Make Dates in London!

Come and join us on 18 and 19 October for Make Date events at The Photographers Gallery as part of our Story of Mum: Mums Making an Exhibition of Ourselves tour.

On Friday 18 October, we'll be hosting an evening Mums' Make Date from 7pm - 9.30pm.

If you're a parenting blogger, come along early - as we'll also have an extra BritMums networking get-together from 6.30pm. We've loved having BritMums as hosts of our regular round-ups of the 50 virtual exhibition stops curated by mums worldwide - you can read some of those here.

Why should you come along?

Our evening Make Dates are a unique chance to connect with other mothers, get creative and to share our stories. An opportunity to value all that we do, share our struggles and successes, and be inspired to get through the darker days of mothering.

Plus, this Make Date includes a very special performance by Hollie McNish. As this is the only time we'll be in London, we are so very excited to have Hollie with us, curating our communal Mums' Poem and performing some of her own.

We're equally thrilled to have five brave mums coming along to talk us through their own My Mum Story films.

As part of the evening Make Date, we'll be hearing the honest truth from the wonderful Sue Atkins, Amy Beeson, Lorna Hauff, Shelina Janmohamed and Emma Murphy.

Events are free, but places are limited for the evening Make Date, so you'll need to book here straight away. 

What about some daytime fun on Saturday?

On Saturday 19 October, we'll be at The Photographers' Gallery all day. So you can pop in and visit us from 10.30am - 1pm and 2pm to 4pm for a chat about Story of Mum and a bit of mash-up making if you fancy having a go.

On Saturday, we'll also have a Family Make Date: with storytelling and creative fun for families from 2pm to 4pm, including Story of Mum exhibition activities and puppet-making with Baobab Puppets.

Have you booked yet?

Call that babysitter, and then come right back here and book. Because you deserve a night out to celebrate the amazing things YOU do every day.

And if the babysitter says no, don't worry, you can come and see us on Saturday instead and we can tell you that you're amazing there too.

We would so love you to come and play with us!

Drawing on our stories

This months #somum Make Date partnered with The Big Draw to get us drawing moments from our mothering stories. Who knew we were so dang talented...?

Read some of our chat about the mothering moments we remember most in the storify below and visit the gallery to view all the drawings shared so far and add your own! Go on, if we can do it, so can you.

I love it when you sleep - robot days

We reconnected with our inner children - who used to like drawing...! And started to get into it, eventually braving sharing our scribbles and sketches. There were speed-doodles and beautiful pencil drawings, and abstract pieces like this lovely one from Robot Days: I Love It When You Sleep.

Every single image contained something insightful, all were beautiful, and visiting the online gallery is really moving. 

Some interesting themes are also emerging as more mums add their images to the gallery. (Go on, you can do it, we'd love to see yours... have a go and add it here).

Many of us drew the night time. Those long nights as we sleep, are woken up, feed, comfort, and watch our children dream. Such a huge part of mothering and yet we rarely see images of this. 

There were stunning drawings of breastfeeding too, each more tangible than a photograph. Below are 3am Feed from Not Nice Laura, In Love X by Jenson, and Feed Me by est.

three drawings of breastfeeding

This activity has been a pretty transformative creative adventure for me - I've found myself continuing to draw since I started with my two test images. It's such a powerful and contemplatice way to explore a memory .

Not only did we delight in drawing, but some lucky winners won goodies from The Big Draw for joining in - including these lovely sketchbooks. Doesn't that make you want to start drawing straight away?

You can find other goodies like these in their shop - it's a great way to support what they do. 

Visit here to find out more about The Big Draw. 

The 2013 Big Draw runs from 1 October to 3 November in fifteen countries, with more than 200,000 people expected to take part.  

Hundreds of drawing activities connect people of all ages with museums, outdoor spaces, artists - and each other. We loved being a part of it.

What do the pictures in the gallery say to you so far about motherhood?

What would you draw if you could? (PS did I mention that you can...?)


We'd  love you to join us in London for our next real-life Make Dates at The Photographers Gallery this week. We won't be drawing though - unless of course you've got the bug by then...

Join us on 18 October for a Mums' Make Date with poetry from Hollie McNish, five mums sharing their stories, creative stuff to do, and add to the exhibition, and a special pre-reception with BritMums. We'll be there all day on 19 October and will have a Family Make Date from 2pm to 4pm with puppet-making and storytelling to distract the kids so you can get creative with us. Hope to see you online and in London!

WIll you join The Autism Project?

The lovely Beth (known here as Superbee) is launching a new creative project to share the experiences of autistic children and their families. Here, she calls for you to get involved:

I am a disabled artist, photographer and aspiring filmmaker; I am also the mother of two young children, one of whom has autism, learning disabilities and other problems.  Since April I have been trying to set up an arts charity to enable children and young people with developmental disabilities to participate in and gain access to the arts: although finding trustees with the time to devote to such a charity is a very difficult task indeed.

It was while I was working on ideas to engage children (with these types of disabilities) with the arts that I came up with the concept of The Autism Project. 

The Autism Project is a multi media arts project that seeks to show the realities of living with autism in the family, especially its affect on sibling relationships, and in doing so dispelling the media myth that surrounds the disorder.   

All too often those who don't know, or understand the disorder perceive those with it to be either Rain Man (coincidentally he did not have autism) or people whose only engagement with the world is rocking and screams.  Now although there are those who never speak, and most children with autism experience meltdowns to some degree or another; autism is a spectrum of different symptoms and every child is an individual; every family affected differently: it is not a one type fits all diagnosis.

The Autism Project uses photographs of everyday situations to illuminate the highs and lows involved in being part of an ASD family, with a focus on photos involving siblings.  

I am seeking people willing to contribute some of their photos to the project, whether that is a holiday photo, a moment of success or the tears and pain of a meltdown: all are valid.  I am also seeking the words and artwork of those who themselves have autism.

All images have to be high resolution and can be emailed or sent in the post.  Every submitted image/ piece of writing will be featured on the website and selected pieces will feature in a photobook and an exhibition once the project draws to a close.

Alongside the images will be a documentary featuring interviews with parents, siblings and those with autism.  The documentary will be available online and shown at the exhibition as well as submitted to film festivals.

As this is not a profit making venture I cannot pay anyone for taking part, but all those who feature and support will be credited.

If you are affected by autism or aspergers in any way then you are invited to take part.  

To become involved in the project, or to find out more, email me at contact@truthaboutautismproject.com and send your high resolution photos, artwork, thoughts etc.  

For the documentary we are looking for families and those with autism who live on the South Coast or Hampshire, Surrey, West Sussex, East Dorset or Wiltshire.

This is your chance to show that our children are amazing and that a diagnosis of autism is not the end of the world; although it changes it.

We are also looking for people to help out in any other way so if you think you can then please also get in touch.

A new website has been erected at www.truthaboutautismproject.com although it is currently in its infancy.

You might also enjoy Beth's wonderful My Mum Story film, made as part of our online exhibition: Story of Mum: Mums Making an Exhibition of Ourselves.

My Mum Story: The Big Draw

Join our next #somum Make Date on Wednesday 9 October from 8.30-10pm UK time (find world times here) to have a bit of a draw together on twitter.

Is your first reaction the same as mine...? "But I can't draw!".

When I watch my kids drawing, I'm amazed by their confidence and vision.

My children see whatever they want to see in their drawings. They don't judge whether the sun should be that shade of pink, or whether the tree should be in proportion to the cow, or whether that hand looks like a bunched up string of pork sausages. They just draw.

They know that none of that judgement nonsense matters. What matters is the simple joy of moving your pencil or crayon or charcoal or whatever you have in your hand, across the paper. Of making shapes. Of filling space. Of dreaming and imagining and creating and remembering. 

Let's reconnect with that inner child's love of drawing. October's Make Date is a joint celebration of our travelling tour celebrating mums (Story of Mum: Mums Making an Exhibition of Ourselves, landing in London on 18/19 October), and The Big Draw, a month-long focus on the fabulousness of drawing. So we'll be using both hashtags: #somum and #bigdraw. And sharing what we create here: Draw Your Story.

Call it doodling if you like. We've doodled before at our Make Dates and it has always been both hilarious and insightful. This one even prompted someone to have a baby. Drawing is powerful stuff!

What will we draw?

We'll be drawing moments from our mothering journeys that we haven't captured in photos, on film, or in words. Or at least not in the same way. Moments and emotions entwined - that sit somewhere in our heads, in our hearts, held somewhere in those fingers that hold the pen.

They might be good memories, bad memories, mixed-up memories - but they are our memories. They are our stories. And the act of drawing or doodling or simply letting a crayon run riot on the page helps to shape them in our mind

That brown scribble above? It took me FOUR goes. Four blank pieces of paper to get to that heart-shaped night of sadness and guilt and worry, that dark sensation of intense closeness and overwhelming responsibility. And to you it probably just looks like a brown smudge with a face on, and that's completely OK. Because the process of drawing that moment, of re-experiencing those early fear-filled days of sleepless motherhood, of connecting with what that really felt like, was strangely healing. It doesn't really matter what it looks like.

At night I watch my children dreamI did try and draw a happier moment too. Of something I do every night - watch my children dream.

I actually take photos of them every night too, (you can see some in this short film from last year). But I've never attempted to draw that moment - and it was lovely to sit in the dark and listen to them breathing and try to draw.

As you can see I completely avoided drawing sausage hands by not giving my daughter any hands at all.

How will the Make Date work?

For a bit of inspiration, we're going to start the Make Date with a virtual screening of My Mum Story films from the exhibition (basically we'll each choose one of the films in the gallery here and watch it at the start of the Make Date, chatting along...).

We'll answer questions and draw as we go, sharing photos of our doodles and scribbles and wrong-coloured suns and giant cows. You don't have to try and think of a hugely significant moment. Because every mothering moment is significant.

And as always, you don't have to get creative at all if you don't want to. You can draw and never show anyone. You can just chat. Or lurk. We love a bit of lurking at a Make Date. (If you're still not entirely sure what a Make Date is, this might help).

Rather wonderfully, our friends at The Big Draw have given us some goodies to give away at the Make Date - just add both #somum and #bigdraw to your tweets to enter.

One lucky scribbler will win a Quentin Blake T-Shirt (you can have a child one or an adult one, or put a child in an adult one for maximum amusement opportunities...), along with a Big Draw Sketchbook, all packaged up in a limited edition Big Draw Tote Bag.

Two runners-up will also get lovely Big Draw Sketchbooks to inspire you to keep on drawing...

The Big Draw campaign struggles to raise the funds needed to spread a love of drawing far and wide, and you can find other goodies like these in their shop - it's a great way to support what they do.

As, of course, is drawing.

So join us on 9 October to share our stories in drawings. Bring your pencils, your felt tips, your crayons, charcoal or pastels. Grab a biro. Whatever you have to hand. And who knows what our drawing hands might help us to discover together. Let's draw.


Visit here to find out more about The Big Draw. 

The 2013 Big Draw runs from 1 October to 3 November in fifteen countries, with more than 200,000 people expected to take part. Hundreds of new and enjoyable drawing activities connect people of all ages with museums, outdoor spaces, artists - and each other. These events are for those who love to draw, and those who think they can't.

Since its launch in 2000, The Big Draw has successfully supported the Campaign for Drawing’s aims by encouraging everyone to draw. Big Draw events highlight the power of drawing to help people see, think, invent and take action.

 

We'd also love you to join us in London for our next real-life Make Dates at The Photographers Gallery. We won't be drawing though - unless of course you've got the bug by then...

Join us on 18 October for a Mums' Make Date with poetry from Hollie McNish, five mums sharing their stories, creative stuff to do, and add to the exhibition, and a special pre-reception with BritMums. We'll be there all day on 19 October and will have a Family Make Date from 2pm to 4pm with puppet-making and storytelling to distract the kids so you can get creative with us. Hope to see you online and in London!

Our Mums' Poems: On Film

As part of our Story of Mum: Mums Making an Exhibition of Ourselves tour, two wonderful poets have already interpreted the words you have shared with us as part of our communal Mums' Poem

Their 'curated' versions of the poem, very different in style, are below.

At our last Mums' Make Date in Penzance, Sally Crabtree created a song inspired by the words submitted to the giant Mums' Poem, including more submissions from the mums in the room that night.

It was genius and hilarious and comes with a heartfelt guarantee to make you feel better about yourself.

 

Sally Crabtree is an international songwriting poet and children’s author who has become well known for her unique brand of interactive poetry installations and performances such as her Poetree, Poems in a Tin, Phone a Poem, The Poetry Postie, Poetry Bingo and  "I'll Eat My Words" edible poetry.

She has been described as “one of Britain’s richest inventions “ (bu Lars Gustafsson, nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature) due to her innovative approach to presenting words in ways that delight and inspire all those who engage with them. You can find out more about her on her website, and watch a snippet of a song from Magic Train Ride here.


In Milton Keynes, Caroline Davies stayed true to the form of a Kenning - using some the lines submitted by mums to describe ourselves without using the word 'mother'. It's a beautiful and touching response to our submissions.

 

Caroline Davies is a poet and blogger as well as being the mother of two sons. Her first collection, Convoy, based on the experiences of my mother and grandfather during WW2 is published by Cinnamon Press.‎  Website:  http://advancingpoetry.blogspot.com/
Next up will be the ever inspiring Hollie McNish - come and join us in London at The Photographers Gallery on 18 October. Bookings open soon... I can't wait!
Story of Mum: Mums Making An Exhibition of Ourselves is supported by Arts Council England, Feast and a range of other partners. Find out more here.

Mummy is Creative

What does it feel like to create as a child? Or as a mother, alongside your child?

Our second Story of Mum: Mums Making An Exhibition of Ourselves event at The Exchange in Cornwall was our Family Make Date.

In our kiddy distraction toolkit were butterfly and chrysalis-making with the fabulous Annie of Creation Station, along with animal paper-chains and playdough (lemon-scented no less) made by my lovely school-gates buddy Karen.

Plus, we had lots of books, beanbags, a baby discovery basket of textural goodies, and the conch-blowing story-telling force of nature that is John Brolly.

Last but not least, were cupcakes, baked and iced by the finest mama-bakers of Penzance.

It worked.

We created with our children. We had posh coffee and more than sufficient cake. We caught up with old friends over gluey fingers and strips of magazines.

We made Identity Parades and Mama Mash-Up collages of our mashed-up mama identities and took a few precious moments out to remember who we are.

We stepped away from the hubbub of the cafe to put our collages up on the gallery wall. A little ritual. Choosing to take our space amongst all the other collaged stories of mothers from around the world.

We read the stories collected by Proshanti, watched My Mum Story films, and added lines to the communal mums' poem.

My children lay on the floor, fascinated by the rolling gallery of images of mothers from around the world bearing I'm a mum and a... placards. Squeals of excitement whenever they saw anyone they recognised on the big screen.

As well as taking more I'm a mum and a... photos, Chris Webber captured some other images of beauty.

Of our children held in the heart of a story.  

Our children caught in a precious moment of creating.

kids creating

There is something powerful in creating side by side with your child. It feels quite different to moulding the playdough with them, or setting them a task. It is you and them, as creative equals. Enjoying the freedom, exploring your own individual stories together. 

girl in creative thoughtAnd as we took this rare time to create something for ourselves, we remembered a little of what that used to feel like. To be a child again. To believe in the possibilities of our own creations, to dream, to believe in stories.

To believe that our stories deserve to be told. In playdough, scribbles, collage or words, however we feel like creating them right now. 

Which of course is the beat at the heart of story of mum. A space where mums can come together to enjoy creating, to connect with who we are deep down and to be heard together. Join us.

 

Come and see us at our next two events in Penzance, or in London at The Photographers' Gallery on 18/19 October where we'll be holding another Mums' Make Date and Family Make Date. You can also join in with the exhibition online any time by trying any of these activities.

If you'd like to find out more about our events, take a look this post on our evening event for mums too. You can also find out about our events in Milton Keynes for mums and families.

You can find more of Chris Webber's gorgeous photographs here.

Story of Mum: Mums Making An Exhibition of Ourselves is supported by Arts Council England, Feast and a range of other partners. Find out more here.

Under the busy-ness into the heart: Penzance Exhibition

Our Penzance Make Dates were so wonderful it has taken me almost a week to recover. I was so completely terrified, and yet they were so powerful and inspiring, and full of such wonderful women, families and children, that I now have absolutely no idea what I was worrying about.

Four brave mums joined me in sharing their stories and you can watch four of the five films online in the My Mum Story gallery already.

Danielle shared her experience of being a mother to a beautiful child with Cystic Fibrosis.

Kari talked about coming to motherhood later in life,  balancing a freelance working life of travel with precious mummy time.

Hayley shared her journey through loss to parenting two daughters, one of whom has Downs' Syndrome - and her new-found life as a blogger and activist.

Helen's story captured her promise to run a marathon when her fifth pregnancy stablised after three miscarriages, and the fulfilment of that dream for 'the ones that got away'.

There was much weeping. And cake. And wine. And margheritas. And more cake. And more wine.

           

As we wiped our eyes, we were transformed again by the inspirational Sally Crabtree, sharing some of her poetry and a truly wonderful song about being 'just a boring old mum', made up of words from our giant Mums' Poem, encouraging us all to add more.  

         

Within a few minutes, Sally had somehow got us singing along, (and even had the whole room flapping our arms about at one point, there is photographic evidence...)

She also brought her edible poetry genius along to encourage mums to create some beautiful biscuit poetry - you can see some mums' inspired creations at the bottom of this post.

Photographer Chris Webber and his partner Tamsin chivvied mums charmingly into having some lovely I'm a mum and a... photos taken, as well as capturing fabulous photos of the event, many of which you can see here - there are lots more fabulous mamas in the gallery.

Lots of us also had a go at making Mama Mash-Ups to add to the exhibition. (You can still add yours - any time...)

Huge thanks go to the mums who shared their stories, to Sally, Chris and Tamsin, Miranda and the B-New Project, Bettina and The Exchange, Mitch of Three S Films and Steve and Georgia of Apple Crumble for their last-minute technical heroism, and of course all the wonderful cake-baking mothers of Penzance!

             

What has stayed with me most is the profound impact of our stories. The visceral proof that sharing our stories and hearing those of others can bring up powerful emotions, sometimes unexpected ones. It's cathartic, and rare. And it's important.

Most mums spoke afterwards about how lucky they felt, how it reminded them of how much we have to value in our lives. It gave us a sense of a bigger sisterhood. Some had a more difficult time, and I was grateful to hear that side of the experience shared openly too. It isn't easy. We don't often create supportive spaces to share and to be heard amongst others who care.

           

For me, the evening was a joy. And I feel very lucky to have shared a unique evening with mums I know, and with mums I'd never met before. We don't value mothers' contributions to society enough, and that impacts on our sense of self. We need to remind ourselves of how valuable we are, mistakes and all. Most of the time, we don't see the story layers of those around us as we go about our daily business. This was an unusual and affirming chance to see under the busy-ness and into the hearts of mothers. It certainly swelled mine.

 

Come and see us at our next two events in Penzance, or in London at The Photographers' Gallery on 18/19 October where we'll be holding another Mums' Make Date and Family Make Date. You can also join in with the exhibition online any time - we would love you to join in with any of these activities.

You can read about our Family Make Date in Penzance here. You can also find out about the events we held in Milton Keynes for mums and families.

You can find more of Chris Webber's gorgeous photographs here.

Story of Mum: Mums Making An Exhibition of Ourselves is supported by Arts Council England, Feast and a range of other partners. Find out more here.

Mamas get Mashed on Twitter

Last week was SO busy! First up, a quick update on our online #somum Make Date, where we got together to talk identity and make marvellous Mama Mash-Ups - like this one by Georgie St Clair.

You can read a storify of the fun we had below. Big thanks to the Craftivist Collective for giving away copes of their fabulous Little Book of Craftivism (find out what I thought of that here) and to the lovely Suzi Banks Baum, our inspiration for this activity, who also joined us to play!

So what did we talk about as we collaged together? We described ourselves before and after motherhood - how much had changed...!

We talked about the things that motherhood had added to our identity - strength, compassion, patience, empathy, love (on a good day!). What had we let go? A pressure to succeed, perfectionism, needing others, vanity and insecurity.

We talked about the bits of our identity that now feel the most contradictory. For most of us, these were work and mothering. That shift from a high flying (or low flying!) meeting to dealing with tantrums, packed lunches and power rangers.

Where do we feel most heard, as ourselves? Surprise surprise, twitter (and blogging) came out tops! Along with talking with other mother friends, partners and family.

Most of all, I loved the advice offered to new parents who feel they've lost their identity. I'm sharing some examples below - do take a break to read through the storify for more compassionate advice.
 

"it's not lost, just hidden for a while. It'll come back & reshape itself, so just concentrate on enjoying your baby " @IHaveCards

"don't be scared to be selfish every now and then. can't teach your child to be an individual if you have lost yourself" @mummygadgetgeek

"always believe, even if hard to, that you will forge your own way; listen to others but trust in your own inner voice" @leoarnawrites

"you are reborn when you give birth. You just need time for the new you to connect with the old you." @bluebearwood

 

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