Monday, 11 July 2016

The AHRC Commons / Owning the Commons (Conference University of York)

On  21st June 2016, the University of York hold a conference on Common Ground with the AHRC Commons.
"Common ground is a celebration of the AHRC Commons community. This gathering is an opportunity to share knowledge and expertise, to establish new networks and projects, to be inspired, and to further develop the case for the importance of arts and humanities research."

AHRC Commons at University of York (2016)
AHRC Commons at University of York (2016)

I decided to follow the session on "Owning the Commons" and particularly the talk on "Every One's Right: Retrospectives and prospects on urban Common Land". During this session, academics and poets talked about their vision of common lands and how to define them, and "use" or "re-use" them. 

Dr John Wedgwood Clarke at AHRC Commons (2016)
Dr John Wedgwood Clarke at AHRC Commons (2016)

The session focused on reclaiming common lands, either in practical terms or in poetry. My favourite intervention was by Dr John Wedgwood Clarke from Hull University. His poetry reflected his experience in a common land near Hull, a place under the cliff, where people are squatting. This village has its own streets and rules. The place itself is a mix of shabby houses and  beautiful landscapes, and has a "radical silence". Dr Wedgwood Clarke is not just writing about it but has filmed himself walking around the village and reading his favourite poems, including The Songs of Innocence by William Blake. He is knocking on doors but no one seems to be "home", only industrial objects are left behind. The land which is part of the common seem extremely empty yet human presence is really strong. 

The Voice of the Ancient Bard. (William Blake)
Youth of delight come hither.

And see the opening morn,
Image of truth new born.
Doubt is fled & clouds of reason
Dark disputes & artful teazing.
Folly is an endless maze,
Tangled roots perplex her ways.
How many have fallen there!
They stumble all night over bones of the dead
And feel they know not what but care;
And wish to lead others when they should be led

On the side of the talk, two artists were creating a common land manifesto. They draw and wrote on the walls about the different topics and their input as artists. The result was a powerful mix of writing and drawing, reclaiming not only the land but also the room and academics' researches to give them back to the "people" and to the land. 

Common Lands Manifesto at AHRC Commons 

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