The Kick-About / One Year Later


There are a number of things I miss about my previous role working in higher education – and many things I do not.

One of the things I miss most about those days was my day-to-day proximity to other creatives, to their respective projects, and to their conversations about them. An average day would see dozens of discussions about storytelling, art direction, materials, research, conceptualisation, producton design, visual representation and promotion. Manifesting ‘something from nothing’ was always the business of the day, as we all worked together to get an idea ‘from script to screen’ or from 2D into 3D, from a dream of a thing to the thing itself. I know now how luxurious my old job was. Actually, I knew it then and never once took it for granted. It was life-affirming to be in the company of people who could first see things in their mind, and then develop those images into concrete, substantive outcomes – an act of magic and an act of faith.

Hardly surprising then I might have wanted some of that back, to work again with a diverse community of artists, to give a fair whack of my time and energy to making a space in which more of those conversations could take place. So it was I had the idea for The Kick-About, a blog-based creative challenge, in which creatives of all kinds were given the chance to make some new work in response to a fortnightly prompt – myself included. One year later, and we’ve just published Edition 26 of The Kick-About, a gathering together of participants’ favourite submissions, and one thing is clear: there is power in community, not least because the expectation of an audience for new work is an effective means of seeing off procrastination and preciousness by encouraging decisiveness and utility. There is creative freedom too in ‘short sharp snaps’ of creative activity, that ability to start something up and then close it down in a succinct period of time.

Speaking personally, I’ve found The Kick-About to be a hugely satisfying experience, and after a decade-or-more of very happily giving my best ideas away to other people, it’s been reassuring and exciting to discover there are still more ideas where all those others came from. I’ve loved the problem-solving aspect of the fortnightly prompts – resolving cogent, authentic responses to the various prompts in lots of different ways. You might also call it ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ – and yes, it’s been fun.

Gathered here are all my Kick-About responses, digital artworks, sculptures, photographs, shorts films and short stories, and collaborations with other artists. Agreed, it makes for an eclectic ensemble, but I’m reminded – happily – of being nineteen years old and studying my Art Foundation course, which was all about trying and doing everything and not worrying about what it was all for, or what you were going to do with it, or what you were going to do next.

So yes, I do feel younger for running around with my fellow kick-abouters, and if not quite nineteen, then not far off. I just want to say a very real and heartfelt thank you to everyone in the Kick-About community, whether you’ve played once, or always. Your company and creativity is, and has been, restorative, and I’m very much looking forward to doing it all again with Kick-About No.27. Onwards!









Aquarius (2021)


So, this is what I learned during my hardly exhaustive research into the ‘age of Aquarius’ in preparation for this week’s Kick-About; that in addition to all the immediate water-based imagery that associates with it, some scholars of all things astrological identify electricity as one of the keenest indications of the Aquarian age.

Originally I had film in mind as my response to the prompt, something rather doomy and cynical juxtaposing the optimism given to the age of Aquarius with the lived reality of recent events and the rise of populism in politics… but, while good and worthwhile possibly, it was also going nowhere visually! Instead, I wondered how I might bring the Aquarian motifs of electricity and water together in a suitably cosmic way – without blowing myself up in the process!

So it was I returned to the site of the scrying mirror, that small body of water so fascinating to me in its blackness (but which also makes it quite smelly!), and cracked out a few techniques familiar to me from previous photographic adventures in other dark places. It is certainly the dawning of something going on here…



Return To The Scrying Mirror (2021)


In June 2020, on a trip into the woods, we came across a still, stagnant body of water, blackly sinister under the canopy of trees. We returned to the woods last week, and the strangely alluring surface of this scrying mirror didn’t disappoint, doing wonderfully witchy things to the still bare branches of the trees surrounding it. Arthur Rackham is somewhere at work in the resulting photographs, likewise the Blair Witch, and every haunted forest from Disney films and storybooks the world over, and I’m now minded to return to Oxney Bottom, where the trees conspired similarly in their ancient, watchful way.



The Scrying Mirror (2020)


Back in late April, we took a walk into the local woods to see the bluebells and green frills of young Spring foliage, but I was very much more drawn to the sullen pond sitting in shadow below the eaves of the trees. The soupiness of this small body of water shouldn’t have been in any inspiring, and yet it seemed to slow and melt and warp the world reflected in it. The few photographs I took of these reflections possessed qualities that excited me; here was the oiliness and the grubbied silk, and the near-metallic sheen produced by the grey bloom of the water.



The Orpheus portal prompt for the Kick-About #4 sent me hurrying back to the sluggish pond in one of those rare moments of knowing exactly how I wanted to respond. The notably dry Spring meant the pond was rather smaller than before – and the water even blacker and more viscous. The atmosphere was the same – mysterious, solemn, and silent. The lone figure who haunts the resulting images was just the thing to push the idea a little further. Friend or foe? Past or future? Living or dead? I don’t know. This scrying mirror is keeping its secrets.