The Anchor Lab’s purpose was to have a conversation with our neighbours about what has kept us all going and helped us through the lockdowns of 2020/21. We had noticed, through all the difficulties, isolation and hardships of these strange times that there was a nugget of hope, positivity and creativity collectively holding us together. We set out to explore this shared feeling of hope with the aim of documenting it and archiving its moment in history. So we began with a question: “What Anchors You?” The conversation had to happen at a safe distance due to Covid-19 restrictions so we designed and printed postcards for people to collect and return with their answers. Over the course of the project, 1135 postcards were taken from our on-street collection point and 155 completed postcards were returned. The response was overwhelming – whilst working inside the building on the other side of the glass from passers by, we could see people stopping to spend time reading their neighbours’ responses. And when we were eventually able to have face to face conversations with people we were told how touched people were by sharing and reading others’ responses and how much it meant even to be asked the question. Seen above are a selection of the community responses as displayed in our Anchor Lab HQ window
The Anchor Lab’s initial reply to the completed postcards was to create a window installation in celebration of the first written responses to the question “What Anchors You?”. At a time when we were unable to meet face to face, the personal nature of handwritten correspondence felt even more welcome, the creative doodles even more alive and the personality inherent in the written script even more intriguing. We scaled up the handwriting so that the voices taking part in this conversation could be ‘heard’ from accross the street or even from the passing traffic on Dumbarton Road.
The Protest of Hope was a natural progression from Window 1, taking the idea of the ‘handwritten voices’ shared with us on the returned postcards one step further by staging them as a protest, a rallying cry of hope in the face of the pandemic. This piece began life as a window installation, as seen here.
Literally made of the of the handwriting of people responding to the
question “What Anchors You?” The Neighbourhood Font represents the language and landscape of hope that has emerged through the lockdowns of 2020/21. It has been developed to be a working font that can be downloaded and used. The Dear Neighbourhood film demonstrates the font in action.
As part of the ongoing conversation with our community about the things that have anchored us all, The Anchor Lab artists wanted to create gifts for local residents to take home and keep. Reflecting on the 18 months that we had all spent mostly indoors, our worlds in large part reduced to our domestic interiors, there seemed no more fitting object than the humble tea towel. So, we set about abstracting the handwritten responses and elements of the Neighbourhood Font to create patterns that subtly speak of our shared experience and quietly represent the people who have contributed to this project. 60 unique deigns were created and gifted to local people. More of the designs can be seen here.
When Covid-19 restrictions allowed, we welcomed local people to The Anchor Lab HQ to join us in experimenting with collage as a means to explore and refelect on their own responses to the question What Anchors You? Local resident Caroline Christie shared her own making practice, which became her personal anchor through lockdowns – stitching on dusters! Caroline’s dusters became an exhibition of their own at Anchor Lab HQ as a fitting follow on from the Anchor Lab show. Other local resident artwork completed during our open studio afternoons was displayed as part of the Anchor Lab exhibition.
The Anchor Lab collaborated with Thornwood Primary P5 and P6 pupils and staff, which provided a great opportunity to engage with some of our younger neighbours. With mainstream media rarely focusing on the voices of children in its coverage of the pandemic, it felt timely and important to to make art alongside young people about their own experiences and perpective. The Changed Views were made in collaboration with the P6 group and were an opportunity to explore how things might feel familiar but different with the experience of living through Covid 19 and the lockdowns of 2020/21. Viewing the well-known surroundings of their school through a viewfinder – or view changer as we prefer to call them – and taking photographs to capture these new views, opened up conversations about how the world feels the same and different all at once in so many ways.
Collaborating again with Thornwood Primary School, this time with the P5 and P6 groups, The Storm, The Ship and The Anchor is a short film exploring the ways in which the pandemic and lockdown has effected them. As one young person put it, “We are the ship, the storm is the pandemic and the anchor and chain are what make us feel safe”. The children helped to create the props for the film, filling the waves and lightning bolts of the storm with expressions of the challenges they each faced as a result of the events of 2020/21 and constructing a chain for the cardbord anchor from paper with their responses to the question “What Anchors You?” The pupils made the props come to life, moving them to tell the story.
All The Pieces is a jigsaw of a photograph of Window 1, literally bringing together the fragments of story that have become material for this collaborative project created with the residents of Glasgow’s Ward 12.
What Anchors You? is composed of every answer to the question What Anchors You? written in the Neighbourhood Font.