Pen To Print

Monday Moments: Building Bridges

Introduced by Holly King

Holly King Monday moments

This week we’re ‘Building Bridges’ and the first thing I think about bridges (asides from the darn Troll bridge in King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride), is resonant frequency. Bear with me here. In my Physics class, we used the example of bridges to explain ‘natural’ or ‘resonant’ frequency. Every object has a ‘natural frequency’, and if that frequency is matched by external forces – for a bridge that may be vibrations from traffic, winds, footfall– then the object will oscillate violently and could lead to total destruction. (I hope my explanation of frequency is clear and correct. If by any chance there is someone more akin to a Physicist reading this, by all means let me know!).

Have you ever noticed the intricate designs of a bridge’s substructure (piers, abutments, spandrels, caps, bearings etc. that hold the upper construction)? That’s partly to ensure the natural frequency of the bridge will be so hard to match by external forces that it won’t collapse. To me, this is an amazing concept. The idea of the resonant frequency of an object versus its surroundings being  so powerful when identical, that it causes complete destruction. It makes me think of the weight, traffic, external struggles we have in our lives that effect our resolve and how one tiny little change in frequency can cause something to collapse.

So, when someone is designing a bridge they have to factor in the amount of weight, who will use it and what for, and where the bridge is being placed before they can create it. I can’t imagine we plan in such detail when we build bridges between each other, or in our lives. When we form relationships, a lot of the building is based on untested trust and the belief that we both want this bridge to stay up. When we build bridges to where we want to go, we can be rash in trying to get there quickly; usually to satisfy some social-media-based notion that you’re living the most enviable life. This means sometimes we end up compromising on the materials, having made our path on shaky foundations. Some of us suffer from monomania, spending all our time on one bridge to get us to our ‘White Whale’. But what happens if that bridge never gets us there, or when we actually get there?

The best thing about our metaphorical bridges, though, is that we can rebuild them more easily. And, we can build new bridges with little more than our outlook and ambition. If a career doesn’t pan out, we can start building the bridge to a new one. If a relationship breaks down, we can decide whether to work on repairing it, or to focus on other bridges. And, it is often the case that when we build new ones, we think more closely about the materials we’re using. When you learn something new about yourself or find a new interest, you immediately begin building a bridge towards a more experienced, skilled you.

Building bridges is not a solo task. Whether it’s using various contractors to rebuild Hammersmith bridge, or creating your own with a friend, family, personal resources and some professional guidance, we work with what we have to build the strongest foundations. If we’re smart, resilient and empathetic, we can patch up weathered structures without natural frequency destroying what we’ve built. But, if it does, we have an unlimited supply of those same materials to get up and start building again. Having multiple bridges to switch our focus to also helps us on our way. This week we’re building bridges across creative mediums, from installations to illustrations, writing to comics.

If you like our featured image btw, please scroll down to see the full comic strip by Danny Baxter!

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First up is an introduction by ‘Creative Barking and Dagenham’ about their project, which incidentally also birthed this week’s theme!

Bridge Building in Barking and Dagenham

A hopeful story of bridging divides and what’s next now that the world is different.

Imagine hugging a musician, dancing with people you have never met, sharing breakfast with people of all faiths and none, under a life size broken bridge. This all happened in 2019 when Imagineer Productions staged a large scale outdoor arts project called Bridge in Coventry and Grantham.

Imagineer Productions are a Coventry based company who make large scale work at the intersection of art, engineering and social change. Bridge was conceived in the aftermath of the UK referendum on membership of the European Union, a troubled and divisive process leading to social and emotional turbulence. The initial creative concept was of an unfinished or broken bridge that can only be completed through the effort and imagination of people.

However, what the Bridge team didn’t know was how the image of the broken bridge would ‘read’ and what meaning people would make from it. They were surprised and delighted by the breadth and depth of response — artists, residents, businesses and community groups, including faith, interfaith, creative, sport and social — wanted to get involved and saw the project as a platform and beacon for their own work and stories as well as an opportunity to make new connections.

The broken bridge succeeded in acting as a provocation in public space. It inspired curiosity and conversation. It was a venue without walls that supported the sharing and bringing together of diverse local stories.

 

Image credit: Jimmy Lee photography

In Barking and Dagenham, we’ve also been building bridges. Creative Barking and Dagenham (CBD) is a consortium of local organisations who work together so that local residents and communities can make decisions and bring about the creative projects they want to see happen in the borough.

Since 2015, CBD has supported local residents to produce DAGFEST – an annual festival of participatory, accessible and exciting arts activities on people’s doorsteps in Dagenham Village. Residents, artists and organisations from across the borough have joined forces to bring the event to life. International artists have also been invited to contribute which has supported global as well as local connections.

For 2020, residents leading DAGFEST invited Imagineer Productions to collaborate with them and Dagenham Bridge was born. The project was due to launch in April 2020 but by then the UK was in lockdown and it was clear we were no longer going to be able to realise what was originally envisaged. Large scale events in 2020 were not going to be possible and we knew we’d need to explore different ways of connecting with people.

The enormity of what we must reconcile ourselves with — a world with new rules, an intimate viral connection with people of all nations, a question about how to live and what to believe, trust or mistrust, barriers or bridges — the risk of betrayal, whatever this may now mean, is high.

Over the last few months, we’ve seen the pandemic disproportionately impact on communities facing severe and multiple disadvantage. Inequality and systemic racism continues and the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the precarious conditions of a large portion of the arts sector workforce.

We therefore find ourselves re-imagining Dagenham Bridge in the context of an unequal society in the midst of global pandemic. We don’t yet know what will be possible this time next month or even next year. When will people be able and ready to meet in public spaces? Will social distancing still be required in 2021? There will be new obstacles and possibly new divisions to overcome but there is also hope and an opportunity to do things differently. Locally, we’ve already been inspired by the collaborative approach of BD CAN, the young people who organised the Barking Black Lives Matter protest and the community stories being shared by Barking and Dagenham Giving.

Bridging divides and connecting across difference is not always easy but it’s more important than ever. We think it involves listening, sharing and giving up power. We know we want to dream together and collectively lay the foundations for a positive, equal and sustainable future. It’s also about asking, what does bridge building mean to you?

Over the next year CBD will be working with Imagineer Productions to explore a programme of creative bridge building in Barking and Dagenham. The CBD website will be updated as the programme evolves: https://creativebd.org.uk/bridge

If you have any questions or would like to get involved, you can email CBD via: hello@creativebarkinganddagenham.org, call us on: 020 8076 6130 or send a text/What’s App message to: 07463 992253. You can also connect with CBD via Twitter: @CreativeBandD, Facebook: creativeBandD or Instagram: creativebandd.

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Next is an illustration by Emmanuel Oreyeni. I love his use of colour and perspective on this, intermixing reality with his creative interpretation of the theme:

Connect with Emmanuel on Instagram: @oreyeni.arts  Twitter: @artsoreyeni and YouTube: Oreyeni Arts

Learn to draw sessions every Monday at 5pm on Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/516550777

For commissions, contact Emmanuel via: eoreyeni@gmail.com

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Next, we have wise words from Mum-of-two and multi-genre author Claire Buss, on how to navigate between the bridges of expectation and reality:

One of the difficult things to accept, as a parent, is the difference between expectation and reality. The expectation is that you will have a wonderfully blooming pregnancy and every facet of your perfect birth plan will be fulfilled in a zen-like state. The reality is that even drinking water gives you heartburn, you develop pelvic girdle pain and have to wear an actual girdle and walk with crutches, and when your baby stubbornly refuses to turn, you’re suddenly faced with a C-section two weeks prior to your due date. Don’t even talk to me about how easy it is to breastfeed!

Every parent has to build a bridge between what they want their child to be capable of and what they can actually do. This is particularly tricky when attending Baby and Toddler Groups and having the comparison of small people occur under your nose. Even if you actively avoid making these comparisons, when directly faced with two children side by side, it can be impossible to ignore the differences. And for me, that’s when the alarm bells began to gently jangle. My perfect little boy was not quite the same as other babies.

For a long time, I allowed the hubster and parentals to dismiss my fears as being a paranoid mother with an over-achieving complex:

“He’ll get there.” “Everyone develops at different rates.” “You can’t compare children, everyone is unique.” But that mental bridge between what I was expecting and what was happening wasn’t meeting in the middle. It was time to build a new bridge.

My son is on the spectrum. That’s what they call it now, ASD, which stands for Autistic Spectrum Disorder. He also has DCD (Developmental Coordination Disorder) which comes under the Dyspraxia umbrella and means he struggles with fine motor control. There may also be a healthy dose of ADD (Attention Deficient Disorder) but we’re  awaiting an official rubber stamp for that.

What does my bridge look like now? It’s… colourful. There are spots of sadness, I can’t help it. I’m a mum, I want the absolute best for my child. But there are also spots of awesomeness. He is a funny, kind, helpful child who is an excellent reader. He has a great memory and loves trains. Yes, there are bad days. Yes, he audibly stims regularly and at times of anxiety, continuously (stimming is a physical response by autistic people to help them feel calmer – it can be rocking, head banging, repeatedly feeling fabrics or squealing in some way).

The key thing to remember is that I am continuously building my bridge between my parental expectations and my child’s ability. As he grows and learns, so must my bridge. We cannot be made of stone; we must adapt and flow.

Connect with Claire on Twitter: @grasshopper2407 and on Instagram: @grasshopper2407

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To round things off, we have artist Danny Baxter’s musings on the theme:

Danny Baxter Write OnYou can connect with Danny through Instagram: @baxx_xf

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We’ve crossed a lot of bridges this week, from physics to parenting, artistic projects to metaphorical interpretations. I hope that wherever you are in your world, this page has inspired you to build a bridge somewhere.

Next week our theme is ‘Food for Thought’ and my page will focus on the medical impact of food (including medical conditions and how they change the impact, thought process and reaction to food). If you have something to contribute, send it to me via pentoprint@lbbd.gov.uk.

Don’t forget, Issue 5 of Write On! magazine is available to read online, just click here.

If we’re smart, resilient and empathetic, we can patch up weathered structures without natural frequency destroying what we’ve built. But, if it does, we have an unlimited supply of those same materials to get up and start building again, and multiple bridges to switch our focus to.