POETRY MEETS MYRIORAMA

Back in late July/ early August my neighbour, Phil and I hatched an idea for an art collaboration for the upcoming Darlington Arts Festival. To avoid confusion (my own) that’s the Darlington in County Durham, UK, not the one near Perth, Australia! The idea was to create a modern myriorama of Darlington landmarks and combine them with poetry

The Poems

Phil’s short poetic observations about the people, places and history of Darlington take their inspiration from Japanese verse forms. People may have heard of the haiku, but there are many others – such as the senryu, the tanga, and the haiga.

Each have their own rules of composition.

However, more important than the rules, is the brief – serious or humorous – moment of insight that these poems aim to bring.

The Myriorama

A myriorama is a set of illustrations drawn in such a way that, in whatever sequence they are laid, they still create a coherent picture.

Very much in vogue in the 18th and 19th century, they were often described as ‘endless landscapes’ allowing a person to create a variety of imaginary landscapes. The parlour game developed to allow a story to be developed as each new card was added to those already laid down.

This contemporary version of a Darlington myriorama has been created by me. The drawing and application of colour is typical of my architectural illustrative style. However, it was interesting to note that the pieces became more economical as I progressed. I don’t think that was due to time constraints but more to do with a rhythm and process which developed in the very short time frame I had to complete the work.

For the myriorama to work, each piece should be able to sit next to any other in the set. This proved the biggest challenge. I worked out that I needed to pick two or three horizontal lines which would be consistent through all of the pieces. Because a greater number of the pieces are buildings I worked out I could create two kerb lines at the foot of each drawing and another 210mm up from the foot for an eaves line or similar. In the landscapes that line was usually a tree line. I did all the drawing before adding colour. I copied each drawing and laid them out randomly to check they worked with each other.

I was pleased that most of the drawings worked but it also highlighted some of the drawings needed additional detail at their edges to create continuity. Once that was complete, I then added the colour. Once the colour was finished I scanned all of the pieces to produce the banners for the public display as part of the arts festival and to set out art cards to sell as packs. Again, I tested how the coloured pieces worked as a myrioroma.

Job done and sent to the printers. Phil put the banners up on High Row while I was on holiday in Scotland. Well played him as he had to repair the installation every day following vandalism by those I won’t give a name to! The installation looked great and drew a good level of attention and comment from the general public.

I have to say the whole art festival itself could have and should have been better organised. More artist from the town and the county should have been encouraged to participate. Hopefully, that will be addressed next year.

What follows is each of the fifteen pieces and their companion poem. The whole set is available as a set of art cards for £12 plus p&p, with £2 going to a local charity.

The Central Library

The ghost of W. T. Stead’s dog
Regularly cocks a leg
Over the stone outside the library
That memorialises his master.
Does it care that Stead
Was a most eminent Victorian,
Regarded as the inventor of modern journalism;
Editor of The Northern Echo Aged only twenty-two;
Lifetime campaigner against vice
And the exploitation of the poor,
Whose combative spirit deserved
– and appropriately got –
A most newsworthy end
By being drowned on The Titanic.

No  –  but then
No man is a hero to his dog.
It just misses
The hand that fed him.

Bakehouse Hill

Under Bakehouse Hill,
They say, ancient ovens still
Bake their ghostly bread.

Backhouse Bank

A Backhouse Bank note:
Sounder once than even
Bank of England issue.

Guru

Through Guru’s shop door:
A miniature Grand Bazaar
Of exotic stuff.

Sloan’s Billiard Room

Sloan’s Billiard Room:
Like the statue of Ozymandias,
His stone-carved name above the door
Points up how men,
Exalted in their time,
Can quickly be forgotten.
Who was this Emperor of Billiards?

The Russian Cannon

Put your ear
To the barrel
Of the Russian Cannon
In South Park.
You may hear
The faint echo
Of cavalry horses
Galloping.
The Charge of
The Light Brigade –
Somehow vibrating still
Its metal

The Brick Train

Who is it travels
On a train made out of bricks?
And where do they go?

The self-same people,
I suppose, as sail the seas
In a concrete ship.

Or take to the air
Sure the four winds can bear their
Lead balloon aloft.

Joseph Pease Statue

High Row: Joseph Pease,
Whose grand statue now provides
A perch for the pigeons

The Hippodrome

Senor Pepi’s ghost,
A constantly-changing blur,
Haunts The Hippodrome.
Even now, beyond the grave,
The Great Protean.

The Old Town Hall

Alfred Waterhouse –
For him, Darlington Town Hall
Was just a practise;
An apprentice-piece, almost.
Getting his eye in,
Before turning to design
The great iconic vastness
Of The Natural History Museum.

Station Clock Tower

Darlington – Locomotion Town.
From here
The iron rails were laid
That travelled out to make
Ten thousand circles
Round the Earth.

Tees Cottage Pumping Station

Darlington steampunk:
The vast beam-engine fly-wheel,
And the boilers that
Make its fifteen tons spin round,
At Tees Cottage Pumping Station.

The Northern Echo Building

The echo of
The Northern Echo
Still resounds.
Ringing and reverberating yet….

Over
One hundred and fifty years of
Echoes.

Hole in the Wall

If Narnia was entered
Through the back of a wardrobe,
And a looking glass
Could be the doorway into Wonderland,
Then what place of mystery,
Adventure, and delight
Lays beyond
The Hole In The Wall?

The Town Clock

The Victorian Civic Gentleman,
Who had done well out of trade,
Would often have this thought
Near his life’s end: Since this pile of cash I’ve made, alas,
Cannot be taken with me,
What kind of charitable gift
Might I extend?

Well, the one thing that this town needs
Is a clock
A ruddy big one –
Stuck on fancy tower that all can see.
And somewhere at its base, perhaps,
A plaque could be erected
That bears, in fancy script,
The name of…me.

I’ll go and see
The Mayor and say
I’ll pay for its erection,
He’ll ask, ‘Where should it go?’
I’ve thought it through:
To be seen to best advantage
And to dignify the town,
The middle of the High Street
Ought to do

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