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Working for Resilience

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It's no coincidence that many good ideas are born in coffee shops: The conditions are perfect. Spaces for eating are also spaces for meeting, hosting, nourishing and connecting. We chat, share, laugh and relax. Bodies, brains and relationships are fuelled. Basic etiquette is understood: internationally recognised and inclusive. Genuine hospitality sets a tone of openness and generosity. A healthy generosity economy is the relentless producer of resilient creative communities and ideas that transform our world. With some thought and care, the dinner table can become a place to discuss, share, debate and imagine potential changes to the status quo and the ways and means to take collective steps to realise it. If a bowl of soup adds fuel to that fire, why wouldn't we make time to eat together?

Lydia Catterall.

In December 2017 the coffee shop as a familiar site of conversation was swapped for the artist’s studio. NewBridge Project the former headquarters of the North Eastern Electricity Supply Company in Newcastle, housed the first of an open-ended series of communal meals facilitated by Lydia Catterall. The meals explored the different elements of maintaining creative practice, from personal networks to social support structures. Echoing the sustenance that comes from being together in a shared space via a nourishing meal, Lydia lead the group in eating, chatting and developing ideas about resilience, art and life, responding to a menu of activities.  

Hosted amongst fan heaters positioned to take the edge off the midwinter air in the co-working space, the following statement framed the debut dinner:

Partnerships Director | Project Manager | Strategy Developer | Head of Marketing | Administration Officer | Website Builder | Product Designer | Quality Assurer | Copywriter | Risk Manager | Morale Officer  | Cook | Cleaner | Chief Bottle-Washer | Friend | Partner  | Family Member.

We love what we do, otherwise we wouldn’t do it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not bloody hard to keep it up. Our bodies, brains and bank accounts can all feel the hit, so how do we even make time to think about looking after ourselves?

Lydia Catterall

The NewBridge Project exists to create space for the development, production and presentation of contemporary art practice. There is a strong focus on artist development and, alongside talks, workshops and studio visits there is also an inclination to view the art and life of creative practitioners as parts of the same whole, addressing the often ‘behind the scenes’ effort that goes into the notoriously unpredictable occupations we, as creative practitioners, have chosen.  

NewBridge’s programming, such as this year’s Deep Adaptation, has a tendency to look at serious, bigger than self issues (such as climate change) with a playfulness that can break down the all-encompassing dread that might cause one to freeze in the face of such topics. Continuing this approach through artist development, Catterall’s project Working for Resilience brought to the fore the often confusing, precarious lives of artists and attempted to do something about it through self care, pampering and community support. It aimed to expose the workings: the idea that it’s OK to relax the facade of being in total control, something that is especially powerful when we all do so at once.

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For the debut dinner, Lydia introduced a dinner of homemade lentil dahl soup (made using ideas of Ayurvedic medicine), bread from a local, independent bakery, homemade hummus and guacamole. Starting the evening with breaking bread, mirrored breaking the ice. The diners shared what and who is important to their practices. A huge roll of paper - notionally a table runner, but more accurately a diagram – was utlised as a means to map, in felt tip, the unfolding networks, connections, and wells of resilience shared throughout the night. As a newcomer to Newcastle, I enjoyed feeling the familiarity of shared support structures, mutual struggles and finding solidarity with strangers.

We will share food and stories, (inevitably) grumble about the tough stuff and celebrate how amazing we are for even trying. We’ll spend time uncovering the networks at our fingertips, get practical with our priorities, hear how others manage to strike that elusive ‘balance’ and take relaxation into our own hands with the help of essential oils, all in the name of feeling more confident, connected and calm. Let’s get fierce about self care and prepare ourselves for the long game.

Lydia Catterall

Network A

The dinner was the first in a series seeks to provide structures of support, resilience and shared creativity for all those in attendance. Alongside the programme at The Newbridge Project, Lydia Catterall is developing the dinners in other cities with meals recently undertaken at the Royal Standard in Liverpool.

Dan Russell

Dan Russell is the Artist Development Coordinator at the NewBridge Project.

Dan's art/life practice consists of doing interesting things with people. He doesn’t have a specific medium but has worked on projects that span art, architecture, graphic design, self-publishing, writing, illustration, music, education and artist development. His favoured approach to working is in an open, process-led and longer-term way. His favourite topics are bringing people together and dealing with the future.

Lydia Catterall is a freelance artist, collaborator, writer, listener, researcher and connector based in Leeds, UK. She seeks to create spaces in which creative people have opportunity to physically and culturally shape the places in which we live.