Wigan artist reveals plans for new show, and is drumming up support with a marathon morris dance!

A Wigan artist is one half of the creative team behind a new show looking at fools which is being promoted with a marathon morris dance.

Tuesday, 23rd April 2019, 2:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd April 2019, 4:49 pm
Artists Faye Spencer and Anna FC Smith

Anna FC Smith has teamed up with Preston artist Faye Spencer to put on their exploration of jesters, fools and other such figures at Cross Street Arts in Standish next month.

However, before the exhibition is revealed, Faye is drumming up support by dancing in a rather unusual way along the 17-and-a-half miles to the gallery in the borough from her hometown.

Faye has been inspired by Will Kempe from Shakespeare’s theatre company, who famously morris danced all the way from London to Norwich in an event called the Nine Days Wonder.

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Anna met Faye when she applied to take part in her town centre procession last year celebrating Wigan’s Boxing Day tradition and they quickly discovered they had a lot of similar artistic interests.

Anna said: “We were both interested in things that were a bit ridiculous and full of laughter. To me that’s a really important part of human experience.

“It’s something that’s often forgotten about in the art world, where things are often more about serious, life and death issues.

“The irreverence of the lives people lead is a really beautiful thing about being a person, and Faye thought so, too.”

The idea of not taking things too seriously, which Anna said could be a useful lesson for a society full of political volatility, division and anger over issues such as Brexit, certainly extends to the way Faye is promoting hers and Anna’s exhibition.

She started on Easter Sunday and is making the journey to the Standish gallery on foot, wearing an elaborate Tudor-style costume and dancing along the side of the road.

She arrives on May 3, nine days after setting off, but calling it a Dumbfounder indicates her effort is deliberately less impressive than that of her predecessor, a clown from the time of the Bard.

Faye said: “This performance is a tribute to Will Kempe’s feat, but it’s important to me that I do it in the least feat-like and most unwonderful way possible.

“The distance between Preston and Wigan (more accurately Standish) is relatively short, and split over nine days it is much shorter, averaging about 1.5 to two miles a day – less than my morning walk to work.

“It is the opposite of an endurance or marathon, each leg of the journey being so short that it hardly seems worth the bother. This felt appropriately fool-like to me.”

The exhibition, which is called Reason Is An Impasse, Reason Is Damnation, involved Anna and Faye delving deep into the history of the Fool, a character who combines slapstick humour and telling jokes with being able to criticise powerful figures, often in coded or symbolic ways.

Their research threw up some intriguing local stories, including finding a picture of jester Tom Skelton hanging on the wall of Muncaster Castle.

It is possible that the portrait was painted at Haigh Hall between 1659 and 1665 as the jester visited with his master Lord Pennington.

Anna and Faye also visited the brilliantly-named Unconvention of The Illustrious Order of Fools and Beasts, where members of morris sides from across the country meet each year.

Anna’s work in the exhibition, which is coming to Wigan having already been shown in Preston, includes art pieces incorporating pigs’ bladders as fools typically had these on sticks and a large arch covered in depictions of fools throughout history.

The duo are also running a workshop at The Old Courts as part of the exhibition, which has its grand opening on May 3 at 7pm and then runs from May 4 until June 1.