East Quay’s roots are in the community and so in planning for the first exhibition in our new home, we invited artist Neville Gabie to reflect on the idea of ‘More Together Than Alone’. The exhibition was not about the pandemic, but it was certainly shaped by its presence.
Neville began inviting everyone locally, to express their understanding and feelings of community by creating artworks in bottles. Taken from the coastal tradition of ships in bottles, using modest materials at hand, people embraced the challenge, whatever their age and skill. The steady flow of bottles, made by those in Watchet, became his window into the values, treasured activities, hopes and emotions of the town. Contributions depicted everything from the absurdity of the annual wheelbarrow race to the much-maligned mud in the harbour. They revealed an energy built on personal relationships and communal care for one another, grounded in a shared history and a rich sense of place. From these thoughtful as well as playful contributions, Neville was able to think about community from his personal perspective and were instrumental in shaping his own artworks for the exhibition.
St. Decuman, Babs Garner; Mother and Child, Vanessa Clegg; Essence of Watchet, Toni Davey; A message in a bottle, as imagined, destined for a Mr. Albert Ross, of Mariners Way, Watchet, Andy Davey; Case Ref, Mike Bradshaw; I Spy with my little eye, an ammonite beginning with A, Hilda Cornish; Essence of the Esplanade, Sara Summers; Many a fine tune played, Val Berry; West Somerset District Nursing, Sarah Paget; Crowning Glory, Michael Mckenna; Essence of Watchet, Cosmo Johnson; The Essence of Watchet, Frank Cammidge; Knights Templar, David Frowde
It seemed important that this first exhibition involved two other key elements – an opportunity to showcase the work of one of its own creative young people, and secondly, to establish an ambition to work with artists of significant international reputation and profile. Deanna Payne, an emerging performance poet and artist, who lives in Watchet, created a new work that balanced the everyday with the magical as a personal reflection on her community.
Artist Suzanne Lacy, an international pioneer in working with people and community, re-presented her work ‘The Circle and the Square’, a reflection on what holds us together, regardless of our backgrounds.
‘More Together Than Alone’ was an exhibition true to its title; it placed equal weight on every voice, each and every bottle, each artwork. All were a valuable part of the whole but it was in the very multiplicity and diversity of ideas, conversations and identities that showed how together, a powerful sense of belonging and shared community can be created and nurtured.
For the people of Watchet, community is not an abstract concept, but a concrete reality.
"Ours is a complicated era, and so we need every resource and example of heart and resilience we can find. And why must we learn to love each other again? Because somewhere another child is being born who will ask us things we don’t yet know, and we must have some sense of how to account for our time on Earth.
The truth is that every so often, across the expanses of time, a mountain remakes itself, a forest clears itself, and the ocean reshapes its shore. And once in a generation or two, humanity remakes itself, such as we are right now. And such a remaking is both profound and painful. But here we are, being asked to put aside our old hypocrisies and all the ways we have pushed each other away. Here we are, being asked to be fierce and tender in our call to love each other until justice and healing are the same thing. Yet how do we participate in this remaking of humanity? I think one heart at a time, one truth at a time, one kindness at a time. And we can begin by remaking ourselves. We need each other more than ever. For, once stripped of our excuses, we are more together than alone." —Mark Nepo