Gordon Watson Trustee

By Gordon Watson, Trustee

Our winter plans and preparations for Spring were never intended to be for lockdown, at least until we saw what was happening in Northern Italy in February. They have, though, helped us through this challenging time, especially as our garden has become our ‘creative space’ as well as our contemplative, relaxing and exercise space.

I am acutely aware of the privileged position we are in with open space (and even more so a regular income). Lockdown is so much harder for the millions affected by loss of income and opportunities and suffering from loneliness and ongoing health conditions.

I look back at the February and March openings of Bill Brandt/Henry Moore at The Hepworth Wakefield and Joana Vasconcelos Beyond at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to enjoy the memories of seeing the shows and with the strange realisation that the works are still in situ, but now unseen by visitors. That position is replicated throughout the UK and through much of the world, with no clarity about when galleries and museums will be able to re-open their doors. The challenges to survive, maintain morale and look to the post-lockdown future must be enormous. (Hopefully, there will still be time to revisit these two shows as Brandt/Moore is extended to November and Vasconcelos continues to January.)

I am sure the arts will have a massive role when we get to the ‘new normal’ in bringing communities together, inspiring us and rebuilding our confidence. A year ago, we were a month away from the opening of the Yorkshire Sculpture International, which included Conversations in Sculpture of RSS Members’ work at Huddersfield Art Gallery, and I look forward to wonderful events such as this in future years.

Life has slowed during lockdown and staying at home creates time for me to observe and read and for projects that otherwise would remain undone. What does that mean? I stop and record our garden and how things appear and flourish, not just looking when they are fully in flower. Recently, that’s been the blossom on the fruit trees, the changing shades of the Acer leaves and the form and colours of our Azaleas, which have put on a particularly good display this year.

I enjoy reading as a way of connecting with other worlds. The two novels that I’ve just finished, though in very different ways, are about close new relationships and arrival/travelling/living in a new country, all things virtually ruled out currently. Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive and Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times were not deliberate lockdown choices, but both took me far from home and our current world.

Partly inspired by the BBC’s Repair Shop, one of my projects is to restore a Black Forest cuckoo clock that my father bought in Germany. When it’s back working it will be a reminder of his epic drives across Europe in 1937 and 1938 as well the current lockdown.

GW 15 May 2020