Diarykeepers 2012-2013

In 2012 I was commissioned by Tamar Valley A.O.N.B. (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) to devise a creative project as part of CORDIALE, a European project to explore regional identity and develop community resilience in relation to resource depletion and the changing climate. Diarykeepers is a participatory project that connects the geographically diverse community on either side of the Tamar River in Cornwall and in Devon. Diarykeepers draws inspiration from the handwritten diaries of Joseph Snell. Between 1914 and 1938, local resident Joseph Snell kept a daily handwritten diary. The entries give a fascinating, personal account of valley life including everyday incidents, marking the changing seasons, leisure, his work as a market gardener as well as touching on wider issues. Each entry is very short – one or two sentences, and many have a poetic directness and striking simplicity.

The Diarykeepers project asked "What is it like to live now?" by inviting local people of all ages to keep a short daily diary for the month of June 2012 . People took part via twitter, email or by picking up a hand-made diary from local shops, pubs and post offices. 90 diaries were returned and five schools in the area also took part. Ruth Ben-Tovim (Encounters Arts) co-devised a performance installation with me, drawing from the June 2012 diaries and Joe Snell's diaries.

For the performance we created a temporary installation in a large disused greenhouse and packing shed and local diarykeepers animated the installation with their own and others stories. Visitors were invited to tour the performance in small groups.

The next stage of Diarykeepers is to use elements from the diaries to feed into creative community events across the Valley. These events are for local people to think about the future of the Valley and their place in it and to lead towards a community-led, sustainable future parish plan. To see a short film created by Emilio Nu to document the project click here.