Art With a Warm Heart

A good friend Sue’s sixtieth birthday in March 2022 brought me together with her and our friend Judi, along with watercolours and paper. It was a cold afternoon and we set a fire to keep us warm as we reminisced about old days and events over the years that had passed since meeting in 1982. Sometimes you might not really feel in the mood to make art, but there’s a small opportunity, and without intention you create something that captures a moment. We dabbled with the paints as we spoke, and shared what emerged as small artefacts of that weekend gathering. I held on to a quick rendering of the flames in Sue’s cast iron fireplace. Over the time that’s elapsed since, it’s helped me hold on to the warmth generated by being together in the midst of this connection and mutual care.

Having framed this small piece of art and kept it close to my own fire at home, it is what came to mind as precarity and hardship caused by (un)affordability of both food and energy rocketed in the winter of 2022. We can all feel powerless in the context of a trickle-down of systemic neglect, or hostile attack of one sort or another. It’s easy to feel there’s nothing we can do if we’re struggling to survive ourselves. And sometimes the only way to make real change in ensuring the basics are available to all is to take a look at the big picture and act collectively. This Red Pepper article on Britain’s Broken Food System is a good read if you want to think about food (and fuel) precarity and ways to work towards food solidarity.

But in the meantime, contributing to efforts to offset food poverty in our local neighbourhoods is another way to do a little with what we can provide. I had forty giclee prints made of my small fireplace painting, at a kindly reduced printing rate at Framing Manchester. After Portraitgate, Vicky and I had some frames left over in the studio too.

In a small and organic way I let family and friends know about the prints and how they could have one if they wanted and would consider making a donation to their local food bank or the Trussell Trust. I wasn’t sure what would happen, but just over a year on, about twenty-five copies have made it out to new homes across the UK. I believe that over £500 has been raised so far, through donations to a number of projects supporting people who need some help towards heating and eating.

But perhaps more importantly, these small offerings of wood pulp and pigment might serve as talking points to help keep conversations and connections going about how we, as a society, take care of each other through whatever means we can. As the Manchester International Festival’s Economics The Blockbuster: It’s Not Business As Usual exhibition reminded us, art has a place in disrupting economic conventions, asking “how might artists inspire us to practice our economic life more equitably, radically and sustainably?”.

On the first Saturday of December, as the temperatures dropped sharply, my local Manchester South Central Food Bank raffled a framed copy of the print at the Carlton Club‘s last Rummage in the Range of 2023. Contact me if you’re interested in one of the remaining copies.

Janet fundraising for Manchester South Central Foodbank at a very chilly Rummage in the Range at the Carlton Club, Whalley Range, in December 2023