#LoveLowry guest curator – jenny berry talks about ‘the great escape’

The Great Escape….

Salford poet, writer, presenter and self-proclaimed blagger Jenny Berry has been responding to the pandemic with her poetic words, fire and storytelling.  

As a creative I feel like I have been put on pause, like I’m half-way up an escalator and someone has pressed the stop button. I can clearly see where I’m heading, I can even smell the Cappuccino shots from where I intend to perch myself for a day of writing. I adore capturing those quirky conversations from every-day people.

“A bacon an’ egg butty please and don’t be shy with the bacon neither”

It’s the every-day moments I miss most!

If I could capture a fragment of human banter, just one comedic phrase or exchange of small talk, I’d frame it outside The Lowry, allowing everyone access to it. Like a drive-through of human connection giving away free bags of hope.

It has been and still is the most bizarre time!

I’ve observed artists being motionless and unable to create due to the alien nature of our new way of existing. I mean come on, it is a little weird performing to a row of virtual heads and even sometimes just ‘I phone’.

The pandemic has been far from a walk in the park (so many jokes here).

However, I also feel blessed.

I have witnessed some distinctive moments where people have discovered the magic of art. Like a baby discovering their nostril for the first time they couldn’t believe it was there all along.

Art throughout this period has become the oxygen for survival carrying a narrative of its own within each community.  We all deserve art and the opportunity to express ourselves freely.

Personally, I have never been so busy inside the theatre of Zoom. Alright, it’s hardly a theatre but it’s connectivity, communication and a channel for art to continue. I’ve been very fortunate having a great run of commissions over lockdown performing my own poetry, speaking at events and running workshops.

The Lowry themselves responded to pandemic beautifully by quickly offering a range of creative and wellbeing workshops to the public. Not only did I dance along with my toddler as a participant (cool mum dance, promise!) I was commissioned to run poetry and spoken word sessions which were awesome to host. The mixed bag of people and personalities who signed up to tell their stories were exceptional. I witnessed first-hand people coming together to escape this oddness. Who said scientists wouldn’t rap about going through the change? Well, one did in my group and it was genius.

‘The Great Escape’ by Jenny Berry

I’ve also being working alongside pockets of society who don’t always have a voice including ex-prisoners and mental health groups like ICM (Inspiring Change Manchester). Another local commission was through Triple C (a key gateway organisation for disabled people’s access to the arts and media). The work we developed here was showcased as a webinar with a pint of poetry in your front room! Barriers came down and authenticity came out. The artists and team were wonderful to collaborate with.

I was honoured to open and close Suicide Bereavement UK’s annual worldwide conference this year using poetry to connect with the audience. Carrying a message on behalf of SBUK to the audience offering hope and togetherness to overcome stigma around suicide. Their work is ground-breaking!

One of my most recent commissions is with Homeless House charity to deliver my poetry workshops to the streets. Together we will be platforming their voices and publishing their story’s. All aspects of society deserve to be listened to wherever they live.

I truly believe the magic of art is its influence to do much more than just evoke emotion. Art can help give insight into the human condition, sometimes feelings and experiences don’t have a literal explanation that language can reach. Art is the bridge to help us explain the unexplainable.

If this time has taught me anything, it’s no matter who you are, we’re all human. We need to connect and express ourselves in order to process the world around us.

And for those still snubbing art – have you never read a book on a beach or listened to the radio in the car? For me it’s words, for you it could be dance, we all carry emotions and need art in our lives for escapism from our own reality at times.

After all the great L.S Lowry himself said: “You don’t need brains to be a painter you just need emotion”.

I truly believe that the best art is being conceived right now and for one am looking forward to receiving it and delivering it live again.