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The Brighton Table Dinner – thoughts from Claire MacDonald

It’s a week and more since our second Table dinner, and my mind is still buzzing with snippets of talk and the possibilities that emerged. Our second evening focused on exchange across generations, and the kinds of things that came up hinged between past, present and future, local and large, formal and informal, how to do it, how we did it, how we might do it next.

I came away from this Table with several things in my mind: for some time I have toyed with the idea of hospitable space, offered between woman artists. I’ve been thinking of it maybe as including four bare walls – an exchange of space in which to make work – or a writing space, a studio, or even access to a personal library. It might include hospitality (I benefited from studio and writing rooms offered by several people during my PhD, and it helped me through a long and at times lonely writing period). This idea came up very naturally at the Brighton Table, and feels as if it is something many women are thinking about and prepared to make an offer to, part of a way of thinking about ‘surplus’ what we have to offer straight up, easy to do, different from what else is out there. Some of us have libraries of video material, archives of work, small caches of specialist books in spaces that we would also be happy to host other writers and makers in – thinking about that kind of exchange feels like a route to go down.

The idea of surplus is a deep one. At this Table it got shaped simply and freely, and included walking, talking, the companionship of ideas – but it was also something more. What was growing was an ethics of hospitality, I think. The idea of a currency of surplus, freely given, offered hospitably, was very present and it feels like something that grows very naturally from a hosted table which in itself offers sustenance in the form of an exchange of ideas without pressure, and in the context of the pleasure of eating and drinking together – and again we had wonderful food from brilliant cooks and caterers who made the work of Table talk, very smooth indeed.

Small networks, the value of one to one exchange, this too felt present, as did the serious discussion of the shape a creative life might take in the light of the more narrow and controlled ideal of the career in the creative industries that is prevalent today. More controlled, that is, than the wayward paths into the arts that many of us had taken in the past. Supporting younger artists (who are also often creative producers and curators), simply through example and through talking about what to do next in an informally structured environment, also felt important.

Charlotte is suggesting some interesting holding and communication structures for the future – groups and message boards, random notes and thoughts posted to the site, ideas and feedback that build the conversation at and around each event.

Looking forward.


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