Hand-Held Destinies

Me

Wednesday evening saw the opening of; John Moores Painting Prize, the Rise of the Sixties in Liverpool, at the Exhibition Research Lab of John Moores University. The fresh white interior of the John Lennon Art and Design Building provided the exhibition venue, brought to life by an evening of the performance. Stimulating music, spoken word and monologues were accompanied by illuminating visual arts responses.

Hand Held Destinies is a spoken word piece written and performed by Alison Little on the evening. Created as a response to a photo exhibit from 1968 of two girls playing in the sea shores of New Brighton:

 

Hand Held Destinies

Girls hold hands in friendship.
Gleeful
Elegant in play

Eight years old
Born in 1960
The decade which changed Liverpool, Britain and the World

1960 saw the introduction of the pill
We had effective contraception
Birth Control
The Sexual Revolution
Smaller Families
We got richer

As they play in the swath they are attractive in their childhood. Swimsuits made for play, hair it’s natural colour, tresses they are not afraid to get wet. Sand grit, Sea and the salt of the shores adorn their sun-soaked bodies.

Today we have the modern day falsehood of youth. Primark churning out padded bras for pre-teens. Claire’s accessories piercing collections of hoops and studs to the lobes of innocence. Youthful visions of success; to appear on celebrity love island, becoming a WAG or to acquire a cosmetically enhanced bosom larger than Jordan’s.

An era when British beach holidays ruled the waves. Stripped deckchairs, the bucket and spade, splendour of Punch and Judy. Taken over by the package holiday: routes to the warmer destinations of Southern Europe. Made redundant for a second time by the cheap flights of the digital buyers market.

Background, we have sea vessels and the Albert Dock, it’s function then for shipping. Today, as the girls head to retirement we have shipping in its last days of decline. We have a dock surplus of its intended purpose.

Sea Faring industrialism replaced
A cultural haven
The Waterfront
The Tate
Museum of Liverpool
The Maritime
A new Future
A future of tourists
Culture Vultures
City Breakers
A cheap flight destination
The ‘Must take in’ city of Liverpool
A city revived
An end of mass unemployment
The striking city no more
The legacy of the Capital of Culture Year

Their playscape is now a Metropolis challenging globally.
But to the padded bras, the stud lined ears and fixations with celebrity culture we have the bucket.

A return to the beauty of innocence bathing in the optimism of the future.

Alison Little

 

Exhibition continues throughout April.

More about Research Exhibition Lab

Main photograph credited the Graham Smillie.

More about Graham Smillie photography

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The Police and Consent

consentEarlier in the week we were presented with an array of news articles over children to be taught about the nature of consent in school. This extract from the novel Casual Nexus tackles issues around consensual and the Police. All evens and characters are fictional and not based on real life.

The Chief Constable in charge sits looking at the paperwork in front of him, Sal’s files with all the open cases, none of which had come to any sort of sensible conclusion. She was causing him nothing but trouble, as she had always been, at home and whenever she went abroad. From her late teenage years they would have girls of their own in place, recruited as babes, lookers that would normally take the centre stage, then Sal would simply turn up with messy hair and not as well groomed and knock them out the way. The Police funded regular hair styling and top high street brands like Oasis and French Connection didn’t seem to work against Sal. To have any chance of getting there own way they had to send the best looking girl they had, the coolest kid and a real joker. Even then it rarely work, Sal had this way of effortlessly outdoing the majority of females they employed. It had been easier when she was still at school, it looked like the fear of her Brother Jacks activities had stunted her confidence and made her easier to control, one of the standard blond types would normally have done back then.

Out of coincidence, across the Force they had tried to take the attention away from Sal by sending classier, wealthier girls many of which had turned out to be the daughters of Senior Police Officers. He knew in his head what had happened, Sal had taken centre stage again and he now had a long list of Senior Officers trying to insist that Sal was jealous of their offspring. There were also several cases being investigated as Police co-ruption, Devi and Fat Fiasol fathers both serving on a Senior level. Then on the other end of the phone, he had the FBI and varies rape investigation units wanting updates and progress reports. The only way he could escape this ongoing pressure seemed to be to prove Sal to be some kind of obsessive fantasist, a stalker of Men and a telepathic liar. Then he could put all these open cases to bed, the constant ringing of the phone would stop, his staff could be proved to be effective again, internal investigations and the FBI could go back under the stone they crawled from underneath.

His mind began to work through the list of undercover Officers he could send, there were numerous who would claim a girl was in love with them when they weren’t really interested. This case might be different though, Sal and the crimes she had been subjected to were very well known across the Station and they might think twice about messing up a high priority FBI rape case. He would need a complete ‘Arsehole’ he thought to himself, slowly but surely C-I-S-S drips into his brain. Perfect, he had made several checks on his conduct himself previously, a proven track record of constantly writing reports about how desperate women were for his affections when in reality many showed little regard for him. There was one case he had checked personally when Ciss had claimed a girl had been constantly texting him when her phone had actually been in Police hands. Her lodgings had been burgled and they had recovered the property the next evening, the following morning Ciss had filed a report about receiving more text messages from the girl from all over the weekend. He had debated reporting Ciss to internal investigations himself but decided to move him away from investigating single women indefinitely until he could become of use, and of use, he had become.

Sal was sorting things from boxes in her new flat, it had been time to get out of her parent’s place again. Jack and her Dad worked together and he had been coming around for lunch. Her Mother would start making plans for Him, Dee and the children to coming over, Sal getting dragged into their plans often without even being consulted on her intentions. Although the flat, well more of a flat come bedsit, was small she had her own space again, a door where she could lock out the outside World, Jack and his wife Dee, in particular, giving her the mental space she needed to think independently. She was arranging her art materials into her desk drawers, there was limited space but room to be creative at the same time. She decided to start on some exhibition pieces for a small arts centre in Dartford who were asking for submissions. This evening she had a party to go to, last week she had been in the pub adjacent to the block on the instigation of her new neighbour and one of the regulars had invited them both to his moving in do this evening. She was looking forward to it as the new crowd looked fun and besides which nibbles, beer and dancing were hard to avoid on her part.

The Chief Constable makes some calls and directs Ciss to be sent to his Office as soon as he is available. On his arrival, he briefs Ciss on the identity of Sal and where he was to engage in her company this forthcoming evening. Bating him readily; he explains there had been numerous examples of Sal being over possessive in the past, excessive text messaging and clear signs of an obsessive personality. Ciss is enthused, it had been ages since he had been sent to investigate any single women. A prime opportunity to prove women find him irresistible, one with massive scope and he had heard about this girl she was a top looker as well. The Chief Constable explains that they have an Officer next door to her, he would get her to the party, his way in was with another one of the pub regulars, he was to inform people that he was his brother.

Ciss began getting ready late in the afternoon, bathing then washing his hair with shampoo then an extra dollop of conditioner. He dries himself thoroughly and dresses in the bathroom, looking in the mirror. His hair is a dirty blond managing to be an awkward combination of greasy at the routes, dry and frizzed out towards the ends. Although not anaemic his skin was pasty in appearance around the arched areas of his nose and cheeks, then flaky towards his jawline. Over his pigeon-like chest and narrow shoulders, he slips on as well YSL shirt, overarching his shoulders and outstretching his arms to form a T junction. Ducking his head down he fastens to his purchased as ‘Tight fit’ jeans which were, in fact, loose on him. He shakes his legs and a foot at a time then opens the bathroom cabinet. Rummaging around his collection of bottles he finds Hugo Boss aftershave. Slapping plenty on he drops his hands against the sink, puffing up his chest he looks directly in the mirror and thinks how irresistible he is as he looks himself up and down.

Sal’s neighbour taps on her door mid-evening to see if she was coming to the party. She grabs her coat, then they pop in the Pub first, but stay only for one drink as most of the regulars were already down the road. They made their way to a small terrace several streets away, Sal was in a good mood, she didn’t have much in common with her neighbour but they were finding things to talk about. The party was packed when they arrived, the entire pub seemed to have re-convened in this once Victorian dwelling. Drinks in hand they began to mingle, Sal talking to all the people she had met last week first, then some new girls which everyone else seemed to know. One of the men who had taken a shine to Sal last week passed her a glass of whiskey. Throughout the evening every time she seemed to finish the glass he glided over to top it up instantaneously.

Following his appointed counterpart, Ciss arrives at the party. Although he knows very few people there and only briefly he puts on his unsure air of overconfidence; arching his shoulders, raising his arms to each side and cusping his hands. He begins to work his way through the room, talking to everyone he had met previously as if they were lifelong companions of great standing. As Sal was getting her tumbler of malt topped up again the Officer spots his prey. She hadn’t really dressed up for the party but looked great in her fitted denim jeans, simple top and a delicately knitted cardigan. Her hair was messy as usual but it swept nicely to one side to reveal her slightly drunken smile. Excellent, Ciss thinks to himself, looking great and on her way to being wasted, just the way he likes them. He decides to linger, leave her to get some more drinks down her before he makes an approach.

At around eleven o’clock Ciss takes his chance, the bottomless servings combined with larger and a couple of glasses of wine got to Sal. She began to stagger slightly moving towards the fireplace, Ciss grabs her by the hips to steady her motion. After carefully manoeuvring her through the departing party goers they arrive at the front door. The tempter who had been pouring Sal the whiskeys could only stand their and watch, he had been hoping to get closer to Sal later that evening. Ciss negotiates Sal through the main exit, people moving due to his outstretched arms. As they head towards Sal’s flat she tries not to fall against any lamp posts as she staggers home thinking of bed.

Ciss uses Sal’s keys to open the door to the bedsit then slides her towards her bed. As she begins to fall into sleep mode he pulls off her top, out of for sight he moves quickly. His jeans and shirt come off almost in one instantaneous action, then he removes her trousers followed by her underwear. During Sal semi-slumber he begins to penetrate her, in his mind imagining she is enjoying this thrusting, her mind not fully aware of what was going on.

Remember your Thong Collection

thong

Who was in their late teens, earlier twenties at the turn of the Millennium?

Remember your thong collection!

The underwear which stamped our generation of alpha females. We lead the way for third wave feminism with our underwear which really did show off our bums.

The first wave of feminism lead by Emmeline Pankhurst got us the vote, The sixties offered us effective contraception through the much love ‘Pill’. Abortion rights were introduced and free love became the spirit of the decade.

The seventies were characterised by second-wave feminism, with this came divorce and couples which no longer wanted to be together separated. Women were now able to gain their freedom back from unhappy marriages and able to move on and find new partners.

HIV and Aids topped the headlines throughout the eighties, we became more aware and safe sex was the name of the game.

What came next: the nighties and the turn of the Millennium which brought in third wave feminism and the rise of raunch culture. We were the ladettes, the females which knew how to make decisions about what they wanted. We didn’t want marriage, we didn’t want engagement, we didn’t want serious relationships. We were the generation of young women who turned around and said:

‘We want casual Sex!’

We were the girls how wanted to go on top in the bedroom and we lead with our thongs.

It was a consumer trend gone mad. They were all that were on sale in the younger fashion shops: Top shop, Miss Selfridge and River Island. The supermarkets got in on the act and George at Asda were doing 3 for a £5. Even the Great traditional British institution: Marks and Spenser had them on sale. Share houses, rented flats and clothes dryers across the country paraded collections of triangular, string combination thongs.

But do you remember how uncomfortable they were?

When they used to rise up and function like a cheese wire trying to cut through the central valley or your bottom. Rising up higher than the waistband of your low slung jeans and make an appearance to those all around you. The tin string marks you used to get from the lack of support offered by the flimsy creations.

So we lead with our bum checks on display, but now we’ve all settled down we get to wear much more comfortable underwear, briefs and little shorts now adorning our lower regions.

We are comfortable!

Park Benched

 

rainbow

Park Benched is a fictional works by Alison Little.

Explicit content warning.

I stand solid and well positioned overlooking the lake in Stanley Park. A traditional park bench is my primary role. High-quality seating provision for the park dwellers of the North Liverpool district of the famed Anfield. To my front, I have the Kop and the Liverpool Football Club stadium, to my rear I have the home of Everton Football Club: Goodison Park. I am the great divider, a barrier and a leading resting point solution and clearly not a rotting park bench in need of a lick of paint.

Approached by a young man, he sits down looking a little too eager. He has been here several times over the summer months. Not from Liverpool, he wears baggy jeans combined with a smarter cotton shirt, his neck is engulfed by a mass of multicolour plastic jewellery. Hair dyed a bright range of colours from pink to blue, and a hoody is tied around his waist. His look is finished off by a token tribute to his sexuality, a rainbow lapel badge pinned to the pocket of his shirt.

He must be a student off Uni for the summer months I think to myself. Viewing the soft features of his cheekbones I ponder over the look of anticipation on his face. Here come another man, much older, he has been visiting my bench for countless years, a regular of many moons. Dressed in a variety of faded shades of black he brandishes a wiry greying beard, although summer he wears a dark jacket, dusty and unkempt in appearance. His eye twitches as it always does from under the well-worn wool hat which tops of his thinning figure.

They begin to talk quietly to one another, after around five minutes they leave my seating solution and skulk off towards the bushes towards the left-hand gate, a quieter space within the park.

After around a quarter of an hour, they return and take a seat together. As of earlier, they talk quietly for a while. I look at the student, the innocence and naivety glowing from his flushed face. Here it comes, I’ve seen this many times before, the finishing gesture. The older man squeezes his knee, clenching his hands gently a few times, then subtly he slots a rolled ten-pound note into the shirt pocket beside the rainbow lapel badge. Rubbing his shoulder goodbye he makes his way off, his dark trousers trailing the ground slightly as he sludges away.

The vulnerability of the student, the lack of understanding apparent on his face. Not fully comprehending what had just happened, unsure of why he had been given money. As he decides to leave I hope never to see him again, taking a seat, recognising there are better ways of living.

Alison Little

 

Will you be my Bride, McBride

bride

‘Will you be my Bride, McBride’ is an extract from the latest chapter being written from the novel ‘Casual Nexus’ from Alison Little:

Will you be my bride, McBride

Jack was around his best friends house, Huxley McBride, they have finished school for the day. It was early September and they had just started in the upper school. Although neither of them showed any real interest in academic work or any of the subjects they had selected to take, they preferred things as the teachers were more relaxed and there were no more detentions. They were playing Atari against each other, although Jack was more skilful, Huxley always beat him as he owned the games console and had more time to practise. Jack only had a cheap version which his Dad had picked up at a car boot sale which only let you play simple games like tennis and golf. He had tried asking for one for his Birthday but Mum had said that it was ‘Too expensive’. He’d always got bigger Birthday presents before Callum and Sal had come along. When he had talked over this with Mum and claimed it was unfair she had explained that money for presents had to be split around all of the ‘Kids’ in the family so there wasn’t as much to spend on him individually. He had a solution for Christmas, he’d get Callum to agree to a joint Christmas present then he would lay off any fight games until after the New Year when he had his Atari in place. He usually got Callum to go along with what he wanted. He’d tried Sal many times to get her to go for what he wanted but she always said ‘No’ and went along with what she wanted. She was such a selfish little girl and he wished she had never come along. He swore she always got more clothes brought for her than he did, when he asked Dad about it he claimed that it was because she was a girl and couldn’t really wear the boy’s clothes that had been handed down.

Huxley always had everything, all the latest consoles, new release videos and designer brand trainers. Their house was the largest on the Private Road next to the Council Estate where Jack lived. Had Dad was a drummer in a top band which had made it big in the seventies, they were still selling out gigs now over a decade later. They could afford everything, the latest models of whatever came out, they even had a dishwasher. Jack had actually used it a few times, just for fun to see how it worked. The one thing that Huxley didn’t have which Jack had was a Mother. She had left the family never to be seen or heard from ever again before Huxley had even started school. He said that he could remember her but rarely talked about her or why she left. Jack thought that not having a Mother around would be fun. They had the run of Huxley’s house most of the time as his Dad was rarely there and he basically let Huxley and any of his friends have the freedom to do anything they wanted.

Huxley’s younger sister Caitlin came into the front room after entering through the back door, she had just started their secondary school this September. She was late back as she had stayed for she had stayed for the compulsory ‘Must go to netball practise’ session all girls attend when they start secondary school. She was full of energy and life, laughing as always. Unlike Huxley, she missed her Mother not being their greatly, but she made the best of things, ensuring she was always giggling and joining in with games.

She had her jumper tied around her waist, Jack looked towards the blossoming buds of her breasts. He noticed how they had developed further since the summer, they were becoming more than a handful. They were in fact much bigger than that of many of the girls more his own age, three years older. Although she wasn’t a particularly beautiful girl she wasn’t unattractive either. She was a little flabby around her belly, although he talked with the other lads about all the hot girls he fancied and how he often ‘Wanked off’ while listening to Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’, he actually prefers girls with more fat on them. Yes, her ripening breasts will do nicely he thinks to himself.

Caitlin asks Huxley if she can play the winner of the game, he says ‘No’ which he has a tendency to do with everything she requests. Like Jack, he has little time for his family members and would prefer it if they were not there at all. Huxley asks Jack if he is coming outside for a cigarette. Although they had virtually a full run of the house it was still better to smoke outside, his Dad didn’t like the smell of nicotine. Jack ponders over the offer but decides to decline, choosing to remain in the sitting room with Caitlin.

As Huxley lights up Jack tells Caitlin she can come and play Atari with him. She sits down beside him Jack watches her skirt rise above her knees. As the game starts Jack shows little response to the grid form defenders dropping down the TV screen. Jack begins to prod Caitlin, again, the rhetoric:
‘Will you be my Bride, McBride?’
As the Packmans on the screen munch forward, Jack clasps his thumb and forefingers into Caitlin’s bosom,

‘Get off,’

she responds and pushes him hard away. Huxley hears the commotion and looks through the patio doors to observe Jack fondling Caitlin. He laughs to himself and looks the other way as he finishes his cigarette. Inside Jack continues to pester Caitlin, he runs his hand inside her skirt. The muscles in his groin strain as his hands touch the gusset of her pants. Caitlin now battles with him and punches his hand away as she shouts;

‘Get off, get off.’

She manages to break free from Jacks grasps and runs upstairs at a full pace almost falling over the top step as ascends. Into her room, she slams the door then pushes the bedside table against the framework. She sits on her bed, heart pounding with her knees tucked up to her chin.

Alison Little

Fluctulation

Fluctulation Image copy

Fluctulation is a poetic form written for National Poetry Day, 2018 around the subject of change.

Fluctuation

When I am up I am alive
Answer every question, phone call, email
Positive moves forward I strive
Bounce and jump, free I sail

When I am down I hide away
Into bed, into covers, I crawl
Unpeel my skin in disarray
In the darkness, hide, two feet tall

On a high, I paint and draw
Forwards I roll
Content reading, write some more
Ten feet tall

Falling lower, bottom of the glass
Nicotine on hand
Clutter surrounds on mass
Swollen gland’

To the sky, I want to fly
In love with life, I seek romance
Absorb, with joy I cry
Excitement, sing and dance

Fading, grab another beer
Regretting every faceless man I screwed
My confusion, these men sneer
Recalling their attention, lewd

Rising up I demand success
More desired, fight to get there
Onslaught of thoughts, less
Mind ignores the growling bear

Drawing down I pour to the rim
Regretting every joint I ever rolled
Ecstasy pills that made me grin
Narcotics that made me bold

Well again, head is clear
Visions of beautiful sights
Falling down again I fear
Try to control my minds flights

Up, I am positively ruthless
Down, visions of myself toothless

I will push to control my mind
Not to fall, put positives on downwind

Alison Little

Fluctulation: Early plans for Installation

Take away Lobster to Liverpool

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‘All the Fun of the Fair’ is the latest installation from Liverpool based artist Alison Little. As part of the Liverpool Independent Biennial, it is being exhibited at 5 Bold Place. She presents a scene based in the American seaside resorts of Maine Country where the lobster is king and sold from the takeaway food stalls which litter the coastal towns.

Alison Little is an Artist and Writer, though her work she looks to combine her creative practice across visual arts and literature. ‘All the Fun of the Fair’ in its first concept is a short story of a young student who is raped during a summer placement in fairground town in the United States. This was written by Alison Little and has been published on her Blog in addition to several zines. This has been developed into a full chapter for the novel she is writing: Casual Nexus. In combination with the creative writing process, Alison produced a giant, man-size Lobster made from a process of creating a polythene shell and filling this with shredded paper. As an artist, she has been developing this technique for several years and often identifies similar subject matters of sexual violence and mental health. The lobster was exhibited for Sound City in the Baltic Triangle in combination with a reading of the original fictional source in May of 2018.

‘All the Fun of the fair’ the installation suspends the giant lobster form in the windows of Bold place. The inner side of the works contains statements related to the violation which can be read when looked at the mirrors located on the lower level. Sand runs across the bottom of the installation, covered by an arrangement of broken beach toys and discarded low-cost trinkets. These elements suggest American, Maine County, in particular, beach holiday debris. We present a New England seaside town where the lobster is prominent on the takeaway food stalls which line the Seafront.

In the initial short story, the rapist is transformed into a giant lobster, the girl unable to move throughout the act. To the underside of the shelled creature, we have a collection of statements relating to sexual predication. ‘Invade’, ‘Assailant’ and ‘Molestation’ are all prominent terms amongst the others present. The broken mirror is positioned to the lower side of the giant sea creature, this allows the viewer to position themselves to read the terms from different angles.

The ground space of the installation is cover with sand to suggest the golden beaches of the North American seaside towns. However, the beach area is covered in litter to suggest adverse lifestyles. The discarded freezer blocks and pick nick cups, in addition to food stall waste, set the scene for an unpleasant beach holiday. The prominently positioned coffee cup displays a label from Maine County, combined with a Portland Take away lobster box indicate the New England North Atlantic Coast. The end of games and childhood fun are presented through the broken and lost assemblage of outdoor toys. The burst and deflating paddling pool suggest an end to the innocence of infancy. An indication of celebration but also destruction are introduced by the exploded firework and the burst balloon. Could this be a fourth of July party gone wrong? Cheap State side Larger is forefront in the window display, Budweiser cans convey a seafront drinking party where the cans have been swigged down at pace. The presence of rough sleepers, or more commonly terms vagrants is given through the squashed, toxically coloured cider bottle. The American term these individuals ‘Bums’, they are present in these towns during the summer months, they travel to the resorts when the population swells to solicit the tourists. On a darker note, we are presented with narcotics, the indication of a luminously coloured crack pipe, surrounded by packets of Rizzla, cigarette papers used to inhale cannabis. Do we have a scene of destruction where intoxication of controlled substances is a factor? Ultimately, we have a final item of sexual debris, a Durex wrapper, the Transatlantic term being ‘Sheaf’. Has there been a sex act gone wrong, a liaison which has ended in devastation?

On first inspection we see a Transatlantic beach holiday representation, on deeper investigation we see a holiday gone wrong. We see destruction and devastation, we see negativity and hostility.

Dates: 3 August – 3 September, 2018
Location: 5 Bold Place, Liverpool, L1 9DN

See Map

Times: 07:30 to 23:00 daily (viewing from street)


Art In Windows is a small organisation that works with landlords and artists to commission and curate temporary and permanent art works for display in empty windows in and around Liverpool.
Art in Windows

The Liverpool Biennal Independents runs from the 18th of July until the 28th of October.
Independents Biennial

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