So, here I am sitting in my office at home, almost a week after arriving back from my Winston Churchill Scholarship Travels, and I’ll be really honest with you… I’m finding it all a little difficult to process! Maybe it’s the sign of an incredible adventure, that you can’t just arrive home and slot right back in to loading the dishwasher and making small talk with strangers in the supermarket.
When I first arrived in New York, back in the middle of January, I remember wondering how I was going to navigate the subway or how I was going to get used to eating on my own and generally spending time alone – the last 2 months are by far the longest I’ve ever spent travelling solo.
It was the same when I arrived in each new city. Were the people I had made arrangements to meet, months ago, going to even remember I existed? How was I going to manage to make the grant I’ve been given last throughout my trip? How was I going to get from A to B in the -15C temperatures in Chicago?
Now that I’ve begun to reflect, I realise that, actually, through the help of others along the way, I did manage to make it to all my meetings… well, almost all (except for having to make a skype call across the city because of the deep snow in Chicago); and I didn’t get lost, well, not to the point of panicking (losing my iphone in Kyoto was an exception – but I got it back!). This morning I spoke to one of the Fellows who’d inspired me to apply for my Scholarship, Sharon McDonnell, and the first thing she said to me was “You can’t believe you’ve done it can you? You worry before you go that you’re not going to manage to find your way around, or even find your hotel from the airport, but when you look back, you actually realise that yeah, you did it!”
…and she’s right! What a sense of achievement!
The people that I met, both before and during my travels, really did help make the trip successful. The last two months away, and the months of planning beforehand, are really an example of how things have always gone for me, in the sense that I couldn’t have done any of it alone.
For me, that was especially true in Japan – my good friend Minako, who I had met in Liverpool when I worked full time in the arts, has now relocated to her home in Tokyo, and I owe her a huge debt of gratitude. It was Minako that made possible my crazy plans to visit several cities in Japan. She also introduced me to others who made up the affectionately titled ‘Project Angie Team’ in Japan, namely Chiaki, Hitomi and Midori – what a team they were! They helped me by suggesting incredible places to visit for
Outsider Art research; making the arrangements, including with arts ateliers, psychiatric hospitals and ministerial officers; and then translating/ interpreting during my meetings. I literally could not have done all that I did without them.
I’d like to thank everyone who gave me advice, either here or on twitter, about how to deal with jet lag. I did take all of your advice – I set my clock to UK time as soon as I started the journey home from Tokyo; stayed hydrated even when I was getting pop every five minutes on the plane; ate and slept at the right UK times on the trip back; and stayed awake when I arrived home until my normal bedtime…even though I was almost falling asleep standing up! All really great advice!
So, what’s next? Well, a really important part of receiving the Churchill Grant is formulating a plan for the dissemination of the information that you’ve gathered, and also writing a report.
The first thing I did was to catalogue all of the books and papers that I was very kindly given throughout my trip. It is amazing how quickly you forget what happened where and who gave you what. Secondly, I’ve started to review all of the notes that I made after each meeting. I would make my way to the nearest coffee shop and try and transfer my hurried scribbles from my note book onto the laptop. It was the only way that I could keep track of who said what.
Next, I have a series of meetings set up, the first of which is tomorrow at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, with their Outsider Art Curator, Holly Grange. We met several times before I left on my trip, and Holly’s input and contacts were invaluable! Tomorrow we’ll have the chance for a post-trip debrief.
Over the coming weeks I’ll also meet with others who are keen to hear about my research including at the Wellcome Trust in London.
I’d also like to say thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to read and follow this blog. I’m wondering if I should keep the blog running, just so I can share my report here, when I’ve submitted it, and also to let people know when I’ll start to talk about my research in public? I know I wrote about some meetings here, but others, like my visit to Hirakawa Hospital, Tokyo, will take a little time to think through before I share fully. Please let me know what you think (comment below) …
Anyway, thank you so much again for reading this and for sharing my journey 🙂