Review – A Virtual Audience with Grayson Perry

This weekend my review of a special event by Touchstones Rochdale, hosted at Faling Park High school, appeared in the Rochdale Observer. You can read the slightly longer version of the review here:

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Touchstones, Rochdale has been hosting the wonderful “Vanity of small differences” exhibition of tapestries by Grayson Perry.

A virtual audience with Grayson Perry, hosted at Falinge Park High School gave local people an opportunity to listen to the artist a virtual audience was held at Falinge Park High School hosted by students Isra and Aliah who introduced the artist with great confidence.

During the periods of Covid-19 lockdown, Perry, winner of the 2003 Turner prize for his exquisite ceramics, has become well know to television viewers through his Art Club Series. His 2012 Channel 4 television series, “All in the best possible taste with Grayson Perry”, was an examination of taste and class around the country and The Vanity of small differences is a set of six very large tapestries developed from that.

Grayson Perry, on a large screen courtesy of modern technology, spoke about how this series of artworks about class and taste came about. In the 19th century art was largely the preserve of gentleman painters and very much an upper-middle class intellectual pursuit and Perry has spent his career trying to correct that and democratise art; “In art everybody’s opinion is valid”. Influences for the work come from The Rakes Progress by Hogarth and lots of references to Renaissance religious paintings.

Having heard the stories behind each of the tapestries, and how the images were developed through sketches, collage and final designs in Photoshop before the physical tapestries were machine woven by a specialist company in Flanders, audience members asked questions:

Does art still have the power to change the way people think? “Yes, especially TV and things with really big audiences, less so for ceramics and tapestries. I set out to make art because I liked making it, I never set out to make art to influence people”.

How does he feel about the exclusion of arts from the school curriculum? “It is a tragedy; the arts help you to live a good life”. As chancellor of the University of the Arts this is really important to him.

Would it be worth living in a world or society without art? “The short answer is No!”. The longer answer spoke of the primal importance of art, how that even in the most primitive societies people were allowed to spend valuable time making art; that’s a measure of its importance. Art is all about telling our stories and that is essential.

How can we get more young people interested in art? “By having some empathy for the audience, including young people, but certainly not by dumbing it down to the point where people get bored”.

His final comment on art; “You don’t have to like it all”.

Grayson Perry had certainly displayed an empathy of this remote Rochdale audience and we left filled with inspiration and enthusiasm, and if we pass that on to others then the event was a great success.

Thanks to:

Lisa Alen, Touchsones/YourTrust Rochdale

Falinge Park High School

Further information can be found on the Arts Council England website –

New creative writing project in Rochdale

An image of the Gaia installation in The Natural History Museum in London
Gaia Installation in London, Image from

I’m delighted to receive confirmation that my funding bid for an exciting new creative writing project in Rochdale has been approved.

The project, ClimateWorx, with a newly formed creative writing group with Vintage Worx will look at issues around climate change and take inspiration from the upcoming Gaia Installation at Number One Riverside in Rochdale.

“Climate Worx” will consist of a series of free creative writing workshops, themed around the Climate emergency and inspired by the Gaia installation. The workshops delivered to the creative writing group currently being established by Vintage Worx will include; introduction to creative writing techniques, development of new writing, editing and investigating climate change and actions communities can take to mitigate its effects

VintageWorx is based in Falinge Park, a stunning Victorian park in Rochdale, and are working to transform the Park, the local area and the lives of local people. The organisation offers a range of workshops, classes, events and activities including arts, crafts, up-cycling, health walks, volunteering opportunities and a job club. For more details CLICK HERE for the VintageWorx website.

NASA image of the earth rising over the moon - taken by Astronaut Bill Anders in 1968
NASA image of the earth rising over the moon – taken by Astronaut Bill Anders in 1

The Gaia Installation features a huge 3-dimensional globe of the earth measuring 7 metres in diameter with imagery from NASA’s photography. In Greek mythology Gaia in the personification of the Earth.

The artwork is 1.8 million times smaller than the real Earth with each centimetre of the internally lit sculpture describing 18km of the Earth’s surface. By standing 211m away from the artwork, the public will be able to see the Earth as it appears from the moon.

The installation aims to create a sense of the Overview Effect, which was first described by author Frank White in 1987. Common features of the experience for astronauts are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. 

Luke Jerram, the creator of the artwork has said “I hope visitors to Gaia get to see the Earth as if from space; an incredibly beautiful and precious place. An ecosystem we urgently need to look after – our only home.”

The Gaia exhibition runs from 20th November to 24th December and I would be pleased to discuss additional workshops with schools or community groups relating to Gaia and to the issue of climate change. Please email for further information to:

New creative writing workshops added

Details of my most recent creative writing workshops have been added to the “Workshops” page on this site. Clicking the tab will take you to a full list of workshops along with details for bookings and prices.

Workshops that are particularly suitable for schools include:

  • Superheroes and mini-beasts (Key Stages 1/2/3)
  • Dinobirds (Dinosaurs and birds) (Key Stages 1/2/3)
  • Endangered (Key Stages 2/3/4)
  • Fun with words and poems (Key Stages 2/3/4)
  • Pyramid poetry (Key Stages 2/3)

Workshops suitable for adults as well as young people include:

  • The worlds inside my head
  • I’m not supposed to be here
  • The power of poetry

Bespoke workshops are always available. Bespoke workshops can be designed and themed to fit with current projects, areas of study, art installations and exhibitions etc. Please allow 4 weeks from booking for development and planning before delivery of bespoke workshops.

Should you wish to discuss any workshops or projects or to make bookings please email