I have lived with chronic pain for over a decade. And that means I need to lie down (a lot). If I want to be a part of the world, to be out and move through it, I often find myself needing to lie down in public. I lie down on trains, on benches, in galleries. When necessary, on the floor.
I’ve spent a lot of time looking longingly at plush carpets in posh shops I haven’t dared lie down on, a lot of time looking for two free seats on a train if my pain levels are spiking, and a LOT of time staring up at crummy ceilings like these:
And I am not the only one who navigates the world in this way. When I did a survey in 2017 people with Hidden Disabilities* told me about having to rest or lie down in all sorts of places: the mattress department at John Lewis, Wimbledon Court Number 1, their wedding. Those sound quite cool actually. But people also told us about demeaning places work colleagues suggested they lie down in, like a stationary cupboard. Or places people felt obliged to lie down in, because of the taboo about public rest and horizontality. Which means a LOT of people rest in toilets, and when necessary, lie down on toilet floors. Either that, or they stay at home.
So when FRONTLINE Arts Festival invited me to create a Resting Space as part of their festival, I jumped at the chance. They encouraged me to do it somewhere central, and potentially challenging, somewhere we might think of as the anti-thesis of rest: Intu Potteries shopping centre. Which on reflection is the perfect place for a Resting Space, for many reasons. It’s important to create spaces to rest where ‘normal life’ happens; it honours the many stories I’ve heard about people needing to rest to/from/at their local shops; and the space aims to be a community space, in the centre of Stoke on Trent, with events throughout October.
Now in truth, I have developed a fondness for crummy ceilings, and for documenting the ceilings I rest beneath. It’s one of the ways I have found beauty in my lived experience of disability. But that’s not the point. We used to design and build amazing ceilings. And so we invite you to co-create a ceiling installation with us, and save me (and others) from resting under yet another crummy ceiling.
If you live/study/work in Stoke on Trent we would love to invite you to:
- Tell us what you want of a Resting Space
- Co-create the Resting Space with us at a workshop on Tuesday 1st Oct (sign up email@example.com)
- If you have a Hidden Disability, share a story about a time you’ve had to rest in public.
- Attend a performance of Rest Room on Wed 2nd Oct (sign up firstname.lastname@example.org)
A Mini Crash Course in Cloudspotting is a month-long installation, a dance theatre solo, a resting space, a provocation, and a community space created bespoke for FRONTLINE Arts festival 2019.
The project aims to challenge the etiquette of our public spaces and open dialogue on the taboo aspects of Hidden Disability.
* Hidden Disabilities refers to a broad range of conditions with associated pain and fatigue like chronic pain, ME, fibromyalgia, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, chronic fatigue, etc