Following Footsteps

footsteps thumbnail “I was born in Cheltenham in 1969, two years after the death of my grandfather. I only lived there for four days at the General Hospital. This will be my first opportunity to get to know the city of my birth.” July 2008

Following Footsteps” was a live research project, undertaken at Meantime art space, to uncover a personal history of anarchism and protest in Cheltenham Spa 7th-11th July 2008. Returning to the city of my birth, I wanted to discover the truth about my grandfather, Laurence A. Hislam, the radical vegetarian activist.

This is an open ended investigative artwork, using newspaper clippings, family stories and my own existing research I navigated the city collecting more information. There was no way of knowing what would be discovered and that I would receive a phone call from Cornelius ­­­­­­Snelders, who walked to Rome with my grandfather in 1966. The residency culminated with a collaborative vegetarian feast, Cornelius being among the many guests, where I presented my findings and my freshly baked organic bread, based on my grandfather’s own recipe.

My previous research project into my grandfather, Laurence A Hislam, led to “Laurence meet Laurence” – a re-enactment of Laurence’s first pacifistic direct action.

In August 1939 Laurence delivered a suitcase of fake bombs to Downing Street. This resulted in my grandfather being pursued and then assaulted by members of the public. Once rescued from the mob he was arrested. It was only after this that it became understood the bombs where not real, but part of a peace protest. This direct action led to Laurence’s first imprisonment, totalling four weeks hard labour and a 7 shillings and 6 pence fine. By the time he was released the Second World War had begun.

Sixty years after this action, in 1999 I produced an artistic re-enactment “Laurence meet Laurence”, where I delivered a glass sided suitcase to no. 10 Downing Street. This time filled with the breath of prayers held in glass vessels. “Just because you cannot see a prayer does not mean it is not there”.

Laurence Hislam was a founding member of the committee of 100 (the radical arm of CND). My Grandfather believed in brotherly love, sustainability and organic food before there where even a term for them! He campaigned on many issues that today would seem understandable with hindsight, but seemed bizarre and radical in his time.