#8 Edging Home
December 7th, 2020
Over the last couple of years Samra has trekked to different towns on the British coast talking to people about change. Now Samra is returning to Harwich, the place of her childhood, in search of her school teachers and begins to reimagine from this pocket of the country and of her memory.
Image: Harwich Beach, Samra Mayanja, 2020
How did the idea for the Edging Home podcast come about?
So the whole podcast came about because I was asked by Centre for Live Art Yorkshire [which used to be called Live Art Bistro] to make a series of podcasts in the lead up to the date that we were supposed to run away from the EU, the first time [haha]. And I had been thinking about Harwich, thinking about how it was so different to the urban space that I was and still am living in but also so different to rural spaces. And I wanted to understand what made British coastal towns so different so I thought that setting myself on a lifelong journey around British coastal towns would drag me to various towns for years and years to come. For so long that the coast line might shift this way or that, for new people to arrive and fly away, for old industries to be revived and die…and so on. I wanted to go to these towns to ask people about change, changes they’d experienced, changes they had or had not seen, any change – big or small.
Image: [we’re happy]: still from BAD UGANDAN, Samra Mayanja, 2019
Image: King’s Way Community Church, Harwich, Samra Mayanja, 2020
Can you talk about your processes for making this podcast and what has been the hard bits and good bits (if any) about making this podcast in lockdown?
This particular episode in Harwich was made during lockdown which meant that I couldn’t just go and chat to strangers in the way that I have in the past. I usually spend about two hours chatting to just one person that I meet! This time I was relying on speaking with people that I already knew which in some ways is actually harder because you need to arrange times and dates and times and dates and times – endless admin admin admin admin…URGH!! So, I prefer the spontaneity, the liveness, the improvisation, the discomfort, the newness, the adjustment, the learning, the closeness when meeting new people and stepping out of what/who I know. This really feeds the imaginative writing that follows the visit. Meeting new people and being in new situations is fuel. So I stood at one end of the church I went to when I lived there and sang with my high school Maths teacher, in between asking him about changes in his life.
The rest of the process remained the same. I collect sounds/videos on various apps in my phone but mostly in a youtube playlist. I make these playlists obsessively for anything from fun workouts to caribbean women filmmakers. The playlist is one of several spaces where I’m collecting materials to potentially use or perhaps they simply reflect what’s going on around the time of making the podcast!
So with the podcast, I decide where I’ll visit, start adding to the playlist and head over to the town. I don’t research beforehand, I simply arrive and ask anyone where I could go to have a cup of tea and a cake. I’ll sit in a cafe for a bit and write what I’m seeing and feeling and thinking. I’ll jot down a few things I want to research. Then I’ll walk along the seafront and speak to anyone that’s up for it – asking them “do you have a bit of time to speak to me about change? changes in your life, big or small and or anything else you fancy chatting about” – and then we talk. After speaking I go home, write the entire journey home. Then the next few weeks are speaking avoiding and then finally listening to the recordings from the visit and then I just keep writing and writing and writing [with the sounds that I’ve collected in mind and anything else that pops into my mind]. The process is very generative and free and explosive.
Image: Queen Victoria statue, Samra Mayanja, 2019
Image: still from scripted for a wayward narrator, Samra Mayanja, 2020
Where do you think Edging Home will take you next?
I have no idea where the project will take me next, I have no preference. There are dream places to stay for longer periods of time like Blackpool and Barrow [actually the whole of the Cumbrian coast] and Scarborough. But I’d be happy to go anywhere. The beauty of a lifelong project is that I can take my time and it doesn’t matter where I go next.
About Samra Mayanja
Samra Mayanja is a Leeds-based artist and writer with poetics at the centre of her processes. Mayanja predominantly makes performances and films. Her performance practise is an effort to collectively generate around and beyond what’s unconceived, lost, discarded, destroyed or arrives in tatters. The artist regularly holds space for contemplation and the creation of experimental reflexive processes with/for others.
Extracts from ‘Cloud Busting’ by Malorie Blackman, 2004
Extracts from ‘Festival of Shiraz Persepolis’ from YouTube user Pedram Hesam – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2dr1kkqPpk&list=PL2qkbXQaCHyaUOZCBK1BMlG-yvDVt2-Ld&index=7
Extract from Cathy Berberain – ‘Stripsody’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dNLAhL46xM&list=PL2qkbXQaCHyaUOZCBK1BMlG-yvDVt2-Ld&index=23
Extract from ‘Step Brothers’, 2008, Sony Pictures
Extract from ‘The Virginia Company’ from YouTube user Cornell X – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmwWYUolqVs
Extract from ‘Wamsutta (Frank B.) James 1970 Suppressed Speech’ from YouTube user Robert Wesley Branch – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Blz3jh8lJIQ
Extract from ‘Fox Walk – How To Walk Silently Through The Woods’ from YouTube user Survival Lilly – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyVtDrIwlVc
Extract from ‘Motorsport – Migos, Cardi B & Nicki Minaj Cover Remix | Joy & Janae Brown (We Sing Raps)’ from YouTube user Joy Brown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOxgbTsHVmw
Skidding sounds from ‘Lewis Hamilton donutting around the Skid Pan at ‘Mercedes Benz Live Event’’ from YouTube user LukeHandle – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmrL6n2x-3I