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I specialise in projects which explore and challenge the relationship between creative writing and place-making. You can find out more about my short fiction and novels on my personal writing site.
In March 2013 I worked with public artist Sam Haynes and students at Beatrix Potter and Earlsfield Primary schools in South London on STEP Beyond, a project creating a temporary trail of text art around Earlsfield as part of Wandsworth Arts Festival in May 2013. Sam is working hard on the final pieces and the trail will be launched at Earlsfield library on Friday 3rd May 2-5pm. Take a look at the work so far on Sam’s blog.
From 2011-2013 I have collaborated with my brother, a fantastic landscape photographer, on a project exploring the relationship between the landscape of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and its guardians. In May 2013 we will publish a book and host an exhibition featuring 40 views of the Park chosen by people who own, care for and manage the landscape. Each participant shared their stories of and passion for the place with me, and each image is accompanied by a text expressing these. The Working The View exhibition launches on Wednesday 15th May at Craven Art Gallery in Skipton. The book will be available to buy from that date, keep an eye on the project website for details or like the Working The View Facebook Page.
As part of All Change Arts‘ contribution to Islington’s fabulous Word Festival, I worked with poet Yemisi Blake and local residents and employees around Farringdon Station to create texts for a new hoarding in front of the Cross Rail site on Cowcross Street.
In 2011-2012 I was writer-in-residence at Great Ormond Street Hospital as part of their GO Create! arts programme. I worked with patients, carers and staff on five wards who were about to move into the sparkling new Morgan Stanley Clinical Building (which opened mid 2012). Together we created six stories inspired by the characters and environments which characterise the new building. The stories feature flamingos, walruses, bears, koalas and eagles and travel from depths of the sea up into the mountains and sky. The stories have just been published as beautiful picture books which will soon be available to purchase online. Audio versions have also been recorded featuring Sir Ian McKellen, Helena Bonham-Carter, Rhys Ifan, Peter Capaldi, Sarah Macillan and Barbara Windsor; do have a listen online.
Throughout 2009-2010, Sarah Butler worked with the fantastic photographer, Eva Sajovic, on Home from Home, a series of portraits and stories of people in Elephant and Castle. The project was driven by a desire to document the stories and connections present in the current Elephant and Castle, as the dramatic regeneration plans for the area start to be realised. As well as a gorgeous book, the photographs and texts are available online.
The Secret Garden Project is a new programme of temporary commissions and pop up art events by young and established artists created specially for a trail of London’s secret gardens, lesser known green spaces, and urban corners. The Secret Garden Project website gives full information about all the commissions and associated events.
Sarah has created a body of new online writing inspired by the other Secret Garden Project commissions, conversations with project artists and with audiences.
Sarah also developed temporary installations and led an afternoon of story walks and creative activities in July 2010 at Cremorne Gardens, as part of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s In Transit festival.
Sarah Butler was writer-in-residence in Lower Belvedere throughout 2010. Her commission (from Bexley council, funded through the Heritage Lottery Scheme) was linked to a large regeneration scheme in the area, focused on infrastructure and public realm improvements. Sarah’s commission was to collect stories from local communities and create a series of new text pieces to be installed in the area. A range of the stories are now online and the installation of the texts is currently in progress.
Lower Belvedere, in the London Borough of Bexley, is a fascinating area, once a broad stretch of marshland, close to the Pleasure Gardens at Erith, it is now home to Crossness Sewage Works, a huge new rubbish incinerator, an industrial estate, and a tiny patch of precious marshland, some of which is designated a protected Nature Reserve.
Sarah worked with Year 8 students at Trinity School to explore the marshland’s history and ecology. Sessions included work with the Local Studies Department, and the council planning department. The students responded creatively to the area, creating myths, historical fictions, and proposing a new name for one of the many drainage dykes in the area. The project was part of CABE’s Engaging Places Scheme. You can read some of the students’ responses to the project so far on the Engaging Places Website.
Sarah Butler was writer-in-residence on the Central line from March – September 2009, a commission by Art on the Underground which involved working with staff across the whole of the Central line. New writing, by Sarah, in collaboration with London Underground staff, is available online. Posters and booklets were distributed across the tube network in 2009.
In Between was a collaboration between Islington-based arts organisation, All Change, and four writers. Aoife Mannix, Yemisi Blake and Joseph Coehlo worked with three identified communities in North London to create new work through a collaborative process, and investigate the complex web of personal relationships to spaces and places in the city. Sarah Butler’s role was as a critical friend to the project; her commission – to write a creative response inspired by the project and the issues it raised.
The project is fully documented on the In Between blog. It is now in its final stages and the final pieces are currently in production. You can download Sarah Butler’s final pieces of writing from the blog.
The magical story aimed to explore the potential of a place which is frequently dismissed as a ‘wasteland’. The story is called ‘Fishing For Stars’ (inspired by the star shaped lanterns attached to the ‘Club’). It follows three characters, Caib, Rhaw and Bywell (their names are drawn from a mural of ancient tools painted on one of the canal’s walls) who all discover their own routes into a magical parallel universe, where their wishes for the canal come true. Vinyl-cut extracts from the story were installed onto the Canal Club itself, copies were hung by the seating areas, and visitors were given copies to take away. You can download fishing for stars here.
The Canal Club was a temporary structure, created by PublicWorks as a conversation space for local people to explore the possibilities for change in the area.