What a week! ‘Portrait of a Brain’ exhibited for Coventry City of Culture 2021/22

I wonder if mine will be the first Canine visitor tally ACE receives?

405 people, 2 Dobermans, 9 Yorkshire Terriers, an assortment of poodle crosses and Heinz came along to see my installation – Portrait of a Brain -at the Anglican Chapel in London Rd Cemetery in Coventry at the end of February. A celebration of human cognitive diversity, and a joyful memorial to a neuro-divergent loved one lost (the data realised here being a depiction of this individuals’ particular ADHD spikey-profiled brain).

With additional thanks to Table Art Ltd for fabrication, Do It Solutions Ltd for the Neuro-divergent conditions screening tool that inspired the idea; to producer Suzie Cross who came all the way from Wakefield to bring me an epic lunch! And to City of Culture Producer Hannah Graham for her mentoring and positive affirmation in the very early stages. To the funders of course (Unlimited, and City of Culture) And to everyone who came and spent time with the exhibition and engaged with the ideas within.

I was supported in the space over the 5 days of opening by a brilliant bunch of City Hosts, and by Glass artist Brian Dickinson.

Here are just a few of the team of enthusiastic and engaged City Hosts who volunteered to support me during the exhibition; directing visitors, counting dogs and humans into the space, and spreading the word about Portrait of a Brain to their neighbours and friends. What a crew!

The Anglican Chapel in London Road Cemetery in Coventry, is recently renovated and made accessible for this exhibition by Historic Coventry Trust. It was an ideal venue to site my first significant installation, in this City of Culture year – data art; acrylic, light, colour and sound to delight, inspire and challenge perceptions of human cognitive difference.

Talented local glass artist Brian Dickinson supported with a hand made touch exhibit, and also kept me company for much of the week! Here is Brian with his wife, counting the number of reflections when you look through the layers of the slowly rotating piece.

Lots of children and home school groups visited. Many people told us about their own neuro-divergent conditions, and about the challenges their friends and loved ones experienced. We also heard hopeful stories about finding places and work where ‘spikey’ or irregular cognitive skill sets were celebrated and affirmed, and cognitive challenges were supported.

I loved that so many people took advantage of the floor mats, and lay down under the piece. Mesmerising!

Many of the autistic children that visited (my own included) were particularly transfixed by the colour and light – very stimmy! (well that’s why I like these materials too of course) We gave out lots of pieces of dichroic film for people to play with and experiment themselves.

Some visitors saw airplanes in the reflective light, and one man thought that the shapes etched looked like the city walls themselves. Still others said that they were reminded of chakras, or of the Northern lights.

Hanging out under the (very heavy!) suspended acrylic piece!

There’s something about light and colour that most people find joyful and life affirming.

One brilliant boy decided to scrunch up his piece of dichroic film, to create even more spectacular effects. His autistic lateral and creative exploration generating new ideas that no-one else had thought to try !

Yet another child (a girl who was ADHD) took the loose shapes I had left out, and matched them up with the shapes of the main work – asking some brilliant questions and puzzling out for herself what each represented.

I’m hopeful that this iteration of Portrait of a Brain can be exhibited again soon – we’d love to bring pupils and home school groups to come and interact with the piece with some focussed workshops. If you know of other places that might like to host the piece, please get in touch – i’d love to hear from you!

What’s next?

I’d like to develop this concept further using Virtual Reality technology. And I plan to take this real-life acrylic piece into different spaces too. We all of us change the experience of the very space we inhabit, just by ‘being’ in it. What colour and light and shape do you bring to the spaces that you live in?

Moving light, colour and sound – data art representing an individual spikey human cognitive profile.


Theatre as Organism –

Theatre as Organism …
Where the heart beats and the life blood flows between

Hayley Williams-Hindle – Outside In featured artist  (2021) (not all of the images in this exploration / collection are shown here)

The liminal spaces which form the pathways and corridors between the third spaces in which we seek communal gathering, entertainment and escapism, are where I feel belonging. 20 Years in events management in the entertainment industry has formed a familiarity and comfort with those narrow, directional, sparse places. At the same time, my personal antipathy and aversion to being in the path of the onstage limelight is cemented. 

This is akin to van Gennep’s (1960) idea of liminality and his conceptualisation of the threshold between two transitory spaces: separation (from original state) and incorporation (into a new state of being). The middle state of in-betweenness is often characterised by ambiguity, uncertainty and loss of control but also holds potential for change and transformation.

a layered image - ball of string, minotaur sat on a green armchair, and some dimly lit stairs leading to an escape sign.

The parallels, as a Neuro-divergent person (autism / adhd) with feeling ‘outside’ of the gathering places are not subtle. But these in-between pathways are not a maze; designed to trick and puzzle the navigator – they are instead a labyrinth – and walking them is, for me, an exercise in meditative movement according to that most ancient of traditions. (and modern too – since the labyrinth is also a practical exercise used with autistic people. The aim being for individuals to find unthreatening space in an open room)

From here, the associations with myth and monster proliferate – the threads cast across this adhd mind attaching in unexpected places; Perhaps the Minotaur of Greek myth is a benign being. Not a monster at all, but even so condemned to the shadows by wild speculation about a beastly and most in-human nature. 

a theatre foyer space. layered with webs of thread. A monster.
Theatre as organism

This animal (wo)man is not bullish and macho, using the excuse of instinct to dominate and mask – as Picasso mused. Instead, I imagine the visceral strength transformed into a recognition of shared humanity as we encounter and reckon with this experience of liminality. The string which the (duplicitous) hero of myth relies on to navigate the maze, is here woven in the waiting times and becomes a knitted blanket; perhaps the end of the skein will be offered out to lost wanderers, ready to unravel and mark the path and passageways back into the open.

Film, lino-cut, photograph, digital collage. 

Here is a short film – a meditation in echoing environmental sound, and image. Walking the labyrinth of that building, that third space. Do the sounds of those building bowels register as menacing and eerie, or comforting and resonant of home to you? 

I’ve played with collage and layering of images. My stewarding/ guiding minotaur in a cozy corner with lamps and cushions. In shadow a feared thing, but in light observed as neutral other. Not blocking passageways but inviting along and through. 

The string images are reflective tangles. Woven mess that finds some symmetry in the re-configuring. This is also the fascia; the connective tissue within the beating heart of the place. Alive and pulsing with movement and creativity – reconfiguring itself in continuous tensegrity – only as all of the component parts of the theatre ‘body’ recognise and honour their interdependence. (Pertinent particularly in Covid times – the play cannot go on without the audience. But nor can it go on without the lighting and sound and box office and marketing and technicians and stage hands and stewards and concessions operators and and…) 


This idea sprang from my training in somatics – specifically how memory is held within the body viscerally, and how our connective tissue or ‘fascia’ facilitates connection, communication and support through the whole organism. And the fascinating knowledge of how stillness calcifies; and the impulse to ‘hold still’ and prevent pain in our mammalian bodies in fact induces the pain that we have been trying to avoid with that stillness.

Having spent the first half of my career in this sector working ‘front of house’ in theatre venues, the liminal ‘in between’ spaces of corridors and escape passages are where I have known belonging. These are the spaces that I have had jurisdiction over in my appointed roles – to keep clear and to allow flow through.

Corridors and entrances are not gathering places – they pulsate with movement; with transit. There is something here that resonates for me about what it means to feel marginalised. So this idea started as a reflection on that separation, that cultural othering, and progressed to a wider exploration of ‘Theatre’ as organism – of venues calcifying during mandated Covid closures.

Theatres and entertainment venues in the UK were shut down March 23rd 2020.  Without movement, audiences, work – the whole organism starts to calcify. In spite of brilliant pockets of creative work and adaptations to new circumstances, this hasn’t been the common experience within the creative sector, and referred pain and multi-organ stress are increasingly in evidence.

I imagined this realisation of a concept initially as an instalment of as many layers of fascial (connective tissue) webbing in these liminal theatre spaces that connect the whole, as each day lapsed. Another layer as each day of venue closure passes. The second closure of venues has forced a re-evaluation of that initial concept as an ‘installation after the fact of first lockdown’. But the re-reckoning proves a rich ground for further exposition of the metaphor. 

This was a rich and fruitful time working with Deborah Robinson at New Art Gallery Walsall to be mentored through this work. 


‘Liveness’ online exhibition launch – Newcastle Performance Research Department

We are compelled to find resonance in space and time and place to feel real. The voiced expression of this connection – this liveness – this mutuality of experience – is story. And story sustains us, but it cannot replace the felt sense of temporal and spatial proximity. Collective bodily experiencing. Viscerally, the watching soma in this iteration is not in that screened live-ness and feels the frailty of secondary sensing.

6 teens, wrapped up warm against the cold of February in Coventry Fargo Village!

Liveness – a short film response

My piece is called My Heart Cannot Hear Yours From Here. It’s a six minute film, which was made in Fargo village in Coventry during lockdown at the beginning of 2021.

(I’ve linked to the final piece at the bottom of this blog post. Keep reading!)

The performers are my own children and their cousins! We had originally intended to use professional dancers, but COVID restrictions didn’t allow that. But in the end I think that using untrained teenagers added a quality of ‘unawareness’ or gauche to the piece that works.

Heart connection

What is Liveness? …

My interpretation of the theme is that humans, as relational beings, experience ‘liveness’ along 3 dimensions of knowing. Space and Place and Time. Concepts that I could tease out in more detail another time! When one of those elements is not there, our sense of liveness is incomplete or changed in some experientially significant way. 

I wanted to explore what happens to the quality of ‘liveness’ if we take one of those 3 elements away from a performance or a happening. I wanted to evoke a sense of the frailty of that secondary sensing; to ground this piece in not-live. Primarily, by having the performers be in separate ‘space’ and then coming together into the same ‘space’ (by which I mean into a distance where they can sense the presence of the other/s at a visceral level). 

My Heart Cannot Hear Yours From Here – is obviously contextualised in the time of Covid. We used 6, two metre distancing markers set into a circle. Which is interesting to me in itself – two metre distancing as a protective measure but also 2 metres distance as harm – that which is lost in that specific distancing restriction, even beyond the obvious loss of direct touch.

Making Connections!

In my creative and research work I’m interested in themes of connection and how humans sense each other, as beings who are by nature designed to operate within community. And the idea for this piece came when I stumbled on some research that humans sense each other – apart from the 5 senses we immediately think about (smell, touch, hearing, taste, sight) – on a visceral nervous system or heart impulse level. But crucially, that this ‘sixth sense’ or electrical heart impulse only works to recognise another mammalian nervous system from a distance of three feet or one metre.   

So we start with a now very familiar scenario of queuing on 2 metre distance markers. The soundtrack is made up of cityscape sounds and also radio clips from this last year where nationwide isolating measures were announced – placing the film within this timeframe. 

And then in the second half of the piece, the action shifts and the group turn to face out of their circle, and they step backwards towards each other. Moving into that critical sensing distance of 1 metre from each other, where they can become viscerally aware of each others’ bodies. It wasn’t necessary for them to literally face each other in order to make the point I wanted to make. There was something quite profound for me also about facing out into the environment – looking outwards rather than into that circle. But also we didn’t need to flout COVID restrictions by bringing people into each others’ breathing space in order for them to have that heart sensing connection. (There are certainly interesting things to say I think about that too, but it felt as though having them do that would confuse the message of this piece).  

Sensing the other in shared space

Humans, like all mammals, can still detect each other even when we’re not engaging any of our other senses to connect. So if you’ve been in a crowded place – like a train station – you’ll recognise that feeling of being amongst so many unattuned somas and it can feel quite disconcerting some times with all the bodies around you.

As the teenagers in our film come into that shared one metre distanced sensing space my voice directs them to do a ‘heart lock-in’ technique –  which is slowing down breathing to bring heart rates into sync so that you can feel safely attuned to another person or persons. And they are brought into heart connection with each other as a group. This heart connection exists and continues before story or narrative. It simply ‘is’ – for me, a visceral sense of ‘being’ because the soma is in relation to another. Into a space where their hearts can detect and become pleasantly attuned to the electrical impulse of those around them. 

Foot stepping on yellow social distance marker

My intent was that the viewer, in experiencing the short film, might feel nostalgia and longing for coming into ‘liveness’ and being part of a human collective again.  It’s the sensation of being sat next to someone you feel at ease with, or having a cat on your lap. In contrast to the feeling of ill – ease you might get being sat next to a stranger on a bus for example, or being up in the face of someone you don’t like! That can feel quite threatening to our nervous system. A gut sense if you like.  

So we see the group coming out of isolation with themselves, to experience the relational sense of liveness of being part of a human collective again. As relational beings, we experience ‘liveness’ by being in the same space and place and time. And when one of those elements is not there, our sense of liveness is incomplete.  

Getting together to make during lockdown

This piece was originally conceived as an installation and live action performance piece for another project which Covid prevented from happening. But in the end, filming it allowed for a greater breadth of exploration of what ‘liveness’ means, bringing in differential time and place, as well notions of space. I worked with a brilliant Coventry artist – Sherrie Edgar to film and edit. Sherrie is a film maker that works around themes of social isolation and loneliness  – do check her work out.

We added in this sort of glitch effect to the film, at the beginning and end. So that as the audience is drawn into that nostalgic feeling of people coming physically back together – the teenagers put away their phones and move into the shared space –  the technical screen interruption would bring the viewer back out of that sentiment, and back to an awareness that we are observing this action through a screen – that as viewers we are not in the same space and place and time as these actors; we are not in their shared liveness. 

It seems to me that over this year of Covid, cultural offers are increasingly focussed on developing a sense of ‘being there’ by engaging all of the senses, into their design. The intent being to replicate the live experience, or to fully immerse, as distinct from establishing a shared sense of engaging in deliberate cognitive disbelief. I wanted instead to try to evoke a sense of the frailty of that secondary sensing; to ground it in not-live. To highlight what we miss when all of those elements are not there – in spite of contextual richness that is designed to convince us for a time that we are.  

But I also wanted to offer a sense of hopefulness. A feeling of ‘not yet but soon’ – to preface ways of moving back into shared spaces together as collective gatherings become possible again. 

I’m really honoured to be part of this permanent exhibition by Newcastle Performance Research Department. I’d love to hear your reactions to the piece!


Portrait of a Brain commission!

overlapping irregular coloured shapes with straight sides. The additive effect of the colours makes white in the centre. Around the edges where the colours dont overlap shows as varying colour. Yellow and green and purple.

A still from a VR proof of concept.

I’m delighted to announce that I have been awarded an emerging artist commission by Unlimited with Coventry City of Culture, to develop my piece ‘Portrait of a Brain’.

This iteration of the work will be an installation in acrylic and light, of a single cognitive portrait. A celebration and commemoration of a neuro-divergent life.

This work is a celebration and exploration of the uniqueness of our human brains. No reference is made to external appearance.

This image shows two individual cognitive portraits. The overlapping coloured disks represent a radar graph of cognitive ability, the additive colours making up white light towards the centre, and the individuality expressed by way of the colour revealed at the edges. 

Each person’s cognitive profile is unique to them, with the 20% of the population who are Neuro-divergent (autistic, ADHD, Tourettes, Dyslexics, Dyspraxics, DCD, Dyscalculics) typically displaying a so called ‘spikey’ profile of abilities, in comparison to the more regular  distribution of skill set in Neurotypical people. 

The more Neuro divergent the individual, the more colour we are likely to see in this representation, rather than white. 

https://www.acamh.org/freeview/developmental-coordination-disorder-professor-amanda-kirby/(this data work was done by Prof Amanda Kirby, who is CEO and founder of Cardiff based organisation ‘DO-It profiler’) 

Represented in this way, the shapes that form from the data points overlap to create a kaleidoscope of colour as they move adjacent to each other. This formation illustrates the complementary and intersectional quality of cognitive ‘thinking’ styles amongst groups of people. It offers an expansive paradigm for understanding human individuality and inter-relational possibilities.

This piece is envisaged as a celebration of the power of cognitive difference and the intersection of skills working together. Specifically, it is a celebration of the value of Neurodiversity amongst a population. And it is a celebration and commemoration of an individual neuro-divergent woman.

REACH series 2021 – installation

This series of photographs reflects on the nature of human loss and connection.

Using reflective mirrored surfaces in some images, and coloured light in others, to illuminate and animate transparent static sculptural acrylic pieces. The resultant images are meditative and evoke a sense of transition, hope and constancy . They invite us to experience a culturally nuanced phenomenon of commemoration, through the lens of these almost universally significant religious symbols; Fire, Water, Light.

The images form part of a larger installation work in development.

My Heart Cannot Hear Yours From Here

premiering 27/02/2021 a short film on the theme of ‘Liveness’ for Newcastle University Performance Research Department. Captions can be enabled in youtube.

My Heart Cannot Hear Yours From Here


A yellow social distance floor marker circle with the words ' please keep your distance, thank you for practicing social distancing' and a black and white outline of two stylized people and a double headed arrow between them which has 2m above it.
A yellow social distance floor marker circle with the words ‘ please keep your distance, thank you for practicing social distancing’ and a black and white outline of two stylized people and a double headed arrow between them which has 2m above it.

Humans ‘know’ that we are alive, as we breathe and sense the other in same space/time/place. Our species is tribal and collective. Like most mammals we seek to associate in groups and we communicate and sense via Heart Connection (electro-cardiac impulses) – perceiving the other within a critical 3 feet of our hearts – and co-regulating to the nervous system of one another.

Science validates this powerful, unspoken resonance. It’s why we seek out gathering – to connect and to feel part of; alive and whole. All other communication is secondary; The body feels relationship – proximity – and commands the brain against reason or logic to defer to ‘sense’. Being together matters because without heart connection we start to feel bereft; without reference point or sense of human agency-in-community. We are compelled to find resonance in space and time and place to feel real.

The voiced expression of this connection – this liveness – this mutuality of experience – is story. And story sustains us, but it cannot replace the felt sense of temporal and spatial proximity. Collective bodily experiencing.

The filmed group experienced live-ness then as pure connection (other sense redundant). Before story; In the beginning. The viewer here is left free to create story from the visual – there are no imposed clues or caveats. Viscerally, the watching soma in this iteration is not in that screened live-ness and feels the frailty of secondary sensing.

I wrote ‘FU’ on her back (chalk is dust but lotion sinks)

3 images of the same face - one in black and white, two in colour. (female, white skinned, dark messy hair, 40 something)  Skin greasy with sun lotion, and a medical mask covering nose and mouth. Eyes closed. On the forehead is written in white chalk pen; 'I WROTE FUCK YOU ON HER BACK'  The other 2 images show the same face, one with eyes open and the other without the face mask.
I wrote FU on her back (chalk is dust but lotion sinks)

Skin, sun lotion, chalk and cloth.

A series of photographs. Selfies. skin, sun lotion, chalk and cloth.

Referencing ideas of public shaming and retribution, but also accountability and ownership. (These images also reference an episode in my own life – 20 years ago now)

Lines of chalk on a board to instil learning. Crimes etched in skin. Police mugshots. Masking our true nature or identity. What can be brushed off like dust and what sinks into our skin indelibly?  What happens if we subvert the protective qualities of lotion that covers our skin, or of skin itself?

How can we understand what ally-ship is? What does it mean to take ownership of our own actions and the consequences of them? How do we enact justice in our lives and who do we offer peace and belonging to?  What do we insist is worn publicly and what may be hidden or brushed off? Who is allowed to hide and who do we expose?

In Praise of Fidgetting! Portraits over zoom

Chuffed to have my fist commissioned piece shown at the online Unlimited! Festival via Southbank this last week. (Its audio described and captioned too)


Single line drawing of a beautiful friend, sketched while on zoom gathering

“During lockdown, I have been embracing the singular possibilities of Zoom meetings and managing my ADHD by drawing impulsively during them. I draw my response to the faces on screen. (But claim no merit in technique!) The images of these lockdown doodles are accompanied by a voiced reflective response to my own Neurodiverse experience of the world – specifically here, ADHD. The video starts with the last 6 minutes of the 3rd movement of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto in D, and its accompanying sound wave. Observers are invited to experience the music with paper and something to mark make with, and to record their response to the sound and the movement and colour on screen in whatever way feels most instinctive. The viewer is thereby drawn in to an empathic experience of having a mind driven by a neurochemical difference.

“Making this piece for Unlimited and Coventry City of Culture Trust has been a wonderfully freeing process of leaning into my experiential world and describing it visually, audibly and texturally. It was an instinctive process for me – both the drawings, and the voiced words – which were not scripted and just came while I was sat in my car, as I often do. Stalled and unable to initiate the next activity. New to making, I am moved almost to tears that with these kinds of opportunities and invitations space opens up – to consider that it might be possible to live and work in a manner that honours the natural rhythm of my neurology.”

Commissioned and supported by Coventry 2021 and Unlimited, celebrating the work of disabled artists, with funding from Arts Council England.

This work is one of five micro-works programmed as part of Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival, January 2021.