At the beginning and end of our artists’ commission programme, we bring the partners and artists together for an away day to develop a sense of connection between all of the commissions. The final away day is also a chance to share stories from the commissions, and examine some of the challenges that arose from the work, as well as to see some of the final art work.

In 2013, we invited spoken word poet, Dan Simpson, along to write a poem in order to make one last piece of work from the process. Dan spent some time prior to the away day seeing work, reading the artists blogs, and the Arts and Kindness paper to get a flavour of the programme. He then spent the day with us, listening to stories and comments before finding a quiet spot to finish writing the poem.

Over pudding Dan read his poem Arts and Kindness out to the group. It was a terrific way to bring the commissions programme to a close and we all really enjoyed hearing our words re-imagined, re-ordered and brought to life.

Listen to Dan performing Arts and Kindness. The text is written below:

 

Arts and Kindness

“It takes guts to be gentle and kind”

and at first the term kindness
can seem rather lightweight
elliptical:
because it’s concise but ambiguous
a peculiar practice
like joy, happiness or wonder.

A leap of faith for
practitioners
arts professionals
policy makers
researchers
funders:
it’s the chicken that creates the egg from which it was born.

And then we hatched some of our own:
an act of imagining
exploring how the arts
can create the conditions for kindness.

Since ancient times human beings
have been driven by a curiosity
for how it is said
how it sounds and how it looks
for exploring key current issues through comedy
for who’s in charge? Who gets to speak?
for going on someone else’s journey
then having to figure out how to get back home

because of object and place
where we belong feels complicated:
a school
a high street
an estate or a neighbourhood
a town
a city
online and off.

The courage in doing something
growing something
crafting something
is rooted in a strong theoretical framework
and academic research
also glitter
a source of fun, beauty, colour and relaxation.

A catapult loaded with all sorts of values
Self-help
Self-responsibility
Equality
Democracy
Equity
Solidarity
usefulness
and delight
(that’s not technically a value
– it should be.)

These values underpin
a deep observation
of human interaction and relations
from scientists
to campaigners
communities
and fellow artists.

What joins these values together?
Prosocial behaviour
cooperation in flux
a community of empathy
these norms become highly internalised
from a very young age.

Plays, films, songs, stories:
the foundation stones
for which people make sense of the world
systemic and diverse
a grinning elbow match
creating a satisfying state of flow.

I didn’t want things to be too polished
but my blades are razor sharp
they trace a figure of eight
making the invisible visible
taking a moment of your time.

Seven o’clock in the morning
Their voices in the dark
As they spoke to each other across the ice
Coloured lights on their skates
Moving together and apart
Tracing their routes
from entry to exit points
becoming like one traveller

connecting ideas with people
science with art
research with practice
the unknown
the unpolished

I didn’t want to interrupt their flow
and some days I didn’t want to talk to people
just stare at the sea
but “love has conditions that need to be met”
it’s a blind process
so focus on the commonalities
rather than differences.

Love and kindness is contagious
it dissipates out
out in the ether
Twitter without the technology
a lot gets said in what is unsaid
it speaks so clearly
it’s the difference between singing together
and singing alone
it’s a passion for building kinder
more caring communities
enabling us to be truly human.

Dan Simpson

The Artist: Dan Simpson

Dan Simpson is a spoken word poet and performer. He was Canterbury Laureate 2013-14, Poet in Residence at Waterloo Station and his poetry has featured on the BBC and London Underground. He has performed at major festivals, events and venues around the UK, including: Glastonbury Festival, BBC Edinburgh Fringe Slam, and The National Theatre. He has worked on literary projects for Southbank Centre, Royal Academy of Arts, and the EC. His first collection, Applied Mathematics, is published by Burning Eye Books.