Inspired by the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest and their distinction of ‘free men’ and ‘the unfree’, artist Ruth Beale seeks to explore the legal and social structures around the concept of freedom.
She is interested in how a person’s sense and experience of freedom might be affected by their class, wealth, race or gender, by access to employment, education, health services and housing, by their right to vote, or their right to live and work in the UK.
Here, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and to freedom of expression, but being heard, or listened to, is not guaranteed.
As part of her ‘Freedom: Public Conversations’ programme of events, Ruth invited me to teach a writing workshop on Dystopian Worldbuilding, at Mansions of the Future in Lincoln.
Lincoln is a historic cathedral city, with beautiful buildings and architecture from all different periods of history, and I had fun exploring a city I had never visited before. And the room in which the workshop was held didn’t disappoint, either.
In the early 1900s, the building was used as the offices for Lincoln Wagon and Engine Co, and their initials are carved into the room’s panelling. It has since been occupied by the Farmer’s Union, and is currently being used by Mansions of the Future as part of their three-year programme of artist commissions exploring power and democracy in Lincoln.
Thirteen Ways is delivering Mansions of the Future in collaboration with the Lincoln Cultural and Arts Partnership. Thirteen Ways is a creative agency, based in Lincoln and London, that believes in the value of culture to enhance public and private lives.
We had a great workshop, both discussing and creating dystopian futures, and then populating them with characters who were oppressed by the system, and those who were thriving in it.