Rooted in Hull’s artist in residence reveals what’s in the big red box

Photographer and artist Fiona Caley has recently been appointed ‘artist in residence’ at Rooted in Hull, the city’s urban agriculture project. She is now planning a wide range of artistic activities and events, down on the farm.

Fiona said: “I’m a rural artist, but I’ve also done lots of projects in inner cities, other cities, and particularly Hull.”

Fiona Caley, artist in residence at Rooted in Hull, in her 'studio' big red box.
Fiona Caley, artist in residence at Rooted in Hull, in her ‘studio’ big red box.

Her appointment presents opportunities for the city’s artists to develop works that respond to Rooted in Hull’s site, and the activities there. Fiona will also be using her residency to develop her own personal artistic practice.

She said: “I love the thought of an artist in residence because actually it works both ways. I suppose, the difference, possibly, with the artist in residence program that I want to do, is that it isn’t purely about me. It isn’t purely about my art. It’s actually about the people that will come to visit.

“It works for everybody in that the artists have a chance to develop their own work. Sometimes an artist doesn’t know quite which direction they’re going in, there’s an experimental aspect to this, which I’m really looking forward to doing more of at Rooted.

“My aim is to develop art that’s site-specific. So it relates directly to the site, the location, which includes the plant life, even the wild flowers, the stuff that quite often is sprayed away. You know, weeds, flowers, whatever. Yes, look at that and use that as inspiration for art.”

PODCAST: Chatting with Fiona Caley, artist in residence at Rooted in Hull.

Fiona is really looking forward to collaborating with other artists and visitors to the site. Previously, funding from Back to Ours (Arts Council England’s Creative People and Places project for Hull) has allowed Fiona to run some experimental arts projects and collaborations. She’s also worked alongside local city historian Paul Schofield who delivered some talks that artists then responded to.

Fiona said: “I really am looking forward to collaborating with other people, not just artists but other people who specialise in looking at particular aspects of Hull. All sorts of people already come to Rooted to volunteer here. We’ve got staff here, and visitors, so I very much want it to be a place where people can come, quite safely, and spend time outdoors and just meet other people.”

Fiona’s best known, maybe, as a photographer, but with her residency she’s going to engage herself and others in a wider range of artistic practices.

“Yes, photography is my main inspiration, I would say main medium,” said Fiona, “but from that springs poetry, prose, writing, also working on other textures like textiles. I’d really love to work with found objects, in other words ‘rubbish’, things that are quite often discarded, create some art with things that aren’t particularly precious, but may become precious because of the work somebody puts into them.

“There’s quite a lot that I’d like to do, and I’m really at this stage, it could go off in lots of different directions.”

Photographer and artist Fiona Caley.

Though now taking up the role of artist in residence at an urban agriculture project, Fiona is no stranger to agriculture and farming.

She said: “I grew up on a farm right on the edge of what they class as the Holderness plains, literally just about on the cliff top. Very flat lands, heavy clay soil. I grew up helping out on the farm like everybody else, working on the farm until I was about 20, when I left to do other things. But I wouldn’t say that my farming background was particularly typical of this area. I was encouraged from a young age to explore and visit places, travel, have different experiences in other parts of the country and the world.

“The farm inspired me, still does inspire and influence. That connection with the land, within me, is quite profound. I can so identify with people who live on farms, work on farms, can’t leave them because it is very much part of who they are.

“That was also one of the things that drew me to this place, Rooted in Hull, knowing Adrian for quite some time prior to this, having that similar interest, it was one of the things that drew me here.”

At Rooted in Hull, Fiona has a great base from which to work – a bright red, metal, shipping container.

“Yes, we’re sitting in a big red box, a big metal red box,” said Fiona. “You’re kind of seeing it in its bare bones at the moment because it requires insulation. We’re very lucky because we found this across in Leeds. It’s brand new. They sprayed it bright red for us. It has a side access opening, which means that the full one side will open completely, so that we can use it 12 months of the year.”

Fiona is already filling her ‘studio’ with resources.

Fiona Caley, artist in residence at Rooted in Hull, inside her 'big red box' studio.
Fiona Caley, artist in residence at Rooted in Hull, inside her ‘big red box’ studio.

She said: “Yes, it will be a studio. I also have a tremendous amount of books, resources, arts and photography, but I also want to stock ‘growing books’, inspirational growing books. So, in a sense, have some kind of a library here as well. I have a dream of having one or two armchairs in here, but they might have to be at least two meters apart at the moment. I’ve got several easels in the corner, which I’m hoping, come better weather, we can actually get out onto the decking, have painting workshops and be safe.”

To the side, or maybe it’s the front, of Fiona’s bright red container, there’s a platform. This large decked surface faces an area of seating, mixed picnic tables and benches. It’s going to make a perfect outdoor performance space for musicians, spoken word performers, even small theatre groups – and if need be, all socially distanced and with plenty of fresh air.

Fiona said that the first opportunities for people to get involved with arts at Rooted will, realistically, be in the spring.

“I’m looking at possibly some photography workshops, or even just a meeting with people who are interested in finding out more about what we can do, what people would like to be involved in here,” she said.

She’s encouraging people to ‘watch this space’, and to sign up to follow Rooted in Hull’s lively instagram and social media accounts where announcements about activities and events will be made.

Website: Rooted in Hull

[Jerome Whittingham @photomoments –]