Saturday, 24 November 2012

Mothers and Daughters

Handkerchief Installation: Irish Exile/Migration: Mothers and
Daughters by Sarah Strong . 2012 . copyright
During the early days of my blog I came across a request from artist Sarah Strong for women who would like to contribute to her latest work:

IRISH ARTIST SEEKS SUBJECTS Irish Exile/Migration; Mothers and Daughters. I was

Artist Sarah Strong has an exciting opportunity for participants in her upcoming Artpiece.  She is looking for  women to submit photos of themselves with their mothers for a project called Irish Exile/Migration: Mothers and Daughters. I was interested...

This proposed artwork  will explore the relationship between  mothers and daughters and the complex emotions around separation; ambivalence and mourning; issues of yearning, loss, belonging/ not belonging, grief. This is work in process so that it is not possible to be definitive about the final outcome but my intention is use cloth, photographs and possibly film and sound. I was in!
Over the following months Sarah and I exchanged emails as she gathered details such as when my mother, Sarah Hill, left Dublin, where she left from, came to etc. I submitted a couple of photos, one as a child with my Mum and the one above. This has always been my favourite photo of us together; my Mum died in 2000 and I was really pleased that Sarah chose this one to work with.

As I have mentioned before in the blog, interviewing the Irish community here in Leicester has made me realise how few questions I asked of my own parents. Oh, I knew some details: came to Leicester because my Dad's sister lived here, there was work etc. but I don't recall ever asking "How did it feel?" I never asked her if she was scared, excited, lonely.

She first came over at 17 to stay with a uncle, Jim Ormsby, in Pershore, but went back home, met my Dad and came over to Leicester in the mid 1950s. I never asked how much she missed her own mother and her brothers and sisters.  Most where over here too, scattered around the Midlands and London but, of course, they didn't have the kind of contact we now enjoy and expect to have. No Facetime or Skype: letters came intermittently and we didn't get a phone put in till 1979!

This photo was taken one Christmas: I had been living in Bordeaux since the previous September and the photo shows just how much I had missed and loved her. My Dad had died in 1979 ( hence the phone) and ever since, me, my sister Sandra, her little daughter Lauren and my Mum had been this tight little knot of girls. I had actually left home at 19 to live in Bournemouth and can remember the heartbreak at leaving even though I knew I had to get away and do something different. Maybe she had felt the same. Even in Bordeaux, at age 30, there where times when I would  miss my family desperately but naturally, would just pick up the phone. I wished I'd asked her more but I suspect the answer would have been "Well, you just got on with it!"

I can't thank Sarah enough for the beautiful handkerchief above. When I opened the email I broke my heart as if my Mum had died yesterday. The final outcome is yet to be decided but I hope to be able to go to see it and thank her in person.

 If you'd like to be involved contact us on 0116 276 9186 or pop in to:

The Emerald Centre, Gipsy Lane, Leicester. LE5 OTB

We're now also on Twitter: follow me on  @irishleicester or join The Irish in Leicester group on Facebook.
Click here to view a map of The Irish in Leicester.

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