Every October, there's a national celebration of drawing, called The Big Draw. I'm often invited to do something in Staffordshire: this year they set up a Saturday project in Stafford's Shire Hall Gallery, to create a super-long drawing, working with any families that came in throughout the day.
It was a shame they put me in a small, rather dreary back room, rather than the actual gallery, which was bursting with life. I drew a kangaroo on the flip chart, saying hello, to brighten things up. I fed a roll of paper up and over a long table, and waited to see who would come along.
The theme was a changing landscape, so I started things off with some skyscrapers and King Kong hanging off the Empire State. Then I drew a line to suggest rolling hills and was just adding a grazing sheep, when I got my first taker. The boy set to with gusto. He drew dramatic pointy buildings, one of which was Dracula's house. Then he 'dug' a range of black tunnels under the hills. A little girl arrived and drew a big train in the sky. Someone else drew some track underneath, then snaked it over the hills. I added some metal rigging to hold it all up. All kinds of new characters were created, and we quickly filled the space.
Unfortunately, when I tried to roll the paper on, it proved too flimsy and tore off the roll. We decided to create a new landscape. Someone suggested under the sea and drew an octopus. I blu-tacked the first picture to the wall.
Whenever someone said, 'I don't know what to draw', the flip chart came in handy: I drew something for them as inspiration. I drew a snorkeling gorilla in a bikini, a crab in Arsenal strip, a merman footballer... The kids loved suggesting things for me to add, then they were happy again, copying the new ideas onto the big drawing.
We created 3 different landscapes in all, each about 6ft long. The final one was outer space. I drew a space pirate and his space parrot in matching space suits. The kids invented aliens, planets and strange crafts. One Mum got very absorbed, drawing a colourful, long-necked alien down the far end. A tiny girl invented a secret language, consisting of little scratchy marks, which she trailed all over the picture.
It was a lovely day and nice to be doing something different, but it was a bit full-on: while facilitating the drawing, I also had to administer various bits of visitor paperwork and take a visual record with the gallery's camera. I was on my feet the whole time and got no breaks, not even lunch. I'd only had a banana on the train for breakfast at 7.30am, so at 2 o'clock I had to leave the kids to find someone in the gallery to buy me a sandwich. As luck would have it, I'd just bitten into it (still standing, still with the kids) when the local press arrived!
And guess what I did when I finally got home at 6.45? Collapsed in an armchair? No such luck! Quick change into an 80's outfit, ordered a taxi, then off to a friend's hen night, dancing (and rollerskating) until the small hours. I didn't see my bed until 2.45am. I've never been so grateful for that extra hour.
I'm the one on the far left! I'll let you see some photos of the landscape drawings when the gallery sends me the copies they've promised.