Emma has worked on various arts projects with different organizations. She enjoys this sort of activity and has a keen interest in community engagement and the recording of oral histories.
This sort of work began when Emma became a founder member of Image Text Image, a group of writers and artists who collaborated to produce images influenced by poetry and poetry influenced by images. This group held exhibitions and performances in places such as Wolverhampton’s Eagle Works, Harborne Gallery, The Gateway in Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton’s Light House, and the Dudley Rock and Fossil Festival 2009. As part of their work they also ran writing workshops with community groups and people attending their exhibitions.
A beetle scuttles
runs from a shadow
the crack of the carapace
echoes in an empty room
Previously published in Raw Edge Magazine, created to accompany the bug sculptures of ITI member Rob McGuinness
In 2007, Emma was asked to work as the writer of site-specific theatre piece ‘Wrosne’. The Wrosne project took place over a period of twelve months, in Dudley. The Leaps & Bounds team used a unique programme of personal intervention and development, one-to-one pastoral support and professional-quality arts activity to help 60 young people turn around their own lives and that of their local community. The work culminated in a week of sell-out performances which took place deep underground, in spaces that the audiences accessed by boat!
Emma produced the text pieces which accompanied Brian Griffin’s Photography exhibition – Black Country. The work was exhibited in Paris in November 2010 and then in Walsall in Spring 2011.
In 2011, Emma also began doing freelance work with Black Country arts organisation Multistory. This strand of her work began with her involvement with the Allan Ahlberg exhibition held at the Public in West Bromwich. Emma worked with Oldbury school children to facilitate their creative responses to Allan’s work for inclusion in the exhibition.
One of the highlights of her work with this organisation was when Emma was invited to act as a ‘Black Country Guide’ to novelist Dame Margaret Drabble, who had been invited to create three short stories set in the region. The pair travelled around by bus spending time in Crossroads Café Willenhall, Teddy Gray’s sweet factory, and Susan’s hairdressers in West Bromwich, as well as visiting other sites of interest, such as Ma Pardoe’s! Margaret’s stories ended up in the ‘Black Country Woman’ magazine, alongside many of Martin Parr’s images of the area and its people. Emma also provided copy for the magazine and went on to read extracts of Margaret’s stories on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
Emma has also worked with Graham Peet on three local history books for Multistory. She is part of the interview team who travel about the Black Country recording people’s stories. Emma then works with Graham to edit recordings into shorter pieces of text which accompany relevant images of the region. The books produced so far have been, ‘You just had to get on with it, didn’t you?’ which was about woman and their working conditions, ‘Black Country Man’, which was about the working lives of the region’s men, and, more recently, ‘Black Country Roots’, which documents the Afro-Caribbean experience of the area.
In 2015, Emma began work on the ‘Where’s Our Spake Gone?’ project which looked at the use of dialect in the Black Country. For her contribution, Emma spoke to community members from the Gornal area, and worked with local school children. She produced a pamphlet of children’s poetry called ‘Bibbles and Bobowlers’, which was an attempt to keep dialect words alive for younger readers.
Bed Time in our House
afore I go to bed
I like to pat my pets,
each furry, scaly, feathered head.
Night night, tortoise.
Sweet dreams, cat.
Auf Weidersehen, puppy.
Au revoir, rat.
Settle down, spider.
Guinea pigs, goodbye.
See you tomorrow, pigeons,
try not to dream of pie.
Nos da, budgie.
Buenas noches, snail.
Snuggle down, ducklings.
Sleep tight, bed bugs
(no biting, nasty habit).
and tarra, rabbit.
By Emma Purshouse
The idea for this poem was based upon pet shop owner, Colin Archer’s, contribution to the ‘Where’s Our Spake Gone’ film for Cradley Heath.
The local bully (Picks-his-nose-and-eats-it-Pete) said as how he’d bost me one if I didn’t give him sweets.
Then last Sunday after dinner, Nanny Fellows took her false teeth out to give me a gummy grin. She said that she was, ‘Fit to bost’. And then she burped, and bellowed, “Better out than in!”
On Tuesday granddad Harper said, “The tele’s bost an’ ar cor watch the news.’ Not that I cared that much because me, I like cartoons.
On Wednesdays Aunty Susan comes and calls me ‘a little boster’, then she pinches people’s cheeks and ruffles up their hair. She knows I hate that sort of fuss. But she still does it, which isn’t fair.
So, it’s bost for belt, and bost for burst, and bost for broke, and boster for a little kid who is cute and well behaved. I really stand amazed.
The Black Country’s a weird place with a language to get lost in. I told my dad my thoughts on this. He said, “Ar, ar know, it’s bostin’!”
By Emma Purshouse
Based on a discussion about different meanings connected to the word bost that started during a workshop with years 3 and 4 from Red Hall Primary School.
Bost – broken
I’ll bost you one – I will hit you
Fit to bost – ready to burst (usually after eating a big meal)
Little boster – usually used to describe someone who is important to you or done something special for you.
Bostin – amazing, fantastic, an affirmation of excellence!
Tipton Tales for Multistory.
Emma was invited to create a poetry book focusing on the Black Country town of Tipton. The book then went on to become a promenade performance (which formed part of BLAST festival in June 2019). One of Emma’s preferred method of working is collaboration. She is part of the Black Country collective Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists whose main aim is to take poetry to people rather than to wait for people to come to poetry. In the spirit of such collaboration this book features not only work by Emma but also work by commissioned poets that Emma invited to take part in the Tipton Tales project. Each of the poets featured have deep-rooted connections to and a respect and love of the region. Poets in the book include Casey Bailey, Liz Berry, Roz Goddard, Brendan Hawthorn, Kuli Kohli, Roy McFarlane, Dave Pitt, Steve Pottinger and Billy Spakemon.
The book can be purchased from Multistory’s online shop and a selection of poems can be listened to on Soundcloud.
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