So, my first ever awards ceremony was this: The Mervyn Peake Awards 2012, a celebration of the creativity of people with Parkinson’s. It was held at the Merchant Taylor’s Hall in the City of London, a most impressively grand venue. (And quite a convenient venue if you’re arriving in London at Waterloo Station, as I did; there is a dedicated Underground line that goes direct to Bank, the closest Tube station. And nowhere else. It does not stop; it does not continue. But it does go back to Waterloo.)
Shortly after I left Bank (just about on time), I spotted someone else peering at the back of his Mervyn Peake Awards ticket, where there was a handy map. It turned out that he and his wife were from Leicestershire, my childhood home county. The three of us combined forces on interpreting the somewhat idiosyncratic numbering on Threadneedle Street, and were soon at the Hall.
Where we found – as might be expected – an exhibition of selected works submitted to the competition. Apparently, they hung all of the prize winners (naturally), but the remainder was at least in part dictated by which artists were turning up.
Here are my rather poor photographs of the installation, showing a mostly random selection of the works:
The four prize-winning poems were displayed on a board, and the remainder were comb-bound into a book (of which there were at least two copies).
After half an hour or so of milling around and looking at pictures and poems, we were invited in to dine on posh sandwiches and fruit (and tarts – savoury and fruit – and crisps). There were copious quantities of fruit juice and tea or coffee, and numerous waiting staff who kept refilling everyone’s drinking receptacles.
I hadn’t quite finished my lunch (I was busy talking to the couple next to me – some more midlanders, although this time from the West Midlands) when the speeches and the awards commenced. Sebastian Peake made a very moving speech in which he referred to his father’s struggles with Parkinson’s. A long-term competitor in the awards (a lady called Elaine, who first entered in 2006) also spoke; she was very inspirational and clearly dedicated to creativity, both as a concept and as a practice.
After a bit more milling around, people collected their works as appropriate, bought a few odds and ends at the Parkinson’s UK stall if they wanted to (I bought some badges and a couple of calendars), and headed off out into the damp streets of London. But not without exchanging a few pleasant words with their fellows and – in my case – foisting a few cards printed with blog URLs on unsuspecting interlocutors.
I hope they didn’t mind.
The journey home was, for me, uneventful until I left Basingstoke (having, um, stopped off for essential supplies at Hobbycraft) and discovered an enormous traffic jam. So I winged it on the back roads, relying on local knowledge gleaned from walking (always a dubious idea; in towns, this leads to problems with one way streets; in the countryside, the roads all seem to go in the wrong direction) and signposts, which were few and far between on the single track roads.
I went rather a long way round.
But I did end up returning to the village over the downs, through the pass that separates Cannon Heath Down (the subject of my painting) from Stubbington Down (where I sat to paint it). Which was quite a fitting end to the day.