Tartu 2024: Writer in Residence
In 2022, I was lucky enough to get selected to represent the Manchester UNESCO City of Literature organisation as writer-in-residence in Tartu, Estonia. The brief is to work in collaboration with an Estonian artist from a different discipline to create a new piece of literature/art/performance for the 2024 Prima Vista festival, when Tartu will be European Capital of Culture. The theme is 'Futures Better and Worse', and we're invited to think about the notion of utopias and dystopias in the contemporary moment.
And what a moment. We're still reeling from a pandemic, climate catastrophe edges ever closer, identity politics is at a feverishly fracturing all-time high, and just across the way from Tartu sits the border of Russia. Now more than ever we need to contemplate our hopes and fears, we need to confront and wrestle with the future and how we imagine it.
I spent a week in Tartu during November 2022, just to get an initial feel for the place. I wrote a trio of blogposts to cover the occasion. A nervy post of anticipation, an effusive post while I was in the midsts of it all, and a satisfied ending once I'd got back home. I also wrote up a reflection on being a 'creative resident' for the Manchester City of Literature blog.
I made a gallant return in May 2023 for the 2023 Prima Vista festival and the Culture Compass conference. I met a whole host of people who will forever lodge adjacent to my heart, and a whole bunch of adventures that were unbelievably idyllic. Quite simply, I had the time of my life. I also did some on-the-ground research with Henri, my collaborator, and now we have a year to concoct our highly ambitious and faintly ridiculous artistic intervention.
Dare you enter the forest?
Here's some choice imagery: