Botanicals – Development in Music & Image

Paul Slater, aka Fabric Lenny, Spodden Valley Revealed artist in residence, updates us on his investigation of the Whitworth Doctors…

Since my last Botanicals blog back in early April I have spent lots of time reading, drawing and thinking about the Doctors of Whitworth. I have made new drawn images (many of which are shared here) using a variety of approaches both digitally and on paper.

Some drawn images have been made in a very exploratory fashion, using the drawing process as a way to excavate ideas, others have been in direct response to written passages or sentences which offered a glimpse into the work, lives and practice of the Whitworth Doctors. Whilst reading passages in various publications I found some of the descriptions of the doctors and in particular their surgery and waiting room evoked very cinematic images, many of which were accompanied with sounds and music.

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I often work collaboratively with artists from a range of disciplines and have a history of working alongside sound artists and musicians. It seemed like a natural progression for the project to move into sound and music so I invited long time collaborator Nick Lewis to be part of the work to look at how the stories of the Whitworth Doctors could translate into music and song. One resulting sketch or demo appears below and is inspired by Betty Dawson, referred to here by Nick as Whalebone Betty.

Whalebone Betty from Fabric Lenny on Vimeo.

Many of the complex splints and corsets used by the Whitworth Doctors to support the mending of fractures and the straightening of bones were reportedly made by Betty Dawson from her property, whose location came to be known locally as Whalebone corner.

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Lots more drawings to comealong with the potential of some animated content and possibly some site specific projections in Whitworth Square and Doctors Wood.

“It’s an immensely fun songwriting exercise to dive into these tales, to research and tease out details, and then find elements or characters that stand out.”

“The stories involving the Taylors of Whitworth are so wild and interesting, but not commonly told. It’s an immensely fun songwriting exercise to dive into these tales, to research and tease out details, and then find elements or characters that stand out. The stories have an almost fairy tale feel to me, and I want to reflect that in the music, so the music I’m creating feels whimsical and silly at times, but then sometimes is a little more foreboding in tone, much like the tales of the Doctors themselves. Occasionally the research has thrown up a surprise character too, like Betty Dawson, the woman who made whalebone splints to order for the doctors. According to one source she would walk to Manchester and back in a single day to obtain the correct whalebones and then work through the night to craft the splints for patients’ limbs. It’s rich characters like this that almost write themselves into a song.”  — Nick Lewis

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