The Reading Room: Retrospective description and analysis 1: Audience(s)

It’s been nearly 2 months since this event and almost as long since my last post.

I’ve realised the reason for my tiredness…shingles… only diagnosed retrospectively a couple of weeks ago but its still left me feeling below par…

Sometimes its hard to recognise the difficulty between exacerbation of MS symptoms and something different… but on top of the shingles aftermath I had vertigo ( caused by excess heat during a week in Austria – It was worth it though…met Sarah in Innsbruck too so that was fab. Hi Sarah!) then a further infection…..and more time with cognitive insufficiency…..hence the delay.

Well that’s my excuse and i’m sticking to it!

However, I decided just after the event that I would write up the analysis’ from a distance’ anyway… as a link to personal memory…I just hadn’t expected it to be from such a distance…..

It does mean that I will miss out some details, inevitably, but writing from this time perspective will be interesting as an exercise in remembering ‘ accurately’.

I’ll try to make some order out of my thoughts but within that I suspect there will be some randomness within the order…


Potentially there were two primary audiences for the event.

Those at the Reading Room and taking part directly and also those who went to the MA Show and had the opportunity of picking up a leaflet and following the instructions to call my mobile phone number and find the location.

I struggle with ‘audience’.

I am never sure who my audience is.

this isn’t good… how can I make work which addresses an audience if I don’t know who they are.

Previous work has addressed a contingent passing audience rather than a real ‘art’ audience and this is where I feel more ‘at home’, with an audience that is local and happens upon work which may or mayn’t be ‘art’

It’s hard to do this justice in an exhibition, even through documentation and I have restled with this and the concept and reality of documentation for some time.

some of my work has been about documentation itself which is how I got HERE

So this work attempted to address two audiences at the same time… part of the work itself.


The local audience were the people of Croughton and surrounding villages.

I purposely did not advertise he event outside the village as I wanted it to be a local event with participants having some connection to the site.

The only’ outsiders’ who came were Jon Shapley who I had asked to document the afternoon and two visitors from  nearby village who had seen poster when I was working in the building and ‘popped in’ to see what was happening. They came back for the event.

I used posters with a ‘vintage’ look… downloaded font ( OldNewspaperType ) and layout taking a copy of the Daily Mirror as an example.


 The first edition of this newspaper was published in 1903, the year the Reading Room was built.

Here is a quote from Information Britain

Launched by Alfred Harmsworth (the future Lord Northcliffe – British newspaper ownership so often coincides with elevation to the peerage for some reason) to capture a market under represented on Fleet Street at that time, i.e. women, The Daily Mirror was innovatively staffed mainly by women, including for the first edition Mary Howarth as editor.

I put posters up in the usual village places, there is no Post Office….. so… the Co-op and Jane put one in the bus shelter and the pub next door and the Reading Room itself.

There were lots of flyers also in the pub, Co-op and at Reading Room coffee mornings and whist drives for a few weeks prior to the event.

Whilst I’d been filming I’d been to lots of the social events and so they knew `i was going to be ‘doing something’.

I emailed an American couple from the RAF Base who had been at a dog training evening and also  the  couple who lived close and were passing by.

One was an artist who had worked previously in animation  at the local Animation Station and now, interestingly, worked for the Landmark Trust, a charity that renovate old buildings for use as holiday homes.

I also contacted the village website to get the event put on  but it didn’t appear after two ‘leaving of details’.

I got an email from the webmaster the evening after the event, as below.

Sorry – I only caught up with my backlog this week end – so I missed this.
Please try to give me a months notice to be sure.
All the best.

Jane apparently gave the details to the village newsletter which is distributed to every household in the village.

So everybody in the village should have known about it.

What I didn’t do was use social media as I wanted it to be available to a specific audience.


By showing the poster for the event ( but without location printed), flyers to provide a level of information and maybe intrigue as well as my contact details, and a larger pictorial flyer ‘illustrating’  elements of the event I had hoped to engage an audience at the MA Show.

The idea was that people would take a flyer and a leaflet , look at them in association with the poster and maybe follow the instructions, as below;

The Reading Room was built in 1903 by local landowner and benefactor, Edward Ramsay.

Jane (from Middlesex) and Richard (from Cleveland) now care for The Reading Room.

They met in 2009 on ‘Farmland’, keep bees and enjoy GEOCACHING.


Call : 07956 159954

The font I used was Helvetica Neue as this is the one used on iPhones.

Originally I’d used a different font for each line… referencing the text so for instance Farmland was in the Facebook font and Geocache

The Reading Room was built in 1903 by local landowner and benefactor, Edward Ramsay. Old Newspaper Types download

Jane (from Middlesex) and Richard (from Cleveland), now care for the Reading Room . Times

They met in 2009 on Farmland, keep bees and enjoy GEOCACHING. Lucida Grande Facebook And Arial Narrow Geocache website??? Farmland Verdana from website

FIND THIS LOCATION Arial but sharp outline therefore Bold on Google Earth

Call : 07956 159954 Helvetica Neue I Phone 4

Lots of work and very interesting but actually FAR too complicated and a waste of time….Would anybody have noticed and understand… also it meant that the message on the flyer was complicated not made easier to read by the font…

so it defeated the object really.

Anyhow, the idea was that on the day ( or possibly before as the MA Show Preview was on the Thursday and the event on the Saturday afternoon, people may pick up the flyers and call or text me.

Then I could send them the location by text or email with a pin for the Reading Room.

I hoped for conversations by call, Face time or Skype about the project and The Reading Room itself and its proximity to RAF Croughton and the contrasts in methods of communication  technology in the two different places.

I had hoped for any callers to then call again during the Reading Room event and then conversations could occur between people in the Reading Room and people in London… or wherever… a sort of ‘Old meets New’ if that’s not too naff…

The plan was also to try and stream a Live Event from the Reading Room.

I planned to send participants a link so that they could see the context and the action.

I also displayed posters of the following QR codes for links to a Soundcloud account  ( lots of soundless made from the Reading Room and interviews with local woman about her memories of the Reading Room)


and a Youtube channel ( a link to the ‘Live Stream’)


so that participants could look at other material ‘ after the event’.

The Result !


As you can see from the documentation there was a very small and selective response and engagement form the village.

To some extent this represents the difficulties that the Reading Room itself has in attracting an audience for any of its activities.

Other factors were

  • Charlton Village Fete ( a big event in the next village) was on the same afternoon as were other local ‘happenings’.
  • The fact that I am not from the village and maybe seen to be doing something ‘ I knew nothing about’? I had not contacted other village groups such as the local History Society or Reading Group as I had originally thought.Mainly because of lack of time.The more integration with the community the better the response. Obviously…
  • Suspicion of an ‘art activity’. There is an art group on the village and I had not approached them.
  •  Several people were on holiday as it was just at the beginning of the school holidays.

So, on another occasion I think I would make more effort to do these things and realise just how much time it takes in a community where you don’t live and they have not commissioned the work.

I was really pleased though by the quality of engagement if not the numbers.

The local vicar and curate came and were interested in the concepts behind the work.

The local people who did come stayed for some time, around an hour or more on average, and engaged fully with the activities I’d set up and watched the film for its full length.

The film was well received. More about this later.

One gentleman who came made a special effort as he didn’t usually attend Reading Room events although his wife does.

He lived  and worked on the farm where the stone used to build the Reading Room was quarried, was a member of the Reading Room from the age of 14 when he started work and held both his Wedding Reception and Golden Wedding Reception in the Reading Room.

He brought a photograph, which he keeps in his wallet.

IMG_1973 IMG_1975

The conversations ranged from memories and myths of the Reading Room and the village to stories of working in Russia during and after the Cold War.

So the link between local and global was alive in the conversation. ( if not in the technology as you can read below!)

I met this man again to glean more information and discovered that he was not only a member of the Reading Room, paid subscription and had a Membership Card until it was lent to someone else and not returned, but he also worked at RAF Croughton!


Despite the label to the work asking people to call me and FIND THIS LOCATION

No-one contacted me at all.

Not my friends who visited the show, or any of my cohort or my tutors………

Even a friend who I specifically asked if the extra label I send to be put on the plinth BY the flyers was actually there… saying PLEASE TAKE A FLYER AND LEAFLET… she didn’t call me..

There are several possible reasons for this…

  •  Mistrust of just calling a number from your phone….maybe….
  • Disinterest… the work was not engaging… maybe i  should have shown the film as well, but I did’t want to. I wanted the film to be shown in the community first and anyway there will have to be at least 2 versions… more on this in another post.
  • Lots of people took a leaflet and flier whilst I watched at the preview and then…put them back! Hence me sending and extra label instructing them to TAKE AWAY!!!
  • There is just too much work at a show for things with little immediate impact to be seen at all.
  • People generally don’t like to participate…. ( I haven’t previously, believed this and have not found it to be true wit other work I’ve done but this time it seems to be true)

However, it didn’t really matter as on the day of the event there, as expected, was no phone signal or Broadband available at all at any time in the Reading Room

or even outside although BT Open Reach shows as available… it ain’t.

Maybe some people did try to call then but didn’t leave a message

I like to think so but I don’t really imagine this was the case.

So a live stream was set up to start… But it didn’t happen.

Worth trying though for the sake of it. I might even remember how I did it and try again sometime.

I had to borrow my son’s Chromebook as my laptop is very old and didn’t support Chrome.

I had to pay him too…


Not a huge take-up . but I often think my work has a sort of ripple effect.

A small audience but hopefully one that is affected deeply and remembers for a long time… that the experience has some impact on future action

In retrospect, I should have invited colleagues and friends to the Event but at a later time, maybe in the evening following on from the local community so that the event could be intimate and personal and about the community…as it was…. but also other people got to see it and there was an interaction between the two…. a much better idea. I could have advertised the other event on social media but with the later start time.

I did think others would have found some elements more engaging than the Croughton Community and vice versa so it was a big missed opportunity. Although now I have all the materials etc I can set it up another time more easily.

I may even do it as a fundraiser  some time next year.

From a research point of view it was an invaluable experience as an experimental participative method.

I’ll discuss this in another post.


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