Traces, an art & poetry residency at The Gallery at The End of The Lane, Coaley, Gloucester, July 2016


Until July this year I hadn’t spent a great deal of time in a horse box but, through a strange series of events, I found myself working alongside poet Winston Plowes for four days in a lovely, old peeling blue horse box otherwise known as ‘The Gallery at The End of The Lane’, in Coaley, Gloucester, curated by Catherine Jones.

Our project was called ‘Traces’. Here’s a description of it:

‘Traces’ explored the realms of stains, echoes, footprints, fingerprints, shadows, indentations- the subtle, or blatant traces of a presence, the things that we inevitably leave behind. Each ace, each stain hosts a narrative. In ‘traces’ Holmes and Plowes  presented these narratives as forensic stanzas accompanied by an art installation which correlated with the texts and provided a visceral and visual element to the work.



So, we placed a rickety table in the middle of the horsebox and covered its surface with things we’d found on our journey to Coaley and in the local surroundings, things like empty coffee cups, flowers, corks, biscuits, fragments of broken glass, old wrappers, egg shells, used tickets, onion skins, etc. Over the four days of our residency we wrote poems which explored the possible narratives of these objects or related to them in some way. We then attached these poems to the walls and linked them to their subject with lengths of thin, red florist’s ribbon.

Though we didn’t sleep there, we spent a lot of time in that little horse box with its flaking blue paint. We’d sit on its ‘lip’ writing poems in our notebooks or rattling them out on a vintage Corona typewriter. We’d be there from around 10am until 10pm and we’d get excited at sunset when the very golden sunlight lit up the box as if it were plugged in and the shadows of branches and leaves overlaid our poems pinned to the walls and did something very clever and very beautiful and some nights, Catherine Jones,  dynamic host and curator of ‘The Gallery At The End Of The Lane’, would join us is ‘the box’ (now lit up with moon/star light and fairy lights) for a wee glass of rhubarb vodka and to chat about bats, Satie, singing in  multi-story car parks, skies, colours, life, writing and inspiration…

Between us, we wrote a total of 21 poems. Here is a small selection.



Table, by Winston Plowes


This is the table where tickets were left

where cup rings burnt in

where A-levels were revealed.

This is the table of times.


This is the table where breakfast went cold

where parties spilled over

where heads sank into hands.

This is the table of times.


This is the table where candles guttered

where keys were lost

where hours turned into days.

This is the table of times.


This is the table where you spilled the beans

where elbows leaned

where the letter knife broke bad news.

This is the table of times.


This is the table where hands held hands

where petals fell

where chairs balanced on two legs.

This is the table of times.



Scar, by Gaia Holmes


This scar is not a road.

It does not lead

to burning cities

or villages of pain.

It passes by the knives,

the broken cups,

the raw-necked bottles

and soothes itself

as it climbs the steeps,

seals itself

against remembering.




Flowers, by Winston Plowes


Bring me the flowers that are not three sizes too big

that don’t scream like a mardi gras

or strangle me with gaudy scent.

That are not class A perfect

and made with a protractor and scalpel.

That only fit through a precise template

or comply with British standards colour chart BS4800.

Not the attention seeking imports

that shout and never listen.


I would much rather work a little

to enjoy the beauty that you bring.

Try and image the bits that broke of in transit

or spend some time with an eyeglass.

Tend them, build a relationship,

decode their whispers

and read them stories as they wilt

and of course I will mourn them

but afterwards we will both be stronger

horsebox-5 horsebox-1









Stain (2), by Gaia Holmes


Stains do not forget

their conception,

they remember it well,

the morning they crawled

out of the milk jug

or the toppled coffee cup,

or the night

someone knocked over

the wine glass

and they were freed,



became an unwanted pattern

on someone’s days.


Pictures From a Magazine, by Winston Plowes

During another wet East Coast holiday she sat in the Sea View public bar drinking wine too early for her own good. Cutting out a new husband from magazines in the TV Lounge: The hair of Wogan had strong clean black edges and on top of Bruno Tonioli’s Italian tan, looked refreshing. The torso of John Terry in Chelsea away kit joined the restless legs of Michael Flatley, a Clarks advert giving the assemblage a grounded feel. She slid her perfect man into the left side of the frame around her room mirror, placed herself to the right and between them the reflection of Sky News on the TV provided the conversation.


Viennese Whirls, by Gaia Holmes


When they came in to the kitchen

they smelled of smoke and pain.

They both took off their hats

and drank the sweet black tea we made

but did not touch the biscuits.

Maybe it seemed too fickle

to be nibbling Viennese Whirls

as they told us the news

and their words thudded onto the table

like little bombs.


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