In 2004, Her Majesty's Government sent every household in the UK a leaflet entitled 'Preparing For Emergencies'. Its a practical guide about possible events that may occur and as such contains handy tips and useful (and useless) information such as telephone numbers and procedures! I distinctly remember the earlier Protect and Survive leaflet and with that in the back of my mind too, I wanted to make an artistic response to these initiatives. Whilst it took a little while for this response to take shape - May 2008, seemed timely!

Together the Cole family, along with a group of young artists known collectively as the Pengineers, made a response to the leaflet. Some of us got things ready - just in case. Some of us decided to draw, paint and write about it. There is a primal urge to nurture and protect ones own and these instincts are perhaps exaggerated in times of uncertainty - this is primarily the idea that we investigated in the exhibition and as the home is probably a very good place to feature such responses, the Brighton Festival Open House event seemed an opportune moment to do so...........

Pictures from the exhibition:

All Photos by Alex Franklin and Martin Holbrook               

Pictures of the work of the Pengineers who also contributed to the inception, formation and construction of the exhibition. They are: TIM HATTRICK DAVID BROWNINGS TOM COLE SIMON BROOKS ALEX HOUGH 

All Photos by Alex Franklin and Martin Holbrook                  

Dig Dig

Unearthing the remains of the original bomb shelter and the subsequent construction of the new.

In the garden of our home there are the remnants of an old World War Two Anderson Bomb shelter that was partly excavated recently. A neighbour had advised me about its location and her recollection proved to be correct. The corrugated iron was discovered at a depth of approximately one metre. The shelter appeared to have been filled in with all sorts of materials including glassware, bricks, old tools and kitchen utensils. There was even an unexploded bullet along with a fair number of small animal bones and old toys. A new shelter was constructed and sited in a similar position for the duration of the exhibition.

We anticipated that the overwhelming response to our exhibition would be that any such preparations were hopelessly futile, perhaps ill judged and probably comical but we hoped that it would stimulate visitors to examine their own feelings and thoughts on the subject. Having recently read the book entitled, 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy. The story really resonated with the ideas that I had for the exhibition. An excerpt from the book was included and positioned by the entrance to a secret cellar that was stockpiled with provisions, including plenty of tins of pears! ............

Preparing for Emergencies was the joint winner, along with Brag Studios, of the Fringe Best  Open House Award in 2008. Phil was quoted as saying:

"As an artist, I tend to work quite methodically and 'the process' is important, whereas the Pengineers were often immediate and spontaneous, they brought fresh ideas and responded enthusiastically with many humorous interpretations. there thus seemed to me, a good balance! Perhaps this was the key to making the exhibition thought provoking but lighthearted too.

Many visitors wanted to discuss the exhibition. It provoked lots of conversations about people's anxieties, the future, concerns over global warming, nuclear power as an answer to the energy crisis, taking care of your family, nesting instincts, safe places, the price of food, how crowds cope in emergencies, the selfish gene, hoarding etc etc"........

The bomb shelter stimulated many visitors to share their experiences and recollections. Lots of visitors went into the shelter and the artefacts inside also prompted much discussion as visitors helped to identify and date the pieces.

Several visitors mentioned that they had emergency stores, many recollected receiving the Government leaflet and wanted to talk about and discuss its contents.

It’s always rewarding when visitors engage with the work.