Anna FC Smith
Anna FC Smith
What inspires you as an artist?
I’m inspired by history, folk culture, customs and communal traditions. I’m driven to seek the ways people are connected to the past and what history can tell us about ourselves and the present. I love to learn, which is why historical and anthropological research plays an important role in my practice. I’m fascinated by the overlooked in history, unanswered questions or where something has been dismissed as ‘low culture’, because we can learn much from the most mundane or disregarded things.
Tell us about your Imago project:
Boxing Day is one of the most creative days in the Wigan calendar. The fancy dress reveals a democracy of creativity, showcasing individuality, inventiveness and joviality. I will be using this opportunity to research and discover the origins of Wigan’s Boxing Day fancy dress custom and see how it relates to more ancient masking and mumming Christmas customs, particularly from the Elizabethan era. I’m fascinated by the fact that, though it seems this tradition started only around 30 years ago, it has so many similarities with ancient tradition and so I want to use the residency to delve into the library and archives to look in to this historical comparison.
To capture this unrecorded people’s history, I want people to come forward with stories of when they attended their first Wigan Boxing Day, why they think it started, and to donate photographs and items from their old costumes to the project. I want to bring together people’s stories and photographs onto a digital timeline to chronicle how the custom developed to become a resource for everyone. From the collected items of costume, I want to create a large sculpture or figure and a choreographed performance or parade inspired by the deeper history of winter masking and the tales from Wiganers. I would want to collaborate with performers for the first time to make this vision a reality.
I’m keen to express the vibrancy of this custom, its history and its overarching cultural significance. This is a joyous and celebratory, if somewhat mischievous, custom and through exploring it and its historical precedent I would be promoting Wigan and its unique history as well as charting how a new custom can developed.
Who can take part?
I would like to get input from anyone in Wigan who has pictures, tales and/or pieces of costume from Boxing Day. I’d also like to hear from people who have other stories of Wigan fancy dress around Christmas to build a picture of how and when the custom began. I would also like to speak to rugby groups, landlords and any other people who may have some knowledge about the custom. I will be running workshops with many groups looking at different aspects of masking, and the history around it.
How do I get involved?
People can come to meet me at Wigan Library to give me their items and tales, post things on a special Facebook page, or attend workshops at the library.
How can I follow your journey?
You can follow me on twitter at @annafcsmith
On Instagram @annafcsmith
Or on my website at annafcsmith.tumblr.com