Slumgothic is the name of the not for profit company that runs x-church in Gainsborough. We got the name by butting up two words 'slum' and 'gothic' from a description of the architectural style of the building that houses most but not all of our work. We all know what slum means, gothic is perhaps less obvious. At first we understood it as a medieval architectural movement that built crazily high light-filled cathedrals. Experience though has taught us more about gothic as something dark and alluring.
The word Slumgothic then points to poverty, light, dark and these words chime well with our experience of bringing a redundant church back into use in a deprived neighbourhood. But there is another important dimension. The old church was originally bought to extend the activities of a contemporary art space. Bend In The River predominantly showed paintings and had a taste for work that acknowledged the formalism underpinning much of twentieth century art. So we also understood the word in a formal sense: slum as something lateral, horizontal; gothic as something as(spir)ational, vertical. Horizontal and vertical. x and y. Or perhaps x and why?
We run x-church as 'a space where things can happen'. We do have a purposed community cafe and dome but we like to run the vast nave as a blank space that can adapt to all kinds of activities and events. The things that happen usually evolve out of the people who spend time in the building. There were always children so soon there were balls, there was always music so soon there were bands. When Verity found the word Slumgothic scrawled on a piece of paper in the office she said "that's such a cool word, we should start a teenage art project", so ever since there have been lots of teenagers. The need for mental health support is acute in our area so we have followed this too and made a lot of progress in delivering effective non-clinical support. Slumgothic is currently training twelve Peer Link Workers to create a robust network of voluntary mental health support.
We have become very good at doing a lot with a little but progress has been patchy. This new website is all about starting to connect things up. We like to help people grow. It might be by helping somebody out of their house and back into the world or by encouraging a young band to stick at making a racket and wait for things to click or by challenging an artist to work differently or by giving keys to a young person or a volunteer and trusting them to make something good happen. Everything we do seems to fit nicely into the question "is art a social prescription?" Or perhaps "is social prescription an art?"
There have always been resident artists at x-church but a lot of the most interesting activity has been fragmented and hidden. The Live Collage project is a good example. Artist Michael Bowdidge has developed a habit of making digital collages from photographs that document all kinds of moments at x-church. Collectively they form a kind of architecture vs. behaviour portrait and are a good way to get a sense of what has been happening. The Live Collage Working Group has stretched the base of people making collages to include many people who are not artists.
In the autumn of 2015 we formed Slumgothic Artist Resident Curators which is a flexible group of artists who are routinely involved in making artworks that spring from engagement with x-church. The group will have a big influence on the things that happen in the future.