A Merrie moment with Ryan

This time, it's Ryan Bell's turn in the spotlight for our collective Q&A...

1. Why did you join the collective?

Desperation! (I’m only half-joking).

Opportunities to be creative among like-minded people had been few and far between, but the promotional material Emily produced for the initial call out for collaborators I thought was so striking and unlike much of what I had seen in Wakefield, so I (almost literally) jumped at the chance to be involved.

2. Who is your favourite artist at the minute?

I recently re-watched the Keith Haring documentary “Street Art Boy”, so it’s probably him. He’s obviously no longer with us, but his passion for inclusivity to art and his cultural contribution cannot be overstated; he took art out of the galleries and onto the streets. I recently got myself a mini model of one of his works which sits up on a shelf, and I find it very encouraging.

3. Where do you find your inspiration?

I like stuff with style to it, I don’t necessarily mean it has to be “trendy”, just things that have a particular and unique way of presentation, so I find that in loads of stuff; fashion, art, books, music, film, design or even just things that catch my eye when I’m out and about.

Social documentation I’ve always been quite drawn to, finding beauty and character in ordinary places, like the photography of Rob Bremner and Tish Murtha which I love, and found very inspiring whilst working on the Our Diary project.

I’m big into cultural history too and how subcultures develop and re-appropriate things through new angles; a prized possession of mine is this brilliant coffee table book Clarks in Jamaica by Al Fingers, about how the British shoe brand, often associated with footwear for school children, is a staple of Jamaican culture - it might sound a bit daft but I’m mad on stuff like that!

4. What are you most excited to work on next?

There's a lot of projects in the early stages that I’m excited about, though I would probably say anything to do with the return of live music and events is what I’m looking forward to most. My main creative output over the years has been in the form of music journalism so a return to gigs and such is something I’m geared up for.

5. What does being from the Merrie City mean to you?

That’s a difficult question - it’s unmistakably part of who I am, noticeable from the way I talk and integral to the way that I think.

I’m probably guilty of doing that thing where when I’m asked where I’m from, and “Wakefield” gathers a blank expression, I say “near Leeds” just for convenience’s sake.

I’ve become quite militant about not doing that for some time though, as for warts and all I’m proud to be from Wakefield and I want to be defined by what we are about, not what we are nearby, and I think there’s loads of stuff in our history and in our current cultural landscape to shout about.

I still think the city has a lot of untapped potential, upgraded facilities for our historic local sports clubs and live music venues off the top of my head I think would make the city a more vibrant place to be. But the influx of independent retailers, bars, and restaurants, as well as stuff like Artwalk have given me proof that our local cultural identity is in a really promising place.

6. What would you like to see happen in Wakefield's art scene?

Just for it to expand and continue carving out its own identity, which I think it is doing a good job of; most of the art I see coming out of the city and surrounding areas has a real pride about it.

Though as I mentioned, a live music venue is a must for the future for me, especially with the loss of Unity Hall a few years back and the recent sad news that Warehouse 23 has also now closed its doors.

7. What's your biggest creative achievement yet?

The work with The Merrie Collective, particularly the This Too Shall Pass zine and the subsequent installation projects. I’ve been visiting the Ridings shopping centre since I was little, and to have some creative work of my own displayed there, was something I took immense pride in.

Also, The Cribs tweeting about an article I wrote about them once was pretty good too!

8. Describe ‘The Merrie Collective’ in one word…

Motivating – As I mentioned, when I was younger, I presumed that this sort of stuff didn’t often happen in places like Wakefield, or that I wouldn’t be able to find a way to be a part of it anyhow. So being able to do so alongside talented and thoughtful people is a real joy and highly motivating - admittedly I can sometimes be a little sceptical and reserved in my outlook but creating alongside the collective who push me to think bigger and strive to do more, has been a blessing.

You can follow Ryan on Instagram @stillrunninground if you’ve enjoyed his Q&A.

Keep an eye out for the next instalment…


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