What is the friendly Society of artistic labourers?
It is a form of radical work experience,
It is where we come together,
To listen and learn from each other,
To push ourselves creatively,
To think and make,
To make brave decisions,
To not be scared of failure,
To share what we have made,
And of course, to party.
The name of the project takes its lead from the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the birth of the Trade Union Movement during the agricultural revolution. A group of six agricultural labourers from the village of Tolpuddle in Dorset were convicted at Shire Hall Court House in 1834 of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. The first edition of FSAL took place at Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum in 2020.
Devised as a form of radical work experience The Friendly Society of Artistic Labourers (FSAL) brings together students from all creative arts subject areas at Weymouth College to produce and present new work at different venues outside the college.
FSAL is currently in its fifth year with each iteration taking on a new theme and linking with a partner organisation that hosts the final event. Each year the project includes dedicated research and production time with all students working off-timetable for period of two weeks to make and plan for and evening of exhibitions and events. Alongside the research and creative production students contribute to all aspects of the production including; exhibition planning, working with project partners, marketing, press and promotion, documentation and evaluation.
Each year also includes presentations and provocations from professional artists and creative workers that inform and inspire the direction of the work.
In 2023 FSAL worked in partnership with Dorset Museum. The project title was This is Now which encouraged the 150 students that took part to explore the museum’s collection and look at how creative practitioners learn from, and are inspired by, the museum artifacts. And in turn, how contemporary creative responses breath new life into the museum’s collection. Guest artists and speakers included Bedwyr Williams, Andy Parker, Lucy Watkins (Portland Museum) Chris Lee.
The 2022 edition of The Friendly Society of Artistic Labourers used the quote “In Nature Nothing Exists Alone” (Rachel Carson) as its starting point. Through the production of new work students explored personal and collective ideas responding to this evocative quote, with a strong focus on contemporary ideas of nature, ecology, environment and sustainable practice. A programme of artist talks helped to contextualise and inspire an energetic response to the theme with speakers including Bridgette Ashton, Tania Kovats, Carrie Maison, Lotte Scott, Pete Ward, Sophie Sherwood, Veronica Vickery (and Simon Lee Dicker). A public exhibition took place at Nothe Fort (Weymouth, UK) in March 2022 and included Performance, Sound, Dance, Music, Sculpture, Installation and photography.
In 2021 the second edition FSAL worked with the theme Protection & Survival and went online as a virtual community event. Living through the 2020 Covid19 pandemic society was forced to reconsider the relationship we have to others, changing the way we interact, redefining how we survive individuals and protect society. In response to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic the project consisted of a week of artist talks to contextualise and stimulate and then a week of making in groups but with the students, staff and artists working from their lockdown environments. Guest speakers included Anna Crystal Stevens, Chantal Powell, Carly Seller, Guy Dobson, Leeming & Patterson, Barry Sykes, Rocca Holly-Namby (and Simon Lee Dicker).
The inaugural gathering of the FSAL brought together students from different subject areas across the creative arts at Weymouth College to make a new collective work exploring the potential of co-working and cross disciplinary practice. Guest artists that supported the project included Megan Calver, Gabby Hoad and Laura Hopes and a long list of artists that provided quotes for the banners. The students explored ideas of ‘the value of art’ through the production of banners, paintings, publications, performances, acoustic sound works and a large scale collective action, in the form of a procession, that took place throughout Dorchester Town Centre. The exhibition and events took place at Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum (Dorchester, UK) in March 2020.
FSAL has been developed alongside Sam Jukes (course leader for the art foundation and creative degrees at Weymouth College) and made possible through the support and creativity of all the staff and students at Weymouth college, Dorset UK.