One day in August, I had to travel across Southampton. Normally I would cycle, but my bike had a puncture, so I had no choice. I had to walk. The route I followed took me down roads I know well, past houses old friends of mine had lived in, through memories and stories, fictional and true. But it was only on my walk back that my mind truly started working.

When I exited the underpass and stepped out into the parkland my eye was immediately drawn to a concrete slab. I had never seen this before. I was inquisitive and walked toward it. I had discovered when I now know (thanks to the handy City Council plaque) was an Artesian Well. I must have cycled past this thing (1317 foot deep thing) literally hundreds of times. And only now have I seen it. How many more secrets like this are waiting to be discovered? 10 minutes walk from my Southampton home is a large area of land. It has many different habitats and purposes; ponds and lakes, grassland and woods, play areas and cemeteries. It is our Common. For 20 years it has been part of my life. Stories have been told about it, walks planned across it, picnics held on it. But in all these stories, walks and picnics I have never truly looked at the place. Never looked past the event happening. It seems as though I have just never taken the time to take it all in. So this is my chance. A chance to view detail. A chance to look closer. A chance to learn some things I guess I never knew.

I know the Common well, but not so well that I am not surprised to discover new things when I walk away from the path. It is still an exciting place to visit, perhaps more so when you're also re-visiting memories, faintly remembered stories and images from old books. With this project I hope to bring all of these together, mixing them with other people's stories, images and memories to create a reflection of all.

Project Plan
Kate's Four and a Bit Step Project Plan

  • Divide up The Common into manageable, walk-able quadrants.
  • Take an area a day. Spend time in the area, documenting what you see, hear, feel, remember and meet. Store for future representation and repetition.
  • Update the website with findings and evidence. The website should be updated as soon after The Common visit as possible.
  • Condensation and continuation occurs as the documentation takes a journey of its own into a book format, designed to be viewed with the website in mind.

Initially, equal time will be spent in equally sized areas. However, this is flexible. If my mind goes of for a wander, then so may I, but I will not desert my original plans. For this project to succeed I believe I have to spend maximum amount of time on The Common both physically and mentally.
The results, and effects, of this will be meticulously documented. Although the area is large, I believe that working on small sections at a time will allow me to immerse myself in and focus my mind on the small things, details, chances. If this proves not to be enough, I am fully prepared to scale down even further.
I don't really want an overview, I want the inside view.

There will be no big build up to this project, no final finish and no fireworks at the end. Every moment I spend on site will be an incident, every interaction a micro-performance. I say this in recognition of my present in this environment will alter it. People I meet along the way will be involved in it, hopefully intrigued and imaginatively spurred on. Nothing about this project will be spectacular. Like the memories and histories embedded in The Common any outcomes will be muted, there for those who watch, or know, or are involved.

Working On Site
I will be assembling a Common Kit For All Occasions. This will include a map of the area I am working on, a camera, a dictaphone a sketchpad and pen, and occasionally a video camera. However, even with this equipment I will not neglect the information retaining abilities of my brain and will save a great deal there, in memory of the memories, ready for representation on the website.

Documentation Online
The website is an integral part of the project. It will be designed to be aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly and suited to the subject. The manner of it being frequently updated makes it suited to a 'blog' or diary format so some sections may take this form. It will possibly be interactive through a public access guest book or forum. It will serve as a place for sharing the 'findings'; artwork, moving pictures, sound files, text etc. The website will be published on my own domain, specifically set up for this project (www.quitecommon.com) This site has no current associations with any other project or business and so is suited to me publicising the database to other Common users.

Personal Contract and Understanding of Issues
Although this is common land and I am free to move about it at will, I will respect the people that I meet, nature that I encounter and landscape I interact with. If a private or organised event takes place on The Common during my time there I will honour the wishes of those in charge.
Any interviews recorded, or pictures taken of people or their possessions will be agreed by them before being publicly posted on the website. All those involved either directly (interviewees/contributions) or indirectly (people who question me/ are interested) will be made aware of this practice and the website. This project is not designed to be secret or totally invisible.
By laying out these clear rules I hope that a clear and honest connection between myself, The Common and the Common users can be reached and maintained.

Further questions can be asked on the feedback page or by emailing kateward@quitecommon.com

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