It was just another day down at The Glue Factory. We were sweeping and mopping, and filling and painting. We were drilling and sawing, and hammering and screwing. There were ladders and scaffolding, spirit levels and tape measures. There were coffee and Coke, and sandwiches and chips. There were smiles and jokes, and frowns and curses. Someone was cold; someone was tired. Then came the awful news: fire in the Mack.
Fire in the Mack: it took a while to sink in. We imagined the worst. Everything then took on a new perspective, the fragile and precious nature of all that we are and all that we do arising before us. It had been a good year for us up to this point. Another two of our graduates had made it on to the Turner Prize shortlist, and we were all feeling pretty positive. Everyone’s work was progressing well in the studios, and we were looking forward to wrapping up a satisfying and successful year. But now we turned our thoughts to those who had been directly affected by the fire.
There was not much that we could do to help, apart from offering words of support and acts of solidarity. We are a small, tightly knit community: one person’s triumph is everyone’s triumph; one person’s loss is everyone’s loss. Whilst the physical devastation resulting from the terrible accident is more or less quantifiable, the psychological and emotional damage is not so easily measured. But above all, perhaps, we are resilient. And so we returned to the sweeping and mopping, the filling and painting. Once more we picked up the tools and equipment. But now we had an added purpose: our exhibition would not simply be a platform for this year’s MFA graduates, it would also be a symbolic gesture; an affirmation that though flames may destroy precious stuff and beloved surroundings they can consume neither the spirit nor the will to continue.
We hope our friends, colleagues and fellow students who have lost so much will share something of our sense of achievement, and we look forward to next year when we will all, once again, have the opportunity to show the results of our hard work, communal engagement, practical skills and occasionally eccentric thinking.
Acting Programme Leader