Luton based artist Abi Spendlove’s project Tributary celebrates the River Lea, which rises in and passes through Luton. Responding to the river’s original Anglo Saxon meaning – which translates as ‘Bright River’ – Spendlove will record people’s impressions of the Lea, tracking its place in local mythology as it meanders towards the Thames. She will invite visitors to participate in curated walks tracking the river’s progress through the town centre, make a new film and create a participatory painted poem about Luton’s hidden river.
The River Lea passes almost unnoticed through Luton as it travels from its source in Leagrave Park to the lakes at Luton Hoo. Rerouted to accommodate the urban environments through which it passes, the Lea is a ‘hidden river’, which Spendlove will bring into the consciousness of the town as residents and visitors pass the Storefront en-route from station and the car parks to the shops.
Tributary will showcase a collaborative multi-authored painted poem on the gallery walls and a large hand drawn map of Luton which highlights the river’s broken and disjointed course. Spendlove is also a making a new film focussing on the light play around the source of the river, and will create a soundtrack in which local residents recall their stories of the Lea. The stories pay tribute to the river, connecting it with the rhythms and reflections of both a historical and contemporary experience.
The final part of the installation is a series of experimental drawings made using ink and melted ice from the Lea. Spendlove will also experiment with some live ice work in Storefront during the launch of the project on June 29, 2017.
Events and Participation: Word Cloud / Painted Poem (ongoing throughout the exhibition)
Three different maps will be available in the gallery for visitors to collect. Each will mark the route of a walk from the Storefront to the river (a short, medium and long walk) and visitors are invited to take one of the walks, see the river and write a word, sentence, paragraph or poem about it. The maps can be returned to the Storefront or words can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Those submitting by email can also send a photograph, which will be printed and displayed in a book in the exhibition.