Saturday 15th July marked the grand finale of ‘What I want more than anything else’ by Mark Titchner in Burnley, following on from the openings in Wigan (June) and Hull (March). What made this project unique was that Mark Titchner really gave young people an opportunity to be heard. He let them lead the project; nothing was concrete. He described it as a ‘public art project without a site’, and given how far the project has come, shows that art has the potential to exist anywhere.
Mark Titchner pitched the question, "what is it that you want more than anything else?" to the young people of Burnley, Wigan and Hull in 2016 and worked with them to create artwork from their responses. The project inspired a type of candour that is usually missing from the public eye, where we might feel that sharing our desires might make us seem demanding or self-centred.
The responses were honest, proud, and true. Sarfraz Mahmood responded to the question with ‘I want to make music’. Sarfraz said that music ‘gets into your head. Music can make another person’s heart open.’ Mark Titchner used Sarfraz’s actual handwriting against a multi-coloured background. Sarfraz was delighted with his artwork and described it as ‘amazing’. He is really looking forward to painting two murals with Mark Titchner from 27-29 September, which will take place in Burnley Market Hall and Burnley College.
Other responses included Ellie’s ‘I want no more restlessness’ and Nicole’s ‘I want to escape into happiness’. Ellie says that to her, true happiness is ‘not having any worries’, and that knowing her work is in a public place in the form of a banner, she’s found it ‘amazing to know that people might be able to take something away [from her words]’. Ellie is going on to study Fine Art this September at Liverpool John Moores University.
Nicole’s artwork has been installed in the form of bookmarks hidden throughout the library, which is very apt. Nicole said that you can ‘escape from life into a book’. What’s interesting for Nicole is that she said participating in this project has influenced her own art. In her final portfolio for her Art A level, she incorporated text into her artwork, which is something she now feels ‘more confident’ with. Nicole is also going on to study Fine Art this September at Liverpool John Moores University.
Jasper, another young person involved in the project, tied together the general theme of want with his response, ‘I want to be happy’. Jasper said ‘in a reductive way, it’s what everybody wants. All of the desires expressed eventually lead to being happy.’ After participating in the project, Jasper said that he’s more interested in ‘public spaces and experimenting with different mediums.’ Jasper is going on to study Fine Art this September at Manchester Metropolitan University.
A strength of the launch was that it brought people together from across the three towns, which Paula McNutt and Elizabeth Forbes of Burnley College, both said they appreciated. They said that their students have gained ‘really valuable experience in seeing how a project works.’
Discussing the project, Mark Titchner said that ‘it’s been a big part of [his] life for two years.’ Mark Titchner has really showed a dedication to not only the project, but to the young people that he’s worked with. He said that with young people, there seems to be an ‘undercurrent for things to be different’, and with both supportive artists out there like himself, and young people as courageous as those whose words are now in the public realm, the desire for change that Mark Titchner feels doesn’t seem so far away.
Watch the film for Burnley
Callan Waldron-Hall is a writer and poet based in Liverpool. He's also editor of the Independent Variable Anthology, a science-themed collaborative project raising money for the Iodine Global Network.