More Than 100 Stories is a commission led by artists Sarah Butler and Nicole Mollet that explores and creatively maps the Creative People and Places programme.

Have love, will travel. A visit to Boston

Lady gluing

The first thing I see as my train pulls into Boston Station is a giant feathery swan perched on top of a Victorian building with the datestone ‘1877’ just below it. This incongruous beast is the first of many odd but beautiful sightings on my way into Boston town centre. The next being a life-size plastic tiger in the window of an Indian take away, with an ‘open’ sign hanging from its right bottom tooth. Perhaps he is referring to the Transported ‘Open book’ programme which I am here to visit?

Grand municipal buildings overlook an eastern European supermarket with windows covered in images of fresh meat produce. This high street corridor into town gives me a sense of the diverse and growing community, which has multiple historic legacies to unravel, carved into its stone surfaces. There is no singular clear route of entry or obvious path into the centre of Boston. I learn the following day that this area is part of a project called ‘From Station to Stump’ (meaning the fondly nick-named steeple of St Botolph Church). The idea being that in order to strengthen the tourism offer, the town needs to resolve the gaps in the journey that leads to the main attraction.

The next morning Nick Jones and Elaine Knight show me one section of this project, a newly installed community garden and artworks featuring circular Insect hives and bird boxes embellished with silhouettes of various bird breeds reminding me of Aubrey Beardsley. Jeni Cairns, a garden designer from Peterborough, and Zaneta Belasicova, a visual artist have worked together to re-design the area to make it more attractive to both people and wildlife. I can see what a relatively small intervention can do to change an area for the better. Taking it from being an unloved corner, to somewhere I would want to linger in and perhaps sit down to eat my sandwiches.

An intensive discussion at a bus stop reveals many of the tensions and challenges Transported faces, not least of them being the sheer vastness of the area and the isolation that creates. As the project title suggests; 90% of the area it covers is rural hinterland, the majority of the audiences find getting to events and activities outside of their immediate location very difficult, if not prohibitive. Hence the flagship projects involve art being taken to the people, whether on the side of a lorry or in the back of a library bus. Making sure the art is easy to access, and will travel is a priority.

Next we visit a workshop entitled ‘A Small Library of Big Ideas’ run by the energetic artist duo ‘The Eloquent Fold’. Inside the main library the artists enthusiastically inspire a group of older ladies and a few younger adults to come up with their own big ideas for Boston. Some have already made a few on their handmade small art books, others are just beginning a new. Everyone has their own ideas, each idea is given a name e.g. ‘Knitted knockers’ or ‘Tap it, Bang it’ and then explained using a mixture of words, collage and ink stamp patterns. They have the feel of a lovingly crafted scrap book, highly personal, yet containing ephemera which we can all connect with.

I secretly observe one participant completely engrossed and determined in her making. This is her first attempt. I am surprised when she produces a neat contemporary style book, covered in a bold photographic brick print. She tells me her eye-sight is poor, and she loved the strong patterns. I am impressed.

Next Grace drives me back to the office. This is situated above a community gym, surrounded by a few businesses and miles of fields, approximately 30 minutes away from Boston. I am only starting to get an idea of the geography. This is proper farming land, we over take no less than three tractors/cauliflower-harvesters on the way to the office.

The office is spacious and well light. There is a giant planner on the main wall which stretches across from floor to ceiling. Each project has a row, each month has a column. There are colour coordinated post-it notes for projects in Boston or South Holland, these are also sub-divided into visual or performing arts. In once glance you can visually see the entire year's projects, and how they overlap.

Whilst the directors have their budget meetings I chat with the team, and I am given permission to be nosey in the storage cupboards. I find three grotesque old men masks, a bicycle wheel covered in pom-poms, several toy trucks in boxes, and macquette of a grid-structured figurative sculpture in a reusable shopping bag. No skeletons were visible, but I certainly sensed a lot of fun activity having taken place judged by the level of interesting by-product.

No sooner had I arrived, but then it was time for me to go. Lauren kindly gave me a lift back to the station. We talk about how she came to work with Transported. I ask her who she thinks are the hardest audiences to reach, she replies ‘middle-aged working adults’, which makes sense in a way. It is clear that the arts engagement workers who have shown me about believe passionately in the project. I leave feeling inspired. Although fleeting, I have gained an insight into the engine underneath the bonnet of Transported.

Written by Nicole Mollett