In an echo of the equitable, collective ethos of the Cooperative Movement (founded in Rochdale in 1844), Helen Cammock brings together members of Rochdale’s present-day community to relay their individual experiences and their different perspectives on what it is to be a stakeholder in an enterprise or entity that is larger than yourself. This dialogue is sparked by the artist’s and the participants’ encounters with objects from the public collection at Touchstones, Rochdale’s gallery and museum. Established in the name of the people, and for the benefit of the people, the collection makes good on its original promise of being an open, shared resource by providing access for Cammock’s protagonists to its hundred-year stockpile of eclectic artefacts, and subsequently siting selected items in novel and beguiling places in the locality. The objects chosen are disparate and intriguing, and range from a bust of the singer Paul Robeson, to a vintage sewing machine, to a coffee mug from the miners’ strike, to a painting of draughts players in a civic square – emblems of a universal human need for togetherness, belonging and solidarity.
The people picking out these objects are equally disparate and diverse, encompassing families that have lived in the town for generations as well as members of newer communities; from a local artist to Rochdale’s former mayor, from a retiree gardener encouraging biodiversity to a Ukrainian women's choir. The places that the protagonists take the objects (and Cammock) to reveal strikingly different facets of Rochdale to the one an outsider might have expected: green and wild and open to its future, as well as keenly aware of its industrial history and its radical past. Displayed over twin projection screens, and distinguished by the feeling for music, song and performance that has been a feature of Cammock’s video works, Concrete Feathers and Porcelain Tacks is an intimate expression of a spirit of community made, like all good collective endeavours, from the inside.