Mary Courtney

Artist - Poet


With Earlsdon Library staff and over 200 local people - for the making of a giant map - “The Earlsdon Mappa” (2015)

The medieval mappa mundi included beasts and birds, mermaids, labyrinths and bat-eared men amongst the familiar landmarks of place. I had the idea of making our own medieval inspired map of Earlsdon, starting it off with some children from my street so there wasn't a scary blank space, before bringing it to Earlsdon library for the May Day Festival and Arts Trail, for people to draw on. I provided cigarette card size images of local shops and landmarks, and library staff organised a collection of books on monsters, clocks, plants, birds and the like, to jiggle the imagination.

Over 200 people drew, wrote on and signed the map, from as young as six months of age to over 90 years, with contributions in Arabic, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi and German. Nearly all the adults hadn't drawn anything since they were children. People loved being part of it and seeing this unique view of their area emerge.

Collaboration_youngkiddrawstomakemappa.png .png
Collaboration_youngkiddrawstomakemappa.png .png

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'Tandoori and Tall Stories' at the Saltaire Festival (2011)

With TV award winning cook, Rahila Hussain, for a cooking-poetry event,

Rahila and I both love Rahila’s food! For years she has taken over my kitchen and cooked the most fabulous Pakistani dishes (including a chicken korma that won the ITV cooking show 'Food Glorious Food', a competition to find the nation’s favourite dish).

Rahila came up with the idea of a cooking demonstration that combined eating and poetry, with me providing and performing the poems to go with each dish she cooked. It was mad enough to do, and we did it, at the Saltaire Festival.

We are talking of doing an event together in the future.

The Earlsdon Mappa

With artist Andrea Mbarushimana at a local school, helping her paint a mural she designed (2015)

Andrea designed a mural based on drawings made by the pupils at Southfields Primary School, Hillfields, Coventry. The children painted the mural too, but there was about two-thirds of it they couldn't reach and Andrea asked me to help her out with this.

With Residents' Groups, a School, Library, and Coventry University - for funding the framing of the Earlsdon Mappa and offering space for its siting (2015)

The community took charge, determined to find a way to fund the framing of their Mappa. Residents groups SENA and NENA, Coventry University, and Hearsall School chipped in. John E Wrights and Friswells Gallery produced prints and took charge of the selling of prints, with any surplus funds going to future community arts project.  

The local community paper, The Echo, made the 'Unique view of Earlsdon' their front page story, and Earlsdon Library and Hearsall Community Primary School requested the Mappa be placed with them.

Compton Verney,

March - December 2013

A large drawing, 'Drop of Make-up', measuring 1.5m square, was exhibited as part of the 'Outside-In' exhibition, and used to inspire creativity amongst the gallery visitors.

Compton Verney staff devised a colourful activity 'Make a map of you inspired by Mary Courtney’s 'Drop of Make-Up' (With Make-up), which ran from October to December in the Compton Verney Resource Room.  Hundreds joined in..

Photo below shows the art created part way through.


Photos, left and above right, shown courtesy of Compton Verney

Image above left, 'Drop of Make up' (Without Make-up) is by Lens Art

With Coventry University and a local Residents' Association - for the first Earlsdon Arts Trail: 'Tradesman's Entrance' (2014 - 2015)

This involved asking Coventry University's School of Art and Design if they'd be interested in bringing art out into the community, generating interest and support for a local arts trail among the Hearsall Earlsdon Residents (HERA), asking local businesses and people of the neighbourhood if they'd like to give their shop windows, front rooms or small front gardens to exhibit art for the day, and getting word out on social media to find local artists so they could benefit too.

The Arts Trail, with 26 venues and 40 artists, proved a succes, in-part down to the fine job of curating done by Jane Ball, Andrea Hannon and Rob Hamp.  We had lots of positive feedback and it gave our community a feeling of pride. The event will be repeated next year, and hopefully, will develop and grow.

With artist Lorsen Camps - for the Coventry Haiku Project, 'Beauty in the Everyday' (2011 & 2015)

This was more of a very small contribution - a three line haiku!

But, four years later, at the Earlsdon Festival Fringe Poetry Event in 2015, I heard, to my surprise, this haiku and the others in this lovely collection, being performed by Lorsen and Laura Elliott!

My Haiku:

The Dancing Daisies

Daisies are dancing

Their arms of light expanding

The icing on the hill

With Chemistry teacher, Suzanne Farrell, at The International School,  Busan, South Korea - for a 'Characters of the Elements' Project (2015)

My cousin's son works in Korea - and he was telling his colleague about his aunt's new interest in chemical art. During a visit home to England, this colleague, teacher Suzanne Farrell, came to visit me, and she took away two drawing-poem videos I'd made on chemical characters (one was a rap!).

Suzanne used these as a catalyst for her class of 12 and 13 year old pupils, who made their own raps, riddles and drawings of a character devised from their research on one of the chemical elements. She sent me their productions, including a video rap with three competing elements. Their enjoyment was palpable.

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