Traders Tracks

A New Leaf and Salt Road Arts Council England collaborative commission, in partnership with Herefordshire Council Library services, for five contemporary Herefordshire based artists to develop practice in research, commissions, exhibitions and engagement activities: Walking artist events, book art and digital art. Inspired by Alfred Watkins Postal Club Archive which became The Old Straight Track 1927-34, held at the Hereford Archive & Records Centre. The archive was a participatory postal club, where Watkins and other members of the club tested and layered his hypothesis of trading pathways across the UK, through which pre-Roman communities shared goods and services.

Traders Tracks commissioned artists are Sally Payen project artist/curator Jaime Jackson, digital and relational artist Celia Johnsonwalking artist, David England digital artist and food artist Jane Elisabeth. Supported by walking expert Dennis Downey from Walks Herefordshire.

The artsits will reflect on ancient and contemporary trading routes, the journeys of goods (and services) and relationships with current environmental sustainability; working with ramblers’ groups and lower socio-economic communities.

The archive was an participatory postal club, where Watkins and other members of the club tested and layered his hypothesis of a trading track of pathways across the UK, through which pre-Roman communities shared goods and services. Our project reflects on ancient and contemporary trading routes, the journeys of goods and services and relationships with current environmental sustainability. We are researching the archive looking for 3 key elements -firstly drawing out a working understanding of ancient trading routes that we can apply to current trading routes in the modern world including by air, train, sea, digital and issues embedded within such journeys today including changing borders and climate change; we wish to highlight sustainable models. Secondly, we will be researching and reflecting upon this early example of collaborative working and seeing how we might be influenced in how we run ourselves and create clubs within our relational working. Thirdly highlighting an aesthetic response referencing some of the original texts and overall appearance of the archive.

Watkins believed that in order to understand the present we need to learn from our past, this project continues this, in effect layering 3 moments of time, the pre-Roman, 1921 and the current age, we will also be relating Traders Tracks to carbon footprint & the circular economy – emphasizing custodianship in contrast with the ‘take-make-waste’ linear model, of exponential growth.