Back in 2018 I decided that what I really, really wanted to do was a PhD. I’ve got a degree in Creative Writing and an MA in Contemporary Crafts so naturally I thought I should apply to do a PhD in Geography. I wrote a proposal based on Unlost Places and badgered some very pleasant (and extremely patient) academics to find a supervisor who would be prepared to let me wander about the ancient tracks of Wales writing poetry, sketching and piling stones into land sculptures. For various reasons (mostly to do with not having £25,000 going spare) I never actually applied to study. It turns out that this was no bad thing on two counts: firstly, since March 2020 wandering opportunities have been limited and secondly, I have come up with several other potential PhD research ideas.
One of these is called “Art in Unexpected Places”, although it will have a suitably intellectual subtitle when I get round to writing the proposal. It all started on one of my local walks in the first lockdown (one hour, once a day) when I was seeing how far I could get before having to turn homeward and saw this outside a local farm.
When restrictions eased in the summer I did some lane walking in West Wales and found other examples of hand-crafted roadside art.
I know that it is much cheaper to make a sign than buy one but I had the impression that there was more than cost involved for the West Walians. I think there was an element of affection for the subject,
an opportunity to show a sense of humour,
express some individuality
or just be creative.
So next time you’re thinking of downloading and printing off a rainbow for the kids to colour in, bear in mind that I might be walking past and my PhD will need something a bit more original in the window if you want to be included in my research. And incidentally, even official signs can be quirky and original – this one on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is one of my favourites and probably will get a whole chapter in my thesis.
If you’re a pleasant (and extremely patient) academic, I still haven’t got the £25,000 but feel free to get in touch. There’s bound to be a funding stream somewhere we can tap into.