Common Ground are working with the author and cultural historian Alexandra Harris on a new exhibition celebrating the art of almanacs and calendars. 

Calendars shouldn’t just be tools for managing our ever-busying lives. The act of making calendars, creating family, school or parish almanacs can reconnect us to the passing seasons and help us all celebrate the distinct identity of the places we live in.

After the French Revolution a new calendar, ‘Calendrier Republicain’, was designed to break with the past and celebrate the spirit of the new Republic. Out went days and months celebrating the clergy or aristocracy, in came the Almanac of Shepherds, which gave each day of the year the name of a plant, an animal, a mineral or a bird. The twelve months of the year were named from nature too: Vendémiaire (grape harvest), Brumaire (fog), Frimaire (frost), Nivôse (snowy), Pluviôse (rainy), Ventôse (windy), Germinal (germination), Floréal (flower), Prairial (pasture), Messidor (harvest), Thermidor (summer heat) and Fructido (fruit).

Like the Almanac of shepherds, why not celebrate a different plant, animal, mineral, building or person throughout the year? Why not publicly cheer, like we do privately, the arrival of swallows or swifts? Why not mark local produce or celebrate a particular building, landmark or a local, unvenerated saint? We could all host bluebell picnics and autumn kite festivals and snowdrop walks. These quiet, informal moments and habits can become celebrations fixed in a calendar, deepening our links with the passing of the seasons and the places we live in.

How many desk calendars celebrate these locally distinct moments? Where are the digital reminders that foretell the first snowdrop or chart the movement of migratory birds? A calendar or an almanac should express our connections and emotions to places, creating an expression of how a school or community is connected to their environment, marking fixed moments that celebrate the food, metaphors, the joy, stories, encounters, noticings and enchantments that seasonality brings.

With the cultural historian Alexandra Harris (author of Romantic Moderns and Weatherland), Common Ground is commissioning and curating a new exhibition of works that celebrates the art of almanacs and calendars. We would like to create a conversation between author and artist, an exchange of ideas that helps explore the history and possibilities of marking time through visual art. From these gentle beginnings, we aim to develop a touring exhibition and wider public campaign that encourages schools and communities to make art which celebrates the seasons, their locality and themselves.

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