This Really Happened.

Ivor at The Hepworth Gallery about to ask questions. Picture by Graeme Linaker.

Sometimes, real life can be as dramatic as fiction. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, boy, it’s remarkable.

Which is why I want to remark on a real life story.

Myself and a couple of other artists – Graeme Linaker, Beccy Dye – are curating a Happening. It takes place in Wakefield on 18 May 2024. 

One of the ideas is to record some anonymous vox pop to edit into background sounds and play during parts of the Happening. 

We came up with a bunch of questions designed to generate interesting responses and looked for an opportunity to try them out. 

An opening party at The Hepworth Gallery on Friday 15 March seemed like the ideal place to get the ball rolling.

Graeme and myself arrived at 6pm, the time it started, which is why we emerged into a largely empty gallery space.

There appeared to be only one young female studying a picture. Graeme prepared his digital sound recorder and we approached. 

As I explained what we were trying to do the young woman gave little appreciative nods. She happily gave permission for the recording to take place and I fired off the first question.

“What’s the most remarkable thing that has happened to you?” 

Her face grew pensive for a second. “That would be today,” she said.

Something about her tone made us wary.

“I was on my way to work and I witnessed a car accident.” 

We waited. 

She continued. “I performed CPR on the driver.”

Graeme and I looked at each other in astonishment.

“He didn’t make it though,” she concluded.

Now we looked at each other in horror.

We asked if she was okay. She said she was. We ran through the other questions which she answered unguardedly. We thanked her, gave her a little paper ticket with the Happening details on it and continued on our way.

We remarked to each other how calm she appeared. 

“To be able to go out to a social event after something like that happening though,” Graeme mused. “My mind would be in a turmoil.”

We interviewed half a dozen other people in the following hour who gave us some fascinating pieces of information but as we discussed the material in between recording sessions, we invariably kept referring back to that girl.

At 7pm Graeme had to leave to pick up his wife. I hung around to check out the Print Fair in the mill complex opposite The Hepworth. I bought some cards before deciding to head home. 

As I was walking through the dark, designer garden between the two buildings, I was hailed by a female voice. It belonged to that first girl we interviewed. She wanted to know if we got what we were hoping for.

“Yes, thanks. What we got far exceeded anything we were hoping for,” I said pointedly. “You know, I’m astonished you can still go about your normal life after an incident like that. I’d probably be in a state of shock.”

She thought for a second before saying, “Maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet. It could hit me later I suppose.”

We chatted for a few minutes more about art, pretence, the best way to live…

She pulled out the little paper ticket I had given her.

“I’m definitely coming to this,” she said, then looked at me.

An unspoken communication passed between us. 

I asked for her name. 

She gave it me.

Now, if anyone were to ever ask me, what’s the most remarkable thing that has happened to you? There’s every chance her name will be invoked.

Life happens.