Associates Reading Group, Spike Island

The Associates’ Reading Group at Spike Island was initiated in Spring 2008 by Ruth Holdsworth, (Bristol University PhD student and Arnolfini Research Fellow), as a way for people to discuss texts, theoretical and otherwise, in a non-academic context.

The idea was to have informal, relaxed gatherings that encouraged the integration of theory with practice. Ruth provided the first five texts and framework, initiating the discussion for each fortnightly gathering. These ranged from Alain Badiou’s Translating the Century to John Berger’s Ways of Seeing. In her proposal for the group Ruth wrote:

“This is about ideas and how they can be exciting. It is about how theory can be made sense of through reference to one’s own experiences and practice. It is about sharing understanding, being open and generous. It is about non-expertise and still feeling able to express an opinion.”

The group is now organised by Megan Wakefield. Texts are now selected by members on a month-by-month basis. The structure remains non-hierarchical and peer-led and the breadth of our reading continues to expand. The emphasis is on theory, but not exclusively. We’ve explored essays by social geographers, artists and philosophers and short works of fiction are always welcome.

Recently we looked at the texts by the artist Gerard Mermoz, Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost and we spent two sessions discussing enigmatic stories by Jorge Luis Borges. We’ve read Georg Simmel on the modern metropolis, Alan Kirby on the postmodern mind and Susan Stewart on the souvenir. Discussions are stimulating, not simply because of shared or conflicting opinions, but because of the network of associations that emerge. References extend to performance, film and of course to other literary and theoretical writing. Ideally, this is a provocative, but non-intimidating space where people can explore texts on their own terms, whatever their practice or former education.

6 Responses to “Associates Reading Group, Spike Island”
  1. Emily West says:

    This all sounds amazing, but can outsiders join in? I am currently studying for my MA in Fine Art if that helps?

    • meggylou says:

      please do join us emily. i will post and email out date of next meeting tomorrow….will add your email to the list. we are doing jg ballard, ‘the voices of time’ next, a short story and departure from the usual non-fiction. i’ll let everyone know when you can pick up the reading from spike reception.

  2. Ffin says:

    Is this reading group still going? I was very interested in the what next comments re art, nature and walking. Very much my own area of interest.

    Are you planning more Art + Writing events. I really enjoyed those last year.

    • meggylou says:

      Yes, we’re still going strong…Beckett was the last session…will add comments and references to that page soon. Not doing any more Art & Writing projects at the moment but am involved in this event – you may want to come along on 29th July 7.30pm, Arnolfini.

      I can add you to the mailout for the next reading group in August, when we will looking at a text by Rudolf Steiner – just email, thanks, meg

  3. jess woodrow says:

    Hello! I am interested in joining the reading group and also becoming an associate member. what do I have to do? All the best, Jess woodrow

    • meggylou says:

      Hi jess

      Sorry about delay in responding…The next meeting is 2nd Feb, 6.30pm in the Associates Space, Spike Island reading from Acastos – Two Platonic Dialogues by Iris Murdoch – we’ll be doing the one on art. Please do come along as a guest if you can make it. For joining Associates please send an email to just saying you would like to join and you will be sent the paperwork. I will send out a link to the text on Friday this week or shortly after and will include you in the email.

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