On the fringes of Leeds city centre is a large office building with empty units and large glass panels that let in the last of the day’s light. After a day of Christmas shopping through busy crowds, David Shearing’s installation Christmas with Me was a welcome break from the outside stresses of the weekend people traffic.
As I enter the pop up shed inside this bright, white building I am transported into a dark, cosy familiar space. Reminiscent of an aunt, or grandmother who sets the table with her best china on special occasions, the smell of comforting soup fills the air. Once I’m seated on the dining room table, alongside another lady who’d poped in a few minutes before, I place the headphones on, and start listening to stories of Christmas as told by members of the Leeds community.
Shearing’s installation, as part of #ChristmasInLeeds, is a quiet reflection on the season, bringing along both the joy and the heartache that it can bring. The reunion of family units, and the lack of, giving the audio piece an excellent ebb and flow. I’m sinking in and out of concentration. My mind flits between the stories and examining the room intently. Small pieces of familiarity come into focus – the train set in the corner of the room, the paper Christmas hats hanging from the corner of the chairs, the faded twinkling of lights on the tree.
Stories of saving wrapping paper, deaths near Christmas time, the childlike magic of the season, saunter through the headphones as I ponder over my bowl of scotch broth given to me by the very polite steward. My heart and my bones are warming up at the same time. My mind is no longer thinking about the deadlines of buying presents, but the wider community, the stories and experiences of others outside of my own. I’m thinking about how cosy and small I feel, outside of the anxiety of traipsing around big department stores a few streets down.
David Shearing, the mastermind behind The Weather Cafe, excels at creating spaces where the focus is on mindfulness within the city. Christmas With Us, is a great example of how he has generated a space where the intention is to bring peace and reflection to a normally busy environment.
As I leave the shed, I’m greeted with the startling bright lights of the building I’m situated in, like waking from a dream, ready to face the day with a new outlook, and a closer perspective on the spirit of the holidays.
Christmas with Us is located at Central Square and is on from 1-24 December 2016.