Tatties and Typhoid Ham is a fusion of live evolving visual art, music, poetry and spoken word, wherein three women born and bred in Aberdeen share their thoughts and experiences on being in lockdown during the typhoid outbreak in 1964 and their concurrent situation during the 2020 Coronavirus outbreak. The women are neighbours and long-term friends, and all come from a working-class background. They speak about mental health, socio-political divides, and the practical implications with regard to food supplies, finances, family, and social relations. The artistic components are brought together into a 25-minute film, showcased at the Hame festival, and the local community centre of the women, and used as a springboard in a series of public workshops in collaboration with the Elphinstone Institute and the local community centre.
The project methodology is built around the representation of everyday life, by celebrating older generation working class women. This in and of itself is a politic which draws across divides of contemporary art spaces and the kinds of lives which these practices usually represent. This community engaged production uses film as a form of live performance bringing stories to life that come from living contexts and lived experiences.
During the lockdown summer of 2020 one of my neighbours told me about the Typhoid outbreak in Aberdeen in 1964. I have been living in Aberdeen for 16 years but I had never come across that before. So when she explained what happened I thought it would be nice to capture my Aberdonian born and bred neighbours’ perspectives from that time and compare it to the situation we found ourselves in with Covid19. So we ended having a socially distanced coffee morning in one of our gardens.
My longstanding collaborator composer Maria Sappho used an instrument called a chord organ, it’s from the 1960’s which she thought would be a nice reflection of the time period span of the piece. An instrument for sure not so recognisable now, but was very popular at the time and many homes had one. They are cheap and easy to play little things! Also something that made some kinds of ambiguous trad sounds and an instrument that supported the Scottish context with some imitation of drone and pipes. They work with a very noisy fan which blows air through the reeds of the instrument. So she liked the idea of using the ‘machine’ sounds at the start and end of the piece, which might support a city based, industrial and every day feel.
The northeast poet Sheena Blackhall was quarantined in the city fever hospital off Urquhart street for 2 months during the summer of 1964. So she was an authentic fit to the project.
Neil Drysdale 7th July Press and Journal 2022
Tatties & Typhoid Ham stars storytellers Diana, Ruby, and Pat, creative writer Sheena Blackhall, composer Maria Sappho, sound mix Annabel Strange, videographers Alex Cormack & Martina Camatta, and visual artist & film director Kate Steenhauer.