Carole Miles's Invisible Threads

I have spent several years intrigued and engrossed by family history, I stumbled around for a while, making wild assumptions and getting quite a bit wrong. Along the way some very kind people gave me a helping hand and set me on the right track. With their help I started to see patterns emerging and ordinary lives unfolding, the further I went the more time was eaten by this new interest. I found I needed to go and see the places people had lived in to try and get a feel for what those lives might have been like.

Kathy Page and I met in Cheltenham and whilst walking in Pittville Park, talking about our lives and the lives of some of the women I had discovered, I started to wonder whether something could be made of all the threads that were being drawn together.

There is something so exciting about the notion that all the participants and their fabulous women have been drawn from different places - different parts of the world even, some have met together in real places some and in the virtual spaces of Kathy’s online Writing Studio and Facebook! I'm excited to be working with Kathy again and have been delighted to meet Tasmanian artist Tara Badcock online. I found an article about her in an Australian textile magazine in the Oxfam in Kettering, it now transpires that she is connected to The Dix family who hail from Geddington and Kettering.

I was born in London, have one brother. Lived in Bickley near Bromley for a while then my family emigrated to Australia, my Dad's sister came out to join us and married an Aussie, settled and had children.

Leaving the country had pluses and minuses for me

Pluses - being exposed to a totally different culture, brought up without the boundaries of suburbia, free to roam, sit in trees, eat oranges, swim in the most beautiful waters, experience space and colour in a way that has shaped my visual toolkit. I watched an awful lot of classic Hollywood films, enjoyed dressing up, singing in front of the mirror and dreaming of adventure & romance. Loved reading, fairy tales in particular.
Minuses - no Radio 1, always feeling slightly apart from the culture at hand and slightly detached from the family left at home. No email, internet, Skype etc at the time - we did send tapes back and forth but there was a huge gap between news and reply which made the distance seem greater. The other strange thing - the history (ie emigrant history) was so recent the buildings, museums, galleries etc we take for granted did not exist in the same way there.

I am left with the notion that other people have a greater sense of belonging and connectedness than me - perhaps that is why I started looking into family history.

My Fabulous Women – known and unknown – Ann Margetts, Elizabeth Margetts, Mary Ann Margetts, Emma Margetts, Florence Miles, Carrie Holland, Alice Holland and Priscilla Holland. Emma Miles nee Margetts’ bible came to me almost by chance and it was the writing in on the flyleaf and Great Aunt Florence’s family photograph album sparked my curiousity.

Questions and Questing

Who were those other people in the photographs?
What were their lives like?
How did they relate to each other?
What was it like for the unmarried?
How did they do that?

This project gave me the chance to explore some of these questions and I had the opportunity to launch the project from the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square as a participant in Anthony Gormley’s One & Another. I keep straining my ears, trying to hear those long gone voices but what i am left with is what I can imagine