I won the Denis Roussel Award and it reminded me of Mrs Haynes

In the third year of junior school we had a teacher called Mrs Haynes. She was scottish. I’d never come into contact with a person who talked like that before. She was firey and prone to shouting. I’m not sure we were a particularly naughty or disagreeable class, but her MO was robust for the year she had us. She was frequently to be heard loudly stating ‘oh for the patience of Job’ except she would say Jooooobe. I didn’t know who Job was, but I was pretty sure he was the opposite of Mrs Haynes.

I remember that her hair was strawberry blond, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was mellowed red. She wore tweedy clothes, mossy greens and taupe and buttoned shoes. I remember her clothes and her voice, but not her face beyond its felineness.

At junior school we had assemblies in the morning Monday to Thursday. On those days we gathered in the school hall which also worked as a gym and performance space. Serried ranks of children would stand and figit while the headmaster or other senior teachers would bang on about a subject that was book ended by hymns the words of which would be on banners hanging from the ceiling.

Fridays were different, assembly was in the afternoon and it culminated in the awarding of merit and courtesy badges. These awards were given out for each class. The merit for some kind of smarts and the courtesy for being nice. I guess. Mrs Haynes didn’t make the distinction between the forms of behaviour; in her manor the getting a badge depended solely on the number of house points you got. Most=merit, second most=courtesy. Simple.

Curiously, I won badges in Mrs Hayne’s class more times than in any other and possibly even more strange as anybody who knows me will attest, I won the courtesy badge a lot. So what with one thing or another; Mrs Haynes was not a popular teacher and being told we would spend the next year in her class had filled some of us with fear, at the end of the day, I look back fondly on my year with her because I simply got appreciated for being good at what I was good at.

Over 40 years later, I find myself in possession of another award. This time for work I have made that was thoughtfully considered and contrasted with other work. For want of a better word, I’d say it feels sparkly to get it. I found out because I was sitting in the car coming back from the opening of The Photograph as Object at the Offshoot Gallery and was doing that mindless scrolling through facebook to see that I’d been mentioned in a comment so me and my ego went and looked at who was talking about me. I read congratulations and I read my name. I skimmed, I screeched to a halt and went back. I’d won the Denis Roussel Award and I’d done it for something that I thought about and carefully made and the curator of the award Jessica Ferguson had seen what I had been attempting to do, got the exact point of it and been impressed enough to put me top of the list.

I spend a lot of time packaging up my work and sending it to people for what seems like the sole purpose of generating a template email that could be précised as ‘nope’. I’d spent a lot of time on that application but I was doing it as an exercise in expressing the work I do. it is easy to become cynical about it competitions, particularly the ones that ask you for entry contributions and then for hanging fees, such as the Julia Margret Cameron award, where I got an ego polish immediately followed with a request to pay them more than 300 dollars, plus shipping, to show my work in Venice which is why the only mention of it you will find on here is the fact I got a name check. So I am doubly appreciative of this award because it has reminded me that I am making work for a reason and some people actually care about people like me making work for the reasons that we have.