Calum is an artist and performer who works across visual art, theatre, music and radio, exploring themes of disability, sensory experience and domesticity, as well as the relationship between archival processes and artistic practice.
He is a co-founder of Good Behaviour, an autistic-led theatre and arts company, and campaigns for the rights of artists as an active member of Artists’ Union England and Equity.
He was the artist in residence of our Collections Library in 2021.
Where is home for you?
My current home is south London where I've lived on and off for almost 10 years now – in my current house for four years. I am originally from North East England and still feel very connected to the area, so I feel at home in both places but over the last few years things have definitely shifted and I feel like I'm building a life in London and less transient than I used to. It is becoming more of a proper home to me.
What's your earliest memory of home?
Sitting in my high chair eating tinned macaroni cheese in the living room of my parents' house – my Grandma was there – my memory is that the sun was setting and shining brightly through the horizontal venetian blinds in the living room and it was dazzling. I suppose I was about a year old.
What one thing would you bring with you if you had to move today and why?
I've got these really good slipper boots – with really thick rubber soles – super warm boots that I can wear around the house all the time, but because they've got thick proper soles on them I can wear them out to the bin and into the garden and they keep my feet toasty warm and I have terrible circulation so they're my absolute must have.
What's your getting home ritual?
Take off my shoes off then sit mindlessly in the kitchen procrastinating, sometimes even with my coat on, if I can't face doing anything else!
When I'm feeling more motivated it's putting the kettle on for a cup of tea and sit down on the sofa for a while and play video games or watch something for half an hour to attempt to decompress and relax.
A close friend lives nearby whose home I often go to, it's a second home to me, so there my getting home ritual is having a chat with her on the sofa and then cuddling her dog Polo.
How do you make people feel welcome in your home?
I rarely have anyone around to my home because I am a lodger with a live-in landlord. If I have someone over and we sit in the kitchen my landlord will join us for a chat but it will still feel like his house so I am more likely to meet a friend at a café or at their house.
If my landlord is away and I do have people over it's usually very casual so I might get some food in. I will always offer someone a tea or coffee – I never have milk in as I have tea black so they usually have to choose an exciting herbal tea that doesn't require milk! There are cream carpets so it's shoes off at the door.
Usually we sit in the kitchen to have a cup of tea and if we're watching a film we'll sit in the living room on sofas. For cosiness I'll probably get us a blanket.
What meal makes you feel especially at home?
A meal that makes me feel at home – both going back home up north and here in London – is tarka dhal. It's a recipe my Dad gave me. It's a really simple but delicious dhal that only requires two fresh ingredients (onions!) the rest is spices and dried things.
What smells or sounds do you associate with home?
In London it would be wildlife sounds – the sound of the parakeets and foxes. It's what I hear when I wake up in the morning so it's evocative.
At my parent's home, it's an open plan main living space with a small kitchen so you can always hear the sound of other people, my parents, my brother, my dog.
You can hear the radio coming through from the kitchen, the thumbs and vibrations of people walking up and down the stairs, you can hear the TV, people doing dishes, people talking to each other or to the dog so there's a constant buzz of activity. Our household rhythm.
How do you connect with nature at home?
From the kitchen window I can see the wall of the house next-door with leaves climbing up it – it's not an evergreen – so I get to watch the leaves turn autumnal and eventually fall off. That's one of my favourite things.
I love urban wildlife – I watch foxes out of my bedroom window. Last year I rescued some fox cubs that had been abandoned in the garden and I found them crying, they were taken to a sanctuary and eventually released back into the wild. It's really nice to have that realisation of the parallel lives of animals that are happening alongside yours.
Who does the housework in your home?
I do the housework in my bedroom – which is the space that I am responsible for as I'm a lodger. My landlord hires a cleaner who cleans the communal areas.
What book has changed the way you think about home?
I'm currently reading The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. The book is about the phenomenological experience of the architecture of the home.
It's changed the way I think about home because it's not about nostalgia for the home or about the super rational sociological experience of the home, it explores how the material space of the home has a dialogue with the psychological space of the home.
What do you most appreciate about your home?
I appreciate that my home is on a quiet street and that I am not constantly bothered by sounds of road and people outside and that my bedroom window can be open and I only hear the sounds of birds and people in their gardens.
I appreciate that there is a huge palm tree in the bathroom! And that my landlord got it when he was 21, forty years ago!
Even though my home is really my landlord's home it is still a home. I still get to live in a home. Rather than my previous experience of living in shared accommodation when it's an empty shell and it's really no one's home.
How has lockdown changed the way you feel about home?
During the first lockdown in March 2020, I'd wake up at 8am every morning and hear strange grunting from my bedroom window - it was my neighbour who was doing exercises in his garden!
Having been unemployed at different stages of my life, lockdown felt like an intense version of that. My work is often working from home and so I already had a close relationship with the home.
When I was isolating with Covid-19 it made me start to use the home for all aspects of my life and plan routines for within the home. Because I couldn't go out, I had to use the different spaces of the house in different ways to complete my day, e.g. doing exercises in the living room, followed by breakfast in the kitchen, followed by a coffee in the garden. So that the home offered enough variation spatially.
If you could, what one thing would you change about your home?
I would have my own home, rather than being a lodger in someone else's home. I would like to be able to live alone and decorate and put things on the walls – being able to have my own personality throughout the home and make it cosy.
Does anywhere else feel like home and why?
Yes! My friend's house definitely feels like home. Partly because it's her flat that she owns – she lives alone – and I helped her move in, so I've known that home from day one, I've seen her decorate it. I feel welcome there all the time – I have my own set of keys and slippers there (!), and she has a dog and for me a dog makes a house feel like a home. It's a very cosy, quiet home.
- Ketchup: in the fridge or the cupboard? Cupboard
- Shoes: on or off? Off
- Shower or bath? Shower
- Curtains: open or closed? Depends what time of day it is! Closed
- Do you make your bed? No