The Day of the Duck book launch in Ely as artist Helen Stratford tells us how it challenges behaviour in the city
A waddling tale of how a duck’s journey through Ely highlights the plight of the people has been showcased at Babylon Arts Gallery.
The Day of the Duck was put together over six years by artist Helen Stratford, from Fordham, alongside Lawrence Bradby.
It uses the form of play script and instructional manual to dig away at the “muddied idea of Englishness”.
This ‘duck noir’ story follows a Muscovy duck as it questions the residents of Ely.
And it has already gone on to cause a stir – being selected by a-n the artist information company as one of the 10 best artists books of 2018.
“I am really interested with what us as humans take for granted with urban life,” Helen explained.
“It posed questions such as are ducks citizens or not.
“They challenge human behaviour in the city. I feel that the river was overlooked in relation to the rest of the city, for instance, with the cathedral and other landmarks.
“So I decided to look into that area [the riverside] more and discover how the ducks have taken it over.”
The book was launched at Babylon Arts Gallery with performances, readings, sound effects, refreshments – and ducks webbed feet – on December 8.
The Day of the Duck evolved out of a residency and gallery presentation at Babylon Gallery in 2012.
It focuses on talks in the city across six months of that year.
Helen continued: “It applies a cool forensic analysis to behaviour in public space.
“The launch went really well and we performed parts of the book as it’s based on a duck’s dialogue from speaking to residents in the city.
“In 2012 I had a residency at Babylon as an artist and from there I explored the duck idea.
“I would hang around there and spend time with people who would interact with them the most.
“It is fictional and the conversations aren’t recognisable – it’s sort of like the duck is a detective looking at what the future of nature and the city’s vision mean.”
Until 2014, Helen was an architect based in Ely, but also took time out to write her first book about the village of Cambourne.
“Things that have happened in recent years such as Brexit that have left everyone posing questions about what their space in society is.
“You think of the bigger picture,” she added.
The Day of the Duck will be launched in London on January 22.
It can be ordered from Central Books at https://www.centralbooks.com/day-of-the-duck-the.html or bought from Babylon Arts Gallery or Burrows in Ely for £15.99.