Matt Retallick Research Questionnaire 5: Emmer Winder

Name: Emmer Winder

Location: Manchester

OrganisationJust me! But business trades as NumberSix


  1. What is your relationship to Merseyside? 

This is quite a sensitive question without it meaning to be! I think I strangely felt embarrassed of Merseyside in some ways. I don’t actually know why? I think I had a few catty comments from other girls at college in Wigan about being from St Helens, this somehow made me question what it had to offer. It is only as an adult I have really grown to love being from Merseyside, because as Bill Clinton did not say, ‘it’s the people, stupid’

  • How does Merseyside impact or shape your practice? 

It’s almost impossible to say? Growing up in one town, and making work there means you almost don’t know anything different. Since moving to Manchester though, I have realised I was quite self-restrictive with what I would do in and around my hometown. It’s not until writing this that I have realised that any street art or performance I have done have all been outside of Merseyside. I don’t know if this is a form of respect? Or maybe its more fear of being recognised or questioned?

  • What’s are the positives and negatives of living and working in Merseyside? 

The positives are undoubtedly the people, the warmth and support. I’m sure most residents of other regions would say similar about their home, but Merseyside has a special type of welcome. The negatives are probably the reasons from above- I think I’ve felt a little restricted (only by myself) of what I could do there. There is no reason for that, other than my own daft thoughts. Maybe in some way I thought that work wasn’t as valid if it were performed at home? If I could say I had worked (even with posters/stickers) on the streets of London, Amsterdam or San Francisco it gives it more power than proclaiming it is on a road in Whiston. But as I write this it is becoming more obvious how stupid that sounds, and how horrible and self-indulgent it makes me. I suspect its just a way of trying to make me feel justified, rather than giving the work some kind of superpower.

  • What does independence / being independent mean to you? 

Again, this is a very prickly question. I think for the past 5 years or so I have been quite lost and not really certain of what I was doing as an artist, to be honest I didn’t feel like an artist at all. I was a teacher that use to make art. But then exactly a year ago today, March 20th 2020, all schools were closed. I had moved to Manchester; the majority of my friends and all my family were 30 miles away when we went into lockdown. Suddenly all I had was the idea of being occupied by reacting to what was happening. By June, I had 2 commissions, a new website, a studio and started to create digital screen prints. I think I had forgotten who I was, and what I loved to do. Independence meant I was creating and experimenting because nothing else was going to save me, there was nothing else (other than eating) that would consume my days. So, in a nutshell, had lockdown not happened I would still be lost and dependent on others to make me happy when all the time the problem was me.

  • Is Merseyside a good place to be independent? 

Every opportunity I have ever had has come from Merseyside. Everyone that took a chance on me with work was from Merseyside. Even after moving to Manchester in 2019, every commission, project or one-off job has come from within Merseyside. I don’t think I could conclude anything other than it being a great place to be a creative, to meet people and share ideas. Hum, on reflection this might also mean I need to start looking in other areas for support?

  • What are your favourite examples of independence / the independent in Merseyside? 

It sounds very neanderthal but despite there being incredible role models like Lily Parr, and renowned locations like the Albert Dock or I just can’t choose them over Johnny Vegas. He is a metaphor of St Helens; he is not perfect, but you would enjoy being in his presence. His life and all the wild changes in decisions that lead him to be a comedian are an inspiration, and again they reflect St Helens, in many ways not knowing what it is. It is not Johnny’s comedy that makes him a favourite ‘independent’, it is what he does with his influence. His constant support for his town, his charity work, his networking to increase St Helens notoriety and ultimately his genuine character. He really is a legend because he independently sells St Helens as a place that creates people just like him.

  • What is your favourite cultural organisation in Merseyside and why?

The World of Glass in St Helens is a great venue. Simply put, they go out of their way to bring artists together and celebrate the towns creativity. The staff are brilliant and always friendly, I don’t know what else you would want from a venue? Free cake?

  • What is your favourite place in Merseyside and why? 

Port Sunlight is incredible. It is frozen in time, like a living film set. There is something so quaint about the area, and at the same time it is ominous? I have really great memories of discovering it for the first time and working there as a photographer. Every experience I have had in that location is laced with joy.

  • If you could make Merseyside different, what would you change, and why? 

I don’t think I would change anything. That sounds lazy but I honestly don’t think I would. Unless making it less windy on the Docks counts? Its always blowing a gale! In fact, no, I would love more spaces for street art to be created permanently, or even a trail throughout the region. I always feel London has an abundance of spaces that are left and even protected and loved by locals. I think that would work really well in Merseyside to give us a more visual, accessible creative voice for political and social reaction.

  1. Describe Merseyside to someone who’s never visited

I’m trying not to say ‘Its not all about the Beatles’

Historical, visual, proud, opinionated, loud and unbelievably varied in geography as long as it’s mostly flat.