Interview with Tricia Enns

By Georgia Grace

One of our star volunteers, Tricia Enns, who you may know from our kombucha workshops, Morning Jam sessions or a whole host of other projects she’s been involved with over the last two years, is fundraising to stay in the UK.

Growing up in Ottawa Canada, Tricia came over to live in Brighton two years ago on a youth working holiday visa and has been a central part of the ONCA family ever since. We’re keen to help Tricia raise the money she needs to apply for a new visa so that she can continue her exceptional work within the arts, the environment and the community.

Tricia sat down with me recently for a chat about all the fantastic work she gets up to here at ONCA, and how friends of ONCA can support her efforts to keep doing it.

“I moved here December 2015,” Tricia explains as we take a seat in the ONCA kitchen. She is as upbeat and bubbly as ever, with a bright purple shirt, her own handmade earrings and flecks of paint in her hair. (I’ve caught her between a house-painting shift and a first date at a climbing wall.) “I basically moved here because I felt like a change from what I was doing. I was living in Ottawa in Canada and it was great. I was loving what I was doing but I was getting to the point where I thought “if I want to try living anywhere else, I should do it now otherwise I’ll probably just stay here for the rest of my life”.

“I had discovered ONCA two years beforehand when I came for a month and half trip to England and a few other countries in Europe. I had visited Brighton just for a few days, I popped in and I was like “ah, this feels nice” […] When I came back I was feeling quite overwhelmed and groundless; I was trying to figure out where to live and where to work and I knew about two people. And so I came into ONCA, just because I was like “oh, that’s a place I remember, I should go in and check it out”. Then I looked on the website and saw that they needed volunteers, so I came and volunteered at the Blackbird Film Festival in January 2016 […] I remember telling Alice [Gallery Coordinator at the time] that I felt like I was in a living room and hanging out with friends and people from the community, and it was really nice.”

That sense of comfort and belonging is a feeling not unusual to those involved with ONCA. When I sat in on interviews with some of our ONCA Upstairs members during my internship here, one word that kept cropping up when asked about how they all felt about the organisation was “home”. For Tricia, that desire to be a part of something exciting and meaningful has been essential to her adult life: “I just find, for some reason, I am always driven to getting involved in the community and meeting people that way. I just enjoy it – it’s fun! […] I love meeting new people and not to brag but I think I’m quite good at it,” she laughs.

Tricia is also spurred on by her own resourcefulness and lust for finding out about new things: “I find lots of things really fascinating and interesting, and I love learning how things work. Also, building bridges: I love when someone comes to me and says “I don’t know what to do, I’m trying to find… some sort of drink that makes me feel good”, and I’m like “oh, I know the right people you can go to!””

The “right people” in this case are Old Tree Brewery who Tricia has also volunteered and worked with during her time in Brighton. Old Tree produce healthy drinks out of local botanical ingredients, doing as much of the process as possible by hand and with minimal waste. Tricia describes the company as an “engine” with offshoots into all different forms of socio-economic, health and environmental improvement.

Tricia’s drink-making specialities reside in kombucha, a fermented tea she regularly makes in workshops right here at ONCA. “It’s a bit odd and a bit weird making kombucha for an organisation that does art and environmental and community-based stuff,” she admits. “But I think food is art in a way – it’s edible art – and kombucha is also to me a way of taking back our relationship with food, and taking back our relationship with the environment […]

“It’s nice to share knowledge about our food, and to get people engaged with what they’re eating, and learning how to make their own stuff, whether it be kombucha or anything else really. It gets us to critically think about our relationship with our food and with the environment, and the workshops are a space to have those discussions […] There’s often time within the workshops when we’re just waiting for something to brew or the kettle to boil, and so I try to have little chats about “so, food: what’s up with that?” because it is such a huge part of our environmental impact.”

Tricia’s passion for the environment is also evident in her jewellery business which makes earrings out of recycled bicycle inner-tubes, as well as her having committed to a vegan diet for almost ten years. She also helps run a monthly film night called Green Screen which shows a variety of films related to the environment, as well as lending an occasional hand at Whitehalk Community Garden. “It’s quite a tricky question when someone asks me what I do,” she muses.

Initially Tricia trained in engineering and worked in the field for several years back in Canada. She now works partly as a social worker for people with disabilities, on top of a number of odd jobs she picks up here and there. “Half of me is very technical and logical and the other half is just [she lets out an enthusiastic “woo!” and explains that’s her “creative noise”]. I’m always flipping back and forth […] It would be nice to someday figure out a way of bringing them together. But I’m still figuring that out really. I guess the curse of being so involved and finding everything so fascinating is that you do find everything so fascinating, and it’s hard to figure out what you want. […] I think the hardest part is believing in yourself – that’s super cheesy but – believing in yourself and having the confidence that it will work out one way or the other, and redefining what “it’ll work out” means.”

One thing that remains central to what Tricia does is her passion for creating things, especially things that bring people together. Her Morning Jam sessions are a great example. She co-devised the morning dance parties with a friend back in Canada and was delighted to introduce them to ONCA both at our gallery and on our Barge residency over the summer. “It has been really cool, both to start something new for ONCA but also to allow something to continue and grow, which I started with my friend. And I love to dance so it’s a great space to do that!” she laughs.

Other recent projects of Tricia’s include her weekly comic Miss Adventure. “It’s kind of a silly thing about my life,” she explains. “But the idea is that it’s relatable for anyone and takes the piss out of parts of life that when in the moment, we can find really overwhelming.” She has also started co-running, with two friends and fabulous local poets, Poetry and Poses sessions which combine poetry reading and life drawing.

If Tricia succeeds in her bid to stay in Brighton, she is keen to start working on a new artistic project revolving around the concept of being endangered. “[The project] would look at what endangered means in terms of animals, in terms of landscapes, in terms of plants, and basically anything else such as bacteria, fungi, etc. I will look at how things become endangered […] and how we CAN change and how people ARE changing the way we live through differently styled communities and tangible actions. I want to explore that through art, through the creative stuff I’m doing now [Tricia explains she has begun a series of drawings of endangered animals], through discussions and conversations, hopefully through visiting communities where they’re living off-grid or “alternatively” and I’ll have a blog as well that I’ll keep anyone interested up to date. […]

“Sometimes I find art – can be quite intense and jarring – but you can also use art as a soft and pretty way to pull people into thinking about something more challenging. I don’t think people always flock to talking about animals that we have caused to become endangered, or languages that have been lost due to colonization, but you can start a dialogue through art that’s like “oh, isn’t that pretty! What’s that?” and then [have people realise] that there’s more to it, more to what they are looking at and more to the world we are living in than just a pretty (or ugly) picture.”

Reflecting on her time in Brighton and especially at ONCA, Tricia adds, “I feel very grateful to be part of the community in Brighton and that’s why I want to stay. It’s a space that feels like home and also a space that I don’t feel like I’m done giving to and being involved with, especially at ONCA.”

Tricia is currently raising funds for her visa application through a whole range of exciting events and workshops, including this weekends’ life-drawing session and Morning Jam, and our upcoming ONCA bingo. You can also donate straight to her Go Fund Me page here.