It started like this: I was in London for a coupe of weeks, sometime just before Spring…. sprung. It was tipping it down, quite late at night, I was walking under one of the arches near London Bridge, on Bermondsey Street. It must have been a Friday night, because there were a lot of people dressed up going places. I saw a girl, she was shivering and wet and doing her level best to shelter her hair and makeup from the rain. I wished I had a second umbrella to give her. I wished I had given her mine.
It now looks like this: from the 7th of October ’til the 12th of November umbrellas will be appearing all over York. In certain places. You may also see me, at certain times, on certain days, standing in front of a big inflatable thingy, ready to offer you a biscuit, a cup of tea. The umbrellas that you might find, or that I might give you are free to take, to use, to pass on, and then to drop off, so other people can use them. Think of it like a Boris Bike system for umbrellas, except that it’s free. I’m giving hundreds of umbrellas to the city of York, all I want in exchange is their stories. The umbrellas each have a number on, if you call that number, you’ll be asked a question. Leave a story, any story, in response, and over the 5 weeks I will be producing 3 x 20-30 minute sound pieces to be listened to in certain parts of the city. Free to download, or to pick up a ready-loaded mp3 player from York Theatre Royal or the Central Library.
I’m being helped to do this with the magnificent music of Simon Ralph Goff (who’s been collecting and manipulating found sounds from around the city, and turning them into instruments), the production of the brilliant Pilot Theatre, who as well as offering an incredibly generous amount of support-in-kind, also brought Arts Council money on board, and the germ of the idea itself was developed under the mentoring of the FutureEverything accelerator program, and forms part of my PhD-as-practice with (and where I am also supported by) Loughborough University.
So many hands. Helping me make this thing, which I hope will be an experiment in connecting people, small kindnesses, and voicing a city. Get excited. I am. (I’m also equal parts nervous, but I don’t think you need to share that too.)
The main site for the project is up now: umbrellaproject.co.uk, and you can also follow @umbrellaproject on Twitter and ‘like’ it over on Facebook. At the moment there’s basic info, but as soon as downloads are released, and event dates for the walks, and my visits to the streets of York are announced, you will find details about them in all of those places.
And for now? pass it on…