Hurrah! The final instalment on the 7 installations and things that I made as part of Northern Big Board. You can find part one here, and part two over here. Today, a little about Cuppa. Trust Me, and the BONUS CONTENT. Let’s get straight into it…
Cuppa was made in response to the importance of the cafe to the pool building – to making it a place people stay, rather than justa place people go. As part of the cuts and restructures the pool was undergoing the cafe had had its hours drastically cut.
This meant that not only was it not open much of the time, but that people were never certain whether it might be – people stopped wandering up on the off chance. A reasonable amount of the families and older visitors to the pool talked sadly about this, and so I wanted to make a piece that reflected that meeting place. Hence, Cuppa. Cuppa was a piece for two participants, with a part a and part b. It involved a tea set with real (Yorkshire) tea and a single biscuit. It was a synchronous piece of audio that asked two participants to move together – not always in unison, some times differently, thinking on their own, or moving to compliment the other – two sides of the same experience. It was a requiem to the closing cafe. To those places of accidental crossing, weak tea, and chip butties. You can, if you want to see how the two parts worked together, read the script here. The aim was for it to be quiet and gentle and a small space for two people to come together.
This was the ‘big’ piece for me, I don’t necessarily think it was for the people who experienced the installations, it was focal in that way, but it was really important for me. For several reasons, first that it was the hardest to write, by far, second (and relatedly) it was the one I felt the least prepared to, and most want to do justice to – because it was about diving, and finally, because it was the one (I felt) that linked up most strongly with everything Emma was saying in her play for the project. Throughout the 6 weeks I had been learning to dive with the help of a brilliant coach and diver called Dave Cowen. Bradford Esprit diving had worked with Northern Big Board to set up the ‘big board amnesty’ every Friday – where members of the public could turn up and have a go at diving, maybe even take a leap off the 5m board. That experience of learning to dive was one of the most brilliant and rewarding things I’ve done in recent years. I do quite a bit of sport, but it’d been a while since I learnt something, and I love learning things. I additionally loved learning something physical, of working with (as opposed to despite my tired) body, of pushing myself past fear. Incredibly rewarding, a proper rush, and something really important about learning by doing, and working with, rather than against, failure. With Trust Me, I tried to approach these things. So Trust Me is a piece about facing your fears. About how fear is natural failure useful, and the most important things being willing to try again. It’s also a piece about diving. It emerged out of a conversation I recorded with Dave. The love in his voice as he spoke about the sport was unmistakable. He said after the interview that Shipley Pool was his first pool, “It’s like your first love, you never forget it”. That’s what this piece was about. Trust, failure, the love of being better. The piece itself took place in a dark enclosed space with a semi-transparent curtain/screen directly infront of you. A video projected water onto the floor. Participants entered to find a bench, and are throughout the piece invited to come towards a platform (obscured) in the centre of the room, urged to take steps towards giving up their fears, to find the best of themselves. There’s a slideshow of pictures below. And because I’m feeling generous, an embed of the audio.
The final piece I made was a bonus track of sorts. To encourage people to explore as much as possible I introduced a simple little collection mechanic – after each installation you could collect a token, and with 3 or more exchange it for a URL of a download, or if you didn’t have access to the internet, the piece on a CD. It was a simple little audio montage of all the voices I’d gathered from the pool, just under three minute. I also made this available to all the staff, who shared it with everyone they could. I was really proud to begin to represent the story of their place to them.
This whole project was very hard, but the majority of that burden was right for me to feel. It was a privilege. A real privilege, to listen to and attempt to tell the stories of these people.