Dancing into a September of Wonder

Summer, it seems, is on its way out, which means that back-to-school, beginning of the Autumn arts frenzy  feeling. (When I lived in the Netherlands, I remember there would be the annual ‘Uitmarkt’, an amazing festival marking the opening of the cultural season at the end of August). There’s the usual September busyness ahead, but it’s slightly different this year as I’ve spent most of the last three months moving our narrowboat home to Leeds. It’s a slow way to move house, but a pleasant one, and there’s no cardboard boxes involved. And it’s exciting relocating to Yorkshire, which thus far has been treating us very well. I’m now based at East Street Arts,  are a superb organisation providing lovely studios to fantastic people. I’m very pleased to be joining them and to be working alongside some super artists and friends both in Leeds and more widely across Yorkshire.

In art news, there’s much going on. I’m off to Aberystwyth next week to present a paper (‘Actuating the anomalous: performance art’s negotiation with the secular spiritual’) at the Performing Rituals conference, which sounds really interesting. Unfortunately I’ll not be able to attend the whole thing, feeling somewhat financially excluded as a non-institutionalised artist-researcher. It frustrates the hell out of me that academic events like this can cost £275 to attend, based on a system in which academics’ places are subsidised by their employing institutions and whose research is paid for in their full time salary. For those of us whose freelance income is a fraction of even the starting salary of an academic (and less, I have to admit, than that of a postgraduate bursary), and whose research is undertaken independently, attending research events poses a massive cost that is discouraging to say the least. I could rant on about this for ages, but suffice to say I’ve bitten the bullet this time (and will obviously be filling my pockets at the buffet lunch…)

Also, rather excitingly, I’m working on a new project with Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol. After the success of the ACE-funded R&D phase of CONNECTION / TIME in April and May, we’re taking the project forward with some exciting new steps and developments. KWMC have commissioned me to make a series of new performances in Knowle West, and will, in parallel, be further developing access to the interface so that it will be more widely available to users anywhere. These new performances (working title ‘Dances of Earthly Wonder’) will be solo works taking place around Knowle West, embedded within local community contexts, but streamed live online via the interface. I’m still researching and developing ideas for the performances themselves, but have been looking into ideas of harvest and at weird and wonderful English folk traditions, including morris dancing. A couple of weeks ago I was at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society, might also try to get to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford if time will allow, and have found a morris dancing team in Leeds to infiltrate. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun!

] Performance S p a c e [ in Hackney Wick, one of the parters on the previous phase of the project, have already been using CONNECTION / TIME for ‘Ritually Reading and Researching’, 12-hour long overnight research / reading / processing sessions that are part of their summer residency. The sessions are all archived on the residency website. We’ve also been talking to the fantastic people at Performing Documents (University of Bristol and InBetween Time) about their using it to document practice-based elements of their research project, and their symposium in a few weeks. Dane has also been building a home page to archive all of the CONNECTION / TIME events to date, which is currently on http://whosedata.net/connection/time/

I’m also preparing a new performance for 7a*11d performance festival in Toronto. It’ll be a great chance to work with some of the best performance artists over in Canada, and to see friends old and new. But more on that next time, I’ve got a conference paper to write…

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