It has been a busy weekend as usual – I spent Friday hiding from the world and recovering a bit but then on Saturday I went to the Flare Weekender, curated by my MMU colleague Neil Mackenzie, and then today I went to the Vintage Home Show at the Victoria Baths and then the Manchester Day Parade.
I was able to see most of the shows that were programmed on the Saturday of the Flare Weekender and was lucky enough to participate in an Artist’s Forum that organized and facilitated by the Saturday Arts Club (which is made up of Proto-type member Andrew Westerside and Proto-type collaborator Adam York Gregory). The forum consisted of about thirty artists, academics,audience members and presenters sitting in a semi-circle that had been divided in half – those on one side were to argue FOR each of several set provocations and those on the other side against. The provocations were indeed provocative (‘festivals are about audiences not artists’ is one example). What was lovely about the dialogue and debate that ensued was that we really did debate. The form broke down a bit at some point, but it didn’t matter, with a more nuanced and less black vs. white conception of the issues being raised evolving that allowed for us to get to some really interesting discussions. I was particularly interested in hearing some of the points raised by Donna Young, a CTP graduate and member of I-Like-Gameshow, a young company. It was exciting seeing and hearing the very articulate voices of young artists who have yet to become jaded by the difficulty of making work happen.
I also saw a new piece by a smith called Commonwealth, a show by Club Reckless called Daddy Cool, a piece by Jodean Sumner‘s called It Starts Like This, a show by Massive Owl called The ‘See You Later’ Capital, and cabaret including a very funny sketch by CTP graduates-to-be Megan Harris and Georgia Dawson about Kate Bush and their mothers (my highlight of the evening). The work was a little bit hit and miss, if I am totally honest, but the atmosphere was brilliant and I was really excited to see so many people (young and older) engaging with the work, being challenged and discussing it with passion. I had a very lively debate with one friend about Commonwealth that I think will continue to develop as I think through and about the work in conversation with others. Had some similarly rich discussions about Daddy Cool, which was made in only three days so is very early in its development.
Highlights for me where It Starts Like This, which was really lovely – very well performed and with a nice dynamic and frame which felt mostly very fresh. I’d love to see the piece develop a bit more so that it might be accessible to a wider audience possibly, but I could watch Jodean sweep the floor and be mesmerized. A fantastic performer. I also really liked The ‘See You Later’ Capital although I think it has some structural problems that, if addressed, could make it into a remarkable performance. The cabaret by Megan Harris and Georgia Dawson (under the name Tenderfoot) was a really intelligent and funny homage to Kate Bush but also to the fear of becoming our parents. As I noted above, their performance was really the highlight for me as it was the most complete piece of work in terms of knowing what it was and doing it well, with care for its audience (a real rarity), and with intelligence.
It is hard being so uber-critical all the time – I wish I was able to turn off my critical brain when I go to see performance, but because I make work (and because I appreciate thoughtful critique of my own work), I really struggle to just allow work to wash over me. I’m constantly thinking and being and being and thinking as the work happens. And some work takes time to settle with me – so maybe some of the pieces that didn’t work for me will eventually resonate in some way. There are reviews of the shows over at the Flare blog. A few images are in the gallery below as well.
This morning, Brian and I headed over to the Victoria Baths where there was a vintage home fair/sale. We’ve never been although it has been on our list for a while. It’s an amazing old building that used to house a working Turkish bath along with two swimming pools (in British tradition it, of course, had a first class and second class entrance). The building is in the midst of a very long term renovation that will see the bath and pools reopened to the public eventually. For now, it is used for events and performances (it was used in MIF a few years ago). It was nice to have a wander around with our friends Mark and Richie (who met us there – Phil and James, two other friends decided last minute not to come). I was surprised by how affordable much of the items were (not including the £97 butter dish!) but it was so packed with people that I couldn’t really manage staying for long. We bought a kitschy clock that reminds me of clocks from my childhood; it now has a new home in our kitchen.
After the home sale, Brian and I went to Oast House while Mark and Richie dropped their car back home. We then met on Deansgate to watch the Manchester Day Parade. Our friend Jon joined us for the festivities. It was an impressive parade – it has really grown since the first one I saw a few years ago and is now a full-fledged event with lots of amazing floats/puppets/etc. It was slightly baffling trying to work out what most of the participants in the parade had to do with Manchester (elephants?), but it didn’t matter as it was nice seeing a bit of spectacle with a large community of Mancunians in attendance. After the parade we had a wander through town together and then stopped at Trof for a glass of vino.
Now I’m settling into the sofa for a bit of time sans thinking and just being. Need to do more of that, methinks.
Here are images from the day: