Monday, March 30, 2009


Late Night Sewing

Late nights this weekend it’s been sewing time. The machine has been pulled out of the roof, dusted off and fired up. Velcro has been going on the blackout material. Sewing straight lines, black cotton fixing black Velcro to black fabric that’s going to be fixed to the roof in the dark is low-pressure work and thus quite therapeutic.

The Other Way Works have been doing prep for their work Black Tonic @ A E Harris, letting them in and out allowed a chance to check a prototype square of the blackout in position. It appears to work well, though application requires devious ladder choreography.



Friday, March 27, 2009


Another Blackout

I abandoned my post today. The performers worked on lines and cues – of course they have to learn lighting cues as well as text and blocking. Meanwhile, I shot up and down ladders working on the black-out. Given we are @ A E Harris for two years it seems sensible to invest in a decent black-out that can go up and down relatively easily. It would be a shame to lose the fantastic natural light for all time, so the plan is to glue and staple Velcro to wooden batons, these batons then get cable-tied to the roof either side of the skylights. Then we sew matching lengths of Velcro to rectangles of black fabric – job's a good ‘un.



Farewell Mark Ball

Last night a small party was thrown for Mark Ball. Mark was one of the founders of Birmingham’s Queerfest. He oversaw its mutation into the Fierce! Festival which he as its scale and ambitions grew. In parallel with the festival, Fierce! built up its year-round operation in the field of arts training and education. They picked up many contracts to deliver national Arts Council initiatives within the West Midlands. They took up the challenge of developing Live Art in the region.

About eighteen months ago Mark stepped away from day to day contact with Fierce! to take up a post at the Royal Shakespeare Company, developing work outside the company’s main stages. Now he moves on to become director of London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT).

LIFT has been in a period of flux. A few years ago the festival’s founders, Rose Fenton and Lucy Neal decided to leave. A period of organisational soul searching ended in Angharad Wynne-Jones being appointed Artistic Director and the festival moving towards East London and more socially engaged projects. Now Angharad has returned to Australia and into her shoes steps Mr. Ball.

Mark faces a big challenge in London. He takes on an established festival, possibly even a brand, not exactly in crisis, but certainly searching for its new identity. There are questions about the festival’s financing (there is a belief that money was, in part, behind its move East). With 2012 on the horizon, there are also huge possibilities. Mark is a great operator and has an eye for a headline grabbing act. His new post will be a fantastic test of his political and curatorial skills. It will be fascinating to see how his Fierce! aesthetic – principally Live Art - does or does not, map onto LIFT, which is after all a "Festival of Theatre".

Back home Helga and Kevin face a challenge in some ways similar to Mark’s. How do you move on an organisation once its founder/s have moved on?

There will be those on the arts scene in the West Midlands who have had significant differences with Mark and will not mourn his departure, but it’s difficult to deny the prolific work he has done in promoting Live Art in the West Midlands and West Midlands in Live Art. He will be missed by many but of course he hasn’t died! It can only be good for the Wsst Midlands that one of its own has taken on such an significant post in London. We wish him luck.



Re-Working the Wriggler

It feels as if we are getting to grips with Home of the Wriggler now. In 2006 we only performed it four times and so didn’t have time to explore how the piece works properly. Coming back to the scrip afresh has allowed us to take a new look at things and address some scenes we felt weren’t working up to full-power. It has been useful having Bharti onboard as a fresh eye on the piece, as a result we’ve made lots of the narrative links easier to follow.

Within the overall improvement of the show there are winners and losers. A big scene has gone. Heather’s off-loaded a monologue. Craig’s picked up a new part. Amanda’s lost some bits and gained others. Occasional lines have gone, individual words have been added here and there. Bits of staging have changed. It’s rough on people who thought they ha a grip on their lines, but we’re doing well for time and had a decent run through at the end of the day.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Industrial Elves

Mark Anderson paid a flying trip last week to service the Home of the Wriggler kit. The dynamo from the large bike had finally broken following major usage in schools. Mark tracked down a replacement from a washing machine repair shop in Stirchley (the dynamo is in fact a washing machine motor run backwards). Craig picked it up at the end of last week, leaving us with the challenge of fitting a wheel for the drive belt to run around. Here is the advantage of being located within a metal working factory. We gave the problem to Clive, he ferried to the A E Harris tool-shop and when we arrived for work on Tuesday morning, like a scene some industrial fairytale, it was lying completed on our workbench ready for fitting.

Now we're trying to do a similar engineering job on the show's text.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009



Re-rehearsals started today for Home of the Wriggler. An amalgam of freshly printed amended scripts, my annotated old script and a DVD documenting the last performance helped us piece together what should be happening.

In between times we fit in bits of clearing up after the opening, trying to be conscientious about returning everything borrowed from the Constance Brown kit back to the Constance Brown section downstairs so we're not left stranded in Toronto.

Later, after supper, I returned with Graeme and, whilst discussing a corporate job he’s leading on, we complete the Carnet. A Carnet is a list of everything that we are taking out of the country: its description, weight, value and country of origin. For a show with as much ‘stuff' as Constance Brown the Carnet is a serious task. Billy broke the back of it last week. Arvo has supplied the tech list and it’s this that we’re working off tonight. It takes us until beyond Midnight but eventually it is done.



Sunday, March 22, 2009



We officially launched @ A E Harris on Friday. There was a relaxed party style event. Kitchen Garden Cafe did some tasty catering and handed out drinks. Craig, Jake and I set up a fairly extensive exhibition of Stan’s Cafe memorabilia including photographs, objects, reviews and things to do. We put so much effort into this we’ve decided to keep it up until the space it occupies is required for something else.

The event was well attended by friends of the company old and new. Special mention has to go to Mike, who came up from London and Ed, over from the Home Counties. It was great to see them both. Hopefully the event has stirred up some interest in people who may want to themselves present art @ A E Harris. Hopefully it will also draw an audience for our own work in the space.

After a brief speech from Alan James saying “hurrah” and a rather longer one from we saying “thank you” and “come to our shows” and “bring your own shows” and “these are some of the shows we are going to do here” and then repeating these points a few times, it was time for BINGO; back from 1994 the Bingo Machine was out and in full effect. 1994 was so long ago I had forgotten how long it can take a room full of people to throw up a winner in a bingo game. When the winner eventually emerged it was Finian Coghlan, a journalist visiting from Ireland, whose prize was to launch the space and the new season by bursting through a paper wall into a room fitted out with a working portion of our new Scalextric collection – part of the future.

We were also wise enough to invite the excellent Pete Ashton to the hence, hence you can get a flavour of what it was like, in triplicate.




Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Neep Idea.

A steaming Vesuvius of haggis, neeps and tatties? It can only be Edinburgh and Monster Mash, one of top five restaurants of all time anywhere. Cafe Soya and The Plaza in Birmingham along with Lombardies in New York and a fish and chip shack near Granville Island, Vancouver complete the top five. My criteria don’t absolutely align with those of the Michelin man, though if I lived much closer to any of these restaurants my physique would.

Lunch was a fortuitous side-effect of a site visit to Edinburgh scouting venues for Dance Steps and Home of the Wriggler this August.

It has been well worthwhile. I’ve photographed and sketched the possible Dance Steps venue in some detail and managed to clarify with the venue what the piece is, which sometimes takes some doing.

I’m currently in the potential Wriggler venue. The vibe is very, very good. We’d be pushed for space, but it would probably be worth that compromise for the benefits of this vibe, especially in the meltdown commercialism of so much Edinburgh Fringe action.

Now for the return journey; to be fair the train is one of those leaning ones and goes like a rocket, which is just as well as spacetravel would be cheaper.



Saturday, March 14, 2009


Go See

The Flatpack Film festival has got such an amazing array of stuff going on this year that even those of us apparently locked into the humdrum logistics of feeding, watering, clothing and illuminating their youth can partake. Today Sarah, Eve and I found video screens in shop windows, we watched an hours worth of wonderful kids films at The Electric and a cluster of installed things at festival's nerve centre on Floodgate Street.

For me the 'must see' art of the day was Rob MacLaughlan's 'Paint Can, Revolving'. Wonderfully simple, beautifully executed, hypnotic, otherworldly and quotidian simultaneously, just my kind of thing. There's a bit of intriguing physics involved as well which is obviously and added draw for me.




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