Last Saturday we visited Tamworth, and it should be acknowledged that it is the flowery-est town we’ve ever performed in. So many hanging baskets, beds and flower boxes… all absolutely gorgeous in the last of the summer sunshine. (See the pictures if you don’t believe me.)
The brilliant Laura Patrick, Tamworth’s Arts and Events Development Manager, contacted HQ this year and between us we hatched a plan to deliver our half-day CPD training and a special gig for their ‘Arts in Unusual Spaces’ programme.
During our morning workshop we were joined by members from Tamworth Wind Band who were taken through a whistle stop programme of movement, street performance and music tuition before joining the band for a live, flash-mob performance in Tamworth’s busy Castle Grounds.
Well done to all the participants, you were so brilliantly up for it and put on a terrific show. We really enjoyed performing with you. To quote Laura, “In terms of cultural development, we call this ‘Finding the Gold”. We agree…
A gorgeous room, Manchester’s best sound engineers, loads of tech equipment, a noisy band, a few kids, a dog and a performance director. This is creative research, Mr. Wilson’s style…
Last week’s band practice found the Mr. Wilson’s team in much classier surroundings than our usual damp, rehearsal bunker. Thank you so much to, tour de force, Sophie Bee at The Albert Hall. She generously hosted our creative research collaboration with sound system design specialists, Tube UK Ltd. It was a total thrill to meet and play in Manchester’s most beautiful and atmospheric venue.
We first met Melv, Adam and John from Tube UK Ltd at Manchester Day Parade 2016. They designed a mobile sound system to accommodate our processional performance with Graham Massey. By some technical wizardry, they also beamed a transmitted signal from that sound system to a huge D&B PA just as the parade arrived to meet the huge crowds gathered in Exchange Sq. Amazing. They are terrific people to work with, combining technical expertise with a genuine desire to meet the needs of artists and produce the best live sound. They make you feel like anything is possible.
Over the past few years, we’ve been invited to perform our street show on much bigger stages to much, much bigger audiences. Often, these stage performances are a continuation off a parade or procession or the band breaks-out from the stage, taking the performance directly down into the heart of the crowd. This spontaneity makes for incredible, immediate experiences. Flexibility however, also presents technical challenges to sound engineers. We know there is so much potential for our stage shows, if only we could make the most of our live sound without restricting our movement.
We asked Tube UK if they would help us learn more about the technical capability of radio mic’s, in-ear monitoring and help us produce some documents to send to sound engineers in advance of big gigs so they are ready for the anarchy of Mr. Wilson’s when we arrive on site in the future. Adam and John were terrific and went above and beyond the call, spending an afternoon with us, testing gear and trying out various combinations.
Big stages, big crowds, we’re ready for you! Thanks to a little help and advice from our friends at Tube UK, we’re coming at you from all angles with new improved sounds and tech specs.
It’s as much soul food for their inner brass-ophiles as it is a gig. Sharing their learning and love of music on an extensive tour of regional schools, gigging every night in every weather and networking with the joyous international brass community; the lads met up with old comrades and made many new friends. It’s definitely a very special event on the brass calendar and we are proud to have been part of the action.
This lovely film from the 2016 10th anniversary festival demonstrates the impact of the festival on the local community, you might spot a few glimpses of our Golden Trumpet Award winners…
In May, Mr Wilson’s Artistic Director, Sonya Moorhead, was selected by ISAN to attend Fresh Streets #2, a Street Arts Conference hosted by Circostrada in Santa Maria de Feira, Portugal. 3 days of debate, presentations and networking were followed up with Imaginaries Festival, 3 days of inspiring street art. Below are some of her thoughts, returning home.
(Sonya met lots of cracking people throughout the week, but this amazing chap was her absolute favourite: the only drum and bass Jew’s Harp player at the conference… possibly the world. This is all live, no backing track! A total gift out of the blue, he made this incredible, impromptu offering in the very last session of the conference.)
“Portugal has been a real treat. Who doesn’t want to eat fresh tomatoes, view a diverse range street theatre and talk about art in a hotchpotch hybrid of broken French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German? I feel very grateful to have been selected as part of the ISAN delegation to Fresh Streets #2 and am happy to share as much of the experience as possible with other members.
Stepping away from work and regular responsibilities liberates time and in this fresh mental space, new work takes place. Removing myself from “The Real World”, I’ve stepped into a landscape of thought that I normally only explore in the creative process. It’s lovely, if a bit indulgent, to inhabit that world, uninterrupted, for an extended period of time and meet so many other professionals from our tribe on the same “trip”. It really did feel like those engaged in the conversation were developing and progressing street arts, live in the room.
After three days of presentations, conversations and debates, the flood has abated and I’d like to offer what’s washed up. I am saturated with information, mostly biased by my own interest, but if I’ve learnt anything, it’s that often experiences are universal. So, here’s a few of my Fresh Streets #2 take-aways:
No 1. – RAGE, RAGE WILD BEASTS (In response to Keynote speech by Noeline Kavanagh, Macnus) Street artists can and should be creative anarchists, redefining the order of public space to the benefit of beauty. In a world that needs fun and love more than ever, we must be wilder, braver, more provocative and less patient. What are we waiting for?
No 2. – REACH OUT AND TOUCH (In response to a conversation with Miguel from Project Ez) We make theatre in the street because we want to connect with audiences directly. Street Theatre steps between the audience and their technology or social media. It offers unsanctioned and thrilling moments of human connection that people didn’t even realize they needed. A fantastic example of this was Su A Feu by Deabru Beltzak, holding the street to ransom. Tight, machismo and thrillingly intimidating, they left a nervous and giddy crowd in their wake. I also loved the brilliantly curated Steli by Stalker Theatro, for this reason, literally bringing people together in spontaneous creative connection.
No 3. – GOOGLE DOESN’T HAVE ALL THE ANWSERS (In response to Rita De Graeve Policy Adviser for Culture and Economy (Belgium) There are so many skilled professionals beyond our existing network that are well placed to guide us as individual practitioners and companies if we just make the effort to identify them. We must not presume we have an acceptable understanding of law, finance, policy or business just because we navigate it as part of our work. We must also not presume that non-arts practitioners don’t understand our creative practice or that they are somehow incapable relaying their knowledge creatively. If you don’t ask for advice and help, you are only liable for you own lack of knowledge
No 4. – AN IDEA IS JUST AN IDEA (Copyright in Street Arts Workshop with Matthias Rettner and Teresa Nobre) ARTISTS: If you do nothing else today, read this and get savvy about copyright and how it impacts your practice as makers and doers. I know of too many artists who site occasions where they feel that their material or ideas have been copied but their name has not remained attached to their ideas or is even credited. The law protects intellectual property as the expression of the idea, for performance artists this is the show. Here lies a problem, because in order to acquire funding/commissioning we must be transparent and tell people about our ideas before the show is made. The Law does not protect shared ideas, but to my mind it feels like it still exclusively belongs to the artist. Lawyer, Teresa Nobre, said the only thing we can do to protect our ideas (before they become a tangible expression and made into work) is to arrange a confidentiality agreement. To extend the trust between commissioners, funders and applicants, perhaps all application processes should include a confidentiality clause, leaving artists confident that their ideas remain their ideas, especially if they are not awarded the commission in the first instance.
No 5. – OCCUPY THE STREETS, NOW MORE THAN EVER… (In response to the Manchester Arena Bomb.) This trip is stained with guilt. We stepped away and relinquished the horror of Manchester’s recent bombing. How dare we have such a heartening experience when families who live near us are engulfed in a searing new Hell? Unexpectedly, I found myself reflecting upon my journey from a 1980’s childhood in a divided Northern Ireland to a career and love affair with Outdoor Arts and creative interruption in public spaces. I know what it feels like to wake-up to bad news and realize it’s not going away. The darkness goes on and on and sometimes gets closer and it’s difficult to imagine a world where things are different, where peace reigns. I didn’t experience outdoor arts (bar the odd busker) until I was well into my 20’s because congregating people in public spaces was deemed agitating in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland however is a great demonstration of hope. In parallel to the contagion of extreme politics, I truly believe that acts of kindness, art and inspiration only risk epidemics of the same. If you stop using public spaces for culture and connection because of fear, terror wins. We must occupy the streets, now more than ever, populating our cities and towns with acts of peace, reconciliation, understanding and hope.”