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Table drawing from the artists' conversation workshop at Flare 2017

This afternoon I was invited to be on the panel for the Flare Open Forum. It was an open discussion curated by Cradshaw (Kate Craddock and Teresa Brayshaw), with myself, Beth Cassani and Richard Gregory asked to contribute some thoughts and questions towards the end, particularly in reference to time and place. Here’s what I said.

(Although I tried to avoid spoilers, if you’re at Flare and haven’t seen Party by Beaches yet, probably best not to read this until you have).

**

I arrived in this room about 59 minutes ago, and 57 minutes ago, I started to write something, because Teresa and Kate asked me to say something. Here’s what I’ve written since then.

I arrived at FLARE at about 10.30 yesterday morning. My first experience of the festival was to facilitate a set of conversations which I then realised I had basically excluded myself from.

My relationship with time was then a familiar one from running workshops: “How is it going? I haven’t prepared enough to fill the time I’ve been asked to fill… oh, no, we’re probably okay… oh, no, we’re going to overrun, I’ll have to cut something… oh,no, I think we’ll be okay after all.”

So this is my question: where and when am I, or are you, when I am (you are) watching shows?

In Blind Cinema I am distant. I am at home with my children. I am here, missing them.

In Dead Pig’s A Work of ART I am present, in this room, watching their bodies, in the now, watching time pass for them.

In Emma Gannon’s Civilisation I am here, now, in this world, and sometimes, I think, in a near, possible future. Also, as a maker of shows, I am here, in the room, listening to the way she integrates scientific detail into her narrative, because that’s what I do, too.

In BOG’s One, performed by Lisa Verbelen, I am transported. To her world, to her time. Removed from my own frame. Entirely in the moment of her voice, in the moment of the mechanics of the show, in the moment that the gently scrolling screen tells me will happen next.

In K.U.R.S.K.’s Leopard Murders I am in the past. In the world’s past, in history. In a past I have heard about all my life, but not experienced because it happened before I was alive. I am reminded, though, that this past is only two generations ago.

And because the show is about Timo’s grandfather I am also with my Grandad. I am at Cape Wrath in Scotland six years ago, where I went to remember my him, and his journey to the same place nearly 30 years ago.

In Party, by Beaches, I am, because they place me there, in my own past. I am on a beach in Rio De Janeiro, at night, with my friends Paula and Claudia.

I am in my teenage bedroom, putting the audio cassette of Talking Heads’ Remain In Light into my Aiwa tape recorder (which at the time we called a ghetto blaster).

I am at the Crest Hotel Birmingham/Walsall (it was in Walsall but they thought more people would stay there if they said it was in Birmingham), - where I work behind the bar - Staff Christmas Party, December 1987, dancing with a girl who works in the restaurant, a girl whose name I can no longer remember, a girl who, despite the fact that she has asked me to slow-dance to this, the ballad at the end of the night, I will, for some reason, never kiss.

And then, later in the show, I am absolutely in my body, in this moment, in this room, with the nine people I came in with, plus the performers who are caring for us, thinking only about the sound I can hear, the shape my body is making, the feeling of being here, now.

In this room, in the last hour, I am in this room, now, but also back in those shows, and in the times and places they made me think of, feel of.

I am listening to Kate and Teresa talking about festivals, about time, about places.

Yesterday I was having a conversation about time, about the time it takes to get ready, and I talked about a story from the book Pip Pip: A Sideways Look At Time by Jay Griffiths, which is for my money, one of the best books written about time. In it she tells a story about being in a village in, I think, South America. Whilst she is there, a couple get engaged to be married, and the whole village celebrates. Jay asks them, “When will the wedding be?” And they don’t understand the question. They don’t understand the idea of setting a deadline then trying to get everything ready by that date. They think: get everything ready, and when it is ready, then have the wedding.

That’s maybe not very useful for people setting up and running festivals, but it’s what I think about when we start talking about time.

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