Archive | June, 2013

Fairground Attraction – ‘Try the Guns…?’ #blogpost

30 Jun

Try The Guns

‘Try the Guns’ the – sign said…I was cycling passed the Green in Histon today and I noticed it had changed. This struck me, not just as an odd thing to say, or to write on a sign, but more that it immediately transported me back to a time where I once fired an automatic machine gun into blanket between 2 lamp posts in Albania, as part of a fairground activity – but that comes later. So as you can see I have always had a real attraction to fairgrounds, especially the deserted places and spaces long forgotten and unloved. One of my first encounters was the deserted dodgem car shack in Shipley Glen in Yorkshire. Stepping off the rickety funicular railway built originally for Bradfordians to rise to the top of the moor to take the air, the deserted funfair was always a special treat…


The shrouded dodgems and the leaky roof on a misty November morning are really quite something to see. So this is where I started my obsession when we moved to Bradford back in 1996 – and thanks to ScrappyNW on Flickr for this image. So today, in Histon the light was perfect, and I wanted to grab some shots to capture the atmosphere – and to help bring back some of that story that had been lurking there since 1999 – in Albania. Today the Hook a Giant was a new one on me…

Hook A Giant

And the dodgems, whilst active were still great in the temporary structure that only the other day had been hauled off the back of the truck and this of course brought back to me, the story about being in the fairground in Albania…

Histon Dodgems

So back to the story of the ‘try the guns’  it was back in 1999 – we took a show to Albania. The civil war with Kosovo had ended only months before and the UN had only just left. It was a cold October morning and we headed out from the National Theatre in Tirana, where we were performing, for a day out in Durres, which is on the coast and just a mere hop across the sea to Corfu. Here the deserted strip had not seen visitors for some time. The derelict and recently burned out Dodgems was still operational. But with only one car, yes just the one Dodgem. With nothing to dodge. A solitary dodgem. Not really worth going on really. What with having nothing to dodge and all.

So the Dodgem guy said ‘would I like to do something else?’ Wary I smiled and sort of nodded. At this he reached behind his desk and pulled out an automatic weapon. I stopped smiling. But a big grin came over his golden crowned teeth and he pointed to a rough set of army blankets tied between two lamp posts on the sea fronted prom. ‘For you’ he said and handed me the machine gun. He led me over to the front and sure enough told me to shoot the blanket. I shook my head and did a kind of ‘OOH it’s really interesting, but you see I’m just a theatre director and I was just over here – from you know, England…’ kind of look – and then he grabbed the gun, which was still in my hands, and sprayed a deafening roar of automatic rounds into the now dancing blankets.
I nearly messed myself. Loud? yep really bloody loud. I nodded, thanked him and backed away, having handed back the blanket killing machine. And I gave a sort nod which I hope tried to say ‘good luck with your dodgem during the winter season’ and I turned and tailed it and ran like hell.

So you see my obsession with these places is really a matter of life and death to me these days. It’s that simple…

So it was with great delight to get back – alive. So, a few years later on holiday in France, I was to discover this beauty on the Ile d’Oleron – a real tide gone out gem. From 1900. A two seated only Big Wheel…

Big Wheel France

Where the only thing I can imagine as a source of nightmares would be – that I was in one seat and the gold toothed smiling dodgem owner from Durres was in the other and smiling down and telling me to ‘Try the Guns’

So what does a multi-platform theatre company actually do?

20 Jun

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As Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre, I can really see the evolution of the company and track its DNA right back its early roots and incarnation. Whilst, not being an original founder member I did work with Pilot as an actor back in the mid 80’s and it is where I got my Equity card, and where my career was started.

This has always been the ethos of the company, providing the opportunities for emerging artists and practice – where projects can be ‘piloted’ and tried out. So, contrary to some of our recent airplane-spotter followers on twitter, we are actually nothing to do with air travel at all…Rather the organisation that creates the ‘pilot episode’ or ‘pilot project’ where something is made or developed for the first time.

So what’s new? well that’s the question the team asks itself all the time. Not that we endlessly pursue the new and shiny stuff just because it is new and shiny, but with a real creative and artistic approach to innovation we are constantly asking ‘what is out there that we can work with to help us tell our stories more effectively’

So, in the next few weeks the range and diversity of our multi-platform work will become more apparent than ever before…

We open a new piece of theatre at York Cocoa House, called ‘Clocking In’ – this is a site specific and verbatim piece that tells the stories of the workers in the chocolate factories of York. It opens on June 24th and we perform it twice each evening, where you will also get a cup of hot chocolate…

This is part of our Blood + Chocolate project which we are working alongside SlungLow and York Theatre Royal. This is now in rehearsal and will be a citywide headphone adventure piece – utilising the skills of SlungLow and their technology. In October 2013 an audience of 300 each evening will move through the City of York whilst the community cast of 200 will uncover the stories of life, love and death in York at the start of the first World War…So our theatre storytelling across the city, working with a voluntary team of over 500 people who are working already on this amazing project – here is the Flickr group from the team of 31 photographers and their 600 photos of the project thus far.

The following week on July 3rd we screen The Knife That Killed Me for the cast and crew. This is the film that was made by Green Screen Pictures in association with Pilot Theatre and Premiere Pictures, Matador and with support from Universal Pictures. It was adapted and written and directed by Marcus Romer and Kit Monkman – with Producer Thomas Mattinson. We shot this on a greenscreen studio set in East Yorkshire in April / May 2012 and the post production and compositing has taken another 12 months to complete. We deliver the film at the end of June, and this is the first time that any of the cast, crew and Pilot Team will have seen the movie in a cinema. This is exciting stuff indeed.

The week after that on July 8th we launch or 5th Shift Happens conference – which is our version of TED for the Creative and Cultural sector – where International Speakers share their inspiring visions and thoughts for the audience – alongside great food and the best coffee in York. The speaker list and schedule is here – there are a couple of tickets left and you can book online on the links on here

So innovation and making shift happen has been at the core of our work here at Pilot – we are currently also working with the City of York Council – delivering the livestreams of their council meetings as part of their open democracy initiative. This is a key element for us. Where we recognise our civic role within the community in which we are based. We want to increase the engagement of all our audiences and create the opportunities to ‘pilot’ new ideas and projects. So, all our work from our theatre and performance, through to the innovation of the new movie and online projects, sit hand in hand with our ability to share thinking and ideas across the whole sector with our conferences and training.

You can also catch up every week with our #PilotLive livestream broadcasts via our Pilot-Theatre.TV channel on this and all our work.

So we look forward to working with you too very soon…

Some more Shift is happening… July 8th #shifthappens

3 Jun