Bridge is a large scale, ambitious, outdoor arts project celebrating the intersection of art, engineering & social change, creating a new network of outdoor arts partners across the Midlands. Exploring themes of bridge building, ‘fierce kindness’ and human progress, Imagineer will collaborate with exceptional artists and civil engineers Arup, to produce 3 major events in Coventry, Worcester & Grantham over 3 years. An iconic bridge structure will inhabit public spaces for 2 weeks at a time, inspiring and framing spectacular, immersive live performances, creative community responses and interactive lighting / digital animations.
Bridge builds on Imagineer’s ground-breaking collaboration with structural engineers Arup and Coventry Cathedral, evolved through Arup’s work with Coventry schools on the Bridge project for FOI 2016 and 2017 (images below).
Our starting point is a Bridge. In the context of our relationship with Coventry Cathedral and its pioneering work, alongside others in our city, in peace and reconciliation, we want to consider the builders of bridges, the imagination and actions of individuals and groups, on intimate and larger scale, within and across communities, that bridge gaps, heal divisions and bring people together in new ways. We think of the Hebrew word “chesed” which conjures a ‘fierce kindness’.
Through our ongoing collaboration with Arup and the Cathedral, the Bridge structure has evolved into a dynamic spiral form that conjures overlapping waves or circles. The Very Reverend John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral, commented “I like the idea of going round and round (an issue, or a relationship, revisiting history, revisiting the story, revisiting a proposal …) but each time moving forward a little…”
We are excited by this development and the potential for a flow of movement and choreography that relates to overlapping waves, cycles of human progress and a journey into the future.
“Change is not merely necessary to life – it is life.” Alvin Toffler
3. We imagine
We imagine a performance, or a series of interlinked performances, that weave together these threads: striking stories of fierce kindness and bridge building within our communities, gathered through conversations across the Midlands and heard through individual voices in our ears and across our public
spaces; juxtaposed with a physical and visual exploration of overlapping waves and the spirals of our lives, simple and beautiful patterns of movement, choreographies of objects and bodies, across, around and through our Bridge structure, that can be performed by many, together with a skilful acrobatic few, and extended beyond a single event into a dynamic, evolving performance installation and programme that engages diverse audiences and participants over days or maybe weeks in each location.
Participation of diverse communities and the public is central. Stories of bridge builders are woven into the fabric of the artwork, inspiring and informing the creative process for both professionals and communities, translated into immersive movement, audio and theatrical experiences for the public. Participation of communities and the public becomes spectacle, professionally framed as part of each Bridge residency.
We will work with Coventry Cathedral and regional and national networks of interfaith dialogue activists to ensure that the stories we collect reflect a diversity of perspectives and voices; building on Something Good 2015 and 2016 in Birmingham, which demonstrated how effective participatory arts in an interfaith approach can be in mobilising people of all faiths and no faith, across cultural and socio-economic groups.
4. Creative Outputs
The Bridge project will comprise six interlinking strands of creative activity, exploring themes of bridge-building, fierce kindness, progress and change:
• Stories of bridge builders – collected by a dedicated team of engagement artists using a mobile coffee shop style vehicle in a range of outdoor and indoor public spaces. The stories will be edited into a series of short films for distribution via social media, as well as inspiring and informing the creative development of all strands of the project.
• The Bridge – design and development of a unique contemporary piece of temporary architecture /public art which is significant, impressive, iconic, intriguing, playable and articulate in public space, suitable for touring to a range of public spaces and to remain in public space for several weeks at a time, with the potential for assembly and disassembly to be performative;
• Night-time animation of the Bridge structure through lighting and/or interactive elements that significantly extend audience engagement and impact in each location; these will be developed as an integral part of the Bridge design and dramaturgy, contributing to the Bridge themes in playful, articulate and immediate ways;
• A mid to large scale professional night-time performance, suitable for audience of 1000+, including aerial work, acrobatics and other circus, movement and physical theatre performance skills, focused on and around the Bridge structure. The performance will be inspired by the stories of ‘bridge builders’ collected with communities across the Midlands;
• Day-time invitations for the public to play on and around the structure, in ways that can become performative. We are interested to explore potential for a headphone based piece that combines instructions for individual and group movement / action with audio stories of activism and ‘bridge building’.
- • An invitation to local groups in each residency location to devise performances, events, happenings in response to and/or in relation to the structure and the project themes; Imagineer will support mid- career outdoor arts producers in each location to devise and manage a programme of local creative responses, aiming to engage 6 -8 groups as part of each residency.
5. Creative team
A core creative team, led by independent artistic director Orit Azaz (Barricade, Parklife and Open House for Nofit State Circus; Something Good for Birmingham Cathedral) and creative producer Claire Maddocks for Imagineer, will include opera and large scale spectacle designer Dan Potra (Barricade for Nofit State Circus; As the World Tipped for Wired Aerial Theatre; City of the Unexpected, Cardiff,), composer and sound designer Dan Jones (Skyline Symphony as part of Something Good at Birmingham Cathedral, Sky Orchestra and Museum of the Moon with Luke Jeram), choreographer Corey Baker (Phonebox, A Haka Day Out, Headphones IDFB Birmingham) and associate producer, Lou Lomas, alongside a group of architects, engineers and designers from Arup, led by Derek Lawrence, associate director at Arup.
Together, this team bring fresh perspectives and international contexts to the established collaboration between Imagineer, Arup and Coventry Cathedral, supporting our ambitions for large scale outdoor performance, immersive and participatory performance and engagement of diverse communities as co-creators. The core creative team will also support the involvement of 4 mid career and 4 emerging producers, alongside up to 12 community group leaders, identified with our partners in each location.
Imagineer will be supported and mentored by Helen Marriage, artistic director of Artichoke, as part of a growing relationship. Helen will help to convene an advisory group of world class artists, architects, creative engineers and practitioners, internationally recognised for their practice in activating and animating public space through interactivity and play. We hope this group will inspire and challenge our thinking on structure, dramaturgy, interactivity and engagement as well as share their experiences with the wider Midlands outdoor arts sector: Zachary Lieberman, Usman Haque, Jeremy Deller, Olivier Grossetete, Marshmallow Laser Feast, Cleary Connelly.
6. Creative Development Process
Bridge will be developed through an iterative process over an 18 month period, involving partners, communities, participants, trainees and the public in testing and feeding back on emerging ideas, through a combination of private and public engagement. The advisory group, convened by Helen Marriage, will provide inspiration, fresh perspective and international context for both the creation of Bridge and the development of outdoor arts in the Midlands and nationally.
Key points in the creative development journey include:
Creative development lab March / April 2018 to flesh out and develop the creative vision and plan a programme of pilot / R&D activities to test out elements of the proposal, as part of Festival of Imagineers 2018 and the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Diocese of Coventry and the role the Cathedral plays in bringing diverse communities and perspectives together.
Bridge R&D activities within Festival of Imagineers Sept 2018 will include:
- • Showcase models / sketches of Bridge structure, exploring aesthetic, material, performance;
- • collect stories and experiences of ‘bridge building’ through creative conversations with the public and communities in Coventry and partner locations
- • test emerging ideas for immersive headphones audio / movement piece/s
- • partners, local producers & community group leaders to visit and feedback
Bridge Outdoor Arts Symposium Sept 2018 – opportunity for partners, collaborators and communities of interest around outdoor arts, interactivity and playable cities, in the Midlands and nationally, to meet our advisory group of international artists, convened with Helen Marriage.
A Pilot Bridge Residency July 2019 – Following detailed design and production of Bridge structure and integral interactive technologies, a first phase of rehearsals will culminate in a Pilot Bridge Residency, partly open to public, attended by partners and representatives of their community groups, who will also be invited to share their emerging creative proposals and ideas. The learning from the Pilot will inform a second phase of creation adjustment, continued production and rehearsals, as well as provide a focus for conversations with national and international promoters.
Bridge Residencies plus Touring of Bridge Elements Sept 2019 onwards– including contributions from local producers and communities, framed within the professional and participatory elements produced by Imagineer.
7. Participation and Engagement
Participation of diverse communities and the public is central to our artistic vision and approach. Opportunities for participation include:
- • Contributing stories of ‘fierce kindness’ and ‘bridge building’
- • Taking part in the R&D phase as part of Festival of Imagineers 2018 – testing interactive movement and sound elements; offering feedback on creative developments; attending symposium on ‘playing in public spaces’;
- • Devising a creative response to the project themes as part of a community group / local engagement programme, led by a local producer and partners in each area and supported by the Creative Director and Producer
- • An immersive / participatory element as part of the Bridge residency – as performer / artist / collaborator taking part in a locally organised community project
- • As audience for night-time lighting based animation, which is integral to the Bridge structure and activates at dusk for each night of the residency
- • As audience for large scale outdoor performance/s
8. Inspiration – artworks and ideas that have inspired our conversations so far
“What we call the beginning is often the end And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” TS Eliot
“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” Rabindranath Tagore
“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.” Alvin Toffler