Award-winning writer Chris O’Connell and visual artist Julia O’Connell, co-directors of Coventry’s Theatre Absolute, are leading a creative research project – Witness – inspired by the Daimler building and the stories and lives of the labourers and tool makers who worked there during the building’s manufacturing past. Chris shares his latest thoughts on the project:
I’ve been working as part of a creative research project commissioned by Imagineer at the old Daimler Powerhouse premises, now their base, with textile artist Julia O’Connell. The research project is funded by IDP, who are based in Coventry.
So what sort of piece might a writer create in response to a building like the Powerhouse and a company like Imagineer? There are many strands connecting – the old truths of the Daimler factory and their contribution to industry and innovation at times of change, its tragic flattening in World War II. Yet also I want to think about the future, this is very much where Imagineer sit in their imagining of how their amazing building and their energies as creative artists can power them and the city and the region towards a unique blending of arts and engineering; that the arts and engineering, the arts and industry are not diametrically opposed as some trains of thought might entertain, but can share common goals.
Part of my time has been spent talking to engineers – in particular, myself and Julia spent a morning at Premier Group Co. – read all about them they are a very focused organisation – and what struck me in in particular was their passion both for apprenticeships and developing young people, and for their work, for their cherishing of the art of metal and how they are driving their industry forward into the 21st century, but underpinning new technologies with a determination that all of their apprentices learn the trade from trade from the bottom up.
So I wrote this:
SHEET METAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE
Yes, of course!
all of the above,
PEOPLE are one of the many things, we do.
Rest assured, the door is always open
Rest assured this place, is about you.
Where might young people arrive in their working life?
Some kids come though our door, they know,
mad on cars
Some, they’re not so sure,
Ok, well we’ve got your measure,
we’ll see some promise,
and let us test you, guide you,
we built our own training school
these things of metal are our passion
let them become yours!
Practical and academic
you can’t get it,
but we’ve got it.
sheet metal workers of the future unite,
if needs be
we’ll bring you
the trade gets tough,
because sometimes, life gets
It’s about how we all look after each other.
It’s all English Wheel to us
we chase panels
for the future
from the past
it’s an art
square to round
we’re saying yes to the future,
welcome prototype, and sheet metal manufacture,
welcome state-of-the-art 2D Prima Syncrono,
welcome Olympic torch,
welcome computer aided engineering
BUT if you can do it first, by hand,
isn’t that a great thing?
High strength DP 600, DP 800.
beading and crash tests, okay?
sheet metal workers of the heart
because our work is an art.
.2 of a mill tolerance
plus or minus on trim,
holes and form .2
it doesn’t split.
at the end
of the day.
Old skills for new skills
shrinking and stretching
technology can take us a long long way,
but let’s not lose the skills
Isn’t that it?
Forming metal and man
isn’t that it?
Chris O’Connell ©