Bridge – A summer of R&D and conversations across Coventry, Grantham and Worcester

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Since winning the Ambition for Excellence award from Arts Council England for our major new project Bridge we have had a busy and exciting year talking to communities, artists, engineers, faith leaders, partners and stakeholders in Coventry, Grantham and Worcester and the public at large about the vision and story of the project we will make in 2019.

The creative team have gathered for three design development workshops with designer Dan Potra and colleagues from Arup, two choreography/performance workshops with choreographer Corey Baker, Director and Orit Azaz and dramaturg and writer Nick Walker have held a series of creative meetings to explore the narrative framework and performance language and our team of story gatherers have run a series of story gathering workshops and events in Coventry, Grantham and Worcester.

Showcasing Bridge R&D

During this year’s Festival of Imagineers we worked with Designers and event dressers Vortex Creates to adapt Talking Birds’ The Cart v2 with a gazebo and other visual and physical elements to provide a base and information centre for Bridge R&D mini-residencies.

The R&D showcase programme at Festival of Imagineers included:

  • a unique Bridge VR experience created and hosted by Arup;
  • creation of a 12 minute pilot immersive headphones experience which was tested with over 200 members of the public at Festival of Imagineers
  • Storygathering workshops with the public – with facilitators Kerry Harvey and Georgina Egan, we engaged 100s of people over 2 days in Coventry and then the following week for 2 days during Gravity Field Festival in Grantham. George and Kerry recorded 8 hours of audio interviews / conversations, speaking with well over 100 people of all ages about their experiences of bridging divides and what divides need bridging in their community, town and globally.

These audio recordings have since been transcribed and shared with the creative team to inform development of narrative structures for the project.

At the end of September we spent 2 days during Gravity Fields Festival in the George Centre in Grantham. where young children and their families joined us in building paper bridges together, trying out the VR Bridge experience and sharing thoughts and experiences with our story gathering team. This proved enormously popular, with around 50 bridges being created over two days and gave our story gathering team an opportunity to chat with children and their parents while they worked.

During the Festival of Imagineers and Gravity Fields Festival we continued to experiment with live drawing as part of the story gathering process, with artists Tom Jones and Shefali Wardell producing sketches reflecting both the participation of the public and the content of the conversations. The drawings were hung to create a growing tribute to the Bridge conversations.

After the intensive public facing activities at Festival of Imagineers and Gravity Fields, our focus this month has been, firstly, responding to the stories and perspectives gathered from people in Coventry and Grantham and exploring ideas for narrative structures that have sparked from these. Secondly, we have revisited the Unfinished Bridge concept; and decided to reopen a creative exploration of alternative approaches to the physical Bridge structure, informed by the ideas for narrative structures, performance language and relationship with audience/communities. During our latest design development workshop in early November this led us to two new design ideas, which are now being explored in more detail to understand what they can offer us in relation to performance, story and community engagement.

By mid December we aim to have finalised our design ideas and will be meeting project partners from  Coventry, Grantham and Worcester to present our vision for Bridge and the invitation/offer for communities to take part. Watch this space for exciting announcements soon!