Interview with the team bringing Frequency to the Roman Baths tonight

Photo credit Andy Welsher

 

Thursday 26th and Friday 27th January see the continuation of the Illuminate Bath festival, with something extra! As well as the rolling programme of artists and performers on Stall Street, and installations from Bath Spa university students, Tine Bech, and the Greyworld collaborative, the Roman Baths themselves will be open to the public, and there will be a brand new artwork: Frequency.

Sam Drew spoke to the four artists responsible—Alex Cotterell, Will Kendrick, Tom Newell and Ollie Davies—to get an idea of what Frequency will bring to the historic Roman Baths.

 

SAM

 

How do you all feel about bringing your artwork into the Roman Baths, combining a world heritage site with current projection and animation technology?

 

FREQUENCY

 

Incredibly lucky! The setting itself is so visually impressive already, it’s an honour really. The warm spa and the cold winter air creates a really eeiry mist which has made it completely different to anything any of us has done before. The natural element is completely unpredictable so we never feel completely in control, which makes it completely individual to the space and the time it’s viewed. We have also been keen not to detract from the awe of the place itself and so have tried to make Frequency ‘play in’ to the Roman Baths.

 

SAM

 

What kind of response do you expect from the audience?

 

FREQUENCY

 

We’re hoping that the combination of the venue itself, its natural mist and the audio/ visual performance it will be quite an immersive spectable, transforming the space into something unique.

 

SAM

 

How did your collaboration come about?

 

FREQUENCY

 

Through one of the festival organizers, Anthony Head. We were involved individually last year and he thought, knowing our works, that we might collaborate well. It’s been really interesting as we all have completely different individual practices and backgrounds, but quickly found enough in common to see how we could work together support each others’ inputs.

 

SAM

 

How did you create the artwork?

 

FREQUENCY

 

A mixture of brainstorming, viewing each others’ work, experimentation both on the Roman Baths and mock-ups in a wheel barrow, and many e-mail conversations. Alex and Will provided direction of form and colour, Tom and Ollie provided the technical implementation, using a combination of 2D & 3D animation and video & audio editing software. We tested numerous ideas and based on what worked we’ve created a rolling audio/visual animation.

 

www.lumen-av.com

Interview with Greyworld founder Andrew Shoben

Andrew Shoben is the founder of artists’ collaborative Greyworld. In this interview, volunteer co-ordinator Sam Drew speaks to Andrew about the mysterious clockwork keys appearing in Bath city centre.

 

SAM

 

The clockwork keys appearing in Bath over the four nights of the Illuminate Bath festival originally appeared in a Greyworld installation called ‘Clockwork Forest’, in Grizedale. When turned, the keys play a twinkly music suggestive of old music-boxes and fairy tales. For the Illuminate Bath festival, the keys trigger a variety of installations created by students from Bath Spa university. How did you feel about working collaboratively with the students?

 

ANDREW

 

It was unusual and interesting for us to work with students to create the second element of the work. Whilst that would usually be something we wouldn’t contemplate, it seemed like an excellent way to go in Bath.. The work is about inclusion, allowing the widest possible interaction in parts of the city that usually don’t offer it. So why not the work itself!

 

SAM

 

What’s wonderful about Greyworld artworks is their ability to spark the imagination and encourage new exploration of familiar spaces. Do you feel that audiences will be as suggestible to narratives and play in the urban setting?

 

ANDREW

 

I think they are as suggestible in an urban setting as a rural one. In fact, I think more so! To be honest, I am a child of the city. The countryside is a strange greenish place, with few power sockets and not much coffee. It is the city, and urban movement, that inspires us.

 

 

SAM

 

How did you get started? The first Greyworld public installation, Railings—a section of street furniture tuned to play ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ when you run a stick along it—was often installed without permission. Is this a viable way for new artists to exhibit their work, to get it into the public domain?

 

ANDREW

 

It can be, if you’re not making hateful, or destructive work. Getting commissioned to make art is very hard. Sometimes you have to commission yourself. It’s all about how much freedom you have to make what you want. We just launched Trafalgar Sun, a huge 2.5 tonne sun in Trafalgar Square. It was paid for by Tropicana. They allowed us to make what we wanted, and didn’t try to slap a logo on it. So we are happy.

 

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Greyworld are an artists’ collaborative who specialise in public art. Their work has appeared all over the world. Their latest commision Trafalgar Sun was launched on 23rd January.

Andrew Shoben is a regular contributor to television, radio and print, and lectures extensively around the world. After lecturing at the Royal College of Art for four years, he became Professor of Public Art at Goldsmiths University.

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Various artworks inspired by and utilising Greyworld’s clockwork keys can be seen during the Illuminate Bath festival. Come down to Bath city centre between 5 and 8 pm each evening between today and the 28th January to see them, as well as a rolling programme of live, free, and interactive artworks.

 

 

 

Interview with Lucy English

Photo Credit: Dory English

 

From 25th to 28th January, Stall Street is going to be overrun with writers and artists reimagining the space with a massive collaborative artwork. Bringing a head to the rolling programme of guest writers and illustrators are Lucy English and Simon Spilsbury on Saturday 28th January. Over the course of the evening they will be developing an improvised poem with accompanying illustration, based on audience input and the theme of ‘spotlight’.

Volunteer Co-ordinator Sam Drew spoke to Lucy English about poetry, technology, and the challenge of creating a three hour improvised poem.

 

SAM

As well as a professional performance poet, you are the lecturer in performance poetry at Bath Spa university, and many of your students will be performing their own work on the Wednesday and Thursday nights of the festival. How do you feel about bringing poetry from the university into the city?

LUCY

I hope that those who see it will realise the wealth of talent their city has and that it shows that what happens in the universities is definitely a part of Bath City life. Poetry isn’t just written by dead people. Poetry has a fusty reputation in this country which is a shame; it is a live and relevant art form and it’s good that the next generation are finding their way into it. Their interpretation might not be what some consider to be ‘poetry’, but that’s a good thing. Younger people are finding their poetic voice in a way that suits them.

 

SAM

And how do you feel about your own performance on Saturday night? A three hour long improvised poem on the theme of ‘Spotlight’ sounds like a tall order. Can you give us any insight into how you’re going to approach the evening?

 

LUCY

 

It’s quite a challenge to produce something of quality instantly! I like doing things that stretch me and this will certainly stretch my capabilities. In 2008 I did a project with the general public called ‘Why I’m Here’, a collaboration with a photographer, and we went up to people in places in somerset and asked them why they were there, photographed them and I wrote a sequence of poems based on their responses. For ‘Spotlight’ I will be using similar methods but it will be sped up, and the result is going to be a sort of cross between speed dating and poetry! Gulp!

 

SAM

 

In Illuminate Bath 2010, you performed with other spoken-word artists in an Arts Council funded show called Flash!, which utilised video and music. Now you’re working with live illustrators using modern graphic tablets and digital projectors. Do you think that the link between technology and creativity—particularly in literature—will begin to inform one another more and more, or is this kind of project more of a gimmick?

 

LUCY

 

I do not think it is a gimmick. Technology is here to stay whether we like it or not and I am delighted that the digital world is being explored by artists rather than geeks. I also like it that geeks and poets can now sit down and say, “hey, what can we do here?” In July I am organising a conference at Corsham Court on the theme of digital writing and its future. It’s an exciting time for those who are willing to experiment and even more exciting in that we don’t know how the future of writing will evolve.

 

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Lucy English is a Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. She is also a performance poet and has toured extensively in the UK and abroad. Her most recent show ‘Flash’ was supported by the Arts Council.

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Interview with performance poet Anna Freeman

From Wednesday 25th to Saturday 28th January, Bath’s Stall Street is going to be taken over by writers and illustrators creating live and improvised collaborative artworks. Volunteer Co-ordinator Sam Drew spoke to performance poet and international poetry slam champion Anna Freeman (above) about public art, poetry, and her expectations of the collaborative project. Anna and students from Bath Spa university will be performing their poetry on Stall Street on Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th January, from 5pm to 8pm.

 

SAM

For two evenings in January, you’re going to be performing poetry live in the street, with illustrators creating improvised artwork on a massive wall behind you. How do you feel about bringing art into a public space?

 

ANNA

I think it’s something we should do more of! Art should be accessible and visible and our public spaces should be something more than bill-boarded and commercialised. We are humanising the city, bringing something soft and thoughtful out into the concrete. It’s part of deciding what kind of society we want to live in. It’s also just some people doing poetry on the street – it all depends on how you look at it.

 

SAM

 

In the first Illuminate Bath festival in 2010, you performed with other spoken-word artists in a show called Flash!, which utilised video and music. This time you’re working with illustrators using graphics tablets and projection technology. Is there something strange about the combination of poetry—a medium we might consider traditional, even outdated—and these modern technologies?

 

ANNA

I think poetry is only considered outmoded or outdated by people who haven’t noticed how prevalent it is in pop culture. Try changing the name – call it ‘spoken word’ – and suddenly it doesn’t sound outmoded at all. It’s always funny to me when I work in schools how many of the kids think they don’t like poetry, but will listen to hip-hop. It’s all completely valid as poetry, in my opinion at least.

I think poetry-to-illustration will work brilliantly – We are always telling the students that with performance poetry you have to weave strong, immediate images with words. On the page a reader can mull your lines over and take their time to fathom layers of meaning, but stage poetry has to be much more solid and readily grasped. Now the images will actually be there, projected behind them onto the side of a building. It can’t help but be powerful.

 

SAM

As part of the Live Creative Writing/ Live Drawing wall, you’re working with students from Bath Spa university to bring new poets’ work into the city. What do you think of the interest young people are showing in poetry? Will there be significant new talents on display?

 

ANNA

We should have a good turnout of students and young people, yes. Some of the work coming out of Bath Spa is really very good. There are a few names to watch, I think. I’m excited to be part of it.

I think poetry is having a renaissance, actually. Performance events are staring to draw big crowds, and most of them young. Lots of people who have been on the poetry ‘scene’ for years have been remarking on it – I personally think that it’s at least partly caused by the economic downturn. In hard times we do come together artistically. We want to know that we aren’t alone, we suddenly feel have something to say and we are hungry to listen to each other saying it. A gap has appeared; in our bank accounts, our prospects, our hope for the immediate future. Poetry, music, creativity – these are the things the human race turns to for outlet and solace. We probably should have been focussed on them all along, but somehow it doesn’t tend to work that way.

 

Volunteer get-together

Is it a choir? Is it the Great Britain lacrosse team? Is it a random collection of miscreants we’ve pulled in off the street? No, what you see in this picture is a selection of the hard working volunteers who are going to make Illuminate Bath 2012 a massive success. We all met in the function room of the Assembly Inn to discuss the festival and get to know one another a little better. They’re a lively bunch, and I’m sure they’re going to do a fantastic job as the public face of the festival.

The volunteers will be acting as stewards to guide the public around the festival, and to explain the artworks and the Cultural Olympiad project. They will also be carrying out audience research to find out what people like about the festival. It’s a challenging and very necessary job; without the help of volunteers, the festival couldn’t happen. In return for all their hard work they’ll have the opportunity to be involved with a major arts festival, they’ll be gaining experience in arts management, and they’ll get to meet the artists. They also get cool t-shirts. What a handsome, upstanding bunch of people.

Illuminate 2015 is organised by Bath Spa University