Collected below is the written feedback that has been sent to us (mostly via email) from some of the people who attended our recent, July performances of Multi-Story Water’s three, interlocking tour routes. Also, do check out the lovely, illustrated blog piece by another audience member Paul Marfell, which he tweeted us the link to. Plus there’s our twitter feed itself, which includes a number of other comments and photo snapshots from audience members.
None of the people quoted below were previously known to us (or at least, not to me), so this is all genuine public feedback. To compare with the feedback we received after our previous, September performances, click here.
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“I just want to say how much I and my friends enjoyed last Saturday’s Multi-Story Water event.
I really didn’t know what to expect, but was delighted with the experience. The whole thing was so interesting, informative, and well thought out, taking us to places we had no idea about, even though we are frequent visitors to Saltaire. The actors were utterly convincing, with humour and pathos. The barge trip would have been a lovely event all on its own. Impressively well-organised too, and all of it free of charge !!!! Thanks again.” — Penny Heaton
“Just a quick note to say how much we enjoyed the performance last Friday and that it was a great way to spend a summers evening. Please pass on my sincerest thanks to all the actors and supporting staff in providing a great piece of informative entertainment.” — Terry Shroder
“Hi. Just to feedback from the ‘Green Route’ last week. A brilliant show. I really enjoyed every minute. Great actors. Great content. So interesting and moving. Great script and such a brilliant concept. I went on last year’s walk through the mill and to the brewery [i.e. September’s Red Route]. That was good, but this was even better. Well done. I hope you can do some more next year.” — Rachel Goulcher
“Just wanted to say thanks for a wonderful weekend of tours around the Saltaire / Shipley area. The actors were very talented. I didn’t know what would happen next! It taught me things I didn’t know about the area I’ve lived in 30+ years! The boat ride was a special treat. Loved the singing, stories, and tea and biscuits made us feel welcomed! Amazing that it was all free! Thanks again.” — Helen Scott
“Thankyou to everyone involved for the Red Route walk on Friday evening in Shipley. It was an interesting mix of voices and points of view. I have lived in Shipley since 1971, but it showed me things and told me things I didn’t know. I haven’t even got memories of the flood of 2000, which was clearly a dramatic event. . . The actors were engaging, and the stewards unobtrusively kept us in line — it was a good experience, enhanced by taking place on a lovely evening. . . There is often a heron standing on the weir along the river, and I’m glad to say that there it was, on cue, as we stood on the footbridge. . . What a great idea – and finished off with a generous present of Saltaire beer! I shall look out for that now. Thanks again and best wishes for your future work.” — Anne Wooff
“Hello, I came on the multi-story event last week, on all three stages. I just want to say how much I enjoyed it, I thought the quality of the acting was absolutely outstanding, and I have to say unexpected. Very often these things can be a bit “am dram”. The piece about the Burma Railway [a reference to Billy Glover’s POW experiences] had me in tears. One of Lynsey Jones’ characters said “I don’t vote”, and someone next to me said “Doesn’t vote??????”, because the character was so real to her. The barge trip was very nice too and I enjoyed the singing. I learned quite a bit about the area that I hadn’t known before. I suppose I ought to try for a bit of criticism as well. The video of Bradford Beck would have been very interesting in its own right but was ignored in the barge. The beer at the end was a lovely idea, but maybe should have had some plastic glasses for those who didn’t want a pint – and people who don’t want to drink out of bottles, and I felt it would have been better if it could have been merged into a final scene somehow, so we could watch while drinking. Oh, and it would have been nice for the all-day audience to have been warned to bring a snack. These things are really so trivial as to be hardly worth remarking, but well, you did ask. Thank you for a truly excellent day. Congratulations to everyone who made it possible.” — Jim Lawton
Responding to the letter above… Thanks Jim for those thoughtful pieces of constructive criticism. We did indeed ask for feedback, and you make some good points, especially about the distribution of the beer (but hey, it was free!). And while I like the idea of integrating the beer into the final scene, I think it’s probably best to save the festive spirit for the end, given that what “Lynda” has to say about the recent experiences of Lower Holme residents is not exactly celebratory. Your point about the video on the boat ride is a very interesting one… We left that to speak for itself, so that people could pay attention to it or not, according to taste (and position in the boat). But you might be interested to know that I have just completed an edit of a stand-alone, 12 minute film using that very footage, which will shortly be available to view on this website.
And finally… If we were awarding a “Star Prize” for the most thoughtful and detailed response we received, Jim’s would probably be runner-up, but the award would have to go to this letter from William Hird:
Dear Multi Story Water team,
Thank you so much for a wonderful Friday evening on your tour. It was really unexpectedly special and magical, with a (good) increasing sense of unreality towards the end, particularly when the free beers appeared. The whole event was superbly well organised and not only the actors and the hosts on the barge but all the stewards did a great job too. Many thanks to all. The recreation of local residents stories was very powerful and you have clearly done an amazing work in reducing people’s accounts and reminiscences to short extracts that make a connected sequence.
I asked about whether there was a danger of people’s stories being ‘gentrified’ or made slightly unreal by being reproduced for ‘tourists’. This was because it was different from drama based on imaginary characters even if set in a real period world as for example one might find at a heritage property. On reflection of course people like their stories to be told, and some of it (especially the old man whose brother did not recognize him after his wartime suffering) was very powerful.
I was also impressed by the simple but effective costume changes you managed to squeak in. Its surprising how even when there’s no other sets – apart from the real places of course! – this is very effective in helping believe-ability. The use of hats for council staff when we were in Roberts Park was neat but at this stage for me Paul’s red T-shirt was a bit ‘distracting’ – too out of kilter. That’s a very small point overall. There is so much history in that area I dare say a similar sort of walk related to the buildings might also be possible…. Also, in the last few years I’ve got to know the abandoned bits of canal round Nottingham and am so glad we have one that still works.
In response to William’s point about “gentrification” (which he countered for himself, anyway), I responded to point out that the performances were primarily aimed at local people rather than “tourists”… He said that perhaps this had been the wrong word – and that he himself was only coming from as far away as Leeds (although it did occur to me to wonder, after the fact, if doing this in July did mean that some summer holiday-makers from further afield, visiting Saltaire, might have seen the flyers at Salts Mill and come along…?). For myself, I think maybe the key point is that the stories are always told in the proximity of where the actual people who told them to us live and work… It’s not that the story is being taken off and turned into “art” in some high cultural context — it’s being witnessed in situ, with all that entails. But there is of course an interesting debate to be had about this, more broadly…
William’s points about costuming are also very well made… and it’s interesting to note that Paul seems to have decided the same thing about that red T-shirt, because it didn’t make another appearance all weekend (the cast were wearing their own clothes, as narrators for Green Route).
Anyway, to close… (and to finally explain the heading of this post) … Here is a poem that William appended to his email, in response to our Blue Route canal tour. I think it’s particularly apposite becuase the metaphor of “grooves” is appropriate to many aspects of these performances — e.g. the grooves in the grass where people have made “desire lines” where there’s no path; the tracks we made as a group moving through the locality; or, less happily, the grooves in that oppressive metal fencing at Lower Holme… Anyway, blah blah blah… Over to William.
P.S. As I mentioned on the barge, I especially like the grooves you see on the old canal bridges, and wrote about these years ago. Perhaps a bit depressing – but your work helps record the memories and keep it all alive.
stone cut by wire
rock cut by steel
scored line by line
grooved, groined and ribbed
deep chasms chased
by hawsers wear
slicing the abutment
old bridge, ribbed rock
a testament, a witness
to ghostly wires, ghostly barges
to lines stretched taut
pulling boats on the old canal
as the horses turned the corner
from the confines of the archway
back onto wider the towpath
the groove is made.
the canal is a groove
the water courses
my street is a groove
the terraced houses
the city is made of grooves
cars course the ribbing
our lives run in the grooves
pulled along, so slowly
we make our grove in the world
and under the gloomy archway
and into the wider meadows
we leave our groove in the earth.
William Hird 07.05.2001