MSW@Shipley Street Arts Festival

A great, beached whale sits in the middle of Shipley town square, surrounded by childrens’ shoes. Inside the belly of the whale, the children are playing… It’s an unorthodox soft play facility brought to town by Q20 Theatre for the weekend of June 26th-28th, 2015, for their annual Shipley Street Arts Festival. This year, inspired in part by Multi-Story Water’s arts research project around the town’s waterways, they have taken the river and canal as the festival’s theme. The whale is a bit of a stretch (nobody has seen one in the River Aire…), but a festival is about fun and imagination…

It’s Friday 26th June, and local schoolchildren have assembled to help launch the festival. In the background, the whale. In the foreground, a rowing boat decorated with lots and lots of words…

The boat represents a direct collaboration between Q20 and Multi-Story Water. At a series of local community events over the preceding weeks, an interviewer from BCB Radio (Bradford Community Broadcasting) has recorded “vox pop”-style thoughts and memories from the public, relating to Shipley’s river and canal. These short interviews have been transcribed and painted onto the boat’s hull. (Note the orange lettering to the left above: “SPECIAL RIVER WALKS WITH ACTORS”… Somebody apparently had fond memories of our 2012-13 Multi-Story Water  walking tours.)

This is Q20 director John Lambert, dressed in sparkling silver MC costume, explaining the boat project to the visiting schoolchildren. Below, some close-up images of the painted reflections…

The following day, Saturday 27th June, the boat was on display, upright, in the forecourt of Shipley Library — the better able to be read by curious passers-by…

Back in the town square, there are dancers, musicians and stilt-walkers galore, who have been drafted by Q20 in as the core “street arts” offering…

But there’s also now another water-themed exhibit, this one with moving parts. It’s a hydraulic flume model, with flowing water, which demonstrates the effects of placing different structures into the flow of a river (eg weirs, bridge supports, culverting etc.).

The flume is owned by JBA Consulting, the environmental engineering specialists based in Salts Mill. Multi-Story Water researcher Steve Bottoms heard about it when conducting an interview with JBA’s Steve Maslen earlier in the year. With the agreement of Q20, we invited JBA, too, to participate in the festival. A technical engineering model might seem an odd fit for a “street arts” festival, but the JBA staff were delighted to find that there was considerable public interest in the flume… from children and adults alike.

Note the iconic Shipley town clock in the background of the shot above… Below, Steve Bottoms (in Multi-Story Water hi-viz) asks for clarification on a technical detail…

And here is Steve again, still in the town square, speaking live on air BCB Radio — to explain the boat project that BCB themselves had been involved in delivering, and also to advertise Multi-Story Water’s Seven Bridges performance — our key contribution to the festival, taking place along the canal towpath starting at Shipley Wharf.

And here is Seven Bridges actor Lynsey Jones, posing with Q20’s stork puppet down by the canal at Shipley Wharf…

It’s Sunday 28th June… The festival has continued all weekend, in both the town square and at the Shipley Wharf sub-hub, outside the Ibis Hotel (inside the hotel, there’s also been a screening of Multi-Story Water’s short film Wading to Shipley). Now, as the festival comes to a close, the painted boat is walked down from its place outside the Library, and launched into the canal by Q20’s Ben Lambert and Seven Bridges actor David Smith…

Splash-down…

As Ben climbs into the boat and rows it away towards the east, he is waved off by the assembled crowd…

The water-based paints will wash off the under-side of the boat as it goes, returning people’s thoughts and memories to the water itself…