Blue Mirror (2013)

FRC_Bradford_13May045Monday 13th May, 2013. City Park Mirror Pool, Bradford. Sixty-plus schoolchildren from Crossley Hall Primary and St. James’s Primary perform Blue Mirror to mark the opening of the final conference of the European Flood ResilienCity network (FRC), in which Bradford was the UK partner.  See this blog entry here, and this other one here, for the details behind the planning and development of this performance, which Multi-Story Water’s Steve Bottoms was asked to create – by Bradford’s Principal Drainage Engineer Tony Poole – following the success of our Shipley performances in September 2012. The full text of the performance is available here, but what follows is a photographic record of some of its key moments.

FRC_Bradford_13May044With the pool set at its semi-drained stage, a Y-shaped path across the middle is exposed. As the performance begins, three groups (two classes from Crossley Hall, one from St. James [far side]) run towards the centre of the space, following the group chant: “Mirror mirror on the floor, don’t come seeping through my door.”

FRC_Bradford_13May049Having been introduced to the audience, the classes then spread back out along the axes of the space, to present their first movement sequence — as choreographed by Lucy Hind. Arms and fingers echo the dancing fountains round the edge of the pool.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a close up of some of the St. James children during that first sequence. The closer images are mostly courtesy of Shaun Wilson, Year 5 teacher at St. James, while the longer shots from above are from official photographer Simon Warner

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… although Simon did take this one of our three narrators. Left to right they are Laiba (Crossley Hall), Iqra (St James), and Uzair (Crossley Hall), and they all did a tremendous job with their scripts in rather blowy conditions! The piece was devised to be mostly spoken by narrators who could be (a) miked and (b) could hold scripts, while their classmates created the visuals in the mirror pool space itself.

In the background of this shot – and below – you can also see the FRC conference delegates in their raised viewing position on top of the Mirror Pool pavilion…

FRC_Bradford_13May048 FRC_Bradford_13May056Here’s the audience again, this time with the famous (and much fought over) Bradford Odeon in the background. And in the shot below are Darren and Thomas from St. James, with a model of the Odeon and a dish representing the Mirror Pool… A sudden miniaturisation of the space, allowing the real pool to stand inf for “Bradford” itself. (Note: the models of buildings, made by the children – also including the Town Hall and Magistrates Court –  were supposed to be set on the floor, but the brisk wind meant they had to be held onto.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo the suggestion is that the bowl of the Mirror Pool represents a map of Bradford — a “bowl” in which multiple becks drain downhill towards the city centre, and converge to form the main river – Bradford Beck. We represented these tributaries using “river trains” composed of groups of children entering the pool from different directions, and coming together, as below… (you can see the other home-made buildings here too)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe geography of the tributaries got a bit confused on the day… Instead of remembering to curve “north” in the direction of “Shipley” (where Bradford Beck meets the Aire), the lead group carried on “west” — in the vague diretion of Leeds… But this was probably not a detail picked up on by many of those watching!

Anyway, having “mapped out” the Beck, we then began a new scene in which “Bradford Beck” was represented as a big man played by a small boy, Manib (“just call me Brad”), and the various tributary becks were his “family”… In the shot below we see the Beck family being assaulted by the Evil Queen of Concrete and her minions – the Sewage Goblins, the Elves of Industrial Effluent, and the Foul Flies of Fly Tipping…

FRC_Bradford_13May065And here’s a closer shot as the masked minions turn away, after doing their worst… That’s the Evil Queen of Concrete in her green cape, to the right of the shot. Like Brad Beck, she’s one of the few children in the space itself to have learned lines and be radio-miked, and she does a mean line in wicked cackling (“moo-ha-ha-ha!”).

FRC_Bradford_13May066So, if you’re following this so far, Bradford’s Becks have been covered in concrete and filled with pollutants. The river has been killed… but a river never really dies, especially because it might come back up and bite you! … This is where we get to the flooding message (concretised inner city areas are more likely to suffer surface water flooding, if channels and drains overflow, and there’s no natural surfaces to seep into). It’s presented metaphorically in terms of a “zombie river”… an excuse for the children to splash around twisting their arms and making disgusting faces. A definite highlight!

FRC_Bradford_13May071Following the zombie sequence, there was a bit where the kids rapidly rearranged themselves for the next bit… The kinetic shot below captures the spirit of the moment!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd this shot is of the next choreographed sequence, to the Violent Femmes track “It’s Gonna Rain” — a sort of stomp-and-clap rain dance marking the possibility of more extreme weather in future, if climate change predictions are proved accurate…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe music in this sequence then spirals into a moment in which the kids were invited to just go crazy splashing about in the water and fountains…

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the calm after this storm, we consider what people can do to better prepare themselves for possible flood risk… Groupings of children create various tableaus showing some of the simple measures that can be taken to protect loved ones and valuables…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis sequence is then followed by a closing scene in which “Hope” and “Dwayne” (it was originally going to be Hope and Faith, but Mr. Wilson wanted one of them to be a boy…) appeal to their classmates and crowd not just to take preventive measures to protect themselves, but to consider bringing the Beck itself back to life by returning it to a more natural state, improving access, and removing concrete culverts. The show concludes, aptly, with a splashy dance to “Bring Me Sunshine”… Below we see Courtney, of St. James, in full Morecambe and Wise mode…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are the children of St. James directly after the performance, soaking wet but euphoric… That’s Mr. (Shaun) Wilson applauding them, and Darren in the foreground applauding himself!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, time for a quick team shot before the kids all get warm and dry, and head home up the Thornton Road…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the days following the performance, we received a rather lovely letter from Tony Poole telling us how much the conference delegates had enjoyed the performance, and how some of its playful concepts had entered the vocabulary of the conference itself: “People from all over Europe are now talking about Water Zombies and the Wicked Witch of Concrete” (OK, so it was “Evil Queen”, but never mind…). The flood risk messages presented by the children had a “clarity and simplicity” which could not, Tony suggests, have been presented better by the Environment Agency itself. Thanks Tony!

And thanks once again to the Year 5 staff and students of Crossley Hall Primary and St James Primary for doing such a great job within tricky conditions and very limited rehearsal time. We hope you enjoyed yourselves!

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