Catching up with ourselves…


This was the scene in Roberts Park last month after the first performance of our Saltaire Festival walking tour commission, Pleasant Valley Saltaire. That’s me, Steve Bottoms, on the left with the ridiculous robes and water pistol (“Mad Professor”), and next to me my still-more-colourful collaborator, Irene Lofthouse (“Water Sprite”). The rest of these fine people are members of our audience, one of whom wanted a group photograph at the end of what had been an almost 2-hour performance… People still seem to be smiling so I guess it had gone well! A piece of anonymous feedback we received simply states: “Without a doubt one of the best walking tours we have been on. Informative and entertaining. Thankyou.”

I’m writing up this blog a month and a half later because we’ve been a little busy ever since. In particular, since my day job is indeed as a professor (mad or otherwise) I’ve been flat out with the start of the new teaching term in Manchester. I’m just now catching my tail. But there have been lots of other Multi-Story Water activities in the meantime — both in public and in private. So, to summarise in brief:

1. Irene and I presented two showings of Pleasant Valley Saltaire on September 12th and 13th. Full details and lots of pictures soon to be uploaded under the “Performances” tab above. Both tours were well attended, and featured local guests along the way — including this gentleman, Eddie Lawler, pictured with me in Saltaire’s Washhouse Garden…


2. On Tuesday 14th September, Eddie and I presented Salt’s Waters 2 at Half Moon Cafe in Roberts Park, again for Saltaire Festival. This was a second version of an evening we also presented last year — featuring stories and songs about the local waterways in a relaxed setting, and with Half Moon staff laying on a special tasting menu for the audience. This performance was a remix last year’s show, rather than a sequel, but it did feature new material from both of us – including the world premiere of Eddie’s new song “The Mermaid of Bradford Beck.”

3. A month later, on Tuesday 6th October, Eddie and I found ourselves presenting a third version of Salt’s Waters in Scotland! Comrie, Perthshire, to be exact. We were a little out of our way and somewhat out of our comfort zone, presenting such “site specific” material nowhere near Bradford. Hardly anybody in the audience knew the places we were talking about! But we’d been invited to the “Water Innovation Lab” being run by the Canadian organisation Waterlution (and funded by the Scottish Government) to present an alternative take on thinking about water — in terms of place, history, locality. Actually the performance seemed to go down really well. The audience connected with the water stuff more than the locality stuff, but the link was there nonetheless, and a powerpoint display of photo images gave them a sense of the places we were talking and singing about. This double act gets a little tighter every time!

4. A week after that, Wednesday 14th October, and Eddie and I met up again in Leeds… This time with my friend and colleague David Calder, to revive Seven Bridges — our walking tour of the Leeds waterfront between Clarence Dock and Granary Wharf.

DSC06070 Here’s the three of us, looking shifty (David and I play executives – Don and Ron). This picture was actually taken in June, before one of the Seven Bridges performances for Leeds Waterfront Festival. We revived it for this one night only in October at the behest of a friend at the Environment Agency, who felt it would make a useful discussion point among staff there. The EA are currently among the partners working on a massive Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) in central Leeds, and most of our audience was made up of flood risk specialists. Seven Bridges points out some of the FAS works along the route, but the performance is mostly about other things (the history, development and re-development of the waterfront). Apparently this did prove valuable for our spectators, in helping them think about their work from another angle. As one of them remarked, we all need to be encouraged to get out of “silo thinking” whenever we can — and look at how what we’re expert in links up with other concerns. I guess this was the appeal for Waterlution too…?

So that’s what we’ve been up to in terms of performances lately. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, my colleague Lyze has been very busy continuing to develop our community engagaement work in various Shipley area neighbourhoods — in collaboration with Kirkgate Centre. Just today, in fact, she helped lay on a boat ride on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal for some of the residents in the Dockfields area who have recently formed into a local action group. Hopefully we’ll have more on that, and other local matters, in future blog posts… and with a bit of luck the next one won’t be such a long time coming!

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