Six Months … After the Flood
This weekend it is six months since the Boxing day floods. From what I understand there was flooding in many parts of the country, but to have flooding like that in Leeds was pretty much unheard of. Three memories spring to mind when I think about it. The first was a terrifying drive home from my Dad’s place near Harrogate to Leeds on Boxing day. The second is seeing places that I go to regularly on the national news – under water. The third is what seems to be a fairly infamous ‘good news’ story about the community cleanup response to the disaster; the most vivid memory being the picture on facebook for Lucy Meredith at Open Source Arts with Jeremy Corbyn (pic below).
When Steve Bottoms and I met early in 2016 to talk about a potential promenade performance piece for the Leeds Waterfront Festival I think a response to the floods was inevitable before we even knew it.
I quite like making work about … well difficult things. If I look back at the last few shows I have made themes include; gender identity crisis, addiction, teenage pregnancy and the holocaust to name a few delightful topics. But I am drawn to search out the light in the darkness – both by making the show entertaining enough so that people are glad that they have come to see it, and by trying to find something helpful to say. This is why the new show is called ‘After’ the Flood. The show does tell the tragic story of people who have been directly affected, although at its heart this is a show about the various positive responses that have happened in the six months since the crisis.
Me and Steve approached the research from different angles, so After the Flood is in many ways a story of two responses. I spoke with people like Phil Markin from Open Source Arts whose ‘Kirkstall Flood Cleanup’ facebook group formed at least one of the beating hearts of the response on the ground. John Liversedge from the Kirkstall Valley Community Association had invaluable thoughts to share about the impact on local businesses and livelihoods. Steve on the other hand took what I now see as, strangely, the less obvious path. He spoke with water engineers, town planners and the Environment Agency – giving us a fascinating insight into the people whose working life is flood mitigation. Strangely I have come to realise the the expert voice is sometimes an underrepresented voice when a story is being told about human catastrophe in the news. So After the Flood looks at how both the people on the ground, and the clever people in suits have been responding, which I hope is going to make it something a bit different.
It features an all star cast of local actors, storytellers and circus performers. With design by Hannah Sibai and performers Matthew Bellwood (365 Leeds Stories / An Icy Man), Kat Martin (of Sneaky Experience fame), Libby Wattis (The Cleverest Thief), Jake England Johns (Serious Mischief Theatre and our last show Drink with a Chimp) are joined by fresh young faces Joe Large and Nick De Jong and I am also really pleased to be working with Pete Freeth and Antionette Sargent on the piece.
So please join us for a wonderful day out at Leeds Waterfront Festival 2016 for a journey around Granary Wharf to meet circus performers, storytellers and hydro heroes along the way. Starting beside Lock 1 of the Leeds and Liverpool canal at Granary Wharf (click for map). Suitable for all, it is free to explore on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th June from 12 noon -4pm and takes approx. 50 mins to complete. Also, we have a sister show at the Festival; a revival of last years successful ‘Seven Bridges Leeds’ which Steve is performing.
Looking forward to a great weekend, and hopefully good weather!
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