After The Flood @ Leeds Waterfront Festival
After the Flood was a site based theatre performance commissioned by Multi Story Water for the Leeds Waterfront Festival 2016. Set six months after the devastating Christmas time floods in Leeds (and many other places) we were tasked with creating a performance that responded not just to what happened, but also how people have responded for better and worse in the clean up and beyond. Oh, and it had to be suitable for a family audience at a festival.
After the Flood was actually the third piece in a series of collaborations between myself and Prof. Steve Bottoms and his Multi Story Water project, but the first to come under a Common Chorus banner. What made this project unique for me was how we brought together stories of those affected by the floods with the experiences of people whose job it is to mitigate against flooding; so a fusion of micro and macro responses to the tragedy.
The show starts with the experiences of a community organiser pulling together the coalface response, based upon the experiences of Phil Marken of Open Source Arts; one of the inspirations behind the real life Kirkstall Flood Cleanup Group. We then move onto the very personal story of The Tagine Machine, a restaurant we created to host the stories of numerous small business owners who livelihoods and dreams went under flood water. We then hear from Engineers planning the new Leeds Flood Defences, environmentalists looking for more nuanced and creative (and affordable) solutions, before we move on to witness an insight into the role of the media and the Environment Agency’s juggling act to keep ‘the people’ happy (Jake does some very good actual juggling in this one). Finally we come full circle to return to the owner of the Tagine Machine, six months After the Flood, we hear whether or not she managed to navigate the sea of paperwork to get her small business back afloat.
We have had some lovely audience feedback, and I think I am most proud of how we used props like the flooded dolls house, comedy, interaction and circus skills to bring a difficult subject to life for young people and their parents. We received a really nice email from a University Lecturer who said that:
“It made me think of the city differently, it made me realise what an amazing project Leeds as a city is in trying to manage the nature on which it is built, it made me think about the connection between the city and the surrounding countryside – which I know quite well – and the journey of the water that humans have tried to control/manage,etc. It was great. It did all this in a clever, funny and gentle way, without forcing a message on to the audience.”
Richee Mathwin of Big Media Film filmed the piece and is currently editing it together. I am not exactly sure where people will be able to see it when he is done, I will update this when I find out, but if you are impatient tweet Steve and he will know.
We also had a really lovely team of artists and volunteers who came together quickly and really helped look after each other. Things are fairly early on in the Common Chorus journey, but there was something really right about the way that that team functioned, and I just wish it hadn’t all been over so quickly.
The Common Chorus ensemble for After The Flood was:
Simon Brewis – Director
Steve Bottoms – Lead Writer and Dramaturgy
Hannah Sabai – Designer
Antoinette Sargent – Assistant Director
Film soon to be made by Richee Mathwin of Big Media Film
Supporters, Contributors, Stewards and Amazingy helpful and lovely people –
Sue Jennings, Lucy Meredith at Leeds Waterfront Festival and Trevor Roberts at Canal Connections. The Environment Agency, Direct Line Insurance (Leeds), Leeds Train Station. Phil Marken at Open Source Arts, various anonymous others, our wonderful stewards, Tabita, Steve, Myke, Daisy, Sam, Rebecca and Theo.