On Wednesday, 2 of us from our group started to put the basic ideas together for our piece however, we found it difficult to formulate our ideas for our sites especially Pottersgate, even though we were passionate to have it in our piece. I discounted the idea of people marking their names in Pottersgate and came up with the proposal whereby the audience use chalk to mark the pavement with a feeling or a memory and then scrub it away as though wiping it from their memory; that way, they start the walk with a fresh mind and a new beginning. This idea was enhanced by an inspired thought from my lecturer who suggested we do something similar to Sand Mandala sculptures.
My notes on Sand Mandala sculptures:
- Kalachakra Mandala made out of coloured sand
- Created in 3 weeks
- This is a lesson about the impermanence of life
- Practitioners use mandala to visualise in meditation the steps along the path of enlightenment.
- Kalachakra means ‘wheels of time’.
* The key things I picked out are in bold.
We have designed our performance so that we progress around 3 areas in the vicinity of the Cathedral which are Pottersgate, St Anne’s Well and the Cathedral garden. The idea of a pilgrimage came to mind however, we did not want our piece to be regarded as religious although this would be understandable with Lincoln Cathedral looming around us! so, I decided to ascertain the definition of the word ‘pilgrim’.
Oxford Dictionary definitions:
- A person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons.
- A person travelling to a place of particular personal interest.
- Chiefly literary a person regarded as journeying through life.
* In bold are the key things I picked out.
Having looked at the definitions of the word pilgrim, I liked the idea of our piece being an adventure of personal interest whereby the performance is unfolding a story and that the meaning of the walk will be told at the end of it; it will be very similar to a learning walk.
After some discussion, my group and I decided to organise a walk from Pottergate to the garden in Lincoln Cathedral which involved completing some tasks on route. One such task would involve a stop at Queen Anne’s Well (https://flic.kr/p/qQ4o7N), to perform the ritual which, according to legend, entails having to walk round it 7 times and then stick a finger in one of 6 holes in the door; a good person will feel the devil’s breath on their finger whereas a bad person will have their finger bitten off. When I tried this out today, I didn’t have a finger bitten off, so I rank myself as a good person. (Paranormal Database, 2014).
We were all of the opinion that it would spice up our walk if we were to pay homage to the numerous legends and folklore associated with the area between Pottergate and the Cathedral garden and that performing this physical ritual would add more interest to it. This was only one of many ideas we had but it led us to look more closely into the history of Pottergate only to find there is very little published about it. I delved into Nickolas Pevsner and John Harris’ book The Buildings of England; Lincolnshire, to discover that Potter’s gate stretched from the south east to the north east corners of uphill Lincoln near the cathedral and that the “stairway in the SW corner, now represented by the polygonal torrent,… allowed communications between the upper chamber and the gate hall” (Nicholas Antram, 1995, 484). This photo (https://flic.kr/p/r9UG9e) shows the tunnel which was used by those inside the city walls to shout down to those waiting at the gate.
Our discussions then led us to the idea that of course it was all about communication as it was one of the entrances into the city and people would have been obliged to state their business before being allowed in. On closer inspection, there has clearly been some vandalism over the years inside the arch of Potter’s gate such as this (https://flic.kr/p/r9LZrL) which was marked 1895. There are markings dating from 1895 to 2010 which just goes to show how our desire to make our ‘mark’ in history continues to fascinate us and that ‘old habits die hard’. Beth and I collected the markings so we can read and show how diverse they are (https://flic.kr/p/rrn5up). Doing this prompted us to come up with the idea of starting our walk at Potters gate and inviting people to add their ‘mark’ to it by sticking a post it onto the archway; we linked this to the manhole covers we saw inscribed with “post office” and “telegraph” which are also another form of communication. Rather than sticking notes on to the arch’s walls, our tutor came up with the idea of having a big piece of wood which people could sign before they started their walk; we decided this was a much preferred idea that allowed people to make their ‘mark’ without causing any damage to the building.
Paranormal Database (2014) Lincoln. [online] UK: Paranormal Database. Available from: http://www.paranormaldatabase.com/hotspots/lincoln.php?pageNum_paradata=0&totalRows_paradata=30 [Accessed 2 March 2015].
Antram, N. (eds) (1995)The Buildings of England. Lincolnshire. London: Penguin.
As this module starts to unravel itself it has be shown that a Site Specific such as the city centre or just the university campus has shown to be more than just a space of work, but a place of discovery and experimenting to make the site more interesting than a site of education. When I mean ‘a place of discovery’ I mean it is a habitation of testing boundaries with the community as said by Mike Pearson author of Site Specific Performance. For me from what Mike Pearson has written and my understanding of the introduction of Site Specific it “engages intensively with the history and politics of that place, and with the resonance of these in the present” (Pearson, 2010, 10) so to bring the vitality of rediscovering the place and why it’s there and how it came to be. From doing a practice of ‘subtle mob’ as a little experience of site specific, where we as a group was given some instructions, it was a bit scary at first, but it was a great way of bringing us into the world of Site Specific and it was fun to watch a the public reactions with what we were doing and how they were triggered by our actions such as “find a raised point to stand and wait for others to join you.” So when I started that task I stepped on to some sort of cement block and looked at the LPAC sign (on university campus) and people gathered which caused some curiosity. Site Specific seems for me right now, is based on community involvement and a joining people together with a fresh look of a particular site which triggered the imagination to rediscover the site in a new way and all this based on people’s curiosity.
Rachel Baynton Group (2015) Subtle Mob [performance] Lincoln: Lincoln Campus, 28th January.