A day of coincidence

This week we have focused on developing the specifics of our performance idea. For example we created a rough script of the audio that our designated speaker (Fleur) would record once finalised. This took us a lot longer than expected as we found it hard to create instructions that were not too patronising, structured or contained not enough information. After four painful hours in the library we finally completed the script, however in hindsight it would have been a lot easier to have written it in the site, saving us trying to imagine where the audience would stand. Despite the extra work we made for ourselves, we managed to complete the scrip ready for Rachael’s meeting.

Today we went to the site and conducted a trial run through of the script and pretended to hear it from the audience’s perspective. There were several little things that cropped up, such as ‘look to your left and you’ll see the statue’ is actually suppose to be ‘look to your right…’ etc. However whilst running through the performance a middle aged man, roughly in his 40’s, stood next to us whilst we were examining the judgment gates and suddenly said ‘I wonder who the women are on the archways, and why they’re headless’. This then sparked a very unexpected conversation between himself and our group about the headless statues around the entrance. Which is exactly what we were looking for in our piece. The complete irony of it all and the sheer perfect topic of conversation allowed us to see the site from even more of a different angle. Whilst talking to the guy he mentioned that a lot of the smaller statues around the archway are also missing a head. Despite staring at the gates twice a week for a month or so, we had never noticed this! All (except two) angels surrounding the statue to Jesus had no heads, and several of the smaller female ‘saint-like’ statues were also missing a head. The fact that only some of them had their heads removed made us really think? We know that the heads of the non-biblical saints were removed in the Reformation, but these were identical angels? Why are some headless and some not? This made the man suggest ideas/ stories why there were like this (again exactly what we’re basing our performance on). He suggested that one night in the Reformation a man crept up to the cathedral and was chopping the heads off the statues when he was caught half way through the job. This opinion from a complete stranger will be included into our piece and played to the audience as a valid perception of that’s site.

From children’s voices to a pilgrimage

Over the last week our overall concept has slightly altered. Due to the lack of response from the school we emailed, it not only forced us to changed either the school or the idea all together. After a long discussion we decided that it was too much to find the time to gain access and record the audio, plus we we didn’t know of any children in this area that we could test run it on, which left us taking a huge risk. Therefore we scrapped the consept of children’s perceptions and focused on all ages. By focusing on all ages we realised it linked back to our original idea of the many layers of perceptions that surround the cathedral. The route we had picked out for our tour also influenced our process as its an almost circular route with the starting and finishing point at the same place. This then made us think of a pilgrimage and the journeys of discovery the partisipants embarked upon. Within Phil Couineau’s book The Art of Pilgrimage, Hudson Smith stated that ‘The object of a pilgrimage is not to rest and recreation – to get away from it all. To set out on a pilgrimage is to throw down a challenge to everyday life’ (Smith, 1998). This made me really think about what is is we were going to ask the participants to do. After Conan’s feedback we scrapped the activities and so we have just an audio to make such an impact. However, with a strong audio tour we would be able to challenge them to open their minds. To develop an appreciation for the growth of the imagination. To understand that one object/ site can have many facts and truths through individual understanding. One particular quote that caught my eye was one of Balloc’s absolutisms, ‘The volume and depth and intensity of the world is something that only those on foot will ever experience’ (Belloc, 1904). Hopefully at the end of their walk, when they arrive back at the place they began, they may feel more aware of the site, themselves, the world, and possibly a change of thoughts may have occurred along the way. To achieve this we researched into the history of lincolnshire pilgrimages and discovered that Lincoln Cathedral was one of the most popular pilgrimage points in England. The 1536 pilgrimage from St Jame’s church in Louth to the Lincoln Cathedral had over 40,000 participants by the time it arrived in lincolnshire. Pilgrims therefore have a significant history with the cathedral (as a statue of a pilgrim is calved on the west side of the cathedral), and we are really interested in incorporating it into our piece somehow. The scallop shell is significant regarding pilgrims and we were planning on giving each participant one on a piece of sting to hang around their necks, like they did in the original religious pilgrims.

Finally here are a few quotes that made me think:

‘While on pilgrimage people think with landscape, rather than only about it’ (MacFarlane, 2012)

‘It is the material culture of the city, rather than the psyche, that provides the shared collective spaces where consciousness and the unconscious, past and present, meet.’ (Buse, 2005,52)

‘It is along paths too, that people grow into a knowledge of the world around them, and describe this world in the stories that they tell.’ (Ignold, 2007, 2)

‘Economic, political and cultural social relations, each full of power and with internal structures of domination and subordination, stretched out over the planet at every different level, from the household to the local area to the international. It is from that perspective that it is possible to envisage an alternative interpretation of place. In this interpretation, what gives a place its specificity is not some long internalized history but the fact that it is constructed out of a particular constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus. If one moves in from the satellite towards the globe, holding all those networks of social relations and movements and communications in one’s head, then each ‘place’ can be seen as a particular, unique, point of their intersection. It is, indeed, a meeting place. Instead then, of thinking of places as areas with boundaries around, they can be imagined as articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings, but where a large proportion of those relations, experiences and understandings are constructed on a far larger scale than what we happen to define for that moment as the place itself, whether that be a street, or a region or even a continent. And this in turn allows a sense of place which is extroverted, which includes a conscious- ness of its links with the wider world, which integrates in a positive way the global and the local.’ (Massey, 1994, 154-156)


Buse, P., Hirschkop, K., McCraken, S., Taithe, B. (2005) Benjamin’s Arcades. An UnGuided Tour. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Ingold, T. (2007) Lines: A brief History. Oxon: Routledge.

MacFarlane, R. (2012) Rites of way: Behind the pilgrimage revival. [online] London: The Guardian. Available from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jun/15/rites-of-way-pilgrimage-walks [Accessed 23 March 2014].

Massey, D. (1994) Space, Place and Gender. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Smith, H. (1998) Forward in The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred. California: Conari Press.

Conan’s feedback

Conan’s visit was extremely beneficial. He provided a fresh new set of eyes to our piece and gave some promising feedback. One of his main points was we need to make it simpler. Concentrate on having a good solid audio and less on activities at each site. One clear point he made was to scrap our map as he doesn’t want the audience to be looking at the map and not at their surrounding. Luckily we only made a rough template of the map so we hadn’t wasted too much time.


He also suggested that we split our tour up into separate audio files so the audience can make their way round the site at their own pace without being rushed by the audio tour. Aside from the technical aspects of the audio, he gave us much needed direction in the way of what we were focusing on as a theme. Only recently had we scrapped the idea of a child’s perspective and thought about focusing on ‘a life journey’ and use all different perspectives from different age ranges. The route we had in mind for our tour was circular and it played very nicely into the idea of a pilgrimage, starting and finishing in the same place, ending at the beginning. Thus we looked into the pilgrim statue that is on the cathedral and the significance of the scallop shell. We realised that Lincoln, and more specifically the cathedral was and still is a significant pilgrimage point for the UK. Conan really like the idea of the pilgrim and the scallop shell and advised us to focus on that aspect more alongside the perspectives. Possibly a pilgrimage of developing an understanding of other people’s perspectives? Conan also mentioned that he liked the idea of coincidental objects/ happenings that appear subtly around the walk. This was something that we were unsure about, whether is was something worth pursuing, however Conan’s visit certified this and we can now work at developing the idea. Overall it was very beneficial and I fell much more on track!

Trial performance and Alfred Tennyson

The statue of Alfred Tennyson was a site that we really wanted to incorporate into our performance so decided to research into his poetry. We each read Cradle Song and then discussed our interpretations and what automatically sprung to mind when reading it. Our performance concept was about perception and imagination and we realised that a Tennyson poem has just as many layers of perception as physical sites around the cathedral.

Cradle Song 

What does little birdie say
In her nest at peep of day?
Let me fly, says little birdie,
Mother, let me fly away.
Birdie, rest a little longer,
Till thy little wings are stronger.
So she rests a little longer,
Then she flies away.

What does little baby say,
In her bed at peep of day?
Baby says, like little birdie,
Let me rise and fly away.
Baby, sleep a little longer,
Till thy little limbs are stronger.
If she sleeps a little longer,
Baby too shall fly away.

(Tennyson, 1933, 5)

Also, over the last week our group delved deeper into people’s unconscious imagination regarding the cathedral. We researched both adults and children’s imagination, and gathered voice recordings of local shopkeepers and tourists about their perceptions of several sites shown to them via a picture. We also got in touch with the local Lincoln schools and inquired about recording children’s perceptions on the cathedral. However we realised that our original concept was lacking depth, we really liked the idea of children’s audio but that alone wouldn’t be enough to create a performance. We began to develop physical and creative tasks that the audience could take part in in conjunction with the audio. Each idea is focused on the creativity of the individual and celebrating and encouraging their imagination. Drawing their ideas in chalk, writing their perceptions on bunting, creating cards and posting them through a letterbox to a statue. All of which stimulate a sense of childlike creativity; hopefully encouraging them to drop their social filter as an adult and let their unconscious imagination come through. However after we tried a (very rough) run through, we realised that it still wasn’t enough. By having a trial run through of our performance, a lot of aspects that we hadn’t thought about became apparent problems. Realising these problems before the actual performance was extremely beneficial!

Watson Bain, A. (1933) A poetry book for boys and girls. Cambridge: University Press.

Perceptions and audio

Last week’s research in and around Lincoln Cathedral inspired us to delve deeper into the layers of perception that are attached to ‘well known’ buildings such as the Cathedral. But how would you describe the phrase ‘well known’? Is there just one way of knowing something, does everyone know the same thing? There is so much to know about one site, there is always going to be something you didn’t know, be that a fact or fiction. We went away after last week’s session and asked our housemates to tell us about a picture, (the headless statues on the cathedral). We then compared our findings and had a handful of interpretations on one single site. This abundance of layers from one stimulus is similar to Sophie Calle’s work Take Care of Yourself (2007). She created ‘a survey of interpretation’ (Fisher, 2009) by asking 107 women to share their opinion on a single email. These opinions that both Sophie Calle and our group received were ‘translations of reality’ (ibid, 2009), not necessarily fact, but translations of real thought and imagination. Several participants of our research told elaborate stories, obviously untrue, about the headless statues. One person stated that two people stole from the king and as punishment they were beheaded; their bodies were turned into stone and placed on the cathedral as a warning, whilst their heads were left to haunt the steps of steep hill. Although obviously a fictional story, this has now personally made me understand the cathedral in a different light. Forced Entertainment’s Nights in this City (1995) sort to write over Sheffield’s conventional history and tell their own. I found that this related a lot to our idea of portraying a different side to something people believe they know so well. They explored ‘the different histories written in urban space – the official history, the personal, the mythical and the imaginary’ (Etchells, 1999, 80) and ‘avoided facts in search of a different truth’ (ibid, 1999, 80). Personal truths are just as valid as fact. Children have the most elaborate imagination and don’t possess the social filter that strikes us down as we grow up. Their minds are much more open to interpretation and can see places and objects with a more imaginative outlook. How a child would perceive the cathedral might be very different to how an adult would. This childish truth was something we also wanted to explore. Tim Echells’ That Night Follows Day (2007) explored relationship between adults and children and how what adults say can influence a child. (Click here for video)  This made me think of the natural hierarchy of adults and children, making me wonder what would happen if we reversed the roles. Through the use of audio, a child could take a group of adults for a tour around the cathedral grounds telling them their ‘truth’, putting them in control of what the adults hear.

Also within our research we discovered the advantages of audio recordings. Hearing first-hand opinions allowed a sense of honesty to come across. We then came up with the idea of a possible audio tour to make it more of a personal experience. Linked (2003) by Greame Miller was something that caught my eye regarding the way the audience were in control of the performance through audio. They were given an mp3 player and left to follow the map at their own speed, and their own time. This independence of the audience really interested me. I thought about how using the audio could enhance the audience’s experience during the performance, and also before/after. I thought about the possibility of making mp3 downloads of the recordings for the audience to download prior to the performance on their own devices, and using their own headphones to listen to it during the performance. This would make the performance more casual, and puts them in control of their experience, engaging them with the site before they even get there. Moreover, through downloading the files on their own devices they are able to keep them. Maybe one day they’ll stumble across it on their iPod and it will make them think about the performance again. Leaving them with a token of their experience, similar to the books from Proto-type Theatre’s performances.

Etchells, T. (1999) Certain Fragments: Contemporary Performance and Forced Entertainment. London: Routledge.

Fisher, C. (2009) Sophie Calle: Take Care of Yourself. [online] Brooklyn: The Brooklyn Rail. Available from http://www.brooklynrail.org/2009/06/artseen/take-care-of-yourself [Accessed 28 February 2015].