So this is my final day covering the IMMOVABLE block. Today will feature many of the performers and local people that have been involved in this weeks intervention.
I’ve managed to speak to a lot more people today including both performers and facilitators. First up is Chris who is 37 years of age and is one of Mind the Gap’s actor/performers.
Chris was on top of the block this morning. He described how he sat on top the block in a wheel chair. Chris isn’t a wheelchair user but many of his friends are and so he says the message is the same regardless. ‘Many people stopped and watched and some even came up to me and chatted. A couple of kids shouted “are you going to get arrested for being up there”, which was funny. I played along with their perceptions and pretended I didn’t know how I got up there. Lot’s of people took photos and I really enjoyed performing up there for everyone.’
I asked Chris what kind of message he would like to get across to people by being on top of the block. He explained, ‘I have a learning disability and I hope that anybody that also have a disability will think that they can do anything on that block; like when the people ask how someone in a wheelchair got up here… Well why can’t someone in a chair get all the way up there?’
Chris has travelled down from Bradford daily to be here. Chris has been a member of Mind the Gap for around seven years. Originally he wanted to go into engineering but couldn’t because of his disability. His social worker introduced him to the group and since then has completed work experience and training in all aspects of stage production and has also taken part in a number of productions, including Animal Farm. He goes on to say, ‘Mind the Gap has taught me skills in public speaking; I now go into schools and talk about the group. I’ve been so much more confident now since I came to Mind the Gap.’
Another person I have really wanted to speak to was Dave Searle. Backstage Dave is the Production Manger for Mind the Gap. To the audience, he is one of the manager Shifters wandering around his in cap and brown workcoat. Dave doesn’t usually perform and is more often than not backstage but because this is such a big production with many interventions, this was the best way to be in the middle of the action.
Dave had just been helping group performer Alan Clay off of the block after a second performance this week of him playing in an inflatable paddling pool on top of the block. This time round he was much more adventurous in splashing the many passers by. It was absolutely hilarious.
Dave has been with Mind the Gap for just over three years now. Dave controls every technical aspect of Mind the Gaps productions. he explains that ‘all of the Shifters that you see here work for Mind the Gap. All of the people involved in our interventions are either that of the theatre company or on the student training course.’
I asked Dave how he originally got involved with Mind the Gap. ‘I was originally a freelancer and had a job for Mind the Gap. I thought the place was amazing but cheekily told them that they really needed a technician. Two months later I was working with them’
‘How often do you do shows outside of Bradford?’ I asked.
‘Well, me are nationally touring company. We tour once or twice a year. Last year we toured our productions of Of Mice and Men and Stig of the Dump.’
‘Other than IMMOVABLE, what other projects do you have lined up for the Cultural Olympiad?’ I asked.
‘Immove sponsors us and they are a Yorkshire based initiative that is part of the Cultural Olympiad. Irresistible which is Immovable’s sister show, which you will see part of later, will be shown at the Unlimited Festival which takes place just before the Paralympics. We’ll be performing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Soutbank, London and also at the performance space outside of the National Theatre.’
At that point Dave had to rush off and prepare the next performances. What followed was a number of staged interventions that all featured Mind the Gap performers. A couple sat on top of the block and had a romantic meal, Alison Short did a horticultural based performance(!) and the Shifters one again attempted to solve the knitted Rubik’s Cube; this time with company actor Susan sat on a bench on top of the block knitting away new squares.
After the performance, I got a few words from Shifters Howard and Amjad. Howard 44, has been with Mind the Gap for three years, and is currently on a four year training course in theatre production. As well has performing, he and the many others on the course, get the opportunity to learn stage craft, film making, confidence building in areas such as communication and working in groups and support in other practical skills such as using computers and travelling independently. Amjad is 26 and is also playing the part of a Shifter and has been with the group for one year now. He had done a little acting before at school but being a part of the group has allowed his confidence to grow in a way it may never had before
The final performance of the week saw every Mind the Gap actor and performer present take to the streets to accompany Jez Colborne’s production Irresistible. Jez is an actor and musician and has a learning disability called Williams Syndrome and has very sensitive hearing. However, that hasn’t stopped him composing a symphony of songs using air raid sirens! Here we got a taster of a show that will be playing, not only at The Cow & Calf Quarry Theatre in Ilkley next month but also at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s Southbank in September as part of the The Unlimited Festival in the Cultural Olympiad for the run up to the 2012 Paralympics. The performance was a great achievement, not only in song writing but in bringing a smile to everyone who saw it.
And is the end of IMMOVABLE. I’ve really enjoyed it and have found it both humbling and enlightening. I’ve met many very inspiring people from Mind the Gap and many people from the local area who have contributed their ideas and talent and time.
When I started Alternative Barnsley six months ago, I was hoping to cover as much art and theatre and music and unfortunately there hasn’t been enough to compete. However, this week has seen a plethora of street theatre, yarn-bombing, surrealist comedy and some fantastic painting.
Hopefully, there’ll be another project soon.
CHECK OUT THESE LINKS FOR MUCH MORE INFOMATION…
also read my previous blogs about IMMOVABLE, featuring interview and images: