‘Convergence and Space’ at the Brunel Goods Shed

I enjoyed this exhibition so much that I went twice, as did my wife. My Bristol and Singaporean relatives were also enthralled on their visit. Everything about it all seemed so perfect: the exhibits and the space seemed made for each other. Brunel’s goods shed (incidentally, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was one of the first steam engine numbers I ever underlined in my train spotter’s book) was built in 1845, when the Great Western Railway’s 7 feet and a quarter inch broad gauge met the more ubiquitous 4 feet 8 and a half inch gauge at Gloucester: this historic and numinous presence of convergence and space echoed fittingly in the atmospheric half light of the goods shed on the cold Sunday afternoon when we visited. As the Paris Situationists almost said: ‘Underneath the concrete, the 1892 week-end tearing up of the broad gauge track.’
Such a palimpsest and such an exhibition also suggested part of the motto of the old GWR: ‘Virtute et Industria’. We saw how an empathetic industrial archaeological sensitivity and a playful artistic perspicuity enabled rusting metal to be converted from singular utility to multiple ambiguity. Thus, the serpentine line of chain link stretched across the floor evoked, for me, that iconic image of Isambard Kingdom Brunel standing by the chains of the Great Eastern steam ship; others in our party were more preoccupied by the interplay of shape and shadow and light and the philosophical relationship between substance, presence and evanescence.
The exhibit ‘Lightness and Gravity’ similarly worked in both a literal and metaphorical sense: some of our party saw an orrery and planetary associations of Jupiter and the Moon; some saw Power and Strength; some J Arthur Rank; some ‘The King and I’; some Alignment and Connection; some the tyranny of the factory hooter and the Clock. The great thing about all this is that the deliberate omission of explanatory text for the sculptures creates a welter of definition and discussion.
So thank you very much sculptors Paul Grellier and Ann-Margreth Bohl for this marvellous exhibition. Mathematicians develop equations for time space convergence and I wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance of understanding a thing about any of that. But your divergent sculptural and artistic sensibilities allowed our group to chat about our divergent thoughts, definitions and justifications in cheerful and unabashed colloquy.
We left, in consequence, the richer, the wiser and the happier. (Although I have never written pseudier.)

Worklight Theatre

Worklight Theatre in Stroud

Torches and performers set the stage alight as Worklight Theatre presented a narrative and analysis of the Summer of Discord, 2011. A speedy hour whizzed past as we witnessed the spectacle of that confusing time: just 2 years ago and it already seems like another age.

Yet the play reminded us how ‘the political rhetoric’ surrounding those riots has a history stretching back through the 20th century and to the Industrial Revolution. Talking of which, here’s an open offer to Worklight Theatre and Spaniel in the Works Theatre Company: let me know if you would like to get heads around the decade of Chartism in the Stroud Valleys, or the periods of weavers’ riots or food riots. That might be something too.

Fringe Review2012: ‘Theatre so spell-binding yet brutally honest and brave that it actually gave me goose bumps’

Broadway Baby 2012: ‘Professionally stunning…’

All of us in our group who went, from teenagers to  citizens of seniority, would totally recommend seeing this whilst in our area:

26th, 27th, 28th, September, Cheltenham, Everyman

Tommy Atkins and the Canary Girl

Outside: a wet Friday afternoon in Stroud; inside: a spare set, two tables, two chairs, John Bassett and Kim Baker in ‘Tommy Atkins and the Canary Girl’.
Outside: muffled drone of traffic, occasional motor bike and bicycle bell; inside: letters, telegrams, postcards, duckboards, trenches, no man’s land, mud, shell holes, barbed wire, mustard gas, the dead and dying, lice, shell shock, rationing, girls with phossie jaw and yellow hands, 12 hour shifts, 25 bob a week, ambulances, hospitals, nurses, barrenness, conscription, unemployment and a war to end all wars.
Kim and John transported us all utterly into the internal above with their interplay of characters, snatches of songs and poems. If I was that nervous about the fact that I had forgotten about turning off my mobile ‘ phone, what must it have been like waiting for that whistle to send you over the top or waiting for that telegram?
Totally recommended – I am looking forward so much to teaming up with John and Kim next year on our 2014 Stroud and Gloucester WW1 centenary productions and workshops.

Folk in a Box

You get home from Southwold after a 5 hour drive and you’re slightly tired, even though you don’t drive. The fields resemble a Kansas harvest breadbasket, Keats whispers in the wind: ‘Where are the songs of Spring?’ and Seamus Heaney is dead, school’s back on Monday, war clouds are gathering. The holidays are well and truly over.
But a walk up the Albert on Stroud Fringe Saturday night restores your faith in humanity and the infinite possibilities of friendship. Not just old friends from ‘No Pasaran!’ like Becky and Dell, but also a new welcome from Folk in a Box. Out the back of the pub was a a group of bohos and hipsters even more boho and hipster than the usual for even the Albert. Behind them was a box.
I entered the sepulchral gloom within the portmanteau and sat opposite an invisible minstrel. What might happen? What could happen? Friend or foe? Confusion is the usual handmaiden of darkness – what if humiliation is the consequence? Robbery?
Instead, the troubadour strummed a guitar and sang me a song straight from the heart. Two strangers lost in darkness, yet establishing a union through the medium of music, a harmony where none existed before. ‘Folk in a Box’: singing inside a box, yet making waves through seven handshakes wherever they go.