MEMORIES IN MOTION
I first saw a call for dance companies to apply for this project late 2011. I’m not a dancer so wasn’t interested in that aspect, but I read the brief out of curiosity because my father comes from Hartlepool – as did all of his family. It is a place that I know very little about but have heard spoken of throughout my life so I was curious.
The idea of the project from the council’s perspective is to work with various groups in retirement villages and sheltered accommodation to capture some of the residents memories of what was less an iconic building and more a social phenomenon in Hartlepool before, during and after world war 2. They have a grant to employ a dance company to help re-create some form of dance piece for a planned event on the Queen’s jubilee bank holiday in June. Two 6th form colleges are also on board – to add the inter-generational aspect. They bring the legs to the project. The final event is due to take place in the Borough Hall – which is a similar size to the Rink and not too far away from where it used to stand.
As far as my project goes – well – my concerns revolve around telling and re-telling – the ‘past and future in (and as) the present’ – the tyranny of time. I saw here a working subject model with a personal twist, given my Hartlepool connection. Add to that the fact that I took ballroom dancing lessons when I was younger and that I understand what it is to ask a lady to dance, in the ‘traditional’ sense.. and, well, there was a certain serendipity that I couldn’t ignore.
I approached the council and asked if they would be interested in me working with them in tandem. I made it very clear that I did not want to record their project as such, but that I would be making an artwork which followed on from the concerns of my previous art practice. I didn’t hold my breath on that one as I thought it might be a bit left field for a council run department.
It only took a couple of days for me to be proved surprisingly wrong.
Within a couple of weeks I was having a meeting in Hartlepool with the head of tourism, the exhibitions and events officer and the person directly in line to manage the project. It was genuinely gratifying to find that, rather than having to sell the concept to a sceptical audience, in fact they were so pleased to have someone approach them to add to the kudos of the overall project, and even took me over the very same day to see their art gallery (quite a space as it turns out) which is housed in a beautifully restored Victorian church.
Of course I do offer benefits, and I have begun to see how this works. Often with such projects they take place and then fade back, or at the very least have little impact in a wider sense. Hopefully the piece I make will have some legs. I intend to premier it in Hartlepool but thereafter find other venues too. The single screen version I make will be pushed around world video festivals in a bid to reach international audiences. I bring potential profile.
I also come cheap – well if you consider I don’t cost them anything except a little extra logistics and an enhanced CRB check.
Which brings me to the crunch. My work – if it was to be worthy of the potential the project offered, would require quite a bit of time, travelling and a few additional hands at strategic points. I would need some form of funding and there was no chance of further funding from the borough arts dept. They in fact like most councils are facing massive cuts in staffing levels across the board and are having to make do and mend.
Christmas was spent pondering the online Arts Council England grant application form.