FLOI 2017 Roundup
by Garth Williams
…one month on… Here is what you could have won / a reminder of what you did do…
We began on Friday evening with a presentation by FLOI co-founder Chris Squire on our theme of Opposition.
Opposition; is action and reaction, it’s dissent, resistance, protest, in suffrage, it is the way we oppose actions. Opposition thrives in counter culture, in the 60’s, at Greenham Common, in our work, in the streets – free at the point of delivery, in creative processes, in Newton’s law of thermodynamics. Our very own thumbs are, after all, opposable digits. Opposites attract, not just in but also – the Square of Opposition. Planets go into opposition. Complementary colours are opposites. A pearl is formed from the oppositional presence of a grain of sand in the protective shell of an oyster.
This was followed by an introduction to the 101 – Outdoor Arts Creation Space from producer and founder Simon Chatterton. This included the history of 101 as an airfield vehicle service hangar, the legacy of the Greenham Common Protests at the heart of the cold war, and the new developments and plans for the expansion of the 101 space and the exciting plans afoot in the near future.
Floriane Gaber (author of 40 Ans Dans la Rue – 40 years in the streets) then gave a fascinating talk on street arts created in opposition to, and despite, very difficult circumstances, framed in a historical context of contemporary outdoor theatre. The accounts were collated from her work and travel all over the world from Kuwait to the Ural, and from Belarus to Chile. Who knew there are 11 Street Theatre festivals in Iran alone?
We then were treated to an aerial performance from aerial artist and teacher Mel Stevens from Aim to Fly, and two of her students who regularly train at 101.
The Busker’s Rue Inn was serving cocktails, shots and mixers, with wine and beer chasers throughout the evening and again on the Saturday night by which time jugs of cocktails including white russians were flying out. There were reports of friendly stabbings with pins and a games tournament which spontaneously erupted.
Jeremy Shine of MIA and Streets Ahead fame toiled tirelessly in the kitchen to cook up culinary treats for all those gathered, including freshly made soups for starters, delectable and mouthwatering mains courses, followed by pudding, fruit, cake, and a cheese board for afters. We owe a lot to Jeremy’s skills and generous contribution of cooking up a storm in the kitchen, let alone the couple of added notches on our belts!
Saturday morning began with a game share session led by Jon Beedell of The Desperate Men, followed by ‘Dynamic Exploration of the Jungian Dreamscape’ (our regular Blindfold Football match) and a simultaneous session on our inspiration and motivation, and the core question ‘why do we do this?’ led by James MacPherson of Artizani Street Theatre, based on his PhD research on contemporary practices of performance in public space.
The NASA AGM followed, giving us a great opportunity to find out what more we could be doing, and what people like that we are already doing. We heard updates on our latest constitutional and organisational shift towards a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) as voted for by our membership. We discussed plans for our RTS project (Reframe The Streets) which creates opportunities and mentoring for writers generating a critical response in the industry, which we strongly feel is lacking. We also heard the latest ideas around developing mentoring within the outdoor arts field, and of the potential for further Labs. We reviewed an accounts report from our treasurer Jules Howarth and discussed social media and best practices.
We also added 4 new members to the management committee – the NASA steering group, also known as mission control. We welcome Imwen Eke, Mel Stevens, Sonya Moorhead and Dave Spathaky aboard the Mothership.
After a 3 course lunch, we heard a provocation from Jeremy Shine (FLOI’s resident Head Chef Supremo) – challenging us to consider what subjects we are making work about. What is the message? And what we are trying to say with it? After that we all had to lie down on the ground and laugh a whole lot, seriously. As part of a very funny haha laughter yoga session generously led by Jo Galbraith.
Anna Shotter and Gareth Price Baghurst shared work in progress The Brothers, which ran alongside a session on battery powered wearable audio looping kit from Simon Panrucker, and a discussion on the perception of disability in the arts chaired by Mel Stevens.
This was followed by a much-needed cup of tea (or coffee), emergency biscuits, and of course cake (including fresh home baking offerings from Sonya Moorhead).
Next was a session on combining pervasive gaming and performance, where participants tested the game dynamics of a new piece in development The Sorrowful Stag by Keri Sparkes. This happened in tandem with a session on self-organising and creating through working on paper led by Dave Spathakey.
John Beedell read us aloud his challenge to the world, to the need to protest, to create and live creatively, in the face of it all.
Our second guest speaker Heba El-Cheikh of Mahatat Collective in Egypt talked to us about her work as a producer creating engaging public art works in the community – from opera on balconies, to communal mosaics and circus on the metro.
After dinner entertainments included one minute games, songs, swazzle and nose trumpet duets, throwing balls at a man spinning in his wheel, elusive magic tricks, tissue box game competitions, an interactive audio video installation, potato swinging, measuring tape balancing, a psychic and her assistant in a caravan (from Joanne Tremarco and Chris Murray of Fool Size Theatre), a ping pong pang pung tournament, a ‘tie the balloon on the stag’ hunt and a wordy sparkler protest (thanks to Mandy Dike). Not just your average Saturday night!
Sunday began with Floriane Gaber leading a session on the notion of ‘where do I come from’ and how our origins bring us to where we are today as artists.
The Fabularium team lead a Sheep based group flocking exercise, while Simon Panrucker and Katie Storer delivered a performance of improvised storytelling with improvised music out on the lawn.
Emergency coffee and cake was necessary at this stage.
Next up, Mahatat Collective’s Heba El-Cheikh led a workshop with colleague Reem Khedr on their working process, in parallel to a discussion led by Garth Williams and Sonya Moorhead on options of Artist’s Salon formats, asking how best we can encourage localised peer support groups of artists in overcoming creative obstacles and maintaining connection to their practice.
Paschale Straiton and Phil Haynes then led us in making banners and signs as we took to Greenham Common in a FLOI protest march, in part tribute to the Greenham protests of the 80’s and in the light of the recent Women’s March. We protested, marched, shared images and stories that resonate with us from protests and oppositional movements around the globe, then posed for some pics and chanted in full voiced “what do we want?!” style before heading back for a discussion between Kim Tillbrook and Dave Spathaky about Dave’s career background and inspirations. All before a big sunday roast lunch and a fresh batch of fond farewells.
We did an incredible amount of fun, inspirational, creative juice boosting, altogether crazy stuff – all in less than 48 hours, with a great turnout of 38 attendees. This event more than most, is the sum of its participants, and for that we are very grateful to all who managed to make it along this year.
FLOI is a generous and spirited event, giving us lots to celebrate and collaborate with, and inspiring us to keep creating in the year ahead. You can see why we do it. The answer is in the name, For the Love Of It!
All of the weekends antics were brilliantly captured by our very own Rebeka Haigh in superb visual minutes, with added drawings by Christopher Murray.
Big thank you’s to all involved and especially to 101 for hosting us. This is the second FLOI to be hosted at the 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space, thanks to Simon Chatterton, Juliet Coveney and the team at the Corn Exchange in Newbury. We look forward to the potential of further collaboration with 101 in NASA’s future endeavours.
Next year we very much look forward to bringing FLOI 18 to Salford in Greater Manchester, to the brand new Walk the Plank headquarters – The Cobden Works. Look out for updates and info on the NASA UK Facebook page, by signing up to our newsletter, and on our twitter and website.
Join NASA UK for just £20 per year here. – Keep your ear to the tracks and stay in the loop. We have lots to offer in the way of support for outdoor artists.
Words and Pics by Garth Williams