The River Sherbourne, which runs culverted under Coventry city centre, has always been a bit of a draw to artists making work about the city. CityArcadia, Coventry Artspace’s new project space opened last night with a beautifully evocative piece by Kathryn Hawkins called [river] and featuring genuine drops of the Sherbourne. In times past, the route of the Sherbourne has been the inspiration for Talking Birds’ audio trail ‘CityScapes’, and several of our Artists in Waiting and Decathlon pieces to name but a few. More recently, we’ve returned to the river once more – and have this time been working with Ashley Brown (aka one half of previous FarGoSpace residents Ludic Rooms) on a phone-based way to explore the slightly shameful secret of the city’s relationship with its water.

The resulting piece: Trails of the Unexpected Vol 1 is now (softly) good to go, and we’re looking for people who find themselves in the middle of Coventry with their mobile and an hour or so to spare to have a go and then let us know what they think. It’s a bit of a treasure hunt – you have to follow picture clues which lead you to locations where you can then access, a fragment at a time, the river’s stories (which tread a fine line between the real and the fictional) via your mobile browser.

Although inspired and shaped by the river, the trail is perhaps really an invitation to look closely at the fabric of the city – in the way that no-one who lives here actually looks at it anymore: “This city has a slightly ambivalent relationship with water. It embraces it in the ‘right’ places and hides it in the ‘wrong’ places. Maybe that’s not so unusual. I couldn’t say. But this water, well, it doesn’t stay hidden, it oozes out of any holes it can find, up through the pores of this city whenever it gets the chance. And each time it escapes into the open, it brings out all the stories that it carries under the city with it…”

To find out more, including how to access the trail – have a look at the Trails of the Unexpected page of our website.

[This trail was originally presented at the 2014 conference of the International Federation for Theatre Research, themed “Theatre & Stratification”.]

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