Hmm, that’s possibly an unintentionally apt blog title on EURef day, but this post isn’t about that. It’s actually a kind of apology that, when there’s only 3 of you and everyone (not just in the company) seems to be busier than they’ve ever been making great new things, other things fall off your radar and sometimes just fall apart.
For a long time now, Talking Birds has wanted to make ‘The Cart’. Janet, in particular, has been trying to shoehorn it into what feels like every project for the last 10 years. It surfaced as the germ of an idea for a joint (unsuccessful) proposal that we made to Playable Cities with Ludic Rooms; then again as part of a city-wide Pop-Up Cities Conference that didn’t happen with Artspace, Dan Thompson and Theatre Absolute; another unsuccessful evolution of The Cart was entered into the City Arcadia open call…
But it was too good an idea to shelve and also, perhaps, too complex (or vague!) an idea to articulate well?
Talking Birds’ work is about people and places, and over the years we’ve usually gone out and made that work with what we have found in the places where the people are. But The Cart is a little bit different. In a way, perhaps it’s an intersection between our site-specific work and our peripatetic engagement work with, for example, The Oakmobile. Anyway, it wasn’t until Coventry got serious about bidding for UK City of Culture 2021, that we realised there was perhaps a Cart-shaped gap in that process, and that teaming up with the Coventry2021 team could finally make The Cart happen.
We’ve found it hard to describe The Cart in a pithy way, because we want it to be so many things and to be used in lots of different ways, for lots of different things – but perhaps “pop-up workshop space and community engagement environment” might do for now? It’s something that can pop-up across the city (and beyond) offering a friendly, relaxed, comfortable and welcoming space to have a conversation over coffee, over a shared activity such as stitching or a game, or maybe even over a free haircut. An exchange of some kind. Something which allows parents to stop and chat whilst their children play. Something that can go to where people are, and engage them on their terms – visiting neighbourhoods, parks, nurseries; joining existing events or forming the focus of new ones; mapping the cultural engagement in the city on a micro-level, where it’s about people rather than statistics, about communities rather than about wards, about human connections and the things we do together.
The Coventry2021 team and Coventry City Council recognised The Cart’s potential: and so we’re delighted to announce that The Cart is finally happening – with its first outing in the #ThisisCoventry tent at Godiva Festival on July 3rd.
Obviously, this is brilliant and terrifying in almost equal measure – that idea, so long in the gestation is finally being realised and is about to be tested: the first step in finding out what we can do with this new tool. And so, for us, there has been a lot of work in a relatively compressed period of time – and while we’ve been busy sorting it all out, getting everything ready, our website (for one thing) is falling apart! No-one really has time to write a blogpost (I’m on borrowed time for this one), the tool that used to catapult our instagram feed onto the front page has gone out of business (without letting us know) and our What’s On page is missing much of the other stuff we’re also doing.
Maybe that’s inevitable. Maybe sometime we’ll catch up with ourselves. Maybe you’re busy too and you’ll understand. Hopefully you’ll come and see us and The Cart at Godiva and let us know whether it was worth it.
Work in Progress pics of The Cart (Cultural Action Research Tool??)