Volunteer Singers Needed!

image1We’re looking for volunteer singers to join our Backstage Choir, to perform on Sunday 10th September in ‘Backstage at the Albany Theatre’ as part of Spon Spun Festival and Heritage Open Days in Coventry.

Rehearsal schedule is as follows:
Tues 29th Aug 6-7.30pm (initial get-together/find out about the project)
Sun 3rd Sept 2-4pm
Tues 5th 6-7.30pm
Sat 9th 12.30-2.30pm [*note time change*]
Sun 10th Performance day 9.30 – 5pm

(Singers must be aged 18+ and be able to attend at least 2 rehearsals before the day of the performance).

If you are interested in joining the choir please contact Jodie Dickson on 07342 882 665 or jodie.dickson@albanytheatre.co.uk

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A city’s heartbeat has many rhythms.

Guest Blog from writer Mark Hancock.

Coventry sits at the heart of the country like a heartbeat, feeding the major arteries of the United Kingdom. But there’s a funny thing about heartbeats, you get so used to them being there that you end up ignoring them and forgetting how vital they are to your whole being. But of course, without it, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you won’t last much longer.

For many of its citizens, Coventry is the heartbeat that keeps us going from minute to minute, marking out the distinct patterns of our lives and refreshing our bloodstream. You can become so used to it though, you might have to keep reminding yourself that it’s there and just how vitally important it is.

On the 15th December, as part of the Talking Birds Cart entourage (on this night, a live band – The Upsiders, HMS Cupcake, offering cakes and hot drinks and filmmaker Rachel Bunce), we set up camp underneath the ring road flyover on Gosford Street to capture the cultural heartbeats of Coventry’s citizens.

One woman I spoke to told me how her family had been in Coventry their whole lives and she name checked at least two of the well known clubs from the late 70s and early 80s. She had moved away from Coventry, spending several years abroad and was now back studying for a PhD. We talked of the draw of Coventry and that desire to be a part of the city and make something good here.

That making something good can suggest to some people that Coventry wants to return to a golden era when everything was fantastic and if only it could be like that again. But the city has changed and evolved beyond all recognition. It’s important, as part of Coventry’s bid to be the UK’s City of Culture in 2021 that people don’t over emphasis this illusion of returning to glory. While nobody wants to forget that Delia Derbyshire was born here and went on to be one of the first women electronic music pioneers, let alone the person who created the original Doctor Who theme, we must look at the present.

I chatted (and we filmed) a young skater, who talked about the skate scene in the city. We both had thoughts on how the architects of the city worked to prevent skaters using the public zones of the inner city (there are also of course, good skate parks in the city) and how they overcame those obstacles. It reminded me that a city isn’t only the sanctioned areas of cultural production, but the unofficial ones as well. People will find their own routes to make a rich and engaging cultural life. If by winning the 2021 bid, there’s an opportunity to make that heartbeat loud enough to be noticed by the whole country, then they’ll have done a favour to everyone who makes up the life force of the city.

thecart-21 [originally published on project blog https://thecart.wordpress.com/]

Art & culture under the ring road

On Thursday, we’re taking The Cart out to the top of Gosford Street. We’ll be inviting passers by to join us for free tea and cake and music. Free in exchange for ideas, that is! We’re hoping for a bit of a chat about great cultural moments – to look at things that HAVE happened here and imagine what COULD happen here (especially if Coventry were to be/is announced as City of Culture in 2021).

As a starter, we did a stream-of-consciousness round up of some of Cov’s ace past moments. And it was such a lovely nostalgia-fest it felt like it should be shared…so here goes. How many of them do you recognise? How many were you at? (Yes, we know it’s selective – it’s merely a stream-of-consciousness handful – apologies for the millions of other brilliant moments not yet included – please remind us of them via the comments).

A man, illuminated by a massive searchlight, walks across a tightrope stretched between the spires of Holy Trinity and the old Cathedral.

A channel drilled in the concrete floor of the gallery in the shape of the river is filled with glass jars of river water and lighted candles.

A small group are guided to walk in a straight line across the car park rooftop and admire the view over the coalfield.

A giantess walks around the square, propelled by steampunk attendants who make her head turn slowly, her eyelids blinking in wonder at the kneehigh people staring up at her.

A child running ahead of its parents realises that it is responsible for changing the coloured lights that line the walkway, and doubles back to do it again.

A pile of televisions, each showing an enormous eye, totters gently as a woman holding a red balloon places another tv on the top.

Ballroom dancers on stilts launch hundreds of gently-glowing chinese lanterns into the air over the crowd filling the empty city centre car park.

A group of young people carrying candlelit lanterns gathers outside an empty shop, the site of a former theatre. They sing a song of hope and remembrance and they lay flowers.

A man and woman argue over a chip supper in a theatre that was once a chip shop. Passers by who remember the chip shop, and know it has closed down, look through the windows, confused.

Huge animal puppets, manipulated by citizens of Coventry and Galway, process joyfully around the cathedral ruins as the ark is built around them.

An aluminium whale sits quietly by the fountain. It’s jaws open every so often and a smiling person emerges, carefully holding a small, folded piece of paper.

The Montagues and Capulets, played by people who live on a street named after the playwright, battle it out in the square. As Mercutio dies, he is borne aloft and cries ‘A plague on both your houses’.

Hundreds of breezeblock dominoes are laid in a long, winding line across the city centre. As they fall, some members of the crowd run shortcuts across the city to try and catch up with them.

Diggers dance, turning intimate circles around each other. As they turn, human dancers hang off their buckets and link hands.

A violinist plays a lament, a hundred years to the hour after another violinist was killed at the Somme.

In the pouring rain, a waterproofed trio are guided by text message to find markers around the city centre and send back thoughts, images and stories to two artists hunched over computers in the dry.

A cage is set up and people gagged with duct tape sit inside the cage to represent asylum seekers, including children, being detained without charge. Passers by are shocked. Some weep.

Russian and English child musicians join together to play a newly written song of friendship between their cities.

An artist gently dismantles things others have discarded. He examines the negative space, makes new things of beauty out of the rubbish and talks to the people who visit him in his studio.

Projected patterns play on a shop window. Outside, passers by realise they can change the patterns: they move closer, then further away. They sweep the shop’s window with their fingertips and squeal with joy as the pattern follows.

In an empty warehouse, a woman performs. She sits naked, cold, at a table covered with a white cloth, under rosy red apples suspended on invisible strings. She peels apples, littering the space with the red of their skins.

Three performers move wheeled staircases through pools of lights from the far end of a very long room, until they are right in front of the audience, demanding that they see the surprise witness.

There is a wishing well filling the stairwell. A woman writes her wish and drops it down the chute. Hearing the satisfying clunk as it hits the bottom, a child rushes up the stairs with their own wish and drops it through the grating.

On Thursday join us, The Upsiders and HMS Cupcake under the lit flyover from 4-6.

#2021blue

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To support Coventry’s bid for the City of Culture in 2021 we’ve come up with the slightly daunting task of collecting two thousand and twenty one Coventry photos featuring the colour blue. So far Coventry’s Tweeters and Instagrammers have taken up the baton admirably – there were over 100 posts on Instagram in the first week! But, y’know, 2021 is a *lot* of photos so we need all the help we can get! If you are on Twitter or Instagram, please join in this new game: get spotting the colour blue out and about in the city and add your photos by tagging them #2021blue and #thisiscoventry – in the words of Captain Barnacle “Coventry, let’s do this!”.

Montague’s Song – a re-uniting, and a reprise

A very special moment happened on Saturday when, 100 years to the hour when he was lost at the Battle of the Somme, Coventry violinist Montague Johnson’s Memorial Plaque (colloquially known as a Dead Man’s Penny) was re-united with his city. The medal had been discovered in 1963 by Kim Kenny, as a 5 year old girl, in a shed in the garden of her then home in Allesley. She looked after it over those intervening years, long since having moved away from Coventry – and it was her who brought it to the premiere of Montague’s Song at St John the Baptist Church (where Montague’s name is recorded on a stained glass window). It was revealed part way through the performance, to the surprise of Ray Hammond, a relative of Montague’s, who was in the audience.

medal_reunited
L-R: Chris O’Connell (writer, narrator); Kim Kenny & Ray Hammond (with the medal); Derek Nisbet (composer, musician). Photo: Alan Van Wijgerden

The medal will go on display later this month at the Visitor’s Centre in War Memorial Park, on a cushion specially created by textile artist Julia O’Connell of Theatre Absolute, (co-producer of Montague’s Song). This completes the circle, as it was the picture of Montague there in the ‘Missing Faces’ exhibition that began the search for his story, nearly 3 years ago.

The church was full on Saturday so by popular demand we’re doing a reprise performance (with a collection in aid of St John’s) this Sunday 11th Sept at 1pm. No booking needed (it’s part of the church  Heritage Open Day events) but early arrival advised!

https://www.facebook.com/events/608944519275493/

 

Montague’s Song – An intimate Requiem for a lost Coventry violinist

We sing a story of the soldiers of The Somme

Of whom one from Coventry was named, Montague.

Theatre Absolute and Talking Birds present Montague’s Song, an intimate Requiem for Coventry violinist Montague Johnson, who was lost at the Battle of the Somme exactly 100 years to the hour of this performance.

His story will be told, and the mystery of a discovery made many years later will be uncovered.

Performed by Derek Nisbet, Chris O’Connell and Elinor Coleman.

 

Date: Saturday 3rd September 2016

Time: 6pm (Doors 5.30pm)

Venue: St John’s Church, Fleet Street, Coventry CV1 3AY

Running time: 30 mins approx

(followed by drinks at the Shop Front Theatre, 38 City Arcade, Coventry, CV1 3HW)

Admission: £4 (£3 concessions) via OxBoffice: https://www.oxboffice.com/EventDetails.aspx?eid=18020 Tel 0845 6801926

This performance can be captioned (subtitled) to your mobile device via Talking Birds’ The Difference Engine. To use this service or for any other access enquiries please e-mail: access@talkingbirds.co.uk

Very busy weekend coming up

Here are the details of our various outings this weekend (you can find timings etc here):

On Friday, Beyond the Water’s Edge, live poetry from around the world, opens at The Belgrade Theatre. Produced by our friends at Midland Creative Projects, the show features visuals and music from the Birds.

On Saturday, the Whale is surfacing at the Darnhill Festival in Heywood, while the Cricketers take their inimitable brand of sporting buffoonery to The Hat Fair in Winchester.

Then on Sunday, the Whale will be at Godiva Festival in Coventry in the #ThisisCoventry tent helping to launch Coventry’s bid to become UK City of Culture 2021.

The Cart will also be in the #ThisisCoventry tent, where artist Julia O’Connell and writer Vanessa Oakes will be working with us collecting cultural moments from visitors to the tent to add to the #ThisisCoventry tablecloth. You can join us for as long or short a conversation as you like, stitching optional. We look forward to seeing you there!