London 2012 Open Weekend 09 – Northwest

My experience of the Open Weekend focused on two Inspire mark projects  that were especially created for the London 2012 Open Weekend – and took me on a journey from Liverpool to Penrith across 24th – 26th July.

Places of Public Resort - Liverpool

Places of Public Resort - Liverpool

In the heart of the Liverpool City Centre on the BBC Big Screen was a new kind of film experience which invited public going about their daily busy of shopping and transiting through the city to stop, pause and spend some time watching short news clips of archive footage of  key cultural moments in the Northwest in the 1960’s, 1970’s and  1980’s. By waving my arms in front of one of the four small screens displayed, I could activate the video carousel and watch footage of when bboy culture came to the streets of Manchester in the late 80s, of the end of the Open Air Baths in 1963 and its beauty competitons hosted in Blackpool, judged by Morecombe and Wise! and the day the Pope came to Manchester. This Open Weekend and Inspire mark project entitled Places of Public Resort had delved into the NW film archive to construct small news pieces from significant moments in the Northwest’s cultural history and what it made it even more fun was that the work invited me to be the curator of what I wanted to watch. The public seemed amused, bemused, amazed and fascinated both by the content and the mechanism for activating it. More of this please in the future and perhaps some clearer instruction – not everyone understood how to work it.

Following on from this innovative experiment in digital culture, I made my way up north to Cumbria and Penrith where this rural market town was hosting an electic mix of dance work in its streets.

Dance Daze - Penrith

Dance Daze - Penrith

A rainy Sunday afternoon did not dampen the enthusiasm of locals and out of towners who turned up for Dance Daze – a new festival of outdoor dance created especially for the London 2012 Open Weekend by the organisers of Lakes Alive.  Ragoof theatre hosted a stylish afternoon tea dance for people of all ages who joined in learning steps to the sounds of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. It was fun to watch and even more fun to take part in it.

Some of my highlights were experiencing the Lunatics – ten dancers aged 18 – 30 from Spain exploring the return to origin of the pure bboying, yet mixing it with different dance styles and some acrobatics. As far as performance goes, this stuff was riveting – play in space with the body at its best. Similarly testing the laws of motion and bodily sensing were the Balletboyz – who presented a thrilling and complex movement piece, subltely constrasting the rough of the street and its pavements with the soft and languid language of male group interplay with touch and physical communication .

Lunaticks - Penrith

Lunaticks - Penrith

Quite spectacular were Srishti – with Bend it –a group of dancers combining the footwork of football and Bharatanatyam. Not sure I have even seen a game of football quite performed like this. As an example of the marriage between art and sport and between cooperation and competition, this work was inspiring.  Art in the streets seems to me to be a lot of what the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is and should be about. Both projects attracted and reached an audience who I am sure would not have gone to see dance or new video in a theatre or venue. The aspiration to foster innovation and creativity and promote engagement and participation amongst diverse communities is proving to be a truth for London 2012. Things can only get bigger and better for the two more Open Weekend’s to go before the games is upon us. Bring it on.

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~ by Debbi Lander on July 26, 2009.

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