The script in which Brandie and I have created to explain our placement journey which is supported with our presentation of primary images.
NADIA: Five Short Blasts is a journey in a boat, where you listen to the sound of the environment and the sound of the people in that environment. Audiences are cast of to sea where they can experience these pre-recorded sound pieces and voices in a peaceful environment that allows them to really connect with the performance. Being at sea makes experience instantly calming and quite meditative, you could almost drift of to sleep.
BRANDIE: Similarly, For the Birds is an immersive night time experience that invites the public to navigate a woodland environment in a completely new light, literally. Guided by a string of fairy lights in complete darkness, you make your way through a 2 kilometre trail through the woods. The trail is illuminated by a series of bespoke sound and light installations designed by artists currently working in the UK. If were not so beautiful it would of actually been quite scary.
NADIA: The nature of both of these performances means that they were heavily reliant on outdoor spaces.
BRANDIE: And with our gorgeous English weather, you can imagine not everything went entirely to plan. You’d think an organisation as big as Brighton festival would run fairly smoothly, but going on these placements made us realise that working in the industry can be just as hectic and unexpected as being a student, but even more so because you really have to just deal with whatever is thrown as you.
NADIA: Both our placements experienced a series of obstacles that they had to overcome daily to ensure the performances still went ahead and on schedule. Firstly, Five Short Blast was initially meant to be based in Shoreham port. All the sound recordings and voices were from Shoreham and it’s residents, and it was designed to give you a personal insight to the town whilst you were on its waters. So you can imagine audiences were a little confused when they were relocated to Brighton Marina. Shoreham had high tide, which meant the waters were too choppy for a boat to travel on making it a major healthy and safety issue. This meant that the performance was moved to Brighton Marina where the sea was more steady. This instantly set the artists back because they felt like their sound pieces no longer correlated with their setting, essentially doctoring the whole experience.
BRANDIE: And I’m sure you’ve all heard about For the Bird’s first obstacle, the whole reason why my placement was set back. A number of members of the public raised concerns about the installations potential impact on nesting birds. A petition was signed by over 1500 people urging the Festival to postpone the performance so that it did not take place within nesting season. The petition said: We are not against art or creativity but the timing of this creative performance and its impact has been dangerously overlooked with potentially fatal consequences for our wildlife. Not only this year, but impacting future population and generations of species in the area.”
The festival responded by saying “Neither Brighton Festival nor the artists take this lightly. Indeed the work itself is intended to celebrate the mystery and beauty of the avian world and highlight why it should be protected.” When on the placement i struggled to ask further questions about this because it was already a very hostile and stressed environment. I didn’t need to add more stress by reminding them what they had been through.
NADIA: Yeah, talking about the incidents wasn’t easy as both teams were trying to make the best out a bad situation. To add to the relocation, when the artists arrived at Brighton Marina they found that there were not any boats waiting for them. They then had to frantically search for boats that could be hired to ensure the performance could still go ahead. This was frustrating as it was completely out of the artists hands and down to the festivals lack of organisation. They had been told everything was sorted. You could tell how this had affected the artists’ trust in the festival, and desire to work with them again. Valerie, a performance coordinator, mentioned how she doubted the artists would come back to work with the festival after all that had gone wrong, which is a shame because they love the variety of people from Brighton that come to enjoy the show.
BRANDIE: The second incident was one that Kate, the production manager, was keen to talk about. Travelling with the show meant that she had seen it come to life in several locations, and she said that this was the first where they had experienced theft. The work is usually set up in much more rural environments so the ‘secret location’ actually remains a secret, and lets be honest the crime rate tends to be lower. This years location, although hidden (it took us 40 minutes to find it) was still off of a main road and a frequent location for dog walkers. Eventually they noticed bits of the work going missing or being broken overnight. Leaving parts of the trail up had never been an issue before, but because of the more urban environment and everything that comes with that, this year they were having to put everything up and then take everything down within the same day. This made the preparatory process much more time consuming and labour intensive than it had ever been before. Meaning more people had to be hired and longer hours had to be worked. This all costs time and money and stress that they didn’t anticipate. It was obvious how this had even dampened the spirits of the team who said they were initially excited about setting up in such a lively and exciting city.
NADIA: The final obstacle that both Five Short Blasts and For The Birds experienced was rain, and there was a lot of it. Fortunately my visit was on a good day, and the artists mentioned how I got the perfect weather for the experience. Not only would rain make the experience less peaceful, and more uncomfortable to sit in, it also proved to be quite a heavy health and safety risk that was sometimes enough to cancel the show completely.
BRANDIE: But I worked for 5 hours in the pouring rain and it was definitely not on a good day. Everything on my placement was centred around defeating the rain, which was practically impossible considering it didn’t stop. One of things that was worrying Kate the most was the fear that the audience would have to wait in the rain for their shuttle bus that took them to the location to arrive. She said that if somebody has been waiting in the rain for too long at the start, no matter how much they enjoy the performance that initial wait will taint their experience of the whole show. We tend to remember the bad things, and this is was usually get passed on to their reviews.
The main reason that the rain was such a nuisance however was that it made the paths unsafe for the audience to walk around in in the dark. Me and Gabriel nearly slipped multiple times, and this was an obvious sign that something needed to be done about them before the public arrived. Therefore for the duration of our placement we were instructed to accompany Jake (who was initially hiring as a lighting assistants but happened to draw the short straw with us) to pave the muddy parts of the pathways with wood chips to soak up the moisture. We would fill up the back of a buggy with the wood chips and drive them down to the muddy area and then spread them over the area. By the end of the night I was exhausted from heavy lifting, wet, muddy and to the least bit impressed. But it was all worth it to then walk down our perfectly safe paths and view the show.
NADIA: Through these placements we have realised that despite how much planning and preparing you can do, when relying on an outdoor space you have got to be prepared for the worst to happen. And when it does you need to respond quickly because you have the public relying on you.
BRANDIE: Although neither of our placement experiences were particularly enriching, they have helped us gain an insight into the world of events management, and the types of roles and attitudes needed to put on a successful show.