Cartwheelin’, an outdoor performance piece with a processional element was successful in its aim of engaging people in different parts of Dorset who have little engagement with outdoor performance and in connecting them to the Olympic sailing events and the large scale Battle for the Winds (BFTW) performance in Weymouth and Portland 2012. Cartwheelin’ was a partnership project between Satellite Arts, Activate Performing Arts and Niki McCretton, the Lead Artist for Dorset BFTW.
Satellite Arts opted to work in three communities throughout Dorset to deliver the project. The aim was to get these communities to experience live outdoor performance and to make them feel more connected with the Olympic sailing events in the County. The areas were chosen as Christchurch is to the far east of the county, Shaftesbury to the far North and Bridport to the far West.
Artists employed on the project were Rob Lee, Marc Parrett, Niki McCretton, Herbie Treehead, Lorna Rees, Heidi Steller, Sarah Butterworth and Jonathan Croose (Jonathan is a PHD student and performer using the project as research into Carnival and creative community). We also worked with recording artist Andy Hannaford for one session and photographer Jak Bennet for one day as well as two video artists from State of Mind Media.
Other partners/funders included: DepARTure Arts, Christchurch Infants School, Gobbledegook Theatre, North Dorset District Council, BFTW and Maritime Mix: London 2012 Cultural Olympiad By the Sea.
With kind support from Bridport Arts Centre, Christchurch Junior School, Shaftesbury School, Gold Hill Fair Committee and Bridport St Marys School. We were also assisted by the Lyric Theatre intern (a student at Plymouth University) Suzanne Danebury and work experience student, Laurie Parrett as well as volunteers Irene Archibald, Josh Petitdemange, Catherine Devenish, Mike Petitdemange, Ros Conlon and Tilly Dixon.
500 school children participated in ‘collecting’ wind for the cart within their schools and we worked with 50 participants from the communities we visited who made wind catching devices. We estimate that we had audiences of well over 1800 people - who saw the cart on its travels through their community or engaged with the performance.
We had a slightly reduced number of audience numbers than anticipated (our original estimate was 2000) - due to the appalling weather conditions. For example, we were in Shaftesbury on the wettest day of the year. The annual Gold Hill Fair, which would usually have 5000 people, only had five hundred or so in attendance. We have still nearly reached our audience target despite these adverse conditions and we have hugely increased our participation numbers by 53% from 360 to 550 people. We also performed at the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival as part of a trial run for the cart, and we estimate we performed to a further 2000 people at this event.
To summarise, in all three areas Bridport, Shaftesbury and Christchurch it was clear that the cart was received extremely well as it interacted with children and members of the public. 100% of the audiences who filled in evaluation forms said that they had enjoyed the performance, and 100% also felt that the event was original.
Teachers have expressed how their students enjoyed the ‘wind catching devices’ in all of the three schools we worked in, some of which were significantly different to one another. In St Mary’s, Sarah Butterworth used helium balloons, in Christchurch Lorna Rees created large wind carts, songs and Heidi Steller made large windy flags in Shaftesbury. At each school the link between the Olympic Sailing events and the Battle for the Winds was made very clear to all the pupils and as one teacher said in Christchurch “We are so far away from Weymouth even though we’re in Dorset, but now we feel part of it all!”
At St Mary’s School a teacher commented “Exactly right for our school – it was so much fun!” and in Shaftesbury one pupil wrote “I enjoyed the music the most, and the painting, basically, I enjoyed all of it!” At Christchurch Infants School another teacher commented “we have had so much fun! It’s been a fantastic few days and the children have got really engaged by the project” and another teacher was moved to tears “by the beautiful singing”.
At Christchurch Infants School the work formed a significant part of their arts week programme and their Olympic Theme. The head-teacher commented that it was “great fun” and “fantastic”, with staff similarly impressed. One six year old participant said: “I liked singing the Dorset Wind Song and I loved the wind cart”.
Each school received a giant wind certificate to commemorate and thank them for their wind generation.
The artists (some of whom had not previously worked together) have forged strong working relationships and will continue to work together. Jon Croose said of Rob Lee that meeting him had been ‘the best collaboration of his working career.’ They are currently working together on a workshop with Inside Out Dorset, linked to the Harmonic Fields on Portland. Other comments from the artists include:
"A truly unique and fascinating project , brilliant interactive performance - loads of fun and the performers are terrific."
- Niki McCretton (lead artist)
"Thanks again to you [Wendy], Catherine and Kate for such an amazing opportunity. I am still buzzing from the weekend, and I have learned so much and made such great new friends and colleagues."
- Jon Croose (Performer and PhD student, Exeter University)
"It was totally and utterly brilliant wasn't it? Massive thanks Wendy for your unerring support and energy! I really hope we get to work together again one day!!"
- Marc Parrett, Artist
"I just wanted to say what a brilliant day we had in Christchurch – Cartwheelin’ was absolutely fantastic. Despite the rotten weather, dreadful puncture on the trailer, flooding, delayed school timescale and everything else, it really was an amazing day. The school were absolutely buzzing afterwards and the headteacher was delighted with the work. I’ve never seen the Christchurch Infants entire staff team - with every single teacher, TA, receptionist, support staff, IT support man, parent helpers, site manager and all 377 pupils from all 14 classes join together and sing – it was a really amazing moment. The whole school were so thrilled to be part of the event and it has to be one of my very best and proudest moments working as Artist in Residence at Christchurch Infants. Our artwork has formed a large part of a fantastic display at the school’s summer open evening. We really did make something very special happen. Thanks and congratulations to Wendy for making it happen, and to everyone that has worked on the project."
- Lorna Rees (Performer and Community Artist)
"Just wanted to take the opportunity to say again how much I enjoyed the project and to thank you for all your lovely support and encouragement!"
- Rob Lee (Musician and performer)