This weekend saw a live screening of HOME, a vertical dance performance about the incredible city we live in, Coventry.
When Highly Sprung were initially approached by the Great People and Places team to create a performance that celebrated the city’s architecture and the people that live within its historic walls, we immediately felt the need to create a performance that encouraged audiences to ‘look up’ and so a fantastic partnership with project associates Upswing Aerial was formed.
Coventry has long been associated with a sense of disdain of looking down, for centuries the phrase “sent to Coventry” as a throw-back to a sentiment coined during the English civil war when Royalist prisoners were imprisoned in Coventry. Add the devastating events of World War II to this and well it’s understandable why Coventry and its inhabitants may feel like there might not be many reasons to hold their heads high. Home was made to highlight the incredible positives this city has to offer and give everyone a reason to hold their head high, not just so they can see a performance 50 metres in the air, but as a reminder of the potential of the City. It just needs the self-belief of its residents to enable it to fly.
Auditions started with over 100 applicants from across the globe. Alongside Vicki Amedume from Upswing Aerial, Sarah, the Executive Director from Highly Sprung whittled the performers down to 20 for an audition in Coventry before reducing the number again, down to 6 to see what the young artists could do whilst in a harness and more importantly, at height.
As a company who have been working with children, young people and emerging artists, you cannot imagine how proud Highly Sprung were to see so many of their former students, apprentices and associate artists make the final auditions… Yes! We do have talent in this city.
Circus pioneers, Upswing Aerial lead on the creation of the performance with a host of local talent based in Coventry and the region; three locally based artists were trained in one of Coventry University’s gym halls. A local, award winning, composer, Tom Haines was commissioned to create a vivid soundtrack and Illuminos, a video projection company partnered us to help the team convey the epic narrative of Coventry.
Written by Mark Worth, Artistic Director of Highly Sprung, Home tells the story of a city awaiting it’s time; Like a chrysalis waiting for its rebirth. Coventry’s rich heritage in manufacturing and engineering was paid homage to, with projections of watches, cars, ribbons and even houses placed on a conveyor belt of growth. This was a demonstration of how Coventry grew to the highest heights of industry before recession, austerity and the changing state of the world economy changed its trajectory. For Mark, writing this performance meant so much more than just re-telling the history of the city:
“I moved to Coventry in 1997 to go to University. The city I found myself in was clearly rich in history and had plenty of historic stories but what I remember of it was its way of forward thinking. It has always seemed to me to be a place that has been planning for the future and that’s what I wanted to celebrate in Home; That and its people. No matter where I go in the world, there is something special about the people of Coventry I haven’t experienced anywhere else. I think it’s their honesty and grounded nature. It’s that attitude and generosity of spirit that gives the city the strong foundations it has to build from… that’s what makes Coventry, Coventry, for me. Not it’s buildings nor its history, it’s the people that run through its veins.”
Highly Sprung wanted to ensure that the people of Coventry played an even bigger role within the performance inviting a strong cast of community performers and an incredible group of young people to add their voices and live dance and drama to the piece. Each week leading up to the live performance a group of community performers aged from 7 -> 77 explored the theme of HOME and created three, beautiful, short films about how they originally came to live in Coventry, the senses that their home evokes and a film about, the people that make their houses homes. Many of them also appeared during the performance too, their faces included in the projections on the wall; our city’s community, leading our performers out of the darkness they find themselves in at the start of the performance.
“Participating in HOME let me take a step back from my day to day and see what an amazing place Coventry is. I’ve made friends, that I know will be friends forever.” -Community performer
The young cast who performed on the ground while the aerial artists performed 50 metres above their heads, carried them themselves with poise despite their young age. For many their first experience of performing outside;
“I’ve never performed in front of so many people before, I’ve never performed outdoors before… in fact I’ve never been in anything like this before; It’s awesome!” -Participant (14 yrs)
For Highly Sprung HOME meant a lot more than just “putting on a show”, it was a note of thanks. A thank you letter to the city who have housed them for 20 years and an extra special thank you to all of its inhabitants who make it such a wonderful place to live, work and perform in.