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Posts Tagged ‘drive-by’

Back when I was a more regular reader of the New Yorker magazine, I used to love a tiny, bottom-of-the-column feature with the heading “There will always be an England.” The blurbs printed there tended to be about quirky individuals or happenings that struck the New Yorker editors as indelibly English. That’s what I thought of when I saw a recent article in the Guardian.

Steven Morris reports, “The book lovers of Appledore, a picturesque fishing village on the north Devon coast, are a resourceful, determined lot.

“When their library faced closure 14 years ago, they helped save it by launching a literary festival, which grew and developed year by year into one of the most popular cultural events in the south-west of England.

“And when the 2020 Appledore book festival was threatened with cancellation because of the Covid crisis, they came up with the bold idea of holding a coronavirus-secure drive-in event, believed to be the first in the UK.

“Over this weekend, hundreds of people will park-up in a field usually used as an archery range to listen from the safety of their cars to talks and readings on topics including politics, cooking, shepherding and gardening.

“If they are not distracted by the stunning views of the sea, they will hear the wise words of science writers, novelists and environmentalists relayed into their cars via their vehicles’ radios. …

“By March, when the UK went into lockdown, 45 authors had been booked for a nine-day festival this September. … Rather than cancel because of coronavirus, the organisers thought outside the box. They contacted a Devon events company, Waggle, which runs drive-in cinemas, and asked if they could do the same sort of thing in Appledore – but with books.

“They have had to reduce the number of events but are able to accommodate up to 120 cars for each session with up to five people in every vehicle. …

“Appledore and the surrounding area have traditionally been known as centres for fishing and shipbuilding rather than for a thriving arts scene. The festival is changing that.

“The area’s remoteness means that many local people have come to rely on the festival for an autumnal fix of culture. [But] navigating the rules and regulations to stage the drive-through festival has been a challenge. …

“Friends Rebecca Flashman and Debbie Moss, from Braunton, north Devon, arrived in an open-topped two-seater car with just enough room for a hamper packed with cucumber sandwiches and sparkling wine.

“ ‘We’re used to coming to open-air classical concerts,’ said Rebecca. ‘But we thought we’d give this a go.’

“Covid means, of course the festivalgoers cannot freely mingle but have to stay within boxes marked out with whitewash. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was warm and convivial.

“ ‘It felt surprisingly intimate,’ added Rebecca. “It’s wonderful to get out and do something cultural in these difficult times.’ …

Tobias Kennedy-Matthews, a local chimney sweep, had been given his ticket to the Harriott gig as a birthday present.

“He loved the chef’s tales about Ready Steady Cook and his culinary trips abroad. ‘It was brilliant. This is my first literary festival. I’ll definitely come again,’ he said.

“The festival founder, children’s author Nick Arnold, who lives in Appledore, said he had always been keen for the festival to be innovative. … ‘I always hoped that by coming up with new and exciting ideas we would attract attention.’

“Harriott had wondered how the audience would engage and how he would know if they had enjoyed his appearance. He needn’t have worried. He walked off not to the sound of applause but to the enthusiastic honking of car horns.”

More at the Guardian, here.

Photo: Jim Wileman/The Guardian
An interview and Q&A with the celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott opened a drive-by literary festival in England. Car horns told him it was a hit.

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Photo: Devin Muñoz
” ‘Cooped-Up’ is a contemporary dance performance viewed entirely from behind car windows,” reports Margo Vansynghel at
Crosscut.

I’m fascinated by all the different ways the arts are reaching out during our lockdown. Some efforts come off better than others, and a given organization may be kind of lame on one evening and on another delightful. We’re all learning as we go.

In this story, Seattle dancers offer performances for an audience in cars.

Margo Vansynghel writes at Crosscut, “Gedney Barclay sat in her idling car in a North Seattle Safeway parking lot, awaiting instructions. She could feel herself getting anxious. … She looked around — unsure of what would happen next — and glanced at the phone in her hand. The call from an unknown number would come anytime now. And then there would be no turning back.

“Barclay wasn’t involved in some kind of nefarious plot. She was about to participate in ‘Cooped-Up: Drive-in Dances for Cooped Up People,’ a contemporary dance performance by local company LanDforms, in which audience members view the proceedings through their own car windows. …

“Guided by pins on a digital map and a downloaded soundtrack — featuring songs,  poetry, a couple of old voicemail messages and mysterious clues — ticketed audience members drive through the city and visit performers at their homes. The dancers perform from porches, sun rooms, front yards, alleys and balconies while the audience, cocooned in 20 cars (one per household), drives up to watch at 10-minute intervals.

“ ‘It’s a wild journey all over Seattle,’ says LanDforms’ Leah Crosby. She and co-director Danielle Doell describe the show as a whimsical mashup of a drive-in movie, scavenger hunt, escape room and ‘durational performance’ tailored to and inspired by COVID-19 restrictions. Basically, they say, it’s like curbside pickup of food-to-go, but for dance. The first, mid-April performance of Cooped-Up sold out almost instantly. …

“Crosby and Doell are among the many local artists finding front yard and window workarounds to the stay-at-home order and ban on gatherings.

“Earlier in March, artist Rachel Kessler and On the Boards director Betsey Brock staged a citywide performance titled ‘Going the Social Distance,’ for which they collected song requests (and home addresses) from participants, donned cheerful costumes and biked to people’s houses blasting the songs through Bluetooth speakers. Isolated fine art photographers are venturing out to photograph people from a safe distance either outdoors or behind windows. In late April, KEXP radio DJ John Richards started broadcasting live concerts from his front yard. …

“Cooped-Up deals explicitly with our new corona-colored reality. In seven different dances created collaboratively over Zoom, the participating dancers bring their personal quarantine experiences (and corresponding cocktail of emotions) to the makeshift stage. However whimsical, the show doesn’t shy away from expressing the loneliness and the boredom specific to this cultural moment. …

“On a Zoom call with production manager (and frequent collaborator) Ari Kaufman in late March, the duo wondered: ‘How can we make a live performance right now?’ Doell says. …

“When Doell, who is also a youth educator, noticed that cooped-up kids in her neighborhood had been hunting for the stuffed animals neighbors placed in windows as a way to pass the time, she wondered, ‘Maybe we can make kind of a dance teddy bear hunt?’ …

“These are not improvised performances. Everything is timed to the minute, if not to the second: when the first audience member’s car leaves; when they should arrive at the next location; where every car should theoretically be at each point in the performance; when the next song is supposed to start; and when each dancer resumes their short loop. ….

‘At any given time during the show, there are basically seven miniperformances happening simultaneously, Crosby says. That’s a lot to keep track of.

“During the five-hour run of the show, she sits in her room in West Seattle, headphones on, surveying multiple screens and spreadsheets like an air traffic controller. Meanwhile, pacing in his kitchen about a dozen miles away, production manager Kaufman has his phone at the ready, in case a car gets lost or runs into any trouble. …

“The dancers, including Doell, say [they] miss the collective warmups and preshow rituals, the murmur as the audience trickles into the theater. When they’re done, there’s no applause. It’s a new shade of loneliness. But also one that has Doell reconnecting with her neighborhood, she says.

“ ‘A lot of neighbors were poking their heads out and being like: “Wow, what is happening?” ‘ Doell recalls. …

” ‘Normally, the audience member’s job is to pay money and then sit face-forward in a dark room where their identity is masked,’ she says. [In this performance, they] have to figure out where to go. Follow the clues. Find the dancer. Park by the gray garbage bin, not the green one — and don’t knock it over while backing up. …

“[Audience member Barclay] hadn’t ventured outside her neighborhood for a long time. Driving through the city was a poignant reminder of something she already knew: So many people, in house after apartment after studio, were going through the same isolation, the same loneliness. But for a few hours, from the relative safety of her car, Barclay felt like she’d made a connection — rekindled the kind of mutual appreciation between dancer and audience that electrifies live performance.

” ‘It made me feel way less alone,’ she says.”

More here.

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