In the upcoming weeks we’ll be introducing you to our regular collaborators and associate artists. First up we’ve got Chemaine Cooke who tells us about her dance practice and work with The Brick Box.
We’re very excited to welcome new show ‘Big Teeth’ to our venue The Brick Box Rooms in Bradford on 5-7 July. The show is for two people at a time, and last for 30 minutes, so book your tickets as soon as you can to guarantee your slot.
In the meantime, we asked the show’s creator, Elizabeth Dearnley, to tell us a little bit more about what you can expect from this immersive bedtime story…
A red-cloaked girl. A ravenous wolf. A house in the woods. The key ingredients of the Red Riding Hood story have remained constant over the centuries – but have been retold in many different ways. Does Red Riding Hood escape? Is she to blame for getting eaten? And how does the wolf feel about his role in the story? A new show coming to Brick Box in July, Big Teeth, invites audiences to explore these ideas – and retells the well-known fairy tale as you’ve never heard it before…
Big Teeth is an immersive retelling of Red Riding Hood, set in a shadowy postwar London during the long, cold winter of 1947. Entering the show in pairs, audience members are invited to step into the bedroom of young waitress Ruby Hunter, get into bed together, and listen to an apparently familiar tale unfold from crackling bedside radios. But there’s always more than one side to every story. What really happened? And how well do we ever know the people we get into bed with?
As an artist and folklorist whose work centres around fairy tales, I’m fascinated by the way traditional stories are passed on and evolve – and how these reflect the society we live in. The story of Red Riding Hood has been told in a number of different ways, usually depending on how the teller wanted to portray Red Riding Hood (and, by extension, any young girl attempting to make her way through a world of wolfishly predatory men): is she an unwary innocent? A foolish girl, straying from the path, who deserves what happens to her? Or can she outwit the wolf (as this French version suggests)?
I wanted to write a show which allowed Red Riding Hood to tell her side of things, and which used the story as a way of thinking about sexual consent and the dangers of ‘fairy tale’ relationships – issues which remain highly relevant in the age of #MeToo. By following the stories of Ruby and glamorous older actor Stephen, audiences are encouraged to smash the patriarchy through the responsible consumption of fairy tales – while encountering resourceful waitresses, snow, seedy Soho pubs, suspiciously delicious pies, and a Cole Porter song or two along the way…
Big Teeth is a show for two audience members at a time, lasting about 30 minutes – you can experience it with someone you already know, or book with a stranger (each is a great way to see the show)! It’s running between 5 and 10 on Thursday 5th and Friday 6th July, and between 2 and 10 on Saturday 7th July – book your timeslots here.
You can also try your hand at creating your own fairy tales in a storytelling workshop I’m running on the afternoon of 7th July – we’ll explore some of the surprising hidden histories behind familiar stories, and cook up some brand new tales for 2018.
As someone from Bradford myself (I grew up in Baildon, and am now based in London), I was really excited to have the chance to bring Big Teeth back home. And I’m over the moon to be staging the show in the incredible Brick Box Rooms, the former home of legendary Bradford pie shop Phillip Smith & Co. – I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect space! We’ll be serving pies and pickles behind the bar after the show, too, so make sure to sample some…
Playful and provocative, Big Teeth is an uneasily intimate storytelling experience. Expect red cloaks, wolves, and exceptionally tasty pies.
We were honoured to take part in the national Processions event last week, a once-in-a-lifetime mass participation artwork which celebrated one hundred years of votes for women.
Artist Jean McEwan worked with participants in Bradford to make the city’s banner for the big march in London, which was even featured on TV. She shared her experience with us.
“The Brick Box were to be one of the 100 organisations commissioned by Artichoke from around the UK to make a banner with a group of women for Processions mass participation artwork. The Brick Box then commissioned me as the artist to work with them on the project to make the banner with a group. We decided that we wanted to offer the opportunity our to as broad a network of Bradford women as possible and to extend the invitation as widely as possible, so we created a list of groups organisations and individuals from a range of backgrounds and invited people to join us on a series of 4 workshops and then to take the banner to London for the event there on the 12th June.
“We had a great group of women signing up of all ages and backgrounds. Some of us knew each other and some didn’t, but from the start everyone really bonded and there was a great feeling of connection and enjoyment in being and working together and designing and making our banner from start to finish It was a real collective endeavour – we all worked together to share ideas and skills to make it happen.
“We spent loads of time thinking and talking about this in our second session. The feeling was that we had an opportunity to take a strong message about Bradford women to London which would be seen by thousands and so we wanted to make a bold and proud statement about Bradford women.
“We wanted to celebrate the fact that there are so inspiring and amazing women in Bradford who are change makers in their everyday lives. We also were drawn to the idea of nature and land and growth and that Bradford is a place which nurtures this change making spirit, and that makes the city really special.
“We played around with lots of wording and discussing it as a group before coming to ‘Bradford Grows Powerful Women’ – which resonated with everyone. It was definitely a Eureka moment!
“We choose a lime green for the background to reflect the work of Bradford Women For Peace who in recent years when the EDL have come to the city have out green ribbons as a symbol of unity peace and harmony. Because the ribbons and the lime green are very recognisable and known within the city for this, and a symbol of people coming together , we wanted this to be part of our banner.
“To make the words on the banner we split into small groups to make each word. On the word ‘Women’ we collaged photos of Bradford women past and present to be part of the letters, which as well as the group members, also included other Bradford women who inspire us in their everyday lives.
“We travelled down to London on the coach and then assembled with and all the other groups and banners taking part in the event in Hyde Park – it was brilliant because we got to see banners made by groups of women and girls from all over the country. It was such an emotional experience to see them.
“We then processed with our banners as a huge group through the streets of central London from Park Lane to over the river – all of us were given scarves of purple, green and white and arranged into sections so that from above you could see a huge moving line of Suffragette colours.
“We wanted to expand our message by becoming part of the banner ourselves so we also made and decorated watering cans to go with our theme and had Bradford Water which we were spraying around – this was brilliant fun and people really responded to the idea. It was a hot day so people appreciated being spritzed with Bradford water. We were even featured as part of the BBC coverage of the event so our message was seen by even more people.
“We met up with other Bradford women who had made banners individually which was brilliant. We also met loads of women taking part. Loads of people taking part in the march responded to our banner and watering cans and came to see and speak to us because they liked our message or had a personal connection with Bradford – people were so warm and positive and it was brilliant to get these responses!
“There were so many creative and inspiring banners! We loved seeing suffragette Princess Sophia Duleep Singh being represented on quite a few banners – Sonia, one of our group, has organised a number of events and talks in Bradford about Sophia, so this was really special. There was also an incredible banner from Tara Arts in London of ‘Shakti’ -a symbol of feminine creative power. Another favourite was a three dimensional Viva LA Vulva banner – which we all loved.
“It was a brilliant atmosphere and a powerful experience to walk through the streets of London with thousands of other women with messages of power and strength and solidarity. It was really special to have that experience together as a group. Some of the group couldn’t come on the day for various reasons and we really missed them being with us but we carried them with us in spirit and they were physically present as part of the banner.”
The Brick Box and Leeds-based arts charity East Street Arts have forged an exciting new partnership to find high quality creative uses for empty spaces in Bradford city centre.
The collaboration will see The Brick Box coordinate the use of empty city centre space for creative charitable use. This could include things like exhibitions, theatre rehearsals and performance events, all of which have been successful in Bradford’s empty spaces since the arts charity first came to the city in 2016.
Previous examples in Bradford include The Wild Woods in the former department store on Darley Street, which attracted more than 5,000 people across eight events and brought thousands of pounds of extra spend into the city centre.
Immersive theatre show This Space is Occupied rehearsed in an empty space on Ivegate to get ready for the performance in a separate empty building on the same street. Likewise, young female-led organisation Speakers Corner has taken over a space at the bottom of Ivegate for meetings and social events.
The Brick Box will match up creative practitioners with available spaces, finding the right home for each project and giving them an introduction to the city and local arts scene. The result will be a more visible and collaborative network of artists and creative professionals sharing ideas and resources, all of which will help the city centre to develop and market itself as a hub for new and innovative work.
Rosie Freeman from The Brick Box, said: “As retail becomes more concentrated in specific areas of the city centre, there is a need to reconsider how we use empty space in the city in a way which both attracts new visitors and helps the city to develop its own strengths.
“By giving some of Bradford’s empty spaces to creative practitioners, Bradford is able to build on its Producer City status by offering artistic talent in the area some of the resources it needs to grow and develop.”
Ella Cronk, temporary spaces coordinator at East Street Arts, said: “We’re really excited to have formed this new partnership to help us coordinate activity in our spaces across Bradford. We are passionate about making space for artists to explore and enhance their practice and, having worked with The Brick Box previously, feel confident that they are dedicated to the same cause and well equipped to bring some brilliant things to the spaces. We’re really looking forward to this collaboration.”
Anyone wanting to find out more about getting a space can come to a public meeting at the Brick Box bar at 21 Ivegate on 26th June from 6pm-8pm. Any creative use will be considered, as long as it’s not for profit, and The Brick Box encourage people to form collectives to take on larger spaces together – all of which can be facilitated at the forthcoming meetings.
Whether Eurovision is art or not is something we could debate all day long, but that didn’t stop us taking a proper look at it in situ for the first time ever. And it turns out that visiting Eurovision is actually surprisingly apt research for The Brick Box – honestly!
This year the competition was hosted in Lisbon, Portugal, somewhere we’re already familiar with. So we went along to see what it’s really like when this massive event hits town. We got chance to explore the city, as well as spending an evening inside the official arena to see some of the acts perform.
As a live event, the main thing we noticed is that Eurovision is an incredibly impressive team effort. There are live rehearsals with a full audience for each of the semi-finals and the final, with every camera switch, dance move and set changeover done to precision timing just as it would be when it goes out live.
We were lucky enough to get tickets to one of the semi-final rehearsal shows, and we found the events team and the technical set-up of the arena even more fascinating than the performances themselves.
For the first time in a long time, LED backdrops weren’t being used by any of the acts, so the staging had to be a little bit more imaginative than previous years. With no screens to rely on, we saw acts using lights, props, projections and augmented reality to enhance their performances.
Among our favourite effects were Estonia’s huge dress with projection mapped video all over it, Moldova’s fun use of boxes and doors, Sweden’s colourful tubular lighting rig, and Denmark’s dramatic ocean-inspired lighting and wind effects with a fake blizzard. With every country wanting to stand out visually, it was a real showcase of what can be done with both very simple and very complex staging.
Outside the arena, in the centre of town, there was a huge public square that had been entirely turned over to screening Eurovision and had been rebranded as Eurovision Village. It looked exactly like a music festival, and did have live performances and DJs between screened events, but the stage’s main use was as a screen so that audiences outdoors in the centre of Lisbon could watch the action as it was broadcast live from the arena.
Despite a lot of queuing to get into Eurovision Village, and then for the bar, and also for the toilets (only the men’s, the women’s had no queue at all), people were generally in very good spirits. There was a real sense of fun rather than competitiveness, most of the people we met weren’t rooting for their own country but for the song or performance they liked the most.
It’s a shame the UK didn’t win, simply because we’d love to have been involved with any element of the competition being hosted in this country, but there’s plenty of time yet!
We survived South By Southwest 2018 – and we made a video to show you what happened. See behind the scenes at our panel, an encounter with Sadiq Khan, our own personal highlights, and far too much cheese.
The countdown is on: this time next week The Brick Box Ladies will be at SXSW, untrained and on the loose. One of us has been before, two of us are first timers, we are all really excited.
Navigating such a smorgasbord of exciting things to see and do is a challenge in itself so we’ve spent our recent snow days perusing the conference programme. The Cities Summit events look right up our street with talks on everything from reimagining the civic commons to community co-design and co-creating feminist cities. Also, there are ‘recap raps’ courtesy of SaulPaul – a handy musical catch up on what you missed. Genius.
But it’s the SXSW art programme which is really intriguing. Not only will we be sharpening our elbows to get in to see Shamir and the North American premiere of Mac Richter’s ‘Sleep’ concert, an 8-hour snoozey music thing, but the immersive tech-art smash ups looks brilliant. Top of our list is to see A Colossal Wave! by Marshmallow Laser Feast…
Plunge into a sub-aquatic virtual world that reacts to your every action. Sing unique marine “voicefruits” into life. Witness an explosion of colour under VR umbrellas as the giant virtual wave crashes over you. Merging slapstick with immersive technologies, A Colossal Wave! is a mixed reality experience exploring human impact on the natural world. Taking Newton’s third law as its inspiration, A Colossal Wave! serves as a timely reminder that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Singing unique marine voicefruits in to life? WE ARE IN.
Another thing that has really piqued our interest is Floating Destiny by Wan Who. This is an interactive art installation with live performance, where the audience can experience the hybrid melding of ancient and futuristic Chinese culture by changing geometric shapes which correspond to music.
On top of this, we can’t wait to see Ellsworth Kelly’s chapel of coloured light at the Blanton gallery. The late Kelly described the piece as “an experience akin to visiting the Rothko and Matisse chapels, in Houston and Vence, France, respectively.” Oh and then there’s the UNSECO Media Arts Installations, Herve Cohen’s Live Underground, The Notorious Art Collector of Amsterdam’s The Living Museum, the Faces of Austin Community Screening… you get the picture.
We’re also bringing a bit of live art of our own in the form of these SXSW FOMO Fortune Tellers. They’ll help you to avoid the ‘fear of missing out’ by magically guiding you on your way, so if you’re at SXSW do pick one up or Tweet us to find out where you can get one.
And if you ARE at SXSW, give us a shout and let’s do some art crimes together. If you’re not, we’ll report back soon.
What role can art play in highlighting places or themes that deserve more attention? This was the first question we were asked as part of the recent Borderlight conference in Milan last week.
Eleanor and I were honoured to be invited to this gathering to share our experiences and we met some truly inspiring people with socially engage creative practices with both resonated with our work in Bradford, and also helped us grow.
For a start, check out the badass subversive work of Maria Papadimitriou, artist and academic based in Greece.
And the ambition and spaciousness of Bianco-Valente’s ‘Open Sky’ project in southern Italy.
We also loved hearing Nicholas Anastasopoulos (Urban Planner Researcher – School of Architecture of Athens – Greece) talk so eloquently about public space and the effects of the extraordinary circumstances in Greece.
Too many good chats and interesting ideas to mention really but of course huge thanks to Nicola, Gabi, Giulia, Simona and everyone for inviting us, hosting and making it happen! And high fives to Pietro’s snappy outfit (as well as his excellent words).
But back to that first question – how can art highlight places or themes that deserve more attention? Well, at The Brick Box, we use art as a prism through which to see things differently and further transformation of both spirit and place. We are an artist-led company with a socially engaged, place based practice. We are enablers and provocateurs, stimulating creative and economic growth, creating art in collaboration with others.
We create work with a pop culture aesthetic, using powerful juxtapositions and unusual locations to increase access to and participation in the arts. Through live art experiences we transform neglected spaces, bring people together and invite them to consider new possibilities.
Amongst our many adventures we have changed an abandoned department store into a surreal woodland, transformed ‘dangerous /no go’ areas into community discos, gathered people to tell stories round our Electric Fireside in back streets, loading bays and playgrounds, and fed people across London from our magical Toast Temple.
Our current projects (in development) involve exploring key elements of the history of our home city, Bradford: hidden rivers, invisible woodlands, and a tongueless wild boar. Universal themes and playful imaginative events allow us to rewrite our multiple narratives through a mass participatory arts project that will raise our collective power and give us our voice back.