One of the most rewarding aspects of this process has been sharing the story, our ideas, and looking for ways to collaborate with other creatives, none more so than the brilliant choreographer Gary Clarke! Gary worked with us on The Northern School in Bradford a few years ago and we are delighted he will be not only working with us but undertaking a residency in Rochdale.
If you haven’t seen Gary’s work do so first chance you get, Coal and Wasteland are two of the finest pieces of work we’ve seen in the last 10 years. Anyway, a few weeks ago we took Gary up onto the moors, after all what better place to talk ideas, visions, possibilities and plans for this project than the cotton famine road itself? It was a beautiful day in the middle of lockdown, as we walked and talked so ideas came into focus. We asked ourselves how might we link this lonely spot way up on the hills to the centre of the town below? How could dance and movement capture the story we want to tell?
The epic struggle of a town, of a class of people to maintain their dignity, nay their lives even, in the face of starvation – and for a principle that they believed in. And just as we thought about the people of 1863 who must have toiled and broke their backs in all weathers to lay that road, to feed their loved ones, so pictures, images, ideas for motion and physical storytelling began to percolate.
As the day went on it came to us all just how much working class people at the time of the cotton famine had to endure in their hard and very often short lives for our generations to have things better. By the end of the day we were talking processions, projections, school and community dance projects, a residency with Gary and his core team of ( brilliant) dancers in Rochdale for the duration of the project. It was a good day, and there will be more to follow…