“My kestrel is still very much alive to me from this writing and making and sits next to me in my living room waiting to see what next.”
I’d previously taken part in a Landscape Theatre residential workshop with Wildworks at 101 Outdoor Arts in Newbury and I had not really experienced anything like it or them before. So, when I saw that B-side was running a workshop with the company on Portland I signed up without hesitation. As a Dorset based dance artist with roots in the Northeast, there is something about the grit and tough beauty of Portland which I connect with, the defiant identity of a remote landscape which is at once beautiful, wild, and bleak, steeped in a history of industry. So, a match made in heaven for me.
The cold March morning I drove across the causeway to the island, the waves were high over Chesil Beach and when I pulled into the pub car park next to Portland Bill, the sea was crashing into itself with audible riptides only a few hundred yards out to sea. I was pleased to be inside with my fellow workshop participants and then glad to quickly be back outside, roaming the nearby fields in our first task, researching, and collecting a tiny palette of texture and colour specific to place. I was also delighted to find that, rather than the familiar faces of Dorset Artists, the group was a diverse mix of local residents and those far flung, some with a long career in the arts but many with none. This felt right and proper for Wildworks, B-side and for the island itself.
Mercedes then told us of all of WW projects over the years, and this was as moving and inspiring as it had been the first time I heard it. The time and space given to building deep and real relationships with each community, how stories are researched, lives, histories and myth drawn carefully out and cared for as creation takes shape. This is something which WW has given me, the courage to hold my ground.
Our voices were then organised by Vicky Abbott, with dips in confidence reassured and great skill, she brought us into the joy of experimenting with vocalising alongside others. In just a few hours, we were a choir filling the room and then the scrub behind the car park with complicated and joyful song.
An afternoon of writing with Mercedes took us out of ourselves and into the minds and bodies of birds and animals, weaving our own mythologised biographies with the spirit voices of wild companions. I found a kestrel was speaking to me and was thrilled to translate poetry and prose about him into 3-D realisation in a making workshop with Ellie Williams who guided us to build masks and upper body costume out of willow, withy and assorted grasses which we had been asked to gather and bring to the day. My kestrel is still very much alive to me from this writing and making and sits next to me in my living room waiting to see what next.
Spectacle and magic are, for me, another powerful way that Wildworks casts a spell over its audience, and we had a taste of how this might be done with some pyrotechnic training and secret sharing with Gwen Scolding. I loved the visceral element of this part of the workshop, the smell of paraffin, the hessian mats used to roll out the flaming torches, and the seriousness of the fun.
All that we had experienced over the weekend was gathered together into small groups, shaping short promenade sequences of voice, augmented bodies with our animal heads, fire circles and summoning words into the night sky.
We said our farewells and I drove out of the car park, past the lighthouse and back towards home, taking a little bit of wild back with me.
Anna Golding – Movement Artist, performer, choreographer
‘UnCommon Land’ workshop participant