From our Artistic Director: Never Work with Animals!

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From our Artistic Director: Never Work with Animals!

In the depths of winter, the Bell Square events take a break.  On these cold, dark February days, my mind often wanders back to the balmy days of summer when we were out on the Square, remembering some of the shows, having chats with the audience, and working with some truly lovely artists. And it also wanders back sometimes to the little things that, just occasionally, didn’t go quite to plan….

Never work with animals… ‘Never work with animals’ is good, sage advice for anyone working in the arts.  It is a lesson which should be absorbed as soon as possible by anyone starting out in the arts.  Whenever I have digressed from this advice, it has always ended badly.  A donkey falling off the stage into the orchestra pit.  A bat flying loose above the audience.  Diana Rigg, playing Cleopatra, wrestling with a hot and feisty snake as she prepared to thrust the ‘asp to her bosom’.  I could write a book on this topic, never mind a blog post.

This sage advice, though, never mentioned animals in the audience.  When we’re not at Bell Square, we all work at Watermans, the arts centre in Brentford.  In a venue, only highly trained and perfectly behaved guide dogs or assistance dogs generally come to events.  (There are odd exceptions, of course.)

But out at Bell Square, things are different.   Alongside the audience gathered for the event, passers-by often stop to watch what’s going on.  And sometimes furry passers-by stop to watch, too…

Dogs There have been many dogs at Bell Square events over the years – large, small, young and a bit giddy, some old and just glad of a lie-down at the side of the Square whilst their owner watches a show.  Some join in with a few barks when the audience cheers a circus artist for an impressive performance.  But none has put a foot wrong - or a paw.

Cats Cats.  I know cats.  And I know they have their own minds.  Four years of regular events have proven to me that cats do not like outdoor arts – there is never a cat in the audience.  Alternatively, there are no cats in Hounslow town centre.  Only once did a confident black cat turn the corner onto the Square, hesitate barely a second, then stroll nonchalantly across the performance space – whilst the actors just had to wait.

And others…. But it’s not just cats and dogs.  Hounslow is way more interesting than that.  The blue and yellow macaw, often seen on the shoulder of its owner walking around the town centre, has been to events sometimes, watching intently.  And thankfully silently.

Not all our furry and feathered friends are quite so welcome, however.  At the opposite end of the avian spectrum, pigeons make a nuisance of themselves in most urban arts venues.  Pigeons alone would fill a chapter in that book I could write.  Pigeons just walking straight through the front doors of the venue and up to the bar – regularly.  That was in Manchester.  Pigeons moving into the roof space and setting up an instant colony.  And creating the most shocking and appalling sight of my entire life when I went up to see what was making ‘that strange noise’ above the ceiling.  That was also in Manchester.  They are particularly bad pigeons up there.

At Bell Square, the local pigeons have generally not been much trouble. There was just one occasion, when a performer, as part of the show, threw handfuls of rice all over the Square.  And within seconds, every pigeon in Hounslow descended, en masse, Hitchcock-style, over the audience and the Square.  I suppose you could say we brought that (s$*t) on ourselves.

When I write that book, though, I’m sure it will only be Bell Square that has produced a ferret.  It was on a lead.  It came up to the edge of the performance space calmly, quietly, creating no fuss at all.  The show was about to start and a hush had fallen over the audience.  The music had started and the quietly enigmatic dancers of Akademi had walked onto the performance space to begin their show, Sufi Zen.  Yes, a show about Zen.  As the small, creamy coloured weasel paused to watch, a palpable wave of anxiety spread through the audience.  All focus on the dancers was lost, and the first person to scream unleashed an unimaginable cacophony of horror and fear from the assembled crowd.  The ferret, and its owner, sensing their presence was unwelcome, shuffled off up the High Street.  After some time, a suitable calm prevailed and the show could begin…again.

What next? So, Hounslow, who else are you going to bring to the shows this year?  There must be some rabbits out there who might like circus?

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Happy New Year from Bell Square - a poem from us

Welcome to 2018 and we would like to take the opportunity to share with you another great piece of writing from one of our attendees.

Bell Square Ambassador Catherine watched FlameOz, our last event of 2017, and wrote this joyous, beautiful poem, read it in full below

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Flame OZ

Tonight was a performance by Flame OZ

It left the crowd in awes

The three fire musketeers

Receive all our cheers

For they filled us with delight

With their amazing fire light

 

There were pendulums of light

That were a fiery sight

Although their actions seemed random

They moved in tandem

 

Next was the light sabre

That created many a chamber

Of hearts and butterflies

Mimicking a thousand fireflies

 

The finale had fountains of light

The sizzling flares

Made everyone forget their cares

Not minding the scorches from torches

 

Faces in the blaze aglow

As ‘Merry Xmas’ flashed

Their steps matched

Everyone was soon mellow

Voices began to soon bellow

Praises and claps from every fellow

---- ends ----

Thank you again Catherine for your great contribution, we love poetry!

 

To keep up with upcoming events, visit our What’s On pages here - news of 2018 upcoming events will be announced shortly.

And if you are attending Bell Square events – don’t forget to share your experiences on social media using the #BellSquareLDN hash tag.

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A BEAUTIFUL POEM FROM BELL SQUARE AMBASSADOR CATHERINE

Our ever popular Winter Lights event was held at Bell Square recently - and as you can see from the photo gallery it's a dazzling and beautiful for everyone that comes along.  As always, it's a free event and everyone is welcome.

One of our Bell Square Ambassadors Catherine came along and was inspired to write this beautiful poem, read it in full below

WINTER LIGHTS
The ceremony of winter lights
A harbinger of many cold nights
Lit up with many-hued beacons of hope
Held by the future of tomorrow
& yesterday’s shadow
Making memories new
And brushing old ones anew
 
At the church, a sea of illuminated creatures
Heard the mayor praise Hounslow’s features
She sparked the fire
Of Hounslow’s desire
Up went the gargantuan bell held by a rope
As did the lady on the tight rope
 
There resounded in the air
An echo, as a hundred rockets did flare
And the speakers did blare
Hounslow was the place to be
For all those who did dare!
- Catherine Habbie

Thank you Catherine - we love your writing and poetry!

 

To keep up with upcoming events, visit our What’s On pages here

And if you are attending Bell Square events – don’t forget to share your experiences on social media using the #BellSquareLDN hash tag.

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A Review of Guixot de 8 from Bell Square Ambassadors Navya and Thara

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Guixot de 8 took up residence in Bell Square earlier this month and here is the view from the eyes of two of our junior Bell Square bloggers Navya and Thara.

And here it is, along with some great photos they took as well:

On Saturday 4th November, we went to Bell Square to see the Guixot de 8 games. We saw many games and they were all unique and something we had never seen before. They were made of old reused parts of bicycles and kitchen utensils such as pans and spoons.

As a person who’s only seen newly built toys, this was a great opportunity to have fun with old but new games. It was interesting to see how creative the builders from Barcelona had been and how they used physics to make games without using electricity. We really enjoyed playing all the games and how difficult they were. They all required different skills and determination. 

We saw all the children and also many adults trying to succeed in the games. They got frustrated but were still very invested in achieving the aim of the games. 

Overall this was a great experience and something we’d love to do again.

Thanks again to Navya and Thara for coming along and they took some great photos which you can see here.

 

To keep up with upcoming events, visit our What’s On pages here

And if you are attending Bell Square events – don’t forget to share your experiences on social media using the #BellSquareLDN hash tag.

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A View From Bell Square's Artistic Director: Ray Lee Presents Chorus

Something strange is going to land in Bell Square.  What are these giant machines, these futuristic creations from a bygone age?  Where have they come from? 

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Towering high in the air, a series of metal tripods stand like three-legged giant insects.  Their rotating arms have loudspeakers that create pulsating, harmonic music.  Red lights on the arms whirl around like planets in motion, producing orbits of colour.  These rings of light, high above us, combined with the hypnotic sounds, are really quite transfixing. 

This strange thing that will soon appear is Chorus, a monumental installation of giant, moving sculptures with spinning sound machines. 

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I saw this installation at a festival last year. It was a bitterly cold January night with a biting wind and frost on the ground.  I am a fairly hardy outdoor arts programmer and used to being outside in all weathers but the temptation of a hot cup of coffee in a nice warm café would normally have been too much, even for me, to resist that night.  But then I saw Chorus in the distance, towering in the crisp night sky!  Hot cups of coffee were forgotten!

Standing 5 metres high, each tripod turns at different speeds to give changing sounds and rhythms. Together, they sound like a celestial choir.  You can wander amongst the installation, appreciating the different voice of each machine and its place in the 'chorus'.  The music of these machines is absolutely beautiful - abstract, gentle sounds that draw you in, so you don't want to leave. 

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These amazing machines are the work of British artist, composer and performer, Ray Lee.  He has created many large-scale music installations which have toured the world and won him many awards, including the British Composer of the Year Award in 2012. 

His big fascination is with how scientists and philosophers talk about the universe, and his spinning sound sculptures are inspired by 'circles of ether', the invisible forces that surround us. 

Long ago, early scientists believed that ether filled the whole of space.  Even as modern science developed a new understanding of the universe, we still talk about 'the ether' - like something has 'vanished into the ether'. We think of the clear sky, the upper regions of the air above the clouds, or the heavens.  The 'ether' has also been said to be full of radio waves - and that it is through ether that sound waves pass.

Ray Lee says, 'I am fascinated by the way science represents our view of the universe.  I have a child-like fascination with radios, radio waves, magnetism. There is a magic in turning on the radio and receiving signals through the ether - or in holding 2 magnets in your hands and feeling this invisible force pulling your hands together or pushing them apart'.

Chorus is not only a sculpture or installation – it is also a performance.  The sculptures, or machines, make sound. When the machines move, it changes the sound, so the idea of this being a live performance is important.  There is a relationship between the audience, the artists, and the machines.  Audiences talk about Chorus as 'an experience' rather than about it having a specific meaning.  

The artist hopes that we find a space, a moment, for contemplation, that takes us outside our everyday lives.  A place where we don't have to explain our experience, but that lets our minds drift off among the stars. 

As darkness falls at Bell Square on Saturday, 2 December, the machines will start to sing their siren call.  Come and see them at 4.30pm, 5.30pm or 6.30pm. 

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