From Our Artistic Director: Magical Moments from 2018

After the last event of the season and as we look forward to the new year, it is always tempting to think back to our favourite moments of the last year.  Here are our 10 Magic Moments of 2018!

1         The season opened with Akademi’s classic, Sufi Zen – beautiful, reflective mix of Bharatnatyam and contemporary dance

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 2         Fillage – amazing new circus and live music from young Belgian company, Sur Mesure

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3         Strong hip-hop dance on a cage from Cie Dyptik from Marseilles

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4         Powerful and political retelling of the events that sparked the Arab Spring by trailblazing Catalan company, Insectotropics 

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5         Gorgeous aerial circus and live music at dusk by young French company, Cirque Rouages

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6         The night the moon fell out of the sky (according to one young audience member)

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7         Dramatic, affecting dance about what happens when mental illness takes hold of someone close – from Manchester-based Company Chameleon

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8         Man and machine.  Dancers and a digger.  Unforgettable.

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9             The annual Winter Lights parade when Hounslow comes together to light up the dark nights

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10          Dinosaurs – prehistoric beasts on Hounslow High Street.  Magic.

Huge thanks to our wonderful resident photographer, Vipul Sangoi, for most of these images.

Also to John Montgomerie for the photo of Witness This by Company Chameleon

And an even bigger thank you to our incredible stewards and tech team who brave rain, shine, wind, hail and everything in between to bring great outdoor arts to Hounslow.

Over and out and see you next year!

#BellSquareLDN

From Our Artistic Director: Return of the Saurus

The last time giant prehistoric beasts walked the earth?  Not sure.  The last time they walked on Hounslow High Street, though, I do know – August 2012.  It was a blazing hot day during the London 2012 Games.

Those who were around that summer will remember that, alongside the Olympic and Paralympic sport, there was a London-wide cultural festival that was just as impressive.  For me, one of the highlights of that programme was Showtime, a festival of outdoor arts that visited every borough in London.

 

Suarus was one of the acts that came to Hounslow.  These 5 metre high dinosaurs, manoeuvred by invisible puppeteers on stilts, put on a stunning display with their thunderous roars and long sweeping tails.  Even though I knew what was coming, I was still overawed by the sight of these giant creatures running wild in our High Street!

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The life-size silver beasts are obviously starving and storm noisily along the street looking for food.  Once they have eaten, though, they become playful and sociable before, eventually, a magical song calms their wild forays.

Saurus, by Close-Act, is one of the finest walkabout shows in Europe.  The company was set up in Tilburg in the Netherlands 27 years ago by a group of actors, dancers, choreographers, designers and musicians.  They are famous for their unique style of ‘visual creations’ and the way that they perform in, between and above the public.  They aim to ‘move, draw and carry you into the world they create’.  Close-Act have toured with many shows across Europe, North and South America, Asia and the Middle East, but Saurus has been a firm favourite with audiences wherever it goes.

And they were certainly a hit when they came to Hounslow in 2012!  Saurus was one of the shows that created such a buzz in the town centre that summer.  Although it’s the opposite side of London to the Olympic Park, we had music gigs, amazing Japanese drummers, the Torch Relay, circus, theatre, and a Big Dance event when 10,000 people danced in Hounslow High Street!  2012 was a truly fantastic summer!

And then a few months later when plans started to be made for a major revamp of the town centre, the popularity of the outdoor arts programme that summer inspired everyone involved to include a permanent space for outdoor arts.  And so, Bell Square was born!

These wonderful, giant Sauruses won everyone’s hearts that summer and surely played a part in making Bell Square a possibility.  So I, for one, welcome them back with a warm heart and open arms.  Even if they can be a bit naughty and eat the treetops, or forage in people’s bags sometimes...

This is the last event of the year on Saturday 15 December.  There are 2 performances – the first at 1.00pm which will be great, and the second at 4.00pm, when it will be dusk and perhaps even more exciting!

Let us know what you think about Saurus, and all the other shows this year, using the #BellSquareLDN hashtag.  You will surely have some amazing photos to share!

To find out more about Close-Act, have a look at https://closeact.nl

And follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @CloseAct

From our Artistic Director: Come and be tickled pink!

The next Bell Square show is a little bit different.  A group of pink aliens will be beamed down into Hounslow town centre – and they are very curious and sociable and will want to get to know you.  However, these immigrants who arrive on our High Street have some quite different codes and conventions in how they relate to others - so you have been warned!

Who is Ljud?

Ljud is a collective of performers and artists from all over Europe who are based in Ljubljana in Slovenia.  They say that they are a group of idealists who came together in 2006 to change the world.  Their work focuses on different ways of interacting with their audiences, and especially on direct interaction with people in public places.  Most of all, they like to engage people to become part of the performance - rather than just watching it.  So, their shows are like games, rituals or a social event.

What is The Invasion?

Ljud’s show, The Invasion, comes to Hounslow town centre on 1 December.  It is certainly not a typical theatre show.  I would probably call it an ‘interactive theatre experience’.  A group of aliens - strange creatures, painted head to toe in pink – crash land in the High Street.  They are seeing humans for the first time and they want to get to know us, and our planet, better.

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Their arrival provokes shock and disbelief at first – but it soon turns out that their mission is a positive one.  They just want to get to know our world and customs and, in return, they offer to share their habits and rituals!

Every alien in the group has their own story, their own way of communicating, and each one challenges the public in different ways.  Their presence and actions generate some really quite ‘electric’ interactions with the public.  And every individual reacts and responds to them differently. 

The performers love it when people react spontaneously and play with them.  Whilst they may not conform to our sense of ‘normal’ interaction, they are pink – so hopefully no-one will take them too seriously!

What’s it really about?

This is a very funny show - but it also gently questions how we live in a multicultural society like London.  It looks at the conventions of behaviour in public places amongst different communities.  And in doing so, it questions our attitudes to others, especially to minority groups.   Although the performers are pink and playful, the show challenges us about how we welcome new people into our community.   Underneath it all, it looks at issues of communication and acceptance of diversity in our towns and cities.

It makes me think about how we all use the High Street.  Some people just come to do shopping and pass through quickly.  Others meet, sit on the benches and chat for hours.  Others meet friends at the coffee shops and use it predominantly as a social space.  The various groups and communities use it in very varied ways.  I love this about Hounslow High Street as you get to meet so many different people that you might not otherwise get to know.

It also makes me think about how we all react to different people in our community – not to mention what new people think of us!  I often wonder what people from other places must think on the train in the mornings, when everyone sits there in absolute silence.  This feels like such a London thing.  Or when they hear the tinkly music of an ice-cream van in the summer – I’m sure this is a (completely bonkers) British thing – where else would you get this?  I also remember when I lived in the US and found it almost unbearable that people didn’t queue (properly!) in shops.

So what will our pink visitors be like?  I’m sure they will open up very unpredictable exchanges with people on the High Street.  Just imagine their fascination with what you are buying at the market!  And those big red things going along Bell Road.  And…. none of us are pink.

A review of this unusual street spectacle (in Fiesta Cultura magazine in Spain) described it as ‘Authentic madness’, which I’m inclined to agree with.  But you decide for yourself….

Ljud will be landing in Hounslow High Street on Saturday, 1 December – at 1.00pm and again at 3.00pm.   Let us know what you think, using #BellSquareLDN

Note:  In some recent audience conversations, you told us that you would like to be able to look up more information about the artists and follow them on social media.  So, I am starting to include their information for you.

Ljud can be found at http://www.ljud.si/slo/?lang=en

And you can follow them on Twitter @KudLjud

 

From our Artistic Director: Powerful Dance for Mental Health Month

From our Artistic Director: Powerful Dance for Mental Health Month

The phrase that underlines much of the programme at Bell Square is ‘stories that affect us all’.  It’s well known that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives, so it’s clear that almost all of us will have some experience of mental illness, either ourselves or in someone we know.  And we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it.

From our Artistic Director: Come and Create Something Beautiful in Hounslow!

Over the years, we have had many events at Bell Square which have involved local people getting directly involved in the show.  They are always popular, and usually quite special.  On Saturday, I’m looking forward to welcoming Stalker Teatro with their project, Steli.  Everyone who would like to get involved can come and help build some beautiful, coloured structures together on the Square.

From our Artistic Director: In Krakow

It’s Sunday night in Krakow.  I’ve been here for a few days now, visiting the Ulica festival.  Ulica means ‘street’ in Polish and this is a festival of theatre on the streets and squares of Krakow.

I'm always looking for the best shows for next year at Bell Square, and I go to festivals to see around 25 shows in 3-4 days.  Festivals, though, are also a great opportunity to meet new artists and talk to other programmers, often from all over the world, and to be inspired by new ideas and new people.

From our Artistic Director: Media Manipulation & the Arab Spring

On 14 July, Catalan artists Insectotropics return to Bell Square with a performance of The Legend of the Burning Man.  This is a searching investigation into how our understanding of world events is manipulated by media.  It follows the story of how a local incident in a small, rural Tunisian town sparked protests and revolutions across an entire region that became known as The Arab Spring. 

Let's celebrate 250 years of circus!

FROM OUR ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Introduction
2018 is the 250th anniversary of the circus and we’ll be celebrating with some fabulous events at Bell Square this summer!

The Birth of Circus
Despite circus being mentioned in Greek and Roman times, the word really only referred to the ‘circular’ amphitheatres used for public performances.  Circus as we know it started in London in 1768.

Bell Square starts the season with Akademi performing Sufi:Zen

Well wasn't May 19 just the perfect weather for a Royal Wedding and perhaps even an FA Cup Final? And of course, it was even more perfect for our first event of the year at Bell Square, featuring Akademi and the very popular Sufi:Zen.

You can check out the daytime performance in this Facebook Live video below - unusually the dancers were wearing shoes and the reason was because the black material on the staged area was very hot due to the sun beating down on it all day. The evening event proved to be a bit cooler and we were delighted to host large crowds for both events.

From our Artistic Director: A Preview of the Spring & Summer Season

Come to an amazing array of outdoor performance from the UK & abroad. Bell Square returns for 2018 with a packed programme of amazing outdoor performance.  

From May to August, you can see 8 world-class shows at our permanent outdoor arts space in Hounslow.

These extraordinary shows come from some of the best artists in the UK and from across Europe – in the first few months, we have shows from France and Italy, Belgium and Catalonia, as well as from the UK.  The programme also brings many other influences from around the world, including international choreographers and different cultural styles.

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…