When the pandemic hit the UK here at Kapow we were mid-creative-project. We'd had one glorious day in the studio and two days on site at Rockover Climbing centre in Manchester with performers Paul Davies, Emma Hopley and Billy Morgan.
We were beginning to reshape an existing work of ours 'Climb The City' for a new setting, for a new audience, putting together a performance film that would then be shared alongside a live work in schools and in climbing centres.
But given the global pandemic our plans had to shift rapidly and like everyone we found ourselves in a very different landscape. When we heard the pandemic was ramping up but ahead of lock down our first thought was to reassure the performers that we would honour their contracts despite perhaps not being able to have the performance outcome that we had wanted. Having both been freelance performers we know that you can find yourself without much protection and we wanted to at least offer them this small and immediate security.
It was a short week later that we found ourselves in full lock down and understandably reeling from the collective trauma of this huge global event. We shifted to meeting online and asked the team what would be the best for them, to keep working online and to see if we could make something at this very particular time, or to have some time off. They opted for continuing the process so we did a mixture of warm up and devising online and setting tasks for them to complete remotely whilst we managed the losses as a company that seemed to be coming in thick and fast.
We had also been working towards collaborating with filmmaker Wayne Sables on this project so we were extremely disappointed not to get to the moment of collaborating and shooting with him. But we are dedicated to making the work we promised Wayne happen later this year. Watch this space - we don't currently know what form that will be taking. Big thanks to Wayne for his generosity and understanding.
Back to lock down Week 1 - having finally accepted we were staying home we reflected that it was helpful to have something creative to focus on and something that could bring us together to spend time, even if it was online, we expressed frustrations, fears, and negotiated the shift to life as we knew it.
In this time we found ourselves in very different locations to one another across the UK, Paul was in London, Emma in Yorkshire and Billy in Manchester, each with access to the outside for their allotted one form of exercise a day. We explored creating movement inside and then asked them to relocate it outside and to film themselves using certain agreed framing.
From the material gathered we have cut together this short movement response, something that allowed the dancers to dance together in a digital form. This by no means is the outcome for the project that we had planned for but it felt important to keep exploring and connecting to the outside and to our moving, expressive bodies together. We hope you enjoy, if you have any responses we’d love to hear from you, email us or write on our Instagram.
Further insight into our process:
As a part of the remote working creative process we were connecting to the themes of climbing, mountaineering and adventure. We asked the performers to watch the film ‘Mountain’ by Jennifer Peedom, a documentary scored by a live orchestra at the Sydney Opera House and layered with extracts from Robert Macfarlane's book "Mountains of the Mind". Then set some writing tasks- 1. To write a short response on what climbing or being outside means to them and 2. Write a list of ten words inspired by the same theme. We thought we’d share their responses with you below...
“Living a fast paced life in the city makes escaping out into the wild that much more special. Getting into climbing has ignited a whole new sense of adventure within me, taking me to locations and landscapes I would otherwise never have explored.
The joy of movement never ceases. Pushing myself beyond my physical comfort zone has always been a thrill for me, whether it be through fitness or dance or endurance.
The feeling of reaching new heights and taking in new views across open land never grows old for me, and getting lost along the way always seems to be part of the fun. To be able to share the sketchy, exciting and simple moments with friends is priceless.
Being outdoors makes me feel small, but in a good way- the things that seem huge and scary at 4am really don’t matter out in the expanse of nature. Then, there’s this feeling of endlessness and possibility as you walk around the moors or the mountains, a simple yet epic allure.”
“My first thought, that kept resurfacing over and over as I watched the film, is that every time I saw someone doing something amazing (which was basically the whole film) I just wanted to go outside and do it. To the point that while I kept pausing it to look things up like "free soloing in the peak district" and "hardest hiking routes in the northwest of England" I personally really love challenges and spent a lot of the film planning all the things I will do. It hit me particularly hard because recently I have been spending a lot of time indoors, making videos, writing blogs, a lot of indoor training and doing online coaching, and haven't had enough time for myself to get outside.
Sometimes I forget how much I love the outdoors, and how much being indoors affects me, and seeing amazing people do amazing things. The great outdoors can reinvigorate you to do it yourself, so I'm now in the process of planning an adventure.
Second, I remember as a child wanting to grow up to be an explorer, and I remember being devastated at the time when I realised that everywhere that can be explored by land or boat has already been explored.
Third, I really love the phrase "be fit to be useful" and I feel like outdoorsiness, climbing and everything involved in doing that really embody that phrase, from carrying things to the crag, to camping and chopping firewood to the actual climbing itself.
Finally, I was simply struck by the beauty of raw, untouched nature, it's nothing like parks or even places like the peak district that are managed land, completely wild nature is just such an amazing thing to witness and is so beautiful, especially if viewed from somewhere high.
“Climbing was not necessarily a place where I found community at the start. I did not realise there was one until much later. Perhaps, that is because I would only go with my headphones on and not pay much attention. I think I still had the ‘gym concept’ of training. Get in, do the work, fuck off.
It was only when I went with friends that I realised people want to talk, help you with the climbs, give advice and even clap when you get hit your milestones. You can sit in between, have a coffee and chat and stay for multiple hours.
There is also the very real idea of climbers being aware of the world. The majestic awe of the climbs they do. This is what really clicked onto me the most, the views! I love to climb because it can tick so many things. I can climb on my own, not say a word and the challenge is there, and it’ll be there for a few weeks until the problem changes again. The time is ticking. It’s up to me to step to it toe to toe. Make it or don’t.”
Collection of words:
Exploration Challenge Excitement Vastness Peace Beauty Exertion Difficulty Momentum Rewarding
Yin and yang
Some of these words inspired the movement produced for the film.
Huge thanks to Emma, Billy and Paul for your skill, contribution and dedication to this project.