Monday 7 December 2015

A Beacon And Baton of Creative Community

This is how the front of The Fleeting Arms looks now. The windows covered up and the bigs eyes of Dr TJ Eckleberg staring out in to Gillygate - a street of independent traders in York City Centre, with a bus park at one end and the city walls at the other.  Behind the eyes is a three-hour theatre experience. 

This is new. Not just the eyes, but the whole thing. We are running The Great Gatsby across all three floors of The Fleeting Arms. It's a free form immersive piece of theatre where the audience pick their own routes around the show. It's full of big dances, cocktails, physical sequences - and it's also full of intimate moments, caught conversations, even a few scenes in a cupboard. As far as we know, nothing like this has happened in York before. 

The fact it is happening is not something we can take credit for. In many ways, we are sitting on the shoulders of communal giants. We have hitch-hiked a leg up from hundreds of people. We have hi-jacked something so strong and important. And, we hope, by doing it we will leave something worth hi-jacking by the next folks. 

Photo by Ben Porter
You see, The Great Gatsby only exists because The Fleeting Arms exists. 
The Fleeting Arms exists because the amazing cultural community in York exists. 
The amazing cultural community in York exists for so very many reasons. Indeed, the staging of the York Mystery Plays in the Minster next year is one of the biggest icons of York's incredible creative community. 

York is swathed and swaddled in history. We are hugged by our medieval walls, churches nestle down wonky alleyways and the walls of buildings lean in at impossible angles. We are a city full of hundreds and hundreds of years ago. But within the old stone and cobbled streets, there is a city that is reaching out its hands to mould the hundreds of years to come. Sometimes this is in big gestures. But sometimes this is small. For us, now, this is a brilliant bunch of people breathing life in to an empty pub. People who nine months ago said yes to a new bit of adventure. 

Sure - it's temporary. But we should celebrate that it has happened. Because each time something happens the simple truth is that it can never un-happen. And, so, when the next person comes along and says 'I want to set up a community arts pub' people don't look at them so strange. 

We owe The Great Gatsby to all of the people who have come before us. 

And - quite simply, quite humbly - we owe it to all the people who come to see the show. Not just because they are our audience in the last month of The Fleeting Arms, but because they are the audience for the risky show after The Great Gatsby. They are the audience who will now travel across the city, or drive in, or jump on a train to see a new piece of work. The people who buy a new outfit to dress up in, grab some dinner, book a hotel room - because of theatre, because of art, because back in February people agreed to throw their weight and creativity in to an empty building. 

The hundreds of years to come are not defined by what buildings we build or what policy we make. They are defined day to day by people. They are defined by people lighting beacons to move towards, or bonfire to gather round. They are defined by people passing the baton on. 

Photo by Chris Mackins
We have been the recipient of a pretty amazing baton. The Fleeting Arms is and has been of its moment. And it's a great moment. 

So in the last few weeks of The Fleeting Arms, we want everyone to come and celebrate with us - to build an audience who will be there, ready, for the next thing that has never happened before. We want to keep building, keep pushing, keep learning.

Come play. Come help pass the baton.