Road To The Beach 2004
Way back in 2003 we sat in the Beach Hut Cafe with Henry Ashworth founder of the Extreme Academy and Lindsey Hall of Creative Partnerships (now RIO) and talked about what a classroom on a beach might look like. A while later we were sitting with some 4 year olds in a primary school in the clay villages and learned that quite a few of the children had never been to the beach. Over the same period Antony Waller and Kevin Finnan of Motionhouse had been discussing the idea of a big site specific event. All these conversations converged in a single idea bringing together a dance company, a team of visual artists and professional dancers from Cornwall, 23 schools, colleges, youth dance groups and, slightly unexpectedly, 4 JCBs and their drivers from Acland Plant Hire. And we called it ‘Road To The Beach’.
‘Road To The Beach’ was an 18 month journey starting with the usual slog of fundraising for a project that ultimately cost around a quarter of a million. The idea was simple – a single durational performance that began at the foot of a cliff about half a mile to the west of Watergate and finished 2 hours later half a mile to the east. The beach is fully tidal so the challenge was how to prepare all the props, scenery and equipment for each of 10 separate large scale scenes along the beach, perform it with 1700 professionals and children and remove it all in a 12 hour period between tides. It was a military operation and worked like a clock with a massive sound system mounted on a trailer towed by a tractor from one end of the beach to the other following the performance. We devised a series of scenes working closely with our schools, Motionhose the company and various youth groups – many of which are shown in the following photographs.
Motionhouse dancers facing off some JCBs. Acland Plant Hire donated the use of 4 JCBs and their hightly skilled drivers who worked over 3 weeks in a devising and rehearsal process at the beach creating a performance that has been revisited many times over the years by the company as far away as Marseilles.
When we talked to 4 year olds in the clay villages they told us all about Cornwall and pirates. Of course its not strictly true about the pirates – Cornwall is known for its wreckers and smugglers – but we do like to listen so pirates it was. Tino Rawnsley spent time with the schools working out how to create 4 ‘instant’ pirate ships that could be set up and dismantled in minutes.
Truro College students decided they wished to insult the audience using loud hailers so of course we buried them.
These fish ladies are mostly teachers and volunteers who were critically important in moving the large numbers of audience around the beach.
This is the boys dance group led by Junior from Motionhouse. Somewhere in there is James Wilton who now runs his own dance company.
We formed a one time only dance company called ‘The Edge’ all professional dancers and performers from Cornwall and further afield who worked with Kevin Finnan and Motionhouse dancers to create additional scenes. These two are Angelina Boscarelli and Ollie Oakenshield who went on to form Rogue Theatre
Some of our schools worked together to create a field of mini wind turbines and for a reason that was never adequately explained we put a trampoline in the middle of it together with the junior Cornwall trampoline champion bouncing a lot.
We discovered when we wanted a lot of surfboards that you just can’t borrow surfboards, people don’t like it. So we cut these out from plywood panels. This is a performance by Cornwall Youth Dance Company.
We talked to another bunch of primary schools about making the biggest sand castle they could imagine. They all drew their castles and moats and created ‘top pieces’ for their castles- and we then asked the digger drivers to dig them according to the designs. There were 6 castles in all – and 12 hours later the tide had taken them all away.
The digger dance formed the final event at Road To The Beach that was seen by the entire audience and also the cast who followed the audience to the far eastern end of the beach.