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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, November 20, 2006
    To the edges and back

    Roads were more than just functional objects that allowed people to travel from one place to another. As recent opposition to modern road-building shows, roads can be ideological and political symbols too. Roads are important to people because they affect the ways in which the landscape is perceived, and in particular our understanding of who controls it.
    (Rob Witcher quoted in Journey to the Fringe)

    It was good to hear from Dick, who saw my Reading the Everyday talk at Greenbelt and connected with it. Back then, his theatre company Imprint had just completed a series of events called Smoke and Mirrors, which brought mystery and adventure to Leeds' urban core, asking audiences, on foot in the summers' evening, to take a fresh look at the city and buildings around them, to consider their secrets and the significance of “public” or “sacred” spaces there.

    Dick put me on to some other theatre companies who have taken to the streets and the roads to dwell on such things. In 2002's The Travels, members of Forced Entertainment "undertook a series of journeys, each traveling alone to locations in the UK to complete tasks determined only partially in advance. These tasks - to get their fortune told, to find locations for an imaginary film, to ask tricky questions, to visit streets chosen simply for their names - presented the beginnings of a mapping process aimed not so much at the contemporary UK, but through it to something else - a landscape of ideas, narratives and bad dreams." That's where these feet came from.

    More fascinating still, in the summer of 2004 Leeds-based Pointed Arrow ("a merry band of actors, filmmakers and musicians") embarked upon an exhilarating and exhausting journey - "a pilgrimage from London to Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival; a quest to find the Holy Grail; an exploration of “Christian Britain”. They called this Tales from the Great North Road, and their odyssey combined sections of long, straight Roman road, snake-like medieval road, and today’s high-speed tarmac strip, with an open invitation for those who might want to join the company on their travels, sharing the camaraderie, fun and adventure. "By foot, by bike, by horse and by car, our travellers wended their way through forests and across rivers, stopping in places along the way to perform their play, Tales From The Great North Road."

    The consequential documentary film Journey to the Fringe is a great way to spend an hour. Especially for any kindred spirit contemplating an odyssey of their own.

    A wise man once said, 'The job of an artist is to travel to the edges and report back.'
    (Journey to the Fringe)