A Firebrand Residency
Tricky Hat artists took a group of 15 Flames to do a week-long residency at Cove Park (Argyll). This is our second Firebrand Residency there and the first one since the pandemic happens. Marianne, Flames participant, reflects on her time there.
We arrived on a grey Thursday afternoon. High on a windswept hilltop, the fog-coloured building mimicked the surrounding mountains with its sharply angled roofs. Below, the pewter coloured loch lay deep and foreboding. A storm was forecast, and brewing just beyond the headland.
We arrived wearing our winter clothes and with our proof of recently completed negative Covid test results. Some of us had been here before, in the Old World, in the days before masks… and when social distancing was something teachers ensured was adhered to when teenagers partnered up to dance at Christmas discos in the school assembly hall. There was a sense of cautious anticipation. Inside the building, the log fire burned a welcoming glow, matched by the warm smiles of the artistic team. We were greeted and given instruction on protocols to be followed to keep us and our companions Covid safe and then installed in our various accommodation. I unpacked and wrote the following;
Smallest space, its all you need
The silence is enfolding.
Create, perform, reflect and read
Make every moment golden.
Then it was off back up the hillside to the artist’s centre to start enjoying these golden moments.
Over the following days we developed the ideas stimulated by the stories we had been asked to bring with us to share with the group. We took part in percussion/hand clapping/ movement workshops, and voice work (which had the strange and unexpected effect of bringing the sheep outside the building closer to the building to stare at us through the window. Fittingly, at this time of Burns Night, we had in actual life “called up the ewes”)! Day two saw us work on and develop skills such as self- filming and self -recording, and gave us time to work on and present a site-specific performance or installation based on the setting and the ideas explored in the workshops. All this was fuelled by the most delicious food prepared on a rota-basis by the participants and artistic team. There was a whirl of creative activities to take part in, balanced with down time, which some of us used to rest while others made the most of the many walks available from the door of the artist’s centre. There was time for reflection too, and the atmosphere was one of support and encouragement. One of us was reduced to tears of happiness.
The final night, this being January, was the perfect time for an impromptu Burns Supper in true Flames style. Fuelled by haggis, neeps, tatties, cranachan (and a small libation of the water of life) we sang, recited, laughed and enjoyed the company around the log fire which burned hot and bright with logs imbued with our wishes for a better, kinder world. It might have been a grey, zinc coloured day when we arrived, and the storm outside may have perfectly reflected our anxieties about being together in a group after so long in isolated lockdown over the past two years, but the expertise of the artistic team, coupled with their acceptance and encouragement and that of the others attending, made certain that the storms of our anxieties subsided. The first signs of light and hope, like the rainbows which appeared frequently over the loch, or the clear starlit skies which guided us to our accommodation on that last night, were ignited by this band of artists high on a rainswept hillside in the late January of a Scottish winter.
On the hillside, stormy morning
Nearly blown right off my feet
In the Centre, coffee’s brewing
Welcoming, and dark and sweet
Pelting rain obscures the mountain
River churns like boiling oil
Twigs and branches snap and drop
The wind whips up, and I recoil
Head down, steadfast, just keep moving
Up the hill and always forward
We have triumphed in the tempest
Stars and rainbows our reward.
Marianne (Flames participant)