Our Song for a Circus is nearly finished. Poor Tim is at the stage where it seems (to my untrained ear!) as though he's just listening to it over and over on a repeat loop.
The photo is of our last session playing with the band on the 15th of March. Sadly (at least for me personally) this felt rather as though we went out with a whimper rather than a bang - albeit quite a pleasant one.
This project has been hampered with problems from the word go - it's part of AGRIFASHIONISTA an ambitious project curated by Grizedale arts (who we've enjoyed working with many times before) but funded by the A foundation (who have a base at the old Rochelle school on Arnold Circus). The various projects were all to get a small amount of funding (not enough in fact for the amount of work involved with making a project with 'people involved') but the 'pay off' was to be a live week of performances and a web broadcast from Rochelle. Lots of artists we know and some we wanted to meet were to be involved and everyone was excited to see what could develop. It felt right from the start as though something wasn't quite right about it. Michael the amazing project manager was a model of professionalism and relentlessly optimistic despite date changes and numerous set backs for the many AGRIFASHIONISTA projects he was trying to manage. Eventually though even he couldn't put a brave face on it. A Foundation had 'financial problems' and in effect cancelled the live week a month before it was due to happen (this is cutting a very long story short).
So Grizedale now have a raft of projects at various levels of completion and nowhere to show them (at least at that point) Michael had worked on a project for months that in effect wouldn't now happen (and a bunch of invoices to pay), and we had a band of people we'd worked with for 6 months to tell that the final performance wouldn't be happening! Unlike the other artists projects, ours involved a lot time investment from other people & so we couldn't just stop - for a couple of weeks we went ahead as usual without even being to say that the situation was changing.
Anyway to cut to the final solution, our 'song' will be launched on the AGRIFASHIONISTA website as will the other projects over the next two years, as Grizedale press on trying to still realise them all.
Aside from the fact we still haven't been paid (which I assume will eventually happen) this whole experience did short of shake me. Suddenly I really had to question what it was I was doing ... going out to try and meet people from the Boundary Estate and involve them in a project supported by the A Foundation - an organisation many of them felt a great deal of resentment towards. It seemed that I set (myself) the agenda to try and promote a sense of integration for the Foundation into the community local to their base, only to actually be given the signal pretty clearly that in fact the residents were right - their views or involvement were in the bigger picture irrelevant to the Foundation's workings. Only it wasn't someone from the A Foundation who explained this - in fact we only received one carefully worded letter from them, it was me who had to host the rehearsal were I explained the event we'd all been building up to just wasn't going to happen.
Artists are used all the time to broker 'good feeling' between organisations and local communities, to 'involve new audiences' and all the other jargon terms banded about ... the irony is this time I set this agenda for myself! Nothing on our brief required us to work with local people, or do more than simply turn up for the live event ... but it seems I just can't stop myself. One of the reasons I wanted to do the project was that I wanted to know more about the area and really see what makes it tick ... and I guess I did do this. Maybe I just need to feel useful, but somehow without the final event and the chance for everyone in the band to meet the other artists and indeed the staff from the A Foundation and perform in Rochelle school as well as the bandstand the whole thing makes less sense for me. The song is good, the band were an interesting challenge, and we were the people to benefit from the project with our weekly debates about what the song might be and how the Estate operates - maybe that's enough.
However I can't help feeling frustrated that the organisation who initiated the work literally don't, it seems, want to hear it.
Musical life in the circus of course goes on without us and this weekend you can hear a brass band from Crystal Palace playing in the bandstand. If you play and you want to join other musicians afterwards Jan (our star player) will be leading a jam at NO:ID gallery, if you really want to hear something about Arnold Circus ask Seamus (our singer) if he's there ... but get a drink first it's a long story ...