After getting everybody up and organized (which takes longer than you might imagine..) we set off to have breakfast at the University Refectory. This is the dinning hall for the students which also doubles as a music venue in the evenings, since the late 60's it has played host to bands like Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Rolling Stones and The Who. Of course the buildings varied music heritage was not our reason to visit, we were there for a substantial breakfast which was truly excellent. Ben managed to consume about a third of his body weight in muesli and Isaac disappeared to the toilet only to return, twenty minutes later, wearing a new jacket. Suitably fed and clothed we set off to find that we were just in time for the first session with Salamander Tandem.
We were warmly welcomed and told to make ourselves comfortable, there is a wealth of interesting large scale technology surrounding the space but also a sense of the intimate, some larger than life domestic paper lanterns glowing colourfully by the entrance and carefully controlled lighting gave the feeling of entering someones home. We were surrounded by projected images, live camera feeds, some delayed and effected, and some visual representations of the sound created within the room. The members of Salamander Tandem start moving amongst the audience and it quickly becomes apparent that this is a collaborative performance, where the traditional roles of performer and audience do not apply. Sound is captured live, processed and looped and fed back into the space, this becomes a musical soundtrack which included the squeaking of the floor, words spoken into a mic and sound created by the movement of bodies. The whole experience was surprisingly fluid, everything felt easy and relaxed, power shifted amongst the performers, one person would lead the movement and then another, wordlessly people interacted allowing themselves to be moved by the flowing soundtrack, or directly by other participants.
At a certain point a box marked 'conkers' (the seeds of the horse-chesnut tree) appeared and the seeds slowly introduced into the movement. Participants selected a conker and began to rub it on another person until everyone was simultaneously rubbing and being rubbed. To use the seeds in gentle tactile exploration was interesting as they are usually associated with the competitive and destructive childhood game. After this everyone was lead out of the space and this marked the end. I couldn't tell you how long we were in the room for but as we talked about the experience afterwards we all agreed that it was energizing and uplifting. It was a great way to begin our day.
We further explored the university campus and student union buildings, but ultimately we are here in Leeds for the serious business of staging a performance and preparation for this is what was to dominate our afternoon. We rehearsed, discussed, ran scenes and discussed them some more.
After a few hours of work, Ben, Glen and Isaac went to work individually and Kim and I decided to go and source supplies, including whatever we would need for dinner. On the way we came across Granary Wharf, a set of tunnels built underneath the train station which spans the river Aire. 18 million bricks were used in its construction which set new records at the time (c.1866). As you walk down the tunnel secondary tunnels carrying the fast flowing river stretch to your right, the dark water rushing by underneath you. It's a strange place, at the end you exit into an old canal basin which has been recently developed with a hotel and apartments, a stark contrast to the dark, damp smelling tunnel from which you emerge. Tomorrow we have plans for a morning rehearsal, that is of course, after breakfast at the refectory, who knows what else the day may bring.