Thursday, 9 June 2011

Wednesday 8th June 11 Performance/Installation in Leeds

I got up relatively early, before 9am,despite going to bed at 3 last night. I had my usual morning of muesli and laptop.  A friend came round and asked me if I would look after their bank card to stop them spending money on drink.  As I was at the front door, I noticed that the robins in the logpile had fledged and left the nest.  How lovely!

Then I did some work outside, dug out a compost heap and turned it into the New Zealand pallet bin I emptied a day or three ago.

After lunch I got my well-loaded bike and trailer ready for going to St Nicks with Pauline's stuff for the Give and Take day.  But just before I set off, it poured with rain and hailed.  Never mind, I had to go as I had a deadline to meet in Leeds.  So the stuff got delivered, albeit a bit damp round the edges.

Just a few days ago, a friend involved with the World Naked Bike Ride had sent a message from someone putting on an art installation in a strip club in Leeds, and they were looking for people prepared to be naked in this environment and interact with members of the audience.  I emailed the organiser with a request for more information and wasn't told much, just to be at the venue by 3pm and we'd be provided with food and drink, and things to do, and that it wouldn't be too arduous. So I decided to give it a go.

I got the 2.14 slow train which took 35 minutes to get to Leeds, and walked quickly up to the Headrow to Wildcats. Waiting inside were Tony and Hugh my WNBR collaborators, plus several other naked bike riders, one of whom I knew by name, Stan.  We were taken downstairs to the changing rooms (although we didn't really need to change, just take clothes off!), and I bundled up my shorts, teeshirt and bum-bag into my bag and brought it up to where we were supposed to be, a kind of lounge area with armchairs, other seating and tables, and a kind of tented area with enclosed cosy booths in it, which I guess must be for 'private dances'.

The young women who were in charge of the event brought us a pile of books, a game of Scrabble and invited us to have something to eat and showed us the coffee-making facilities.  They told us just to chat, play card games and do what we wanted to do, and the audience would be brought up, one by one, by young women dressed very plainly and saying nothing.  The visitor would spend just a few minutes with us and be taken away again.

So we drank coffee and chatted and milled around, and audience members started being brought up to us.  They had previously been made to wait in a queue, and then in the lobby area, before being taken into the pole-dancing area.  Here, they witnessed a 'cleaner' wiping down the pole, and a couple of bored-looking 'strippers' talking on mobile phones.  Then they were brought upstairs to us, presumably expecting something maybe erotic or exciting, to see a bunch of naked middle-aged blokes (and one naked middle-aged woman) chatting and drinking cups of coffee.  We engaged in a bit of small-talk with them... I, for instance, said hello and asked if they'd ever been to a strip club before, and most answered that they hadn't, at which I replied that nor had I, and I didn't know what to expect really.  Other people also engaged with visitors, and a couple of times the organisers came in to ask us to do something slightly differently, or to say it was all going brilliantly.

Towards the end, visitors were being brought up in twos, and then in groups of four, which rather changed the dynamic, but it was still an incongruous situation, being brought silently into a room full of naked people, all very at ease with being nude, and the naked ones chatting away almost as if they were clothed and in a 'normal' environment.  The person who looked most uncomfortable was actually one of the tutors, a middle-aged chap himself, but many of the younger ones were seemingly completely happy with it.  Most of the audience were students from the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. 

Afterwards, in the pub, we learned that the organisers were all students from the NSCD, and had thought this up very carefully as their 'Collaborative Arts Project'. It was called 'One Free Dance'.

So we had some good discussions in the pub, quite a bit about naturism, as most of the participants were naturists, and a bit about the WNBR as some of us had attended that, and many other related subjects.

I left at 9 and headed to the station, having had a very thought-provoking time, an enjoyable time.  I had to wait 40 minutes for a train but got back home at 10.25 in time to watch Newsnight.  I lit the woodstove, then washed up, chopped up some fruit leather and put it in a storage jar, had a bowl of muesli and dealt with a huge pile of emails and admin before writing my blog after 2am.  Went to bed nearer 4. Whoops!

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