This project was always ambitious. We said it in the funding application to Arts Council England, and this has proved itself as we’ve worked through a 7 month process of on street research, gathering and working with 40 volunteer participants, 6 community web videographers, 5 performance makers, making and launching a large scale video installation, an interactive map and finally a live performance. It’s a lot of activity for a small artist’s collective in Exeter. It turns out that the most ambitious thing of all, has been to secure a non-theatre/gallery venue for longer than a month with a fast broadband connection in the city centre.
Whilst we walk past ’empty’ space in the city centre on a daily basis, it is virtually impossible to secure some for arts purposes (low rent, non-commercial) with any sense of security ie. more than 2 weeks in advance of using it and with a guarantee that you won’t be thrown out during your making and showing period if a paying customer comes along. Still we are told as artists over and again that what we make creates a rich cultural life, and that attracts people to a city as much as what they can buy. Many cities in Britain have responded to the ‘current economic climate’ by creating a policy for cultural producers and commercial landowners to work together in a more streamlined way to allow the quick responsive nature of art to add to a sense of vibrancy in a city centre; increasing general footfall and attracting new visitors.
After a lot of legwork, meetings and a raft of administrative processes, during this project we’ve been lucky enough to have occupied a small shop in the Guildhall Shopping Centre and now a 3rd floor office space in Princesshay. Thanks to both our temporary landlords for your generosity and patience with the unpredictable nature of what we’re doing.
So at the end of July we finally got a venue. We knew it would be a bit tight to get broadband in, we had planned an earlier occupation, but luckily for us there were ethernet ports all around the walls – dozens of them. The building itself is supplied with broadband by 3 0r 4 different providers. We thought we had it made. After false starts, inadequate surveys, procuring of civic paperwork, digging up of the pavement to unblock pipes, comings and goings by people who are used to constant delays and longer lead ins, the broadband was installed on Friday 13th Sept. We tested our streaming system yesterday.
The internet is already a fragile system subject to all kinds of shifts, delays, cut outs. We have made a piece of work that plays out across the city and relies on this connectivity to bring outside action into the performance space using domestic broadband in a way that is usually only done by institutions, business, large organisations. The whole thing is a network built of hope,