Here in Birmingham we are waking up from the dreamworld that was The Commonwealth Games. It was a lovely experience to have the city jet washed and decaying buildings wrapped up, to enjoy free public transport (with games tickets), to have art and sport spilling out onto our streets, to have smiling faces everywhere, a pride in the city and helpful volunteers at every corner to ensure our lives all ran smoothly for a fortnight. It put me in mind of an obscure performance we made more than a decade ago.
It’s been a long time since Birmingham City Council gave us a grant (to be fair it’s a long time since we asked them for one), but once upon a time they did. Initially we would apply for help making a project, the council would appraise the idea and then say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ depending on how things stacked up. Then, in 2011, for the first time (and for a very brief time) they gave us a ‘revenue grant’. The glory of a revenue grant was that it wasn’t tied tightly to a single project, it could to contribute to our general costs and help support everything we were doing. This led us to consider afresh our relationship to Birmingham and the role people / politicians thought the arts should play in our society.
Our response was to take the utilitarian view of the arts a literally as possible. What would a theatre company do if it were being unambiguously a public service? We started to undertake performance actions that were for the public good. Ultimately we did two! It was supposed to be a much longer series but I think we both go too busy to do more, but also realised most of our ideas ended up doing jobs other people were actually paid to do – which felt a bit unethical. Anyway, for a day we acted as Welcomers at Birmingham International Airport and Concierges at Snow Hill Station.
The project’s title could have worked as an overlong strap line for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and particularly for everyone who worked on the festival and all the volunteers Together With Love We Will Make This Citadel Glorious.
And we did.