Back in 2005 I became involved in a collaborative arts project with Phil Smith and Maggi Squires located at Shaldon Primary School, which sits at the mouth of the river Teign in South Devon. We worked with them for a week running a series of workshops that included a mythogeographic survey of the village, the creation of a puppets from gathered materials, poetry making and the creation of a piece of music. These creative explorations culminated in a ritual act of performance which saw 130 children process their puppet avatars to the sea shore and set messages, folded into paper boats, afloat on the waters for the tide to take away to the waiting world. Sadly, due to a omission of planning on our part, the tide, which was coming in, washed straight back onto the red sand in waterlogged clumps, but the sentiment was there, and the rest of the day went as smoothy as these things can.
My role, in part, was to provide a document of the performance in the shape of a film. Of course, I declined to make this a straight forward affair and attempted to integrate as much of the process into some sort of narrative, shaped by the general theme, described by the children narrating the film.
One month later we returned to show the finished film at the school. We drove through torrential rain to get there, only to discover that the school and much of the village had been evacuated due to a freak flash flood combined with a high tide. Once you have seen the film you will be better placed to understand why this felt quite so significant. It was not until we collectively viewed the film a couple of weeks later that the significance of the films theme came home. It felt as though we had collectively, albeit unintentionally, designed a magical act that would summon the sea to us in an act of unity.
Of course the whole thing was just a coincidence. Yes, of course it was. Cinema is not a magic act. There just happened to be a high tide combined with a flash flood on the day we planned to show the film. Nothing strange there. Nothing strange at all. Other than the film perhaps. I can’t remember what the children thought of it. I seem to remember a lot of fairly blank stares. I do remember one of the parents telling me that they felt it was a cross between a David Lynch movie and the Blair Witch Project but I can’t remember whether is was supposed to be a critique or a threat. I took as a compliment and have kept it to this day, to share it with you, here.