Swindon Local, Business News and What on Wiltshire

Swindon soul on display in pre-Olympic sailing show

26th July 2012 by Roger Ogle

swindon wind gathering machineThere's huge excitement in London for the opening of the Olympic Games, and its equalled in Weymouth where, not only are the Olympic sailors gathering to do battle on the water, artists and performers from seven counties in South West England have come together to do Battle for the Winds.

Over the last eight months teams from Gloucestershire to Cornwall have been working on the Battle for the Winds which is taking place in Weymouth and Portland from 26 to 28 July.

Each county has to tell part of the ancient Greek story of how Aeolus, Father of the Winds, calls for all the winds of the South West to be brought to Weymouth to help the Olympic sailors. In response to his call, seven teams of Wind Gatherers from each region have begun gathering the winds, telling tales as they go.

jake the juggler

The only fear is that stone-hearted Doldrum will stand in their way, after his emergence at Lyme Regis Fossil Festival in May 2012.

Thousands of professional and community artists from across the seven counties of the South-West and beyond, brought together by the Desperate Men and Cirque Bijou, will help to tell the tale. Will the heroic Wind Gatherers succeed in their battle to unshackle the winds in time for the Olympic sailors to harness them?

The Wiltshire performance was previewed at the Swindon Big Arts Days at Lydiard Park on 14 July. Swindon Council commissioner for culture Helen Miah said she discovered last Autumn that Wiltshire was the only county not involved in the Olympic themed show for the South West. “When I approached Cirque Bijou in Bristol they said they were working on a massive regional arts project to launch the Olympic sailing events in Weymouth - and Wiltshire was not yet involved. The challenge was there and Swindon took it."

Left, Jake in a preview of the finale show in the town centre on 23 May when the Olympic flame came to Swindon

Artist and former Swindon railway worker Gordon Dickinson was approached to invent the machine whilst UK slack line champion Jake the Juggler took the role of Wiltshire wind collector Eurus who, with circus performers and members of Swindon Dance will present the county’s performance.

Gordon dickinsonCompared to the sleak, over-engineered contributions from other counties which have involved university departments in design and production, to say the least, Gordon’s creation has character.

Think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and a wild-eyed artist who might have appeared in Back to the Future, he drew on his apprenticeship to create beautifully crafted metal ‘clouds’ representing the steam and smoke of the railways.

For power Gordon has used an old bike supplied by the Salvation Army Recycles project, whilst pushers using their legs will sit on two old tractor seats facing backwards.

The machine includes wind driven organ pipes, bellows, and a home made xylophone mounted on the machine created on an old caravan chassis which will provide a stage for the DJ, accompanied by steam whooshing from its engine, to capture the Soul of Swindon.

Pictured above, Gordon in his workshop with Swindon’s wind collecting machine. Below, Gordon and the wind gathering machine ready to show off Swindon in the parade in Weymouth on 26 July

Swindon wind gathering machine The next three days will tell if they are successful. Performers and their wind gathering vessels are now on the South Coast to be watched by thousands of people lining the streets and on the beach at Weymouth.

On 26 July, throughout the day, the seven teams of South West Wind Gatherers and their richly decorated and carnivalesque Wind Gathering vessels, will parade in Weymouth and Portland, motley crews bringing outdoor spectacle, processions, inventions, surprises, wind-blown texts, circus, theatre, dance, urban stunts and extreme sports to various locations around the towns. Will the mischievous Doldrum arrive and steal the winds and the breath of young people?

In the evening The Battle for the Winds team are on the beach in the Weymouth to give a sneak preview of the grand finale on Saturday night. 

On Friday 27 July, Portland's High Angle Battery becomes the setting for an evocative performance created by Portland Islanders working with Lorna Rees, Activate Performing Arts. Dancers will perform within the battery itself to a soundtrack created using the voices of local people.

This historic and derelict landmark will also form the backdrop to an installation of 2692 blue butterflies - the rare Cretaceous Silver Studded Blue which is unique to Portland - each butterfly represents a young person who lives on the island. Visit the site and hear tales from islanders, explore the atmospheric 'ghost tunnels', encounter the dancers and try and discover just where Doldrum lurks.

The performances are fully booked but visitors can view the sets from 3pm to 6pm.

On Saturday 28 July, Weymouth Beach Live Site becomes the setting of a spectacular battle that plays out on land and in the air as the Wind Gatherers compete to see whose wind will be chosen to power the sailing events. 

As vistors enter they'll meet the Seven Wind Gathering teams from across all regions of the South West, warming up to present their winds to Aeolus, father of the Winds.  Hundreds of South West artists are present to tell this story through circus and street theatre, dance, aerial acrobatics, special effects and video projections. 

When Breathe Company arrive, washed up on the beach from distant lands, some without voices and some unable to fly, the Wind Gatherers don't know how to react.  

Lurking in the background is the fear that Doldrum will appear and steal the winds as he has threatened, stopping the Sailing and ruining the celebration.

The grand finale of the show is a unique mass Squibbing display from 220 Bridgwater Carnivalites.  Squibbing is an ancient tradition that goes back 400 years and takes place every Guy Fawkes night in the town of Bridgwater as part of their annual Carnival.  We are delighted that for the first time in its history, this truly local custom is to leave Bridgwater and be shared on a South West and a world stage.  This is not to be missed.

Find out more at Battle for the Winds

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