Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 26 Jan. Here Chris Fogg gives us an inside look into his latest project All The Ghosts Walk With Us. Catch it on the Bristol Old Vic stage on Wed 1 Feb.
Hi. Chris Fogg here. I’m really looking forward to presenting our show, All the Ghosts Walk with Us, as part of Ferment 2017 at Bristol Old Vic. The show is a collaboration between the dancer and choreographer Laila Diallo, the musician and composer Phil King and myself.
I am a writer, director and dramaturg. In 2012 I was lucky enough to have my first book of poetry and short stories, Special Relationships, published by Mudlark Press, and this was followed by a second, Northern Songs, in 2015. With these came several invitations to do readings, which I really enjoyed, but I felt that what I really wanted to do was to try and see whether these readings could be made more performative, into theatre pieces, and so I invited Laila and Phil to join me.
All the Ghosts… grew out of our early explorations, seeing how dance, music and spoken word might fit together and collectively fashion a single narrative arc. The narrative that has emerged arises out of the interest we each have in different meanings of home and belonging, of journeys and migrations. The question we kept asking ourselves was a simple one:
Do people make places or do places make people?
Although it might be a simple question, there are far from easy answers, and the theme has never felt more topical, teasing out those differences between where we live and where we work, where we grew up and where we are now…
I have lived in the south west, in Dorset, for many years now, but I was born and grew up in Manchester, and as the old saying goes: you can take the boy out of the north, but you can’t take the north out of the boy. Increasingly, my writing has found me returning to those early years in Manchester and discovering that it is still extremely fertile territory. I also spent a brief but formative period working in the former mining communities of Nottinghamshire, and it is these three very different locations – West Dorset, Manchester and the coalfields around Sherwood Forest – which form the heart of our stories.
To that end we have also worked with three very different photographers to provide still and moving images to accompany us on our journey. Martell Baines captures the resonant marks we make on the land in her images of the abandoned Nottinghamshire coal mines; Zoe Manders takes us on a contemporary journey through the former flax fields of West Dorset, while the late great Shirley Baker exuberantly documents life on the streets of Manchester and Salford in the 1960’s and 70’s at the height of the slum clearances there, in the bomb sites and waste grounds which children transformed into playgrounds. It was near one such bomb site – known locally as The Bama, short for Alabama – on the edge of an estate called The Victory, built at the end of the 1st World War, squeezed between Irlam Steel Works and the Manchester Ship Canal, where I grew up and went to school, and which forms the starting point for All the Ghosts Walk with Us.
Laila, Phil and I are delighted to have been invited to be part of this year’s Ferment, and we are looking forward to seeing the range of voices and ideas on show throughout the fortnight. We hope that All the Ghosts… may resonate with all who come to see it, and we look forward to continuing conversations about people and places.
Ferment Fortnight takes place at The Wardrobe Theatre 26-28 Jan before returning to Bristol Old Vic 31 Jan-2 Feb. For more info and to book tickets, click here.
Photography: Zoe Manders