If you're bored enough to be following my long run on Wednesday, there are a few things you should know. Principally this is so that you don't start to panic that I've dropped dead when in fact I've simply stopped for beans on toast. But also, most people I know have no real sense of how long it should take to run a hilly, muddy 85 miles (neither do I really), so this should also give you an idea of whether to imagine I'm doing well, or moving like a Romero zombie.
First of all, the tracking page is here: live.opentracking.co.uk/thao20/#
There might be periods where the tracker isn't updating - clicking through on the site will tell you when it last did. It sends updates every 90 seconds. If it doesn't have signal, it will try again 90 seconds later. In remote areas this means you might go a while before updates land, and then I'll suddenly appear to have travelled a longish way in one go. In fact, I won't be moving quickly. The most remote areas, where this is pretty likely are the first two sections.
Scheduled departure time is Wednesday morning, 3am. This is not an intentional Simon & Garfunkel reference. Scheduled stops for food, changes of shoes, lancing of blisters, etc, are as follows:
- Slaidburn approx 7.30am
- the foot of Pendle hill approx 10.30am
- Burnley (near Townely Hall) approx 1.45pm
- Todmorden approx 4pm
- Blackstone Edge approx 5.45pm
- M62 crossing approx 6.30pm
- Wessenden Head approx 8pm
- Crowden approx 9.30pm
- Snake Pass approx 12am
- Kinder Scout (finish) approx 1.30am
Then I'll have to get either back to Snake Pass, or on to Edale - this will depend on road support and we'll make a call about it on Tuesday. One side effect of this is that in the unlikely event of your tuning in at 2am to watch a moving dot, you may see me apparently moving backwards. The whole thing, including getting back to the van, should take approximately 24 hours. But this is incredibly, increasingly approximate.
You'll see that these stops get more frequent as the day goes on. This is partly just because on that last section, on the Pennine Way, there are more road crossings. It's also because I don't know what state I'll be in by then, so we've scheduled stops to be on the safe side.
The major thing I don't know how I'll handle is the sleep deprivation, and although we've got an approximate schedule, there's no time limit and I'm not ruling out having a nap. The decision-making process for napping will be as follows: would I literally rather die than continue? If yes, I'll have a nap, then continue. If continuing seems preferable to immediate execution, then I'll continue.
There are obvious exceptions to this flow diagram here. Serious injury would certainly make me stop, for example. In terms of safety planning, I'll be prepared for the possibility of coming to a sudden irreparable halt anywhere on the route (emergency food, first aid kit, foil blanket, waterproofs, extra layers, etc) but in practice this is an extreme and remote contingency.
Apart from the planned stops noted above, I shouldn't be stationary for more than thirty seconds at any point.
Finally, don't be alarmed if I'm not exactly on the red line shown on the tracking page. That route is approximate. I should never be more than a few miles off it, but for example:
- the route out of Lancaster (if anyone's up and watching that early) will be different
- the route off Bowland into Slaidburn will be slightly different
- the route between Slaidburn and Sawley will be different, especially the first part of it
- and so on
I'm going to try to get this amended slightly so that it's a little closer to being accurate, but there will be variations.
There will be occasional updates on twitter from my account (mostly not sent by me) and Boff's (@boffwhalley).
Happy dot watching.
I write from a delayed train to Bristol, where the tour of I Was Naked, Smelling of Rain opens tomorrow. I directed this show, by the visual artist Aidan Moesby, at ARC last year and it’s easily one of the most enjoyable and satisfying creative experiences I’ve had as a director. Not just because Aidan is a dream collaborator: entirely open to new ideas and entirely clear when he wants to go in a different direction; warmth and generosity do not preclude incisiveness and rigour. Enjoyable and satisfying rather becaus, the show, which is about loneliness, climate change and mental health, is rich, strange and entirely, assuredly itself.
Aidan’s never made work for performance before, but you’d never know it. I’ve never worked on anything quite like it and I really hope you get to see it. It opens tomorrow night at We The Curious in Bristol: https://www.wethecurious.org/the-box-live-performance
This time last year I was in the midst of my longest lean period in nearly a decade. We’re never immune, as freelancers in this industry, to sudden huge gaps: mine came up when four separate projects were postponed, moved, or cancelled, leaving a yawning gulf in the middle of last year. When the same thing happened ten years ago I was paying off the credit card debt for five years but I’m very fortunate to have, over the past five years, been able to build up a bit of a buffer against this kind of lean patch. Theatre Tax Relief is largely to thank for this availability of just enough reserves to survive.
This industry being, as it is, built on feast and famine, a year on and I’m in the midst of perhaps the busiest period of my entire life. Thursday sees the opening of not just I Was Naked, Smelling of Rain, but also 666 Comments: another show which has been immensely satisfying to direct. Totally different to I Was Naked, it stages a comment thread that unravelled beneath a comic strip posted online, about internet misogyny. The thread was a startling demonstration and vindication of everything in the comic. The show, by Aliki Chapple, hurls into the real world the bile and the wildness and the wit and the wisdom of that thread. It’s astonishing, hilarious and at times fucking terrifying.
The first performance on the tour of 666 Comments is this Thursday in Havant, Hampshire and then it’s touring all year: https://littlemighty.co.uk/projects-shows/666-comments/
On the subject of feast and famine, we learned that we had the money to re-rehearse and tour 666 Comments about four days before rehearsals were due to start. We’d submitted two applications for about £28000 which, despite being rated “outstanding” in at least one area and “strong” in the others, were nonetheless unsuccessful. So on the last day before the Christmas holiday, bit between my teeth and fully cognisant of the timeline, I radically rewrote the budget and application, and resubmitted at just under £15k.
It could well be argued that cancelling would have made more sense than cutting it back to the bone (in particular including my own fee) and playing chicken with ACE’s assessors in this way. That we didn’t do so is, I think, a triumph of tenacity over orthodox good sense, a triumph of nerve-holding.
The rehearsal process, though, was a vindication of the decision to forge ahead. Of course we all got into a mode of imaginatively assigning the time that would be released if the tour didn’t happen. The amount of work I imagined getting done! So when we finally got the money, and had to do all the associated work, it briefly felt almost inconvenient. But. We made this show two years ago. Aliki has been nursing the project for nearly a decade. It’s about time we got it out there. Not least because it is really fucking good. I’m immensely proud of having been a small part of making 666 Comments, I’m really overjoyed that we didn’t cancel, and I really hope you get to see it.
And if it was just those two shows, I wouldn’t be going on about how busy I am like the humblebragging motherfucker you know I am. They’re both directed now; I just have to swan in from time to time and offer something that might help keep everyone alive; in lots of ways directing is really relaxing.
March, though, sees the first two of four choir projects (e.g. http://www.danielbye.co.uk/blog/these-hills-are-ours-a-song-for-roseberry-topping), the filming of those projects to turn into shorts, and the opening of the stage show (http://www.danielbye.co.uk/these-hills-are-ours.html) all part of the These Hills Are Ours project. Between these things there’s quite a lot on my plate. So obviously I write this on a train from Kent, where I ran a marathon this morning. Why?
The week before the 666 Comments rehearsal process, on January 29th, I was scheduled to run 85 miles from my house in Lancaster to the top of Kinder Scout in the Peak District. It’s part of the process of making These Hills Are Ours, so if you really want to know why I’d do something so deeply steeped in folly, you’ll have to come and see the show.
Three days before the run was due to take place my baby son caught a vomiting bug. Two days before, my daughter caught it too. That same night so did I, feeling as rough as I’ve ever felt and praying we wouldn’t have to cancel the run. I spent the 28th in bed imagining I was getting better, imagining I was keeping food down, before having to admit that it was hopeless. You can’t run 85 miles if you can’t keep calories down.
A few people told me I was wise to cancel. It wasn’t wise. In the end it was an absolute no-brainer.
Instead of running 85 miles, I spent the afternoon of the 28th watching Little Women in the cinema. I felt gradually better. But I couldn't have run, and I was glad to have seen the film. If we hadn’t got the 666 Comments money we’d have postponed the run until February 13th, a delay of two weeks, but I emerged from my Gerwig glow to find we’d got the money. Instead of resting through 666 rehearsals I had to maintain a huge (for me) volume of training in order to minimise the probability of this thing being a total catastrophe. So now it’s 4th March. Next week.
And because, feast or famine, working in the arts is cruel, next week I’ve also ended up with two job/commission interviews, two thirteen-mile walks as part of planning and delivering this choir/film project, and time in four different towns and cities - not including the ones I’ll run through. Things get moved, and then they get moved again, and then there’s nowhere left to move them to and so they all end up happening at the same time. Feast. Famine.
This time last year I was in the middle of the longest lean stretch of the last ten years and so it’s important that I remind myself, from time to time, that although my life is ridiculous it is also extraordinary. I am overworked but I love my work and I thrive on these peak periods. I try in my working practices not to inflict these kinds of demands on anyone else but I am obviously humblebragging like a motherfucker here, of course I’m delighted with my ludicrous feast. I’m a teetotal vegetarian but I’m Henry VIII quaffing chicken drumsticks and gobbling wine.
Working like this isn’t sustainable, but if you choose it, it’s a ride. If you choose it. As lead artists, we have to remember that for no-one else on the team is it the culmination of a year or a life’s work. Everyone else has to be enabled to work sensible hours and take sensible breaks. Especially the design team, who go into tech two or three times a month and are expected to work fourteen hour days because the director has been nursing this project for thirteen years and finally got to make it. Just because it's your birthday, don't force feed everyone else.
Anyway, the marathon this morning went well. Physically, at least, I’m resting now before the long one next week. If you want to follow how that goes, I’ll be carrying a tracker and you can watch a dot moving slowly across a map here: http://live.opentracking.co.uk/thao20/#.
The route marked in red on that map is very approximate so don’t be alarmed if you see me veering off it. And I’ll be stopping every ten or fifteen miles to eat, change my shoes, peel off blackened toenails, etc, so don’t be alarmed if there are short stretches of inactivity. There’ll be occasional updates from my account (mostly not from me) via twitter if you want to know more.
Scheduled departure time is 3am on Wednesday 4th. The schedule says it’ll take about 24 hours. But it’s twice as far as I’ve ever run, so really, who knows.
We are recruiting singers for a unique choral singing project.
On 8th March this year, a group of singers will make their way from the centre of Stockton to the top of Roseberry, singing an original song along the route. The song is being written in response to a series of workshops with members of the community. It’s a celebration of the relationship between Roseberry Topping and the people of Teesside.
The song, and the journey, will be documented as one of a series of four short films of similar projects across the country.
Thursday 20th February – 6-8pm rehearsal, ARC Stockton
Friday 6th March – rehearsal 6-8pm, rehearsal, ARC Stockton
Sunday 8th March – performance day – meet at 9am, ARC Stockton for a final rehearsal before we depart shortly after ten.
Do I need to be able to cover the whole route?
It’ll be around thirteen miles and we want the experience to be accessible to everyone, so no. We will develop a transport plan that responds to everyone’s needs so that you can join us for as much of the journey as possible, and meet us at points along the way. We would like as many people as possible to join us for the final ascent of Roseberry Topping from the car park. But we don’t want anyone’s individual needs to prevent them from participating in as much of the project as possible. Please get in touch if you have doubts or specific needs.
Is there a bad weather plan?
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. You will certainly need sturdy footwear and given that this is Teesside in March, full body waterproof cover is worth seriously considering.
What if I can’t make all the dates?
So long as you can make the performance day and at least one of the rehearsals, you’re welcome.
Do I need to be an experienced singer?
No. There’ll be people involved who are very experienced choral singers, and people involved for whom this is their debut at singing in public. All are welcome. And you’ll be in the very safe hands of the fantastic choir leader Beccy Owen.
Do I need to be able to read music?
No. We can have the sheet music (“dots”) available for those who need it, but this isn’t how the songs will be taught. And we’ll have demo tracks available to download and/or listen to online, so that you can familiarise yourself with the material between rehearsals.
What should I wear?
See “is there a bad weather plan”, above.
How long will the performance day take?
We’ll be back down in the warm well before dusk, and perhaps not long after lunch time. But we’ll travel at the speed of the slowest group member and want to ensure everyone who wants to can participate, so this isn’t going to be a race. It also means that we’re reluctant to give a precise time, but we expect to be finished around 5pm. Bring a packed lunch.
How do I get there and back?
ARC is here:
It’s in the centre of Stockton, and there’s plentiful parking nearby. It’s also well-served by bus routes to Stockton centre.
For the return journey on the day itself, we’ll do a mix of car-pooling and taxiing.
If you’re worried about being able to meet travel costs then we can help support your involvement. Just get in touch via the email address below.
I’m in! Or, I have more questions!
Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to get your name on the list. If you have any other questions, however small, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will