Yesterday, as I stood at Lydney Station on my way to London for a meeting, I have a surprise encounter and it is still resonating un my mind. On two counts.
- Because it was a really great way to start the day, resulting in mixed emotions – joy at the fact it happened – and deep sadness about deaths on railway crossings. It was human
- Because it has really made me consider the value of such an event as a marketing tool and how engaging it was. #mademyday
So here is a theatre review that isn’t a theatre review, but a critique of what the visual arts can learn from a brief interaction that occurred at 8am, on a tiny railway platform, in rural Gloucestershire.
You know what it’s like, waiting for a train, distracted by thoughts of the day ahead – the meetings, the work to complete on the train during your 2 hourish train journey. No-one speaking to each other, spread along the platform, tapping away on mobile phones, or gazing across the the Rivern Severn in the distance.
The warning sounds begin, beep beep beep, the barrier will drop soon, only a short time before the train arrives. The timing is impeccable. Across the railway line, on the opposite platform, 2 men and a woman stand in a line and one calls to us, announcing a play about the danger of railway crossings. Dressed as a railway worker in a high viz, a policeman and a woman, they re-present true experiences for people from those perspectives. It is sad, gruelling even, the stories are raw and honest. It’s great.
I quickly take some photos, I want to watch and listen.
Everyone is gripped, quiet, staring across to the platform. As the train approaches they say thank you, there’s a brief applause and I shout across the rails “who are you?” they reply “even arno”, I shout again “Who????” but their voices disappear as the train divides our contact. The moment is lost.
I got on the train and shared a picture on Twitter and Facebook and named them as ‘even arno”(?). Within seconds a friend from Bristol Tweets me – “Yvonne Arnaud, from Guildford.” Excellent, a quick editing job and that is fixed.
I look for them on Facebook, like them, and give them a review. Sadly I can’t post a picture. That was yesterday.
I’ve thought about it a lot since. Questions in my mind include:
- why haven’t they responded? They could amplify, reach new audiences
- it was a powerful performance, but were we the right audience? (They are from Guildford)
- if they were performing in Gloucester, or The Forest of Dean, might that be more targeted?
- what can the visual arts learn from this?
- how can we engage audiences in unexpected ways?
Next week, it’s International Museum Week and things are hotting up online. Lots of things are flying around and I noticed Periscope is involved. I’ve looked at Periscope a few times – it appeals to me, especially as I used to make artists videos and films. But when I look closer to get some ideas on content, I’m mostly not impressed by what I see.
Is there anywhere there are curated collections? Will museum live Twitter relays be sandwiched between teenage girls being drunk, or marketeers selling products?
Can you invite users of Periscope to contribute to a dedicated channel – for example – The Story of Objects?
I’d like to know more – any advice anyone?