Wednesday, May 09, 2007

About The Burgess Project – a picture book

In April 2005, Chris Gribble invited us to experiment with new technologies, new writing and new audiences during an innovative strand of the inaugural Manchester Literature Festival, due to launch in October 2006. The "Freeplay" strand is where Literature, Technology & Media come together, and The Burgess Project was all of those things, and more. We accepted the commission with glee.

Our challenge to modern North West writing talent Cath Staincliffe, David Bateman, Dike Omeje, Jean Sprackland &
David Gaffney: come on a coach trip around Burgess' Manchester, lead by most recent biographer Andrew Biswell. Visit the International Anthony Burgess Foundation to discover more about the Man, his writing and his music. Then spend a day with us to devise the show, and then another fortnight polishing your own live literature piece.

As this was a promenade performance across various city centre venues, there needed to be a connection, a link to move the audience between venues. The end of each Act is pinpointed by Burgess chasing our narrator "Enderby" in an attempt to cancel the show. Although he doesn't know why he's in trouble, Enderby runs away at every attempt of contact.

Details were littered everywhere throughout the performance from a busker on a street corner to 'Wanted' posters of known criminals. Some audiences left knowing the busker was part of the show all along, some left with the knees-up tune as their ringtone, some held photographs from Hulme past and present, and some retold the text message narrative of a crime victim. The intention was that everyone wouldn't get everything, that experiences would be shared, perhaps on the scene with a stranger or later in the pub with a friend.

Because the project was about the process as much as the performances, we documented the whole thing in a feature-length DVD. We thank our commissioner Manchester Literature Festival (Chris Gribble & Cathy Bolton), funder Arts Council England, North West, the International Anthony Burgess Foundation and Andrew Biswell.

The Burgess Project is dedicated to Dike Omeje who died in January 2007.


1. Co-narrator "Rosie" waits for the 25-30 pre-booked audience to set up their mobile phones for the events ahead. Act One: Jean Sprackland's sermon from the pulpit in St Ann's Church, "Lecture on Saint Anthony, Patron Saint Of Lost Things". Outside, a busker is playing the song our unsuspecting audiences will later be singing along to.

2. The audience follow narrators "Enderby" & "Rosie" as they escape on-screen nemesis, 'Burgess', to Act Two: Dike Omeje's "The Poetry in Motionless Tour" on a heritage bus. During the reading, audience were sent photographs of the parts of Manchester where both Anthony & Dike both lived, 60 years apart, by bluetooth.

3. An homage to Burgess' piano-playing father, the crew gather astonished shoppers as the audience promenades from Act Two to Act Three. The busker stands on a different corner, but plays the same song – do we recognise him?

4. "Enderby" & "Rosie" watch on as David Bateman delivers Act Three: "The Miraculous Trinity Of Anthony Burgess’s Virginities". A cage of TV monitors shows an eclectic array of live & historical footage using VJ software, 'Resolume'. Stewards in branded t-shirts offer handouts to bemused passers-by. Many of them join us.

5. Outside Harvey Nichols, the audience explores a two-way text messaging narrative while watching a Forensic Team in Act Four: "Crime Scene" by Cath Staincliffe. Before we arrive the the forensics have already gathered a huge random audience. We now number around 50-60.

6. Passing the busker in Cathedral Gardens, "Enderby" again escapes the call of Burgess, leading our audience into a shop in The Triangle, where David Gaffney, and his on-screen alter-ego, Gifford, are waiting to deliver Act Five: "Guided by Voices".

7. Act Six is the finale – or is it? The now huge Exchange Square audience sing along with the now-familiar Busker in a traditional pub-style knees-up: "Nothing so sweet as a story". Tshirted stewards hand out the lyrics and the crew point along to lyric boards.

8. And they thought it was all over: "Burgess" finally wins, in this BBC Screen intervention. Burgess finally finding "Enderby" and cancelling the show in favour of a pop video based on a song mentioned in A Clockwork Orange, 1962. In our version, the lyrics were first published by Bateman in 1986, with music added by Steve Cooke in 1999.

9. Having scooped so many of the public, we needed to tell them what had happened... Thanks Manchester, you've been great.


The Credits
the-phone-book Limited are Ben Jones (in this project, Performance Director) and Fee Plumley (Executive Producer).

Writer, 'The Poetry in Motionless Tour': Dike Omeje
Writer, 'Guided by Voices': David Gaffney
Writer, ‘The Miraculous Trinity Of Anthony Burgess’s Virginities’ and lyric of ‘You Blister My Paint’: David Bateman
Writer, sms crime scene and lyrics for 'Nothing so sweet as a story': Cath Staincliffe
Writer, 'Lecture on Saint Anthony, Patron Saint Of Lost Things': Jean Sprackland
Rosie: Maria Gabriella Ruban
Enderby and co-writer of 'Nothing so sweet as a story' soundtrack: Chris Sievey
Anthony Burgess: Stewart D Laing
Busker and on-street flyerer: Stuart Hudson
Forensic Investigators: Simon Bates & Nina Gilhooley

The Production Team
Tech/Stage Manager: Julian Tait
Producer: Eliza Tyrrell
Production Assistant: Emma Persand Carter
DVD Producer: Jamie Kennerley
DVD Assistant: Lucy Donaldson
Animator: Charlie Hopkins
Musical Director and Co-writer of 'Nothing so sweet as a story' soundtrack: Paul Draper
Music and singing on ‘You Blister My Paint’: Steve Cooke
Mobile Content Producer: Dave Marsden
Mobile Content Assistants: Emma Persand Carter & Si Richardson
VJ / Vision Mixer: Roger Robinson
Vision Technician: Jim Green
Van Driver: John Daly
Stage Crew: Alec Cook, Arslan Tontor, Roman Panowek, Geoff Lee
Head Steward: James Garrett
Stewards: Kate Feld, Kate Taylor, Emma Foster, James McGrath, Aowyn Sanderson
Event Security: Paul Connor
Insurance and equipment: Little Star Productions
Projectors: Redeye
PA equipment: STS Touring
PR: Catharine Braithwaite & Shelagh Bourke, Lethal Communications
Biographer: Andrew Biswell
The Burgess Project Logo: Jenny Lomax, Firebaud
Furniture: East Manchester Community Forum

St Ann's Church (Elaine Lindsay, Paul Campion, Roger Hill, Ronald Frost); Manchester Transport Museum (Chris Lonergan); Triangle (Michelle Atack); BBC Big Screen (Marie Sleigh & William Jenkyns); Whitworth Museum (Penny Howarth).

Manchester Literature Festival (Cathy Bolton & Chris Gribble); Arts Council England, North West (Literature – Avril Heffernan & Will Carr); The International Anthony Burgess Foundation (Alan Roughley, Nuria Belastegui & their associates); Manchester City Council Events Unit (Mike Parrott, Toby Rathbone, Kathryn Woolstencroft & all); MCC Parking (Dave Wilkinson); Titchy Coffee Company (Claire); Lammarrs (Joel & Ian).
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