Monthly Archives: April 2010

Pentabus Blog: Country and Border Life Article

Life of Brian

 

From Country and Border Life 2010

 

Escape to the Country

 

A widely successful book charting one family’s move from the city to rural Herefordshire has been adapted for the stage by an acclaimed Shropshire theatre company – and it’s showing across Wales and the Borders

 

Words: Sally Themans

 

In 2002, Brian Viner left London with his wide and children in search of the rural idyll. As a senior features writer and columnist for The Independent, Brian’s interviews with sporting legends – Sir Bobby Robson, George Foreman, John McEnroe and Sir Roger Bannister, to name a few – have been essential reading in the newspaper’s pages since 1999, as have books such as The Football Interviews and Ali, Pele, Lillee and Me – his amusing account of the sport he watched on the telly as a boy during the ‘70s.

 

            But experiencing the “metropause” – a yearning, as he describes it, on the part of him and his wife, Jane, to seek out a different type of life for them and their three children, Eleanor, Joseph and Jacob – the “somewhat urban couple” found themselves in deepest Herefordshire. Here, the trials and triumphs of their new rural existence provided fertile ground for a fresh column, Tales of the Country, and subsequent book, which humorously chart the family’s move. Now, this account of their transition from Crouch End in North London to Docklow, a tiny village with about 100 inhabitants between Leominster and Bromyard, has been adapted for the stage. The play opens at Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury this month.

 

            Ludlow-based Pentabus Theatre Company approached Brian with the idea for turning his tales into a play last year, and the award-winning playwright, scriptwriter and author Nick Warburton has produced the script. “I’ve had no creative input into the project apart from having written the book, which has been adapted brilliantly - by Nick Warburton” Says Brian. “Nick’s a hugely experienced writer for stage, screen and radio whose credits include episodes of Eastenders. That proves what a versatile fellow he is: murder, rape, abortion, adultery, armed robbery, incest – and now cowpats.”

 

            Versatile is also a description that fits Brian and Jane Viner. They met at the Hampstead and Highgate Gazette and enjoyed a typically “media-orientated” life – he as an award-winning sports and TV columnist with the Daily Mail and then The Independent, she as a producer on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour. The move to Herefordshire kindled a new phase in Brian’s career, with the weekly Tales of the Country column appearing in The Independent alongside Brian’s sporting interviews. “The irony is that, professionally, I was concerned about the move but actually it’s been the best thing I could have done,” Says Brian.

            Such was the popularity of his refreshing and humorous look at his family adapting to country life that it led to the book of the same title, chronicling the Viners’ first year in Herefordshire. Tales of the Country was first published in 2005 and has sold 40,000 copies. A second book – The Pheasants’ Revolt – followed in 2007.

 

            “Moving was a big step into the unknown and everyone was waiting eagerly to see what was going to happen,” explains Brian. “We’d met in London and had no idea how we would function as a couple, or indeed as a family, in this new environment. It’s a seismic move – it would have been easier to move to Barcelona or Munich than to move from London to Herefordshire.

 

            “We had in our minds a house on the edge of a small market town or village – the key criteria for location choice being ‘The Cappuccino Test’,” chuckles Brian. “I wanted to be able to walk from my house and be able to get a decent cappuccino as had been my habit in Crouch End. But oh no. The house we found and fell fairly instantly in love with was a far cry from a cappuccino. From Docklow, it would take about half a day’s brisk hiking to get anywhere near a decent cup of coffee.

 

“Urban living is different from rural living; everything involves a car journey and some degree of planning. We suddenly found ourselves in a much larger, grander house than we’d ever expected to live in; we’d been used to a limp cabbage patch of a garden and now have five acres to contend with. And we also found ourselves the object of a mixture of fascination and suspicion from local people, which I’m told is typical – especially if you move into ‘The Big House’ and especially if you write for a newspaper.”

 

            The Viners remain humble about their surroundings: “It’s extraordinary from our modest backgrounds to be living here, and we feel very grateful for being in this lovely house in this lovely part of the world.”

 

            An unexpected consequence of the move to the country was what it revealed about friendship and diversity. “One of the big worries of moving the children from an urban environment was that they wouldn’t get to experience the multi-ethnic, diverse make-up of people we were surrounded by in London. However, when we really looked at ourselves, the truth was that actually all our friends were our age, white, middle-class professionals. What moving to the country has taught is that with a smaller pool from which to choose your friends – you begin to choose those whom you like, rather than those whom you are like. In London it was unthinkable to have friends in their seventies; here, in Herefordshire, it’s a different story and completely acceptable – nay, enriching – to have friends of different ages and social backgrounds. That has changed our view of the world and given us the true meaning of diversity”.

 

            Local theatre-lovers will be able to witness the family’s transition for themselves when Tales of the Country opens on 8th April. Following its date at theatre Severn it will tour Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and the Borders before ending up on the London stage in May. “I come out of it a bit of a pillock,” grins Brian. “I’m tickled it’s going to be a play and I hope people enjoy it.”

 

 

 

Birmingham Hippodrome Blog: Mandy Rose, Press & PR Officer on Creating a buzz

There’s a great creative buzz around Birmingham Hippodrome at the moment and not just on stage!  In fact, the foyer is definitely the place to start if you are one of the thousands visiting us. For a start Birmingham Royal Ballet have a fabulous exhibition.  To celebrate their 20 years in the city, you can [...]

We Are Fierce: Fierce Start Party Flashback

A look back at what happened on Thursday 15th 3pm…Fierce Start Party @AE Harris… What is the Fierce Start Party? Hear Laura talk about it below: Listen! The afternoon and evening celebrated the practice of the Fierce Festival Caravan of Artists 2010 – 2011, including live performances, interventions, and spaces to allow us to pick your brains. We [...]

Kindle Theatre: Dinner with us

Dinner with us

The act of eating together transforms a necessary bodily function into something far more significant, a social event

Roy Strong,Feast: A History of Grand Eating.

‘Cook a meal / host a party for eight people, four of whom I barely know’

James Yarker, Stan’s Cafe. 2010 Theatre Pledge

Since April 2010 Kindle have been hosting meals in Birmingham on a monthly basis as a pleasant way for artists and industry folk to meet one another and talk informally around the dinner table. These monthly events invite diners to enjoy a menu of topical, often experimental and provocative food that is connected to Kindle’s current research and to the season in which it takes place. A big thanks to Stan’s Cafe for hosting the Birmingham events in A.E Harris.

Please keep an eye on our website, facebook and twitter to find out more about our next events, how to book as a diner and opportunities for collaborators.

Saturday 30th October, Tony Appleby’s Podophiliac dinner. Do it at home in your own house with a tent in your front room.

The recipe for this dinner is being posted here: CLICK

Saturday 25th September FIERCE @ WEDNESBURY TOWN HALL 7.30pm – 11pm. FREE

As part of FIERCE INTERROBANG 2: Relationships, Stoke Newington International Airport hosted Live Art Speed Date, an evening of spectacular intimate encounters in Wednesbury Town Hall (Map here).

We served you fresh espresso filtered with:

thyme, orange, chilli, rum or tobacco.

16th – 19th August. Meals on Wheels: The Minotaur @ Forest Fringe, Edinburgh Festival 3 Bistro Square, Edinburgh, EH1 1EY

‘Kindle Theatre may not be performing a show on the Fringe this year, but they’ve given me my most memorable Edinburgh 2010 moment’ Bella Todd, fringereview.co.uk

Held in the back of a van, August’s meal was an intimate dining experience that invited diners to literally taste and smell a story. Dining with the company members guests enjoyed a delicious reworking of a Greek myth and a peep into Pasiphae’s love for a bull.

Dinner:  Pasta vaginas, edible lube, beef, bison, a folk song on an orchestral harp, lemon posset and an after dinner speech on the (pop) science and yearnings of Love.

Kindle would like to say a big thank you to Foursight Theatre for the loan of their van and to Andy Field, Deborah Pearson and all at the Forest for supporting us and washing our pans.

Meals on Wheel: The Minotaur was featured on Guardian blog in Paul MacInnes’ On the blag at the Edinburgh fringe festival

Photo: James Smith www.thisistomorrow.info

Saturday 3rd July. The closing meal of BE FESTIVAL, Birmingham

Kindle served up the finale meal to the brilliant BE Festival30th June – 3rd July

On Saturday 3rd July we served a celebratory meal for 130 diners (- 1) at the BE Festival venue: Stans Cafe’s AE Harris. The meal was based on previous work EAT YOUR HEART OUT and designed in collaboration with Blanch & Shock.

We would like to say a big thank you to the collaborators Nina Smith and Blanch & Shock, and also to Rita, Kate and everyone in the BE Festival team.

Photo: Alex Brenner

Tuesday 18th May: Courtship & Sex May Day Meal, Birmingham

...it was such an amazing evening. The food was intriguing, tasty and encouraged much debate. The music was evocative and enjoyable and the dancing was a real treat, I’d forgotten how much fun it can be dancing with complete strangers!

I thought the whole evening was so thoughtfully developed and this was clear in it’s execution, there was such a warm, relaxed and intimate atmosphere and the conversation flowed nicely between different groups. It was refreshing to have such a unique experience and I can’t wait to see what comes next! Congratulations on a great success! Natalie Wilson, Diner

As a belated May day celebration the event’s theme was Courtship & Sex and diners were invited to eat and experience a theatrical menu inspired by the research. Entering into the industrial A.E Harris warehouse they were greeted by…

…the subtle smell of tobacco smoke & lavender to the sounds of love songs, followed by lubricated labial pasta, a good mouthful from a 6ft schlong and climaxed in a creamy kiss before jigging around our Human May Pole.

We would like to say a big thank you to James, Charlotte and Craig from Stan’s Cafe; to all the ‘Athenian Youths’: Eileen McCarthy, Katherine Goodenough, Kate Kavanagh, Cara Gould, Rita Neveckaite, Cassey North, Alice Pegrum, Olivia Zetterstrom-Sharp and Jo Newman, and to Tony Appleby for photographing the evening.

Click on images below to enlarge.

Wednesday 31st April: Pre Pilot April Fools Eve meal.

Dinner cooked by Kindle for the PILOT and Birmingham artists with an after dinner speech on ‘The fear of April Fools Day: The Fool vs the fooled’ or ‘Dangerous food’

On the menu was:

A hearty tomato, bean and kale stew, bastardised potato dauphinoise, leaves and bread.

We Are Fierce: DIY 7: Fierce and the Black Country

The Live Art Development Agency has released a ‘Call for Proposals’ for DIY 7. “DIY is an opportunity for artists working in Live Art to conceive and run unusual training and professional development projects for other artists. We want to hear from you if have an idea for an exciting, innovative and idiosyncratic Live Art professional development [...]

Jane Packman: Musings on life and The Woods

Over the last two weeks I've been doing some work on The Woods with Louise Platt and Graeme Rose. I want to make some headway on the shape of the piece before coming back to work with the performers in August/September to make the finished show. One of the things I really miss from not being in The Other Way Works are the conversations in preparation to devising - it seems that my brain needs conversations to go that extra mile.

Anyway thanks to Graeme and Lou for some productive sessions and for listening to me jabbering and being able to jabber back.

Here is a bit of what I've found:

I started making The Woods around the same time I left The Other Way Works. During the last two years my sister has married, my Grandma has died, I have started making my own work with other artists, and four friends have had babies - it has been a time of things passing as well as renewal. And thanks to realising this I think I'm finally discovering the heart of the show: It's about losing something and letting it go - about the death of something and how to live with it not being there anymore.
It may sound kind of gloomy, but my take on it is that there's beauty as well as sadness to existence, and I hope the performance can touch on aspects of both. Remember the Golden syrup tin with the dead lion and bees "out of the strong came forth sweetness" - you get the picture?

Here is my manifesto for The Woods:

We want the audience to be a crowd, a force, and to feel like they matter.
We want to make an enticing installation that can be explored in the daytime as well as holding the night-time performance.
We want to develop the role of the performers as presenters of the action.
We want to be influenced by the savagery of Arcade Fire and Nick Cave's Murder Ballads.
We want the directness of Brecht and the tenderness of Jane Campion.

Jane Packman: Musings on life and The Woods

Over the last two weeks I've been doing some work on The Woods with Louise Platt and Graeme Rose. I want to make some headway on the shape of the piece before coming back to work with the performers in August/September to make the finished show. One of the things I really miss from not being in The Other Way Works are the conversations in preparation to devising - it seems that my brain needs conversations to go that extra mile.

Anyway thanks to Graeme and Lou for some productive sessions and for listening to me jabbering and being able to jabber back.

Here is a bit of what I've found:

I started making The Woods around the same time I left The Other Way Works. During the last two years my sister has married, my Grandma has died, I have started making my own work with other artists, and four friends have had babies - it has been a time of things passing as well as renewal. And thanks to realising this I think I'm finally discovering the heart of the show: It's about losing something and letting it go - about the death of something and how to live with it not being there anymore.
It may sound kind of gloomy, but my take on it is that there's beauty as well as sadness to existence, and I hope the performance can touch on aspects of both. Remember the Golden syrup tin with the dead lion and bees "out of the strong came forth sweetness" - you get the picture?

Here is my manifesto for The Woods:

We want the audience to be a crowd, a force, and to feel like they matter.
We want to make an enticing installation that can be explored in the daytime as well as holding the night-time performance.
We want to develop the role of the performers as presenters of the action.
We want to be influenced by the savagery of Arcade Fire and Nick Cave's Murder Ballads.
We want the directness of Brecht and the tenderness of Jane Campion.

Jane Packman: City of Culture Blog

This is a blog I wrote for the Birmingham City of Culture bid, see blog.birminghamculture.org

"I'm in the midst of making a performance called Treasured - A Secret Journey, which has been commissioned by mac, as part of their re-opening season.

I've just got back from an an exciting meeting with two of my collaborators - designer Becky Hurst and lighting designer Ben Pacey - in which we've been developing the set design for the performance.

We were working in the brand-new Foyle Studio at mac, one of two spaces which the performance will use, which we'll have temporarily transformed by the time our audiences see it in June.

Treasured - A Secret Journey
is a unique sensory performance for one person at a time, which invites you to venture into your imagination.

At the heart of the experience are three extraordinary pieces of sculptural jewellery, each commissioned for the project from West-Midlands based jewellers. During the performance, you (the audience) get the chance to wear one of the pieces, and discover the treasured secret which it holds..."

Jane Packman: City of Culture Blog

This is a blog I wrote for the Birmingham City of Culture bid, see blog.birminghamculture.org

"I'm in the midst of making a performance called Treasured - A Secret Journey, which has been commissioned by mac, as part of their re-opening season.

I've just got back from an an exciting meeting with two of my collaborators - designer Becky Hurst and lighting designer Ben Pacey - in which we've been developing the set design for the performance.

We were working in the brand-new Foyle Studio at mac, one of two spaces which the performance will use, which we'll have temporarily transformed by the time our audiences see it in June.

Treasured - A Secret Journey
is a unique sensory performance for one person at a time, which invites you to venture into your imagination.

At the heart of the experience are three extraordinary pieces of sculptural jewellery, each commissioned for the project from West-Midlands based jewellers. During the performance, you (the audience) get the chance to wear one of the pieces, and discover the treasured secret which it holds..."

Jane Packman: City of Culture Blog

This is a blog I wrote for the Birmingham City of Culture bid, see blog.birminghamculture.org

"I'm in the midst of making a performance called Treasured - A Secret Journey, which has been commissioned by mac, as part of their re-opening season.

I've just got back from an an exciting meeting with two of my collaborators - designer Becky Hurst and lighting designer Ben Pacey - in which we've been developing the set design for the performance.

We were working in the brand-new Foyle Studio at mac, one of two spaces which the performance will use, which we'll have temporarily transformed by the time our audiences see it in June.

Treasured - A Secret Journey
is a unique sensory performance for one person at a time, which invites you to venture into your imagination.

At the heart of the experience are three extraordinary pieces of sculptural jewellery, each commissioned for the project from West-Midlands based jewellers. During the performance, you (the audience) get the chance to wear one of the pieces, and discover the treasured secret which it holds..."