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> > > Review: Unlimited - DaSH's M21 Live Art Festival
photo of live artist noemi lakmaier being carried down the street by an athlete

Noemi Lakmaier as '0' The Human Baton at M21 Live Art Festival on 2-6 May. Photo by Ian Wainwright.

DaSH's (Disability Arts in Shropshire) M21 Live Art Festival was commissioned by the Unlimited programme, part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Lynn Cox gives a Visually Impaired Person’s perspective on the event which took over the mediavel town of Much Wenlock in Shropshire from 5-6 May.

For those of you at the M21 (from the medieval to the 21st Century) festival over the May bank holiday, you might have noticed me with a white cane and iPhone, as I appeared and disappeared whilst creatively documenting the two day event in the medieval town of Much Wenlock, Shropshire.

DaSH Director Mike Layward invited me to revisit the remembered town of my youth to produce some artistic documentation. This opportunity was funded as part of the Ideas Tap Project operated by Simorgh; it allowed myself and David Parkin to explore M21 in any way we liked. David chose to write a number of new poems and my contribution was to produce a psychogeographical film of the weekend using still images and audio recordings taken on location.

Much Wenlock is at first glance an unusual location for an Unlimited cultural Olympiad funded event. However, the town is the birthplace of Dr William Penny Brookes the inspiration for the modern Olympic Movement, with the first games taking place in 1850, 46 years before Pierre de Coubertin’s inaugural games in Athens. Even Wenlock, the Olympic mascot, gets his name from this quaint market town.

As a psychogeographer I’m always looking for the ambience of places/events, so I wanted to combine photographs/audio recordings of both M21 and also of Much Wenlock and its surroundings. Therefore, I documented most of the disability performances, visited the medieval Priory, walked in the hills outside the town listening to the birds and sheep, strolled down the streets and investigated the farmers markets and traditional shops, and sampled the cuisine and ales at the local pubs.

The fabulous concept of Noëmi Lakmaier’s performance ‘”0”’ was to use herself as a human baton in a unique relay race. However, I think the work would have had more impact if she had had a professional build up to her performance with a proper Athletic style start to her human relay. 

Sean Burn topped and tailed the festival with his pentathlon of sports called ‘Psychosis Belly’. Sean has a lovely chatty and friendly style whilst making his political statements, but I did think that sometimes he gave us a bit too much information and left us with nothing to work out for ourselves. For example, Sean gave a great live audio description telling us what clothes and colours he was wearing, but then also added in why he had chosen those colours. I would have preferred to have worked out the connections whilst the Olympics and Paralympics were on.

For me the highlight of the weekend was Simon McKeown’s ‘Light Cast – Milburgas Modern Miracle’. The performance included 3D projections, hidden animated creatures and a wonderful soprano, Denise Leigh, accompanied by an accordion player. This evening performance had a few technical glitches, but was overall so professionally produced that it didn’t take away from the times when it all ran smoothly. Denise needs to be commended on her professionalism as she sang impeccably in an evening dress with a fine shawl thrown over her shoulders; whilst I was in five layers of clothes and still shaking with the zero degrees temperature.

Overall, I really enjoyed my visit to M21 and Much Wenlock. The sense of historical and personal time was forefront in my mind. Myself and the town, have our routes in the past, but are willing to invite the avant-garde into our lives and embrace diversity in its widest sense.

For anyone that is interested in seeing a psychogeographer’s perspective of M21, then my final artwork will be offered later this year towards inclusion in the official documentation, as well as appearing on Youtube.