Hi, I’m Joe Lyward from the Circuit Cambridge group. We worked very hard to produce an arts festival in the city centre in October 2015 called Circuit: Unlock Cambridge. The festival was a big project with many different components that were divided among the group, so here is my experience of working on the Alternative Tours aspect of the festival.
At the start of development for the festival the group quite quickly settled on the idea of using the festival to ‘unlock’ Cambridge for its locals, we felt the city itself is very much dominated by the university and many beautiful parts of the city are behind closed doors and so the thought of having a kind of tour showing a variety of places was perfect.
Developing the tour was a really enjoyable process. Once we had decided on a route that included some specific places we wanted to visit, such as Jesus College, we arranged to meet with people at these places so we could get any information and anecdotes that might be useful for the tour.
Our first question visiting potential places, “Where aren’t people usually allowed?” followed by “Can we use this place?”
From there we created a kind of storyboard of the route allowing us to discuss what it was about the spaces we like or disliked and generate ideas about how we could play with that and communicate our thoughts with the audience. From this point we worked with artist Anna Brownsted who shared her knowledge with us, helping with practical and creative considerations, fine tuning the tour and getting us thinking of the tour as a form of interactive performance.
Delivering the tour was an incredible experience, unlike anything I had done before as far as performing to a group of people and guiding them through the busy city centre (even through shops!) and maintaining a kind of character in order to take them on the journey we had designed. Although the day was tiring it gave me a great feeling of confidence, afterwards thinking how I would never have considered myself a performer and yet that is exactly what I have now done.
To help us in evaluating our tour, at the final point we hosted a tea party in a boat on the river Cam and invited the participants to write comments for us on the table clothe, while also engaging them in conversation it was a time for us to relax and ask and answer any questions. The experience on the boat was one of community between all those who had just shared in the tour, and to witness this was wonderfully positive immediate feedback. The comments left for us were also very positive, and indicated that people had enjoyed the piece very much. Having these comments to reflect upon afterwards was also valuable in allowing us to see the work from the audiences perspective, revealing many interesting things that occurred on top of those we had planned, and has acted to spark new ideas of how we might use what we created here in the future.