I have spent the past couple of weeks closing out the first phase of the project. Quite literally this has meant acknowledging the extraordinary contributions of those who agreed to be a part of the project, reviewing the amazing successes, and putting the challenges and short falls into perspective and applying critical rethinking. In the space that follows I will review briefly some of the visible and not-so-easily-seen contributions. Whether through collaboration, suggestion, sharing, and /or providing specific services at specific moments this first phase of the project has been graced with exceptional people. This first group of individuals and organizations are quite special in that they exhibited the greatest degree of trust and foresight and because of them the products of this first phase are marked by excellence.
During the application process for the fellowship Almut Beige, Alex Kuhn and Joe Williams contributed their expertise to the building of the project proposal. Once the fellowship started there were untold contributors and well wishers who did what they could to make the project a success. Tessa Alexander, the web designer, was the first to accept one of my impossible requests, “build a website for the project in less than 10 days and throughout this first phase of the project teach me what I need to know to build and maintain the site myself.” After supplying her with the initial basic content materials, Tessa got the website up on 9 February, nine days after my request. Throughout the life of this first phase of this project, Tessa has taught me what is necessary to build and manage the site.
Axel Kuhn facilitated community interactions between the University of Oxford’s Department of Physics and Chapeltown community members, David Hamilton and Joe Williams, and me. This turned out to be an intensive in physics community and culture, from discussions, to laboratory, to mini presentations, to pub meetings the environment was soaked in physics. This gave Joe, David and me better sensitivity for the understanding of the language, sensibility and tone that would be necessary to bring authenticity to any presentation of the physics community at Oxford.
Interviewees from The Leeds West Indian Centre, RJC Dance, and Frederick Hurdle Adult Care Centre courageously volunteered to share their railway and immigration stories and the staff at these organizations created environments in which such sharings were possible. During the first weeks of the project I spent hours interviewing participants and then transcribing the interviews and identifying moments that would be heighted in the performance script.
Lee Daley from Workshop Theatre and Penny at Seven Arts who were from the first moment of hearing about the project supportive, going out of their way to accommodate the specific needs and requirements of the multimedia production that was set to evolve.
At a crucial moment, a customer service representative at the University of Leeds printers found and loaned a clip board to the production. With so doing they eliminated additional hours of hunting for the same styled clipboard. Gary at Network Rail, was one of the first on board the project, he accompanied me on my initial late night walk through the Leeds Central Station platforms and shared stories of the station as I pencilled out ideas of what was to come. Dutch Pot and Juicy Caribbean restaurants provided food that kept the performance research team going as we sift through transcribed narratives in the creation of the oral and movement language of the script.
Adam at Seven Arts went out of his way to successfully bring my lighting design to life. Christopher Megginson volunteered exceptional video editing and graphic support throughout the life of the project. Steve Ansell at Stage@Leeds loaned videoing equipment necessary for documenting the performance. Almut Beige volunteered as local physics consultant from before the project was fully conceived and contributed numerous hours keeping me in the loop on quantum teleportation. Carl Hylton, among many other things, contributed his personal narrative of Chapeltown, Leeds. My close friend (across the big pond of the Atlantic), Gail DeCosta, shared family history of her great great grand parents, Ellen and William Craft, that connected Leeds African Caribbean community with African American history in a very personal way. This bit of Gail’s family history became an essential part of the script. And, Fiona Philip and Amy Russell responded to a last minute call for familiar friendly faces in key places.
There were those dear ones who stayed up late nights with me either in person, via telephone, email and/or skype as I sifted through photos, interviews, videos, written language. They listened while I struggled to choose what materials would go, where, how, why and when, in the script and on the website. Finally, there were the audience members who came out to Seven Arts and Workshop Theatre to watch the production, stayed to share their stories, understandings, and questions, and have continued to follow the project’s progress on facebook and this Transportation Transformation: Migration, Teleportation, and Railways website