Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Preview: Inspector Norse & The Knitted Autopsy

A woolly jumper sported by a character in a TV series seems a rather unlikely source of inspiration for a stage play in the UK but that's exactly where the idea came from for the Manchester-based Lip Service Theatre Company's latest dramatic endeavour - Inspector Norse.

Billed as a self-assembly Swedish crime thriller, the seeds for this new play - to be taken on tour around the UK early next year - were sewn during an episode of Danish series The Killing. The two members of the theatre group, Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding, found themselves very taken with the Faroe sweater worn by lead detective Sarah Lund and started pondering the idea of a production with a knitted set.

As the story goes so far - and the plot is still under discussion so nothing is set in stone as yet - a former pop star takes herself off into the Swedish countryside to escape the trappings of celebrity life and becomes a bit of a recluse, living in a house where absolutely everything is knitted, right down to the tiles on the roof. There she stays in peace and quiet until one day she discovers a body in the woods and has to call in a female detective and her male sidekick to come and solve the murder.

"We thought, if there's going to be a body, perhaps it could be knitted," Maggie says. "We could do the first-ever knitted autopsy. I started doing research into knitted body parts and found that there are lots of knitted intestines. Someone even knitted a digestive system - apparently, it's really common for medical students to knit their own body parts to help them learn."

Always keen to include the local community in their work, Maggie and Sue decided to set up a knitting group at the Tea Hive in Chorlton so people could contribute to the set, making leaves, icicles and other props. "I feel like we're tapping into a very rich theme," Maggie remarks, adding that she had no idea just how popular knitting had become. "We keep getting leaves shoved under our door and we don't know who they're from. It's quite sweet, really."

And it's not just Manchester's knitting finest helping the show go on - one woman in Brighton has volunteered to knit the Faroe jumper for the lead detective, while someone in the Cotswolds has been truly inspired and is knitting a coffee pot that pours knitted coffee.

"What's really nice is that women are coming with their daughters and they're learning to knit. I'm not a knitter and I've had a go and it wasn't a complete disaster," Maggie adds.

The play also looks set to have a lasting effect on the Manchester craft scene, with the Tea Hive knitting group likely to grow and continue, long after the curtain falls on Inspector Norse. A community choir - which featured in a previous Lip Service production, Desperate to be Doris - has also picked up its knitting needles and sent in a leaf or two.

Knitting aside, it certainly sounds as though Maggie and Sue's quirky sense of humour - for which the double act is renowned - will be in full force for Inspector Norse. Plans are apparently being kicked around to introduce a delinquent moose into proceedings, stumbling about drunk on fermented apples. As Maggie says, however, they're still writing at the moment so it might all change completely. "Between now and October 15th - when rehearsals start - anything could happen," she predicts.

Words: Sarah Adie
Image #1: courtesy of Lip Service Theatre
Image #2: Zion Arts Centre

Inspector Norse opens on 15th January 2013 in Bristol, before heading to Oldham Coliseum and the Lowry at Easter. More information can be found on the Lip Service Theatre website.

The knitting group meets fortnightly at Tea Hive Cafe in Chorlton with the next scheduled for Wednesday 1 August.

Monday, 30 July 2012

World first: Manchester's LomoWall

Manchester is now the proud owner of the first permanent outdoor LomoWall in the world, a structure made up of 14,000 photographs of the city.

The world's first permanent LomoWall has been erected - and Manchester's Northern Quarter was chosen as the perfect location.

One of the walls on Tariff Street is now covered in 14,000 lomograph photos, easily distinguished by their light leaks, lo-fi grain and distinctive blurriness.

All images have a watery theme to tie in with the 2012 Canal Festival, with the official unveiling of the 30ft LomoWall taking place last Thursday 26 July to mark the start of the event, which features a range of activities along the canal from Calderdale into Manchester city centre.

"The theme of water was chosen as it fits in well with the 2012 Canal Festival and also as it reflects the surrounding area of the wall. The photos were generated via our online community and through workshops taking place at Lomography Gallery Store Manchester. Every photo that has been used has been taken in and around Manchester. We had a great response, as always, from our community," David Tester of Lomography Manchester remarked.

Words & images: Sarah Adie

The lomography photo mural stands on Tariff Street in the Northern Quarter. The sixth annual Canal Festival runs from 18 to 26 August and more information can be found here.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Canned Music. Now Then Manchester Presents, feat. (murmur) & Raikes Parade @ Antwerp Mansion Festival, Saturday 14th July 2012

The last time I entered these premises it was by traipsing through an overgrown garden littered with empty beer crates and then climbing over a fence. All done under the hours of darkness. The main area in the building comprised of a large, dust filled, poorly lit room where the artists performed.

This time the approach is in bright sunlight and along a path of sorts, though there appears more beer detritus than last and a temporary BBQ stall has been set up. The vast size of the premises is now apparent. The access door to the inside is more of a challenge as it has been painted to form part of mural that extends from the ground floor up to the roof. The location has always been a ‘work in progress’ type of development and the owners / users have now managed to repair another section of the roof, allowing an upstairs toilets room to be created. The layer of dust has increased in depth.

The reason for the visit is that the venue has been hosting a three day musical festival and today is the middle day. This section comprises of a series of solo performers, organised by Now Then Manchester, that utilise electronics to develop their tastes.

First up is (MURMUR), aka Rick Hartley, who has previously appeared as one half of Bug & Leaf. As the warm, pulsating beats grow and fill the room, there’s a constant stream of musicians walking in front of the raised stage to collect their instruments that were used the previous day. Putting this visual disruption to one side, the air starts to fill with Japanese style chimes and ethereal notes. Layers of ska beats are then mixed in as the morphing of the different strands into something new and attractive continues.
A more robust and aggressive product is displayed by Raikes Parade. Hunched over his decks, Andy Blundell, who has worked as a soundman for GNOD, unleashes an explosion of noise. The sound bounces out, hits the wall and slides down. Those present feel the beats flow though the room and eventually their resistance to move and sway along begins to crumble, although it’s not quite an outbreak of dancing. The recent sound proofing (i.e. bricking up the windows) is put to the test, but those outside sampling a few rare rays of summer sun are still able to sample the intensity whilst partaking in the barbecue.

Words & Photography: Ged Camera

The next Now Then Manchester gig sees an audio-visual show with Disney's timeless feat of imagination, Fantasia, remixed in a live headlining performance by experimental band TheBrokenDoor. Special guest Paul Green will support by adding his ambient electronica to an edit of Gaspar NoƩ's cult hallucinatory classic Enter The Void. All at Dulcimer bar in Chorlton on Sunday 22nd July.