Ritu­al for Res­id­ents of Wim­bourne House, South­wark, 2007

Per­form­ance at the Hay­ward Gal­lery, London
Music by Tim Lee (Vexkiddy)
Pho­to­graphy by Nick David
Com­mis­sioned and pro­duced by South­bank Centre, Lon­don, as part of the event 100 Ways to Change the World’

Cli­ent: Res­id­ents of Wim­bourne House, South­wark, London 

Loc­a­tion: Hay­ward Gal­lery, Lon­don, UK 

Ques­tion: How can we build an iden­tity for our community? 

Wim­bourne House is a block of flats in Oval, in South Lon­don. Coates offered his ser­vices to the resident’s group and invited them to wit­ness the ritu­al he per­formed for them at the Hay­ward Gallery.

[Mar­cus Coates dis­cussed the ques­tion with the audi­ence and then, accom­pan­ied by live music from Vexkiddy, he began his ritu­al. After an inter­val, he recoun­ted what he had seen.]

Mar­cus coates: I was on mud flats on the shoreline. I saw so many birds, noth­ing unusu­al or extraordin­ary. They were in groups or on their own, some large, some small, they were all behav­ing dif­fer­ently, some had long legs and long bills like the cur­lew. They could get food deep in the mud, oth­ers, like the san­der­lings, with their small legs, ran furi­ously, fol­low­ing the shal­low edge of the dis­tant waves as they washed in, uncov­er­ing food. Oth­ers didn’t eat much but found pro­tec­tion from pred­at­ors on the wide mud flats. After what felt like a long time, a per­eg­rine flew past and all the birds flew up at once and circled around, and landed once the danger had passed. All these groups were like cliques, they had their reas­ons for being there, but acted sep­ar­ately until this bird threatened them. The birds didn’t have a single iden­tity but there was a trust between them; they relied on each oth­er to spot danger, for example.

There are issues in the flats that will com­bine every­one, but you could cre­ate a more long-term com­munity if this was not based on fear (crime, evic­tion etc.). If the prob­lem is tran­si­ence, then vis­ib­il­ity is import­ant. All the birds could see each oth­er – they knew who was com­ing in and who was leav­ing, which cre­ated a mutu­al trust. In the block you can get isol­ated. Maybe it’s as simple as dir­ect per­son­al con­tact, meet­ing every­body and often, knock­ing on all the doors, wel­com­ing and invit­ing people to join in. Don’t rely on leaf­lets and notice boards.

(Tran­script excerpt)

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