Perrie and Proxi; The Bristol Syzygy Oath; high tide - Bristol, 22 03 2015
Sunday March 22nd was World Water Day, and for Water City Bristol an opportunity to collaborate with our partnership project Bristol Loves Tides (BLT!) in a fun event down by the tidal Avon. To coordinate with the high tides (time and tide wait for no one!) we had a very early morning start - particularly for a Sunday! The Water City Bristol team met up with the ten young presenters (more about this later) employed by Bristol Loves Tides as well as the other BLT team members from the organisation My Future - My Choice, Rough Glory Films and the Desperate Men.
The morning began for us at 6:30am in the Lockside Cafe where we donned our BLT hoodies, placed the ten cardboard replicas of the famous Bristol ship the Matthew on the tables, and prepared to meet our first guests at 7am. It was a brisk morning and a high pressure system was in action - with implications for the super high tide (the high pressure system suppresses the water levels), but the atmosphere in the cafe was warm and friendly. Eighty guests were served BLT sandwiches (or a vegetarian version), and short speeches were given by the Chair of Bristol Green Capital, one of the young presenters from BLT (Jade) and our own Rowan Matthiessen on behalf of Water City Bristol. After this, each table had some time to think about and talk about why water and the tides are important, and comments were written on paper discs and inserted into the ships.
At 8:15 the young presenters ushered us all out to the side of Cumberland Basin where we noticed some strangely clad fellows dragging a heavy-looking suitcase! In their barnacle-encrusted coats, Proxi and Peri, the tides made flesh, washed up to where we were gathered. They were greeted by the lord Mayor of the city but wanted to talk to the 'future!' (i.e. the young presenters). One by one objects were taken out of the suitcases and the bright young things went forward to collect them, and to say a short piece standing atop a podium about the different themes relating to tides. These were: heritage and future; the water cycle; biodiversity; hydropoetics and tidal energy.
Following these thought-provoking pronunciations we were invited to participate in an oath. Dipping one hand into wonderful gloopy Avon mud and raising it into the air, we repeated our oath to love the water in every way we could think of - a video of this is available here:
What interactive performance would be complete without a bit of singing? This is what came next, as we were instructed as three groups to take up one line of this little ditty:
We are the tides we ebb and flow
Tuned to the moon we come and go
Ebb and flow and come and go and ebb and flow...
Once we had learned our section, we sang them all together, while weaving in an out of the group, causing the harmony to continually change as we moved through.
Our next flow led us to 'the point' - a view of the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, and a great place to observe the height of the tide. As mentioned, the high pressure system meant that in fact, the tide was not spectacularly high - in fact it was lower in effect than the high tides we had in February. In some ways this was a blessing for the organisation of the event as it meant that we were able to all walk comfortably by the water, which had not come over the edge as it might have done. Milling and chatting in this space, watching Peri and Proxi's antics there was one last ritual to come.
A heart shape chalked on the otherwise graffiti-covered wall behind provided a place for us to show some muddy love. The buckets of mud made the rounds again and squelching in we filled in the heart with hand prints, and covered the white space with more of these too. The wonderful soft squigdy sensation of the mud was a great way to connect with the surroundings and the ritual aspect felt both light-hearted and significant.
From here the majority of the group filtered off, while the young presenters, Water City Bristol team members and a few others boarded a boat by the Nova Scotia pub and headed to the Balmoral to watch the first instalment of the Proxi and Peri film, which will be used in schools tours in June and July. The film is fantastic and we hope to share it here very soon.