Laurence Payot at Dunstable Wind Charming Day

Liverpool artist Laurence Payot was commissioned last year by Bedford Creative Arts to create Dunstable Wind Charming Day, a new folklore celebration with the people of Dunstable. This year, Laurence has extended the project following a year of research.

In a bid to establish a contemporary folklore, Bedford Creative Arts  has commissioned Liverpool-based French artist Laurence Payot, for the second year running, to invite people to join together on 31 August on the Dunstable Downs for Dunstable Wind Charming Day.

On Dunstable Wind Charming Day, Dunstablians are encouraged to come together on the Downs, dance with it, tame its powerful force and sing for it to stay kind over the coming months. The tradition involves the flying of a giant kite structure, created by residents in the lead up to the day, covered in messages written on floaty strips and sent into the Dunstable sky.

Last year’s commission, called We Are Now, saw Laurence Payot collaborate with more than 2,000 people from Dunstable to explore what made the town unique; the wind. The project encourages local people to re-imagine ways to create a sense of ‘ localism’, and accentuate the beauty and uniqueness of a place,  in a society where communities have shifted from local to global and much of urban Britain is suffering from bland homogeneity.

For the second year of the project, the focus has been on creating ‘guardians’ for the work, with people who could gain the skills of re-performing the work year after year (from making costumes, to creating and flying a kite), and feel in tune with its reason to be and need for carrying on. The first year of the project was about searching for facts, stories and places in Dunstable to formulate the story, whereas this time around, the artists have focused on emotional connections between people and place, and how the wind can become a metaphor for this invisible sense of community.

The artists held a series of community engagement sessions and events over 3 months leading up to the event, working with a group of service users from the charity MIND in Dunstable, encouraging creativity, working together and exploring the ways in which the town identifies with the wind.

The performance this year is set for 31 August in Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire. People will gather, create a costume at the costume tent and transform into a Dunstable Wind Charmer. They can write a message on a strip that will be attached to the kite, and then all gather together to form a procession to take out the sails of the kite to the kite skeleton, creating the kite together collaboratively. When the kite is ready, the core team will fly it for all to see, and afterwards it will be brought back down, disassembled and the participants will each be able to take a sail away.

Laurence says “I’ve loved working with Bedford Creative Arts once again on this commission. I am really excited about the idea of being able to transform someone’s day in just a moment, with an unexpected encounter, or through a deeper and more personal experience. It gives me a sense of power, and also of generosity. It’s like giving something back to the society that makes me who I am.

“With the help of people, and the power of collectivity, I feel like I can make things happen and things change, which I couldn’t do on my own. My medium is people; how they form communities, and how these temporary gatherings make them feel part of a bigger thing. This is all about creating an artwork that can take on its own life – what we are trying to do here is to plant strong roots for it to grow.”

“This article was originally published on Art in Liverpool

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