“none of us had anticipated the degree and nature of the audience participation, but the combination of high art and mischief was quite brilliant. Truly joyful to be allowed/required to be disruptive…”
Alarms & Excursions is probably best known for its provocations. Each year we create one or two new productions that showcase the breadth of talent in our group, and those that we work with. We pick a new theme and spend about six to nine months developing the work. This involves extensive research, from which we create the broad scope of the piece. Then each member of the team works their magic until we reunite to fine-tune it. Provocations are exactly that - we challenge proscriptive old ways of working, turning the world on its head, shooting down some sacred cows - apologies for the mixed metaphors, but then we also like to have some fun! Sometimes we tackle serious issues too. Chiefly, we want to challenge each other to stretch the boundaries of our individual and collective practice.
Here are some of our Provocations, past and present.
Lest we forget
Autumn 2021 and we were still uncertain of our future, with Brexit, Climate Change and Covid ever present existential threats. Clevedon Literary Festival commissioned us to mount a hybrid remembrance event at St Andrew's church in Clevedon. The church is famous as the last resting place of Tennyson's friend Arthur Hallam and is situated adjacent to Poets Walk, beloved of Coleridge and Wordsworth. The poetry featured great works like Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade, war poetry by Siegfried Sassoon, French and Spanish poets (Lorca, Eluard) and contemporary writers, some of them local to Clevedon. We also featured poems and stories of unaccompanied migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. We engaged local poets Alys Denny, Rob Johnson and Briac Kucharczyk, Baroque cellist Jane Francis, and young local performers Eleni Kizilis (flute) and Mabel Mundy (cornet). Thirty-five military and refugee graves were lit for the evening and the weather was cold but kind. We will ring the changes for 2022 - watch this space for more details.
November 2019 - January 2020
Funded by the Arts Council and the Victoria Wood Foundation, our most recent show was in the autumn of 2019, launched at the Turner Contemporary in Margate in November, as part of the Margate Bookie Festival. Poets - Robin Pilcher, Steve Tasane (Estonia), Mark ‘Mr T’ Thompson (British Caribbean mixed heritage) & Isabel White (Scotland - yes Scotland); singers and musicians Patricia Hammond (mezzo and autoharp - Canada), Davide Stramaglia (piano - Italy), Sabina Virtosu (violin - Romania), Rosemary Yung (pipa - Hong Kong); Depi Gorgogianni (choreography - Greece) brought to life the very real struggles of non native immigrants to the UK. While they entertained our audience, sculptor/photographer Will Collett curated and displayed new work in the Margate School of Art and Pharmacy Gallery. Also in the Margate School, we hosted young migrants from Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) who had created poems and stories telling of their journeys from their homeland to the UK, both in English and their native languages. 'Flotsam' was the culmination of an autumn season of workshops with these young migrants, and with artists with a variety of disabilities, in association with Kent Adult Services. Here's what the audience thought of it...
Innovative, creative, humorous. Answers the question – who am I? creatively. Poses questions about multiculturalism. Touching. Lots of talent.
It was really great and eye opening for a foreigner like me to British art performance. The performers were brilliant as well.
Heart-breaking, as it should be given the subject. Beautiful music, dancing, and words. Poignant.
A poignant, beautiful, timely and thought-provoking performance.
A powerful reminder of the talent in jeopardy as part of the refugee crisis. Very moving.
We reprised the performance in January 2020 in association with Sydenham Arts - you can catch a very short clip of the performance here.
We did it! Following a blind tasting on the 9th June 2018 of the top thirty contemporary poets in the UK today (at the L A R C in Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel) we attempted the impossible - a Definition of Poetry. No one has attempted this for a very long time, and Isabel came away with heaps of notes from the participants. What did we learn? That none of us are perfect, even those we lionise - many household names were found wanting. Some of us too! We did manage to define what poetry isn't. The rest is still work in progress... You can find out more about the event by following this link to the Antiuniversity website.
Put That Light Out!
In a change from the more formal and patriotic music and poetry that we associate with remembrance events, we were commissioned by the Friends of the Crystal Palace Subway, to entertain an audience of over 200 with poems, stories, dance, songs and jollification from the Home Front of the Second World War; families waiting at home, children being evacuated, servicemen and women on leave, the red tape, the privations and the tribulations of life during the blitz. All this took place in Crystal Palace’s only surviving public air raid shelter - the first arts event in the Subway for nearly 40 years. Two hours of amazing entertainment, from the first warning siren to the sound of the “All Clear”.
For the duration of the raid, the audience was entertained by poets, musicians and storytellers - supporting Robin, Irène and Isabel were Graham Campbell; Jazzman John Clarke; Anna Drysdale; Racheal Joseph; John Musgrave; Steve Tasane, Louise Yates and Rosemary Yung.
All in all, a unique experience in a unique space, with a serious message. The performance ended with a minute’s silence and the sounding of the Last Post.
Read the full programme for the event here.
2017 - 2018
Isabel's epic poem Souk - a journey through the towns, cities & countryside of 21st century Morocco - had its first outing at London's Loose Muse in April 2017. Inspired by her time spent in the country, Souk is slated for development into a multi-sensory experience, combining elements of Oud accompaniment in performance, with photography by Jules Steele and Andrew Borge. This was augmented by a chapbook of the poem featuring some of the images, published in June 2018. Isabel was invited to perform the piece in mufti at the Tom Thumb Theatre in Margate (see Gallery pages for flyer with more details). Watch this space for more Souk stuff from our self styled "Florence of Arabia"!
Hunting of the Snark
Featuring some of Wash House’s star performers, designed & produced by Emma, Alarms & Excursions brought to life Lewis Carroll’s dark & epic poem, telling the story of the ill-fated expedition to hunt & capture the Snark. Our friends at 111 Collectiff commissioned the debut performance in Nico’s Kitchen as part of the 2016 St Leonard’s Festival. Isabel was ably assisted by Ros Balp, Tony Peek and Antony Mair (Live Canon), all poets residing in Hastings. The audience helped us in our quest, bringing along plenty of chalk, railway shares, bubbles and coats. This was a work in progress with further ideas for developing the piece in the coming year.
Warp & Weft
Commissioned by Arts Council funded music ensemble Contakt, Warp and Weft tells the story of 500 years in the history of one of east London’s best known streets, from the Brikk Leyne of the Middle Ages to the melting pot of culture that this street is today. Cockspur Willie, the Calvinistas, Mr Dumberbeyli and the gals in calico are just some of the colourful characters you’ll find on the way. Journey with us through music, spoken word and dance, to experience the rhythms, harmonies and dissonance of this famous street. If you know your kettle curl from your grossgrain, you’ll be right at home.
We are the desvalidas - the underdogs, the destitute, the also rans...
The unifying themes of this event focused on Spanish culture from the 1890s to the end of the Spanish Civil War. What emerged from initial research of the times during which the poets, composers and artists lived became in performance, part fluxus, part zarzuela...
Up the Line
On armistice night 2009, an ensemble of artists from various disciplines gathered in Brockley and Ladywell cemeteries to perform Up the Line. Curated by Platform-7, this was an armistice night with a difference; the cemetery was taken over by poets, dancers, musicians and artists to perform major works in remembrance of the passing of the last two veterans of World War One – Harry Patch and Henry Allingham. The start of a series of events in London, Kent and Northern France...