And so we face the final curtain. The grown-ups (project director Ros Stoddart, and project manager Ros Patching) have left, and our assorted creative hangers-on (storyteller Adrian Johnson, poet Matt Merritt) have gone back to the shore. Our visual artist Jo Dacombe is slaving over a hot drawing board… so today, it is just Jo Bell and Jo Blake on board for the final stretch of our narrowboat trip. We woke up in the dawn mist at Denford, near Thrapston – and indeed, we walked to Thrapston last night having found that the only pub here doesn’t serve food on Thursdays. Today, we are heading downstream towards Oundle, with only two of us to work the heavy locks and perform the boat-related tasks that have become so familiar. Tomorrow, we return the boat to its hire place.
We cannot tell a lie – this has been a fantastic week, full of sunshine and good company as the artists get to know each other. We’ve been on a dawn chorus walk with Matt Merritt and heard Ros Patching enthuse about the nature reserve where she volunteers. We have been reading the work of BB, whose writings are the original spark behind this project, and sharing some of our own stories about the Nene, boats and other rivers. We’ve been learning about boat-handling skills and about one another’s work.
But it’s not just a jolly enterprise: this is only the first part of the project. We are building up material and ideas for a weekend of performance in late October, at venues near the Nene. Before that we have further fieldwork. In May, we return to the Nene in a canoe, to see how the river looks from a simpler vessel. In June, we will be walking stretches of the riverbank. The two remaining Jos have started to frame ideas for how the October performance might look, and for a fully-developed performance piece to be shown in summer 2012. Watch this space for further information and snippets of work in the next few weeks.