January 27, 2012

Development Blog – Old photos and things I am thinking about… – by Katherine Maxwell-Cook

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We are currently making two new Bandstand Audio Experiences for the bandstand in West Park, Wolverhampton. We are working with our commissioning partners Black Country Touring to develop and promote these new works.

I’m Katherine Maxwell-Cook, and I’ll be writing the story and the text for the experiences. One will be for a solo listener/participant/audience member, and one will be written for a pair to experience together.

I’ve been looking at old black and white photographs of the bandstand in West Park and trying to imagine what it was like to be there in a bygone era. The Black Country website (http://blackcountryhistory.org/) is an amazing resource of historical pictures, pamphlets and articles from the region. It looks like the actual layout of the park hasn’t changed much since it was originally landscaped in the 1880s.

But a photo of the bandstand from 1994 looks rather miserable and decrepit in comparison to the restored glory in which it now stands, with its red and white striped pillars like old Victorian sweets along with the refurbished roof and floor. How it looked and was used in 1948 when part of our story is set, still remains somewhat of a mystery.

Questions I am asking…

What was it like in the park after World War II when much of it had been turned into allotments for the war effort? Were bands playing on the bandstand during this time?

How will the male and female sides of the story differ?

What effect did the war have on the relationship between the man and the woman?

What is it about the bandstand that is so alluring, even today?

I enjoyed reading this description of the Black Country from the mid nineteenth century, ‘The appearance of the country around Wolverhampton and Bilston is strange in the extreme. For miles and miles the eye ranges over wide-spreading masses of black rubbish, hills on hills of shale, and mashed and muddled coal dust, extracted from beneath and masking, as it were, the whole face of nature.” (http://www.localhistory.scit.wlv.ac.uk/articles/Parks/Parks.htm)

It reminded me of the importance of public parks in the industrial heartlands; even in the last century they were weekend sanctuaries; an opportunity to stroll on the green grass, go boating or picnic under the sheltering trees. Somehow I’ll try to weave this sense of escape into the stories I’m writing.

Katherine Maxwell-Cook

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