Sunday 3rd July was a sunny day in Bangor, with a gentle breeze. The perfect day for a marble-run, marooned amongst a series of seriously miserable wet and windy ones. It couldn’t have better.
Maybe it was the weather that brought people out, or maybe the enduring lure of the marble (and promise of marble madness), or the promise of building Bangor’s biggest ever marble-run. Maybe Pontio’s idea of bringing arts and science together struck a cord, or was it that it was a show created locally or simply a post Brexit need to relax? Whatever it was, we (Lisa Hudson, Dr Jonathan Malarkey and I) were surprised, delighted, and slightly overwhelmed when around 500 people came to our Llif/Flow Synthesis show at Pontio, Bangor’s Arts and Innovation Centre.
The 'show' was scheduled for 2-6pm (with performances of experimental marble music and poetry by Rhys Trimble and the Marmaladies at 2.30 and 4.30), but by 10am our first visitors were already playing with the outdoor runs that we’d put up the day before. (With many thanks to my Mum, who was responsible for creating a much more wild wild zig zag run than we'd ever envisaged!).
By 1.30pm, the slopes were heaving with people and a playful, anarchic spirit had caught hold. Children (chronological and inner) were released: It was absolutely fantastic! It reminded me of a Bruegal painting, everywhere you looked, people – young and old – were doing the unexpected, little outbreaks of naughtiness, play, concentration, creativity, solitude, togetherness and exploration.
This blog is of some of my favourite pics of that marble-run madness on the slopes of Pontio. In them, you might spot some of the different approaches to marble-running (the menders vs walkers-awayers; the quiet contemplators vs the wild fliers; the careful placers and the chuckers downers; the children take overs vs the adult take overs vs children-adult synthesis; the observers vs the doers; the collaborative vs the isolationist; the exploring interveners vs enjoy-it-as-it-is-ers).
Last night, my Dad emailed me a little anecdote, that summarises rather well the sorts of things that were going on:
“What a lovely day last Sunday, thank you. It was quite special. The visitors were having a whale of a time! One adult chap seemed completely aloof to the whole thing when I first met him, hardly responding when I spoke to him, and I watched him wandering around for quite a time and then quite suddenly he seemed to lose what must have been inhibitions of some sort and he was in there rolling marbles for all he was worth and with a huge grin!
The kids were really involved - one particularly, in a striped shirt, I was concerned about to begin with when he was gathering up marbles quietly and putting them in his pockets and used paper cups just to carry around, sort of selfishly, to be able to run them himself. Then he was down at the bottom watching them arrive and watching me gather them up into the bowls. He was quiet but started chatting about the way they were arriving from all directions and spotting how, almost randomly, they were tracking down to the bottom. Then he was there collecting them and putting marbles into the bowls and he stayed there in that job for a very long time.
Anyway, it was a great experience with a lovely atmosphere - well done you and all those that put it together.”
One comment on facebook was that they’d just intended to pop in but stayed for 3 hours. Looking at the photos, some people were there virtually the whole time. By about 6pm, things started to calm down, and there was even some playing of marble games – Chinese and Iraqi games have very complicated, and remarkably similar rules, and a beautiful way of holding the hand to ensure the precise trajectory of the marble.
But there were other things going on other than the slopes! A big learning point for us was that the subtler, arty, music and science ideas, and even the experimental music/performances by Rhys, Katherine and Sioned, that we'd envisaged at the centre of the show became secondary to the flow of full on participant (usually but not always children)-led exuberance on the slopes. Learning from the overwhelming presence of the runs, I'm going to post 4 separate blogs about the show, rather than have them all in one. This first one celebrates the joy of the slope runs. I’ll also do one on the experimental music/poetry, on the science and instruments (inside, in room PL2) and one on what we learnt/what next. Meantime, here is the Llif/Flow team that entertained, kept people (mostly!) safe, gathered marbles, mended runs, mixed music, performed and socialised tirelessly. Pontio staff were also absolutely fantastic, and I'll say (and show) more of that in future blogs.
PS I can't resist this picture of my collaborator and fellow marblist, Lisa Hudson, at the end of the show. Working with Lisa - and with Jonathan Malarkey, the oceanographer on whose work the show was based (stripey t-shirt above) - has been an absolute pleasure. I really hope we can do it again!