Like a Bird in Wandsworth Park

Posted by: Cat Harrison on Jun 3, 2011
It was early on Friday morning, Friday 20 May, when I met carpenter Pat and his crew Pete, Jonathon and Ruskin (Jonathon's dog). As set builders they were used to unusual builds on tight turnarounds, but as they lifted all the panels of wood and scaffolding out of two vans it dawned on me that this would be no mean feat, even if the weather did hold. Because they had 2 days to build a huge sculptural staircase running to the top of a tree in Wandsworth Park in time for the hundreds of visitors that would turn out for Wandsworth Arts Festival's "Shimmy" on Sunday afternoon.

Like A Bird, a piece by Artsadmin Associate Lucy Cash, involved audiences walking up the 12-foot high staircase and perching at the top of the London Plane to take in the view just like, well, just like a bird. Lucy had designed an audio piece that accompanied the staircase, that audiences could listen to as they went up the staircase or as they walked down the avenue of trees the staircase sat within. But whereas the audio had been recorded and fine-tuned and was ready to go, here was Pat, Jonathon and Pete all working skilfully to carefully adapt, contour and shape the staircase to fit exactly within the tree, without causing any damage to the tree itself.

I'd learnt a few things on this production that I never thought I would:
    1.    That staircases are built top down
    2.    That standing under a canopy of trees in a storm doesn't necessarily equate to the best kind of shelter
    3.    That birds sing of their dreams (don't believe me? Then have a listen here)

Needless to say that the staircase was built, and the audio was transmitted and the hundreds of people who came down to Wandsworth Park that day all got a taste of what it is to look out for the canopy of a tree and taste London from a real bird's eye view.

Images all credited to Lucy Cash.

Cat Harrison is Artsadmin Assistant artists' advisor and producer.
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