“The minute the stage starts to rise you can see it’s not a conventional performance. It’s epic,” he says.
“How would you describe it?” I ask.
Simon thinks for a second. “Imagine you are stood on the top of a multi-storey car park looking down at what was going on way below you. Well it was like that but it was all in front of you, in the air.”
It’s a grey November afternoon and Simon Thirkill and I are on the edge of the cricket pitch at Heckmondwike Sports Club. He’s telling me about a demonstration of Wired Aerial Theatre that he’s recently seen in Blackpool.
“They did a little sequence with an actor on each corner of the stage, hung upside down doing a dance routine. It was as if they were in zero gravity with magnetic boots, just dancing upside down. Amazing.”
There’s a site visit today to investigate the possibility of ‘Wired’ doing a show here, on this little cricket ground half way between Huddersfield and Leeds.
“Here they are,” I say as a couple of cars pull up. There’s Nancy and Vicky from Creative Scene and Jamie, the technical director at Wired with Anaïs, from the production company, XTRAX. It’s as if the away team has just arrived.
Introductions are made as we make our way to to the clubhouse to meet Brian and Terry, the club’s chair and steward.
“We’re working for a project called Creative Scene,” begins project director, Nancy Barrett. “A couple of years ago Kirklees Council, the Lawrence Batley Theatre and the Batley Festival successfully applied for some funding and so we’ve now got quite a large amount of money – £2 million – to spend in North Kirklees in the next three years.
“Part of the programme is to support local people in thinking about the kind of things they want to see in their areas. So we’ve got a group of people called SceneMakers – and Simon here is one – who have been visiting different places to see what inspires them.
“It’ll be the SceneMakers, people like Simon, who’ll help us make decisions about what we put on in Heckmondwike and elsewhere.”
Nancy explains that Creative Scene invited Simon to see Wired in Blackpool and, with no less enthusiasm, Simon describes yet again what captivated him: “It’s staggering to say the least. We saw it in the daytime, without lights, projection or music so I can only imagine the full production would be just awesome. If we brought it here to Heckmondwike, well, people would remember it for years, it would inspire people.”
I can see that Terry and Brian are intrigued and Jamie is now telling them about a new production they are working on. “It’s very early days for the new show,” he says, “but essentially it’s a play on light and features a young boy going on a journey…”
“What size of audience are you imagining?” asks Terry after everyone has ‘pitched’.
“A couple of thousand people?” suggests Nancy.
“That’s a lot of people,” says Terry. “And would you be thinking of putting it on the cricket or the football pitch?”
Both Terry and Brian look more relaxed when Jamie suggest it might work better on the football pitch, if it were to happen here.
“Shall we go and have a look outside?” says Brian, as everyone makes their way back under the darkening skies.
It’s been a short discussion but a productive one. As Jamie asks Brian if the football posts can be removed, I imagine coming back here in ten months time, rubbing shoulders with several hundred others as the place is transformed into the venue for a spectacle of outdoor theatre. It’s an exciting prospect.
As we head back to our cars, I ask Simon what he thinks. “If there’s an opportunity for it to come to Heckmondwike, or anywhere in North Kirklees,” he says, “then I’ve got to get involved and do what I can to make that happen. That’s why I’m here.”