A few days after I arrived in the UK, we took a trip to the East Sussex coast, to the St Leonards Festival, an annual event that coincided this year with the arrival of the Olympic torch. Warrior Square Gardens in St Leonards was packed with stalls, live music, performances by local community groups, a fancy dress competition and street theatre.
Our reason for going was to see my sister performing with the Galloping Cuckoos, a company of six performers who devise theatre, site specific performance and street theatre. For one reason or another, I hadn’t managed to see either of the pieces they were performing today, HUG’e or Driftwood, but I knew this would be my chance to catch both of them.
|The Galloping Cuckoos perform 'HUG'e'|
This is HUG’e, ‘a flock of yellow heart-shaped lovebirds housed in a beautiful life-sized birdcage.’ The piece is lovely; it made me cry and laugh. The birds connect with the audience – your yellow t-shirt might attract their attention - they sing and gesture; they might even offer you a love note. You can see a YouTube of them here.
After HUG’e, we set off down the front to Hastings (right next door) to see Driftwood, which the other half of the Cuckoos were performing.
|The Galloping Cuckoos perform 'Driftwood'|
Driftwood is a group of fisherwomen who wander the coast with their small fishing hut; ‘the fisherwomen will encourage you to write down your worries or wishes, stoppering them up in a bottle for safe-keeping.’ They share their stories with the audience through folk songs and sea shanties - just beautiful. (Go here - 1 hr 7 mins in - to listen to an interview on Radio Kent and to hear one of their songs that had me weeping at my desk in Bangkok!)
The next stop was on the side of the road to wait for the Olympic torch to come by. I found it strangely moving, if only for 6.4 seconds it took for him to whizz by…
|One of Hastings' torch bearers (not the Morris dancing one...)|
Pic courtesy of Daughter
We continued along the front towards Hastings old town and somehow managed to overtake the torch bearer as they changed to a new one so that by the time we’d got to the old town, we stopped and watched again. In true, quirky Brit style, this man was a Morris dancer and every couple of steps, he threw in a Morris hop: absolutely hysterical.
|This looks more like the English weather I'm used to...|
After a fish and chips supper, we made the brisk hike back along the front to St Leonards before the weather changed.