14th December 2010
Masters student cooks up a great show at the Winter Watch
A student from the University of Chester has entered into the spirit of giving this Christmas, by sharing her passion with the city in the 2010 Winter Watch Parade.
Kathryn Kirk, a dancer and choreographer who lives in Chester, is currently studying for a Master’s degree in Performance Practice and, as part of the course assessment, was required to create a public performance piece. Through the city’s annual festival, she found the ideal way to blend her studies and her enthusiasm for the art.
Kathryn said: “After being inspired by groups such as Welfare State International (who describe themselves as ‘an artistic, community association, well known for large-scale outdoor spectacular events’) I developed a lot of interest in outdoor community theatre. When I began studying for my Master’s at the University of Chester, I was able to explore this even more and the Winter Watch Parade was the perfect opportunity to tie it in with the practical side of my study.”
The Winter Watch is a branch of the City of Chester’s much larger Midsummer Watch festival, currently directed by local artist Russell Kirk, which dates back as far as 1498. The event’s main feature is a big parade involving many people in costumes, often very large ones of giants or other mythical creatures. This comes from a “common feature of Tudor Pageantry” which was revived in the City by Dave “Giant Master” Roberts in 1989, after he had done some personal research into the history of “Medieval Dancing Giants.”
The less formal approach of the winter event means there is a lot more room for spontaneity and so Kathryn’s project was able to fit right in.
Her personal contribution to the parade this year was a performance with “The Cooks,” which she describes as “a group of eccentric artists creating food for this Christmas Dinner” and was presented in a “dance macabre”, with pantomime type characters dancing with giant puddings, cakes and turkey. To document it as part of her course, Kathryn recorded it in the style of a TV show, with her own role being as an audience member, interacting with the star (loosely influenced by the film Julie & Julia).
Kathryn was joined by some undergraduate students, also from the University of Chester, who played other characters within the piece, although taking part is not just limited to drama students and professionals. Kathryn said: “Anybody can come along, even on the day, and join in a particular part of the parade, dressing up as angels, devils, skeletons, dragons.” Members of public are encouraged to join in, or at least interact with the performers. There was plenty of opportunity for this, as her show moved as part of the parade, before also stopping outside Brown’s of Chester for a set piece performance.
Kathryn added: “The experience is great for the drama students and for the spectators. The students can learn a different way of acting away from the traditional stage style, by being able to move out into the crowd and play to an audience 360 degrees around them. And the public have a chance to be involved with the performance and not feel like they have to stay standing in one place to enjoy the show.”
Kathryn says the feedback from this year’s parade has been very positive and hopes that, in future, even more people will take an interest and help add to the City’s long-running tradition.