Participatory Vigils - 19th Nov - 3rd December 1983

Submitted by root on Sat, 02/06/2016 - 16:57

The Vigils

Cover of programmeThe Vigils were sub-titled 'Images of Peace'. To quote from the programme  "Images of war proliferate.  But images of peace have always been in short supply - particularly images of peace which are strong minded, positive and realistic" The Vigils were the Blackie's attempt to counter this situation.

Left photos of the brochure's  cover with candle and birds.

The springboard and stimulus for The Vigils was Jonathan Schell's "The Fate of the Earth" which deals with the effort for peace in a nuclear world.

There were three vigils - each one lasted for 12 hours (11am to 11pm)  - and they took place on three consecutive Saturdays. Each Vigil was created and carried out by a different artist. Sat. Nov. 19th Alastair  MacLennan (from Belfast); Sat. Nov. 26th Richard Layzell (from London) and Sat. Dec. 3rd. Wendy Harpe (from the Blackie). 

The Vigils  were all very different - Alastair created an organic environment from billboard posters,  Richard's focused on birds and flight, and Wendy's on illuminating a tree which spread across the width of the basement.  You will note that although they were different they all drew their imagery from the natural world.

If you click on the names above they will take you to an in-depth view of the Vigil they created.

The Vigils were set within an associated programme - which took place primarily on the ground -  of performance art, video showings, poetry, music, dance and exhibitions. 

The Ground Floor

The ground floor had a cafeteria Long shot of the cafeteria and its surroundsand space for people to socialise as well as having defined areas for performance, poetry, music etc.

The picture on the right shows the cafeteria and its surrounds. The pictures below show the cafeteria ready to open and people eating etc.

The cafe ready to openPeople getting served

Bill socialising while people eat

Above Bill socialising

Performance Artists

Monica Ross (1950-2013) - 19th November

Monica Ross already had a history of creating performances which responded to representations of conflict with structured repetition of singular gestures.  She was concerned not simply to note and work against such images but also to create works which focused on remembering what they meant.

Her work at the Vigils fitted within this approach, and consisted of putting the power of human action/ gesture against projected images of conflict  torture and resistance.  In the process she created images of remembrance from lighted candles to a cairn.

In the Upper Dome images of a blindfolded women were projected while Monica built a human sized circle out of small stones and then placed herself in the middle of it.  She then pulled on rubber gloves.

 Monica Ros creating stone circles against the image of a blindfolded woman Monica Ross surrounded by the stone circleMonica Ross performing in the domePulling on large rubber gloves

Above Monica building the circles, and lying within them and then pulling on rubber gloves.

She then linked the images to the stones with strings; built a small group of stones in the centre of the circle and placed candles within it.  The images changed to one of a soldier with a gun set against a wire mesh and women behind a wire mesh both drawing on memories of the Greenham Common Peace Camp. Finally the candles were lit.

Lighting candles against images of guns and wire Lighting the candlesImage drawing on the symbolism of Greenham Common

Above linking the images to the stones and creating the central cairn, with lit candles. The final image draws upon the Peace Camp at Greenham Common.

When  the performance was finished the memorial was left for people to view.  Below people visiting the memorial

The final memorial

Carol Crowe - 26th November

Brightly coloured toys arranged in front of a projection of ZiggyCarols performance took place on the ground floor on a small raised stage.  It was based around motherhood and childhood..

In her work she used rainbow coloured toys - which she laid out on the stage - they were displayed in a variety of patterns.

At the rear of the stage pictures of her son Ziggy were projected. 

Another arrangement of the rainbow coloured toysOne of the arrangements the toys

Rainbow coloured toys and  ZiggyCarol Crowe in performance

Above the toys arranged in different patterns and Carol in performance

During the performance she talked about what it meant to be a mother and how children played.  

There was an opportunity for people to play with the toys and to rearrange them. Notably the young people who did this were considerably older than the kids the toys were designed for.

Young people playing with the toys  Maria Agatha and Carl O Gorman playing with the toys

Maria Agatha, Carl O' Gorman and others playing with the toys.

Roland Miller - 26th November & 3rd December

Roland performed at the last two Vigils, both performances centred on bees.

The first piece took place in the upper dome.  Roland dressed as a beekeeper created a circle of flowers in the centre of the dome.

 Roland dressed as beekeeper with hat Creating the circle of flowers 

In the centre of this he built a fire.  Around the outside of the circle of flowers he started adding pieces of paper with bee related information in German

Building the fire in the centre of the circlePlacing paper around the outside of the circle                       

Once the circle was complete he lit the fire and burnt the pieces of paper. The pieces of paper growing in numberThe fire in the middle of the circle

The second  piece took place on the ground floor.  There was a table, in front of a wall, with rolls of ribbons in rainbow colours.  On the wall Roland had hung paper which was headed 'Positive Colours  -   The way of the Bee'. 

Wearing overalls smudged with paint - again covering the colours of the rainbow - Roland invited people to pick a ribbon and a colour. He then added the colour to the paper.

Roland in paint stained overall with rainbow coloured ribbonsVisitors choosing colours.Roland adding colour to the paper Roland creating the honeycomb

The ribbons which visitors had chosen were attached to a piece of paper.  These were then used to create the outline of a honeycomb. 

Karen Rann - 3rd December

" How to make the world a better place (you'll only make matters worse)" quote from John  Cage and the starting point for Karen's performance.

Karen Rann seated on chairThe piece started with Karen in suit and tie seated in front of a screen. ( See left)

Projected on the screen are at first news items, politicians, scenes of conflict,  and then crowd and street scenes.

During the course of the performance Karen slowly changes from suit and tie until in the final scenes she is in a padded dressing gown and slippers

Street scenes with Karen observingKaren in front of street scenesStreet scenesFrozen in time

Above street scenes with Karen observing them; and then frozen in thought

The next section is set in the performers home (kitchen and bedroom)  in which actions range from making and eating a jam sandwich to opening an envelope in which are letters, thoughts and dreams.

Eating a jam sandwichThis section is  accompanied by audio tape loops including:-

" There's something we ought to discuss"

"There's something I must tell you" (sincerely said)

"There's something she must tell you"  (sarcastically)

Karen in thought - bedroom in the backgroundopening the envelope  Karen with letters

Above top in the kitchen with the jam sandwich and then, above and left, in the bedroom opening the envelope which contains letters, thoughts and dreams.

This piece was performed  several times during the 12 hours of the Vigil, in some of the later performance Karen talked to the audience about their dreams. etc.Standing in front of the screenLeaving the stage

Karen's relationship with the screened images varied throughout the performance - sometimes observing them, sometimes ignoring them and sometimes interacting with them. Above she faces the final image and then leaves the stage.

This piece was one of Karen's first performances  - click here for her further work.

Video Showings

Some of the video pieces were created by people who also performed (Richard Layzell, Roland Miller and Monica Ross ); others by artists who did not attend the Vigils in person (Madelon Hooykaas, Nan Hoover, and Elsa Stansfield).  There were also two documentary contributions by Jinni Rawlings, and Joram Tenbrink.

The video area consisted of a monitor and a few chairs, it had a menu of what was available. Visitors simply used it as and when they wished, they had merely to ask for a specific tape to be put on.

People using the video areaThe video area in use

Above the Video area in use


The Windows Poetry Project (run by poets Dave Calder, and Dave Ward) and for The Vigils assisted by Sally Morris attended all three Vigils.  For the Vigils Windows created their a special peace Cafe Menu.

Ist page of Peace Menu Page 2 of the Peace menuPage 3 of the Peace MenuPage 4 of the Peace Menu

Above the Peace Menu

Dave Calder chatting with visitorsDave Calder readingSal and Flo in deep discussion with Dave Ward  from windows in the backgroundPoetry workshop taking place in the eating area

Above Dave Calder chatting to visitors and reading; Sally Morris and Dave Ward running poetry workshops in the eating area.

Mary Gladys Coles and Tina Morris in the poetry area

In addition to the workshops Dave Calder and  Dave Ward read their work.

Othe poets and writers came to read their works - all readings took place at the requests of visitors.

Gladys Mary Cole & Tina Morris came on the 19th November.

Left Gladys Mary Coles and Tina Morris in the poetry space and below reading from their works

Gladys Mary Coles readingTina Morris reading

and Michelene Wandor & Sid Hoddes came on the 3rd Dec. We do not have photographs of Michelene but as an addition we do have photographs of Alan McDonald who turned up unexpectedly and read his poetry

Sid Hoddes waiting to readSid Hoddes reading his workAlan McDonald reading his poetry

Above left Sid Hoddes  and right Alan McDonald reading from their work.


The Vigils were accompanied by folk music from the British Isles. What follows is the official programme but it is clear from photographs that the actuality was somewhat different. It is also clear that we did not manage to photograph all the musicians. 

As with the poetry and videos, the programming was in the hands of the visitors - so music was played and sung on request.

Nov 19th Traditional Irish music  Tony Gibbon and Keith Price. Unaccompanied songs Helen and Frank McColl plus songs from the British Isles by Barbara Breece.

Nov 26th Traditional music from Northumbria and elsewhere. By Cathy O'Dea and Chris Ormston.  Alan macDonald joined them.

Cathy O' Dea and Alan MacDonald Maria Agatha getting a music lesson from Alan MacDonald

Dec. 3rd  Traditional Irish Music  - Alan Bornat, Shay Black and Ken Dunlop

Traditional Irish music being played on 3rd Dec.One of the traditional Irish musiciansAnother of the traditional Irish musicians

The majority of this took place on the ground floor apart from the music on the 19th which also provided an accompaniment to Richard Layzell's Vigil.

Additionally on the 3rd Dec a large group of women performed in the dome. We have no record of who these are or where they came from - though given the Blackie's contacts possibly from the Somali community.  So if anyone was there or know about it please get in touch.

Women performing in the dome on 3rd Dec.Women performing in the dome

Women playing music and singing in the domeWomen singing in the dome


The original programme did not include any dance but Janice Murphy (a dancer from Leeds) who had worked at the Blackie previously, came for the final Vigil.  Bill Harpe choreographed a Dance for Peace which Janice performed both on the ground floor stage and to the audience watching the Vigil in the basement. At the end of the dance Janice served marshmallows to the audience.

Janice performing the Peace DanceJanice performing the Peace DanceJanice performing the Peace DanceJanice performing the Peace DanceJanice performing the Peace DanceJanice performing the peace dance Serving marshmallows to the audience at the end of the dance

 Above Janice performing the Peace Dance.

The Exhibition

The Exhibitions, which were all on the Ground Floor, included works brought in for the Vigils and works which had been created at the Blackie.

Sister Seven group, a group created by Monica Ross in collaboration with the artists, Shirley Cameron and Evelyn Silver and the poets Mary Michaels and Gillian Allnutt showed their work. Sister Seven operated nationally as a network for the distribution of poster art and performances which took place in church halls, libraries, on the streets and at peace camps including Greenham Common.

An Exhibition by Sister SevenAn Exhibition by sister Seven

Above works by Sister Seven

There was a display of wood works provided by Dave Cornick - these were displayed in different parts of the Ground Floor depending on the performances which were taking place. 

Works in wood

Works in wood


Left and below photos of some of the wood works on display - left Big Burr Drum and Entangled Buttocks - below Hanging Chain









Works from the Blackie included The Overall Story and the Flower Works.

The Overall Story is a book of photographs of padded overalls which were purchased and then decorated and had there pockets filled with useful items from socks to sweets during staff games.  The finished overalls were sent anonymously to the women at Greenham Peace Camp.

The Overall Story BookA visitor reading The Overall Story

Above the set up for the Book of the Overall Story and below The Flower Works.

The Flower Works on display


The Team

The performers are credited within the programme - the credits below are for those people who made the Vigils happen.

The Participatory Vigils were conceived by Wendy Harpe, and created by Wendy with Judy Bates, Melanie brewers, Floe Bodell,  Ian Carr, Ron Coleman, Dave Canham, Katie Cox, Dermot Duane,  Tom Hale, Bill Harpe,  Clare Henshall,  Gerard Elliott, Phil Joy, Stephen Knox, Donna Ignacio, Eddie Martin, Kevin McIntyre, Betty McCale, Margaret McCale, Raj Mekta, Tony Mercer, Janice Murphy, Sally Morris, Sue Sullivan, and Geoff Smith.

The photographs were taken by Billy Walshe


The programme was made possible through the generosity of the artists taking part, through the support of Merseyside Arts and the Peter Moores Foundation and through the generosity of the following companies and friends by way of gifts in kind, donations, and goods supplied at concessionary rates. (All the companies were based in Merseydide unless otherwise stated:-

Warr Screen Prints; Powell and Heilbron; Charles Wootton Centre; The Littlewoods Organisation; Merseyside Play Action Council;  Granada  TV;  The Schiffron Centre; Crawford Arts Centre;  PDS Advertising; Merseyside Visual Communications Unit;  Bemrose Printers; Lowe and Hornby; Paddington Comprehensive School; New Dehon Youth Club; Trident Scissors (Sheffield); Bingham Scissors (Sheffield); Kiwi Products (Huddersfield); Prices Patent Candle Co. (London);  and Custom Candles (Sheffield);