In which Cie Carabosse sets Harrogate aflame

Thursday night was brilliant.  Brilliant in every way.  Apart from anything else, it was an evening of simple joy at being part of an evening’s festivities shared with equal pleasure among both friends and strangers.

The next day we woke up to a Brexit-dominated world, and simple joy has become rather hard to find.

We arrived at Harrogate’s Valley Gardens as dusk fell .  These gardens are among Harrogate’s treasures – 17 acres of lawns, of colourful flowers, of pinewoods, a small lake, of historic buildings such as the Sun Pavillion, all beautifully managed and greatly appreciated by locals and visitors alike.

Normally, by dusk, there’s only the odd dog-walker around.  Thursday was different – Friday and Saturday too.  We spotted  lines of flaming plantpots strung on simple metal frames.  There were smouldering lampshade-like creations. Then we found spherical braziers suspended from stands of mature trees..  There were eccentric bits of machinery, reminiscent of the work of Rowland Emmett, that played with the idea of juxtaposing showers and jets of water with flickering flames and occasional startling fireballs. There were quantities of men’s vests – yes, vests – re-purposed as lampshades suspended over the lake, which became, as darkness fell, an evermore magical and mysterious venue.

Cie Carabosse was in town.  They’re a French street theatre company whose specialist subject is fire in all its forms.  Its members are a playful band of people who aim to transform a space that may have long been familiar into … something else.  Dressed formally in black, rather in the manner of croque-morts (pall-bearers or undertakers),  they wandered round the park, illuminating braziers, attending to some of those hand-cranked machines.  We ambled round too.  Apart from a band of musicians playing atmospherically over in the back corner, there was no event, no ‘happening’.  Everyone enjoyed simply exploring at their own pace, visiting and revisiting this installation, that glade of fires, those vests down at the lakeside, savouring the atmosphere as dusk became black night, as fires grew, damped down, and blazed forth once more.

Cie Carabosse travel all over the world.  They’ll be in London in September as part of the commemoration of the Great Fire of London, 350 years ago.  They’ll be in Seoul, South Korea in October –  so maybe Emily could get to see them.  And they’ll be in the Ariège, in Foix, in December.  One way or another, I hope many of you will have the chance to have your evening set alight by Cie Carabosse before the year is out.

19 thoughts on “In which Cie Carabosse sets Harrogate aflame”

  1. It looks stunning. We shall aim for Foix in December. You talk about simple joy, joy of any sort is hard to find round here. Our youngest and his partner have both been told their jobs are leaving the UK. A half Finnish friend, born and raised here, has been subject to sustained racial abuse. I could go on but it’s too painful. On top of that my father died suddenly at the beginning of May and this feels like another bereavement. Our children are VERY angry.

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    1. Same here. It’s awful. Emily worries about her future in Spain, and the way that Farage and rags like the Daily Mail have contributed to stirring up racial hatred is unforgiveable. This truly feels like the most dreadful crisis.

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  2. Looks magical and the idea of exploring at your own pace with no main event is very appealing. So sorry about Brexit – we too were stunned at the outcome! The world has a disturbing, angry undercurrent right now.

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  3. This looks amazing — but I have to admit to being kind of irrationally afraid of fire. Did you feel like it was always safe and contained? The use of the men’s vests (undershirts to us!) is so inventive! The Brexit situation is shocking and totally unnerving. It makes me start to fear what could happen here in November . . . .

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    1. Honestly, I doubt if you would have found it scary. It was fire as a welcome friend that night. However, since Friday morning, I have been nothing but scared. Surely the USA won’t compound the agony in November?

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  4. The gardens are stunning and somewhat of a metaphor for what happened with the vote. I was wondering about you and those I know in the UK. Fear is easy to exploit, I too worry about November. May our worries be comforted with the sounds of nature and being outdoors. Peace.

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  5. Looks like a fascinating evening. There’s definitely something other worldly about fire. Rampant or contained it is always slightly unnerving. Feeling unnerved would be putting it lightly regarding the wretched vote and ghastly fallout. My 83 year old father voted Remain for his grandchildren, shame more senior folk couldn’t look to the future instead of clutching at a rose-tinted past.

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  6. What a fascinating concept! I do like the vests!
    I also haven’t known peace since Friday morning and I am dreading the weeks and months to come. My 86 year old mother is a staunch Remainer and is very sad and disappointed. She remembers the years shortly after WW2 when there was great hope of a united Europe. People chickened out of that and lost interest.
    Even with other people who voted Remain there is nastiness. The young accusing the old of betrayal – (‘not all of us!’ I shout) and I have been reading a blog written by a Scot accusing ‘The English’ (who apparently to a man/woman voted out – no we didn’t!) of racism!

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      1. Exactly. Many people claimed not really to have understood the issues. What are MPs for if not to take these decissions, while taking the views of their constituents into account?

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