Farewell Arts Centre, July 2012

If These Walls Could Dance was an idea conceived at a theatre conference, ‘Devoted and Disgruntled’ in 2011, in response to the portending closure of Darlington Arts Centre.  It has evolved since then and involved a great many artists and participants.  It was originally staged in April this year, providing the first chance for many Darlington audiences to see site-specific, promenade dance theatre.  It was the first time that many had been backstage and got their first sight of the stairwell wall of archive posters from the history of the Arts Centre.
This coming Saturday, the Arts Centre closes its doors; perhaps forever; certainly in its current guise.  It’s a very sad time.  The changes to come may bring something even better than we have had before, with more art for everyone, all across the town, whilst realising more of the potential of the Civic Theatre, expanding the programme and usage, making it more of a destination for locals and visitors and bringing along a swanky new, high-end hotel and arts centre.  I, for one, am backing this bright future.
But this week none of that is set in stone and various other futures are possible.  What we know is that the Arts Centre is closing and evidence shows that this is a huge blow for an awful lot of people.  I have collected stories, memories and anecdotes from hundreds of people and going through these is a fresh reminder each time of how important the building, and the activities within, have been for decades and continue to inspire new voices right to this day.  I can only imagine how it feels for the people who work there and those recently redundant, when their efforts are so clearly still needed.
Farewell Arts Centre is our chance to say ‘au revoir’ to the building and to thank the hundreds of people whose hard work has given it the power to take such an important place in our hearts.
Someone said to me the other day that ITWCD is my project.  I take this as a real compliment, but I don’t agree.  I feel that it belongs to all the people who have left us a story or memory, those who wrote on the original ‘Save Darlington Arts Centre’ petition and everyone who has spent time there.  I feel it is my responsibility to shepherd these into a show that sufficiently reflects all those voices.  I hope to see you there on Thursday.  CP

*To clarify, If These Walls Could Dance has been created by a wonderful team, led by Director, Gary Kitching with Dance and Choreography by Emma Beach and Debbie Waistell.