» About Talking Birds

» top 20 facts - written in 2012 for Talking Birds' 20th anniversary

1. In 20 years of operation, Talking Birds has produced over 100 projects in venues that range from the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank to Kilkenny Livestock Mart; from a giant underground car park in Scarborough, to a decommissioned hospital in Coventry, to a giant aluminium whale which swallows up its audiences one at a time.

2. Talking Birds have been heralded as "pioneers of site-specific theatre" by the Guardian and the company's work has been likened to "taking part in a David Lynch movie" by the Independent on Sunday.

3. More than 4,000 people, including half the original squad, went to the Belgrade Theatre to see the original run of Talking Birds' "We Love You City" which told the story of Coventry City Football Club's epic 1987 FA Cup win. The play was revived 2 years later to mark the 25th anniversary of the big day.

4. Over 8,000 people have had a one-to-one submersive theatre encounter inside Talking Birds' giant aluminium leviathan "The Whale", in places which range from the National Theatre to the harbour at Dartmouth; the Larmer Tree Festival field to the shadow of Coventry Cathedral.

5. Talking Birds has a core company of 3 artists - writer, composer and designer - and employs between 60 and 80 additional artists per year.

6. Talking Birds & Orchestra of the Swan's 2010 "Space Odyssey" transposed Homer's Odyssey to space, and featured a cast of 71 children from 3 schools plus an orchestra of 11. In 2013, we're tackling the Illiad too...

7. In 2002, Talking Birds celebrated its 10th year of making work with the "Helloland" project, producing 10 new artworks throughout the year and involving 132 participants in monthly interactive web-based works (pre-dating the social media explosion which, frankly, would have made things a lot easier).

8. The design for "Smoke, Mirrors and the Art of Escapology", made for the Arts Alive Festival at the Belgrade Theatre, formed part of the UK's winning entry to the Prague Quadrennial in 1999.

9. Talking Birds' "Masterplan" project involved 60 Coventry children in re-designing their school toilets, tackling the issues of ownership, vandalism and intimidation.

10. During a digital residency at Vivid in Birmingham, Talking Birds and 100 email participants devised 10 new theories about the world, including 'People in Scotland are most likely to be spurred on by strangers to make a reckless world record attempt'.

11. Talking Birds' "Virtual Fringe" was an imaginary festival designed to input into city officials' decision-making about venues and cultural provision. The project also generated a question on a daytime TV news-quiz.

12. "One Voice" commissioned for, and performed at, the national Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration held in Coventry in 2009 involved 3 choirs - male, female and childrens - and moved many, the Chief Rabbi included.

13. To mark Talking Birds' twentieth anniversary in Olympic year, 2012, the company produced a "Decathlon" of new works.

14. Talking Birds defines much of its work as Theatre of Place. We make work which responds to places which are about to close or change use, such as Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital, Bishop Street Sorting Office, and Kilkenny Livestock Mart; or re-animates forgotten or underused spaces such as Whitefriars Monastery and Morecambe Winter Gardens

15. Talking Birds has strong links with artists in Coventry's twin city of Volgograd forged over a virtual tablecloth in the "twin60" project.

16. Thirteen artists worked in 13 different schools and children's centres to devise the "Space of Possibilities", an intervention into Coventry City Council's 2007 Cultural Strategy. The City Council took some of it on board and subsequently also called its own Cultural Strategy The Space of Possibilities.

17. Talking Birds attempts always to begin making a piece of work from a point of universal access, this has lead to the development of a prototype in-pocket subtitler called the "Difference Engine".

18. A particular pair of welding goggles have featured in no fewer than four of Talking Birds' performances and one short film, commissioned by Central TV.

19. As part of the development of Coventry's FarGo Creative Village, Talking Birds curated an eighteen month programme of artists' residencies in an empty warehouse. The "Space Programme" supported nineteen locally-based artists or artists groups to make new work there.

20. Talking Birds' cult alternative Christmas Show, "Trevor Goose & his Dark Night of Lights" featured a 6 piece band and a tourism officer dressed as a goose. It was, strangely, most enthusiastically received by audiences at Warwick Arts Centre during May.


montage of production images
links to Ant and Cleolinks to Trails of the Unexpectedlinks to article about Theatre of Place