All hands on deck! Countdown to The Voyage is on ….

In just one week’s time The Voyage will sail into Victoria Square, Birmingham for the very first time. Volunteer Hannah Giblin ( @handarr ) told us about her experience of volunteering and being part of the London 2012 festival…

The Voyage volunteer, Hannah Giblin

The Voyage volunteer, Hannah Giblin

On Sunday 10 June, I embarked upon my first rehearsal of the much awaited outdoor performance experience; The Voyage. With a week to go before the ship sets sail, the cast and crew of this production are working hard; whether it’s rehearsing the vast amount of choreography and aerial performances to wow the crowd, or working on the beautiful ship that is currently being built in Victoria square. All involved are a whirlwind of action in order to ensure every detail of The Voyage will be a success, not to mention the hard work and dedication of musicians  who will be playing alongside aerialists and dancers when the performance sets sail.

What became immediately clear to me upon entering the NEC arena where the performers are  rehearsing was the huge amount of production that is and will be going into this event. Caroline Davis, who is volunteer coordinator for the Voyage and Strategic Projects manager for Birmingham Hippodrome, was able to introduce the volunteers to their role within the event. A wide range of volunteers had turned up to the briefing and when talking to them I was able to gauge what had brought them to this event in particular; most were interested in The Voyage as it is part of the London Festival 2012 and found the concept interesting, others like me wanted the experience of working towards something creative and conceptually new.

The ship begins to take shape in Victoria Square...

The ship begins to take shape in Victoria Square…

The Voyage is able to offer volunteers the experience of creating a huge outdoor performance, an experience which enables Birmingham to celebrate the culture of the city. Once Caroline had given us a volunteering pack, she was able to take us through the relevant information we would need for the night, this included the introduction of the different companies coming together to support the event. The first is  Motionhouse, a greatly experienced dance company, and then acrobatics and aerialists by Legs on the Wall from Australia; projection and lighting is created Logela Multimedia and finally the producers of the production, Birmingham Hippodrome. The choir and Brass band are also provided by local contacts; The Town Hall Gospel Choir and many more.

The Voyage in rehearsal at the NEC...

The Voyage in rehearsal at the NEC…

The production features a ship which, to give you a scale of how big it is, wouldn’t fit in the rehearsal halls of the NEC! Towering over the Town Hall the ship will be alive with aerialists and dancers to create the passengers story as they set sail, the details are a secret but the journey to new shores may not go as smoothly as desired…! The volunteers were then given a sneak preview as we spread out to create a crowd for the rehearsal of the first part of the show. It was a fascinating spectacle as we watched the dancers create the story of departing from loved ones to set sail on the magnificent ship. Watching the first half left us wanting more, excited for the week ahead where we would witness the dress rehearsal and the atmosphere four nights of performances would bring us. However, it was now time to get to grips with rehearsal ourselves as we were introduced to the little boats that we would help to guide through the crowd; they were stunning, and built to catch the audience’s eye. My boat in particular has a blue mast that will be bathed in light and holds a rescue crew of a dancer from Motionhouse, a trumpet player and a vocalist!

All in all it’s a busy time for all volunteers, performers and creative team members, however, with this much hard work, I believe The Voyage will be a total success, come rain or shine – personally, I’m hoping for shine. For more information on The Voyage CLICK HERE.

The Voyage will take place in Victoria Square, Birmingham 21-24 June 2012 at 10pm nightly and is a FREE event and part of the London 2012 Festival. Don’t forget to tell us about your experience on twitter @thevoyage2012 and facebook.

Volunteers help one of Birmingham’s biggest spectacles set sail…

This June, Birmingham Hippodrome is producing one of the biggest outdoor performances ever to be seen in Birmingham. Setting sail in Victoria Square, The Voyage will begin at 10pm from Thu 21 – Sun 24 June; the performance will see professional dancers and aerialists from Leamington Spa based dance company, Motionhouse and Australian physical theatre company, Legs on the Wall join a huge amateur choir, live musicians and more than 140 community performers on a magnificant ship bulit outside the iconic Town Hall building.

Only part of the huge ship in the NEC rehearsal space

Only part of the huge ship in the NEC rehearsal space

To make the huge production of The Voyage a reality – we need a vast team (or should that be a crew) of volunteers! Rosie Price, one of our committed volunteers, reports on her experiences of being involved in one of the largest cultural Olympiad projects of this special Olympic year…

There’s less than a month to go before The Voyage sets sail in Birmingham’s Victoria Square and rehearsals are well and truly underway here at the NEC. A huge ship occupies the back of one of the massive halls with an assortment of props and costumes visible in every direction. The music has been composed, routines choreographed and photographers, musicians and dancers are at the ready and practicing hard. Everything is in place. That said, there’s still plenty to be done both in preparation for and during  the event itself. It seems like a few extra hands could be helpful…this is where we come in – a small crew of volunteers who are ready to undertake a variety of different tasks to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

Aerialists rehearse a spectacular scene on the side of the ship

Aerialists rehearse a spectacular scene on the side of the ship

We first met last week at Birmingham Hippodrome where we were introduced to the project by Caroline Davis, our Volunteer Co-ordinator and Patrick Nolan, The Voyage’s Co-Artistic Director, over here all the way from Australia. We were given a brief history of where and how the concept originated and shown a sneak peek of how the performance should eventually look. A packet of biscuits later, we had our potential roles explained to us and the sheer variety and amount of jobs that need doing became clear. Finally, the evening was rounded off with an en-masse trip up to Victoria Square to watch a performance of Wings of Desire (part of the recent International Dance Festival Birmingham 2012)  and get to know each other a little better. 

 Everyone we met had different reasons for wanting to be involved with the project but are all equally excited by the prospect, and understandably so.  Aside from being part of both the London 2012 Olympic Festival and a huge arts spectacle, it provides an opportunity for people to explore different aspects of a unique large-scale production and enjoy themselves at the same time. It also means that we will have been involved from the very start of rehearsals and will get to see the production develop and come together into the final result. 

Dancers practice on the huge structure

Dancers practice on the huge structure

Managers, performers, creative team, crew,  designers and volunteers alike are all working hard to make the event as special as it promises to be, but until then, for all of us, it’s still very much all hands on deck (sorry, it just had to be done!)… signing people in, ensuring costume measurements are taken, directing people to rehearsals – it all has to be done to make the show a reality. On the night I will be assisting with the performance and helping get the rescue boats through the crowd (don’t panic – its all part of the story!) and gathering evalutation information. I’m really happy to be part of that and can’t wait for Birmingham to see this amazing spectacle!”

 You can see The Voyage outside Birmingham Town Hall in Victoria Square from 21 – 24 June. Don’t forget to pay a visit to our post-gallery exhibition in The Mailbox during July where the photos taken during The Voyage will be on display.

Take a look at some fantastic photo shoot and rehearsal shots in the gallery below…

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 To find out how you can be a part of this huge event by becoming a volunteer or sharing your story, visit 

Mandy Rose, Press & PR Officer on Creating a buzz

There’s a great creative buzz around Birmingham Hippodrome at the moment and not just on stage!  In fact, the foyer is definitely the place to start if you are one of the thousands visiting us.

For a start Birmingham Royal Ballet have a fabulous exhibition.  To celebrate their 20 years in the city, you can get up close and personal to costumes and props from productions they have performed here including Arthur and the popular Still Life at the Penguin Cafe.  And there are some outstanding photographs of the company by Bill Cooper.

A breathtaking sculpture by Birmingham fine art graduate Rebecca Turner has been a popular piece for visitors to photograph since it went up in our foyer last week.   10,000 mirror squares and 1,000 Swarovski crystal rhinestones create an amazing ball gown which took Rebecca over 200 hours to make.

If you are here when the sun goes down then you’ll get the chance to see our latest installation entitled ‘Waves’.  It’s part of International Dance Festival Birmingham and is projected light on the piazza just outside the main entrance which responds to the heat of passers-by.   We’ve had lots of people dancing in and around the light every night so please have a go if you are passing by.  If you take some good photos, why not send them to us?

Meanwhile, backstage in our studios the creative theme continues with much excitement – Ballet Nacional de Cuba have set up camp!     This is the first time the company have performed here and their first time in the UK outside London.  Ballet superstar Carlos Acosta, who trained with the company, makes a special guest appearance (27/28 April) and I know from the reaction of some of my colleagues here he’s also setting a few hearts fluttering… Kate was lucky enough to spend some time with him – in the lift! 

Carlos Acosta

The company opened last night with a glorious mix from their repertoire and legendary Artistic Director Alicia Alonso (nearly 90 years of age) was escorted on stage for the curtain call and rightly given a standing ovation by many in the audience.  She went on to give an extremely interesting post-show talk with our Chief Executive and still found time (and energy) to attend a sponsor’s reception at the Crowne Plaza till the early hours    Tonight’s performance is sold out but you still have the chance to catch the company later in the week when they perform the full length ballet Giselle.

International Dance Festival, which the Hippodrome co-produces, is now into its second week.  If you don’t have tickets for the Cubans here this week, why not take a trip up the road to The Rep where you can watch Sutra, a dance work featuring 17 monks from the original Shaolin Temple in China?  Our very own Patrick Centre studio and Ikon Eastside host the premiere of Outspoken, a weekend of performance from Arab artists; and, over the Bank Holiday weekend, get yourself and your family up to Victoria Square for a FREE dance performance event called Utopia – you’ll never see the Floozy in the Jacuzzi in the same way again!