CowGirl Parlour was conceived by Christine Watkins, who was lead artist on the one year research and development period and delivery of the pilot. The pilot toured to five venues over ten days in July 2015 as part of Ledbury Poetry Festival, with over 500 people catching a performance or visiting the installation.
As a performance storyteller I had become interested in the story of the Abundance, and in the whole idea of what is enough, what is plenty, what we do with ‘plenty’ when we have it…The idea for CowGirl Parlour took root when I happened to read, on the same day, an article about the place of milk in some of our most ancient mythologies and an article by Professor Claire Wathes of the Royal Veterinary College on the challenges inherent in breeding increasingly high-yield dairy cows.
My primary aim in making this project was to create a space which would invite people to become aware of the huge landscape, extending far back through time and across continents, in which the story of our relationship with milk and with cows has developed, and within which contemporary dairy practices may be usefully considered.
From the start this was conceived as an open-access, unticketed piece generally accessible in whole or in part to passers by. To this end the sensibility of the work was carefully thought through. Anyone, with any viewpoint, might visit the installation. People with little or no knowledge of the subject of cows and milk production, dairy farmers, people with particular viewpoints or no opinions on the subject, vegans, proponents of large-scale agri-business, children – any combination of people might be sat in the caravan at the same time listening to the sound piece, perusing the bookshelf, shuffling their feet in the straw. This for me meant creating not something bland or generalized but rather an environment where people felt safe and centered enough to allow their curiosity to open, to reflect and make connections between ideas, memories, possibilities.
Words Spoken Sung
Words, spoken, sung, printed and embroidered wound their way through performance, across costumes, on notes in milk bottles, print outs from local farm milk reports, rubber gloves, soundscape and bookshelf…
Lots of visitors tied response tags into the installation…. “So much food for thought…. A really beautiful environment to learn and experience something so important… That was the highlight of my day… Very unusual and inspiring…… An intriguing installation that crosses over ideals and realities in an accessible way… Moosic to my ears…”
Christine Watkins – Writer, Performer and Project Leader
Kate Johnson – Science Adviser, Royal Veterinary College
Chloe Garner – Creative Director, Ledbury Poetry Festival
The Project Team
Science advisor – Kate Johnson, vet and dairy science researcher at the Royal Veterinary College.
Music research, composition and performance – Sianed Jones.
Sound installation – Richard Urbanski
Caravan installation – Becky Knight, assisted by Gabrielle Adamson and Christine Watkins.
Performers were Christine Watkins, Sianed Jones and Lily Constance Urbanska
Project administration was by Helen Gethin for the Centre for Performance Research