York Stories (2021)
This four-week participatory project on psycho-geographical narratives of wandering was led by video artist and curator Alda Terracciano for a group of students from York St John University second and third-year drama and theatre module.
The project consisted in a series of performative walks in York conducted by the students during the third COVID-19 lockdown to explore locality and attachment to place for several York residents whom they had interviewed online. The walks offered them the opportunity to re-visit well and less known locations and creatively use the stories, memories and emotions shared by the residents to affectively interact with the place through images, sounds, and sensory stimulations.
Below are the dramaturgical interactions produced by the student Jack Titherley and Hayley, a local York resident.
Jack and Hayley story: Merchantgate
Jack: Can you just tell me all the area around Paolo’s was like?
Hayley: It’s a very weird street Walmgate, because there are a lot of very specialised bars and restaurants. So, you have your champagne place Cave du Cochon, who sold you oysters and mussels and other tapasy bits. And then you’ve got loudmouth Paolo, which is Italian, you’ve got the Barbican, which is a Polish place, but they’re all frequented by the people that know what they like, so it’s always the same people there. And the street itself is all like, together places you know, there’s no like big gaps in between any of the buildings. Each building is very small itself, and it’s flats above you as well, so I used to be above a Turkish place that used to smell all the time and the kebab shop opposite. It’s a very foodie Street, but you know why you’re walking down there.
Jack and Hayley story: Il Paradiso 1
Jack: Can you describe what it’s like though? Like you’ve taken a mental picture while you’re in there?
Hayley: Yeah. It’s like Christmas where all your family actually gets on. That’s what is like, it’s always busy. There’s always other people chatting but all the customers are so happy and Paolo treats everyone like family and so does all the staff there, that even you as a customer you start talking to someone else, which you can’t help, cause you’re banging elbows and pushing the tables and that much. And he told me how to fillet my fish, I think the head waiter there, he is Paolo’s brother, he taught me how to fillet my fish. And there’s so much going on, and he’s not frightened of leaving a bottle of Limoncello with a big group, like he just loves that buzz that’s in the air, and he really creates it. It really feels like Christmas, it’s a big treat.
Jack and Hayley story: Il Paradiso 3
Hayley: It’s mouth-watering all the freshness. I mean to look at the place you think, “Oh God it’s so cramped” and how they work in that kitchen is beyond me, because it’s an open kitchen as well, and you can see that it’s cramped, and it’s stuff everywhere, and it’s leaning over each other, but the smells, because it’s all freshly made, it’s constantly smelling of herbs and lemons. It’s always herbs and lemons. It never smells fishy. It never smells too meaty, or anything like herbs and lemons, herbs and lemons. I don’t know how they managed to do it. And then the door’s always going in and out as well, so it’s wafting all the smells around you as you get along, oh…. it’s really, really nice, and he does everything so fresh as well. So like the sorbet is actually served in a lemon, like an actual lemon. So as soon as you get in, it’s just that waft of another big citrusy smell and, oh, it tastes divine absolute tastes divine.
Jack and Hayley story: Il Paradiso 4
Jack: What was your favourite thing to get, or that you knew other people loved getting and what was the smell of it, what was the sight of it?
Hayley: So, he does an amazing mushroom in Gorgonzola, like a little bake for a starter with proper homemade fresh crusty bread on the side and homemade butter. And it was like, every time, I always ordered it, and whoever I’m with would always order something different because you can’t have the same, and then they’d always stare at me like “Oh they look good.” Because even if it’s something so basic, it’s creamy mushrooms, I don’t know how he did it, but it tasted like the best creamy mushrooms you could eat. It was obviously very fresh, it’d done it from scratch, and it wasn’t like a bulk thing where you know, it’s just reheating it portion by portion. No, it was all done fresh for you. Yeah, all that crusty bread and the sound of it. You know when you press the bread in and it’s like… Oh, I love that sound, that’s telling you he baked it that morning. It’s like, yeah, thanks Paolo.
Jack and Hayley story: Walmgate 2
Jack: I would like you to think about the last time you were there. What was the best view, and this can be something small, something big, something that caught your eye in there?
Hayley: It would be that tiny hatchway to the kitchen. It really was, it was like, you know, those old-fashioned TV sets you get where it’s just that small little glimpse into another world. That’s what it felt like looking in there.
Jack: What did it always feel like the next day, after going?
Hayley: It felt like we needed to go back again. It’s something you miss. It was good food, good company. And it always delivered that same standard, which sometimes is a bit hard to achieve with restaurants and stuff, but I always really enjoyed it in there, no matter what time in the day you went in, it was always that same level of attentiveness, and you missed that the next day.
Jack: Would you go back? Straight again after this is all sorted?
Hayley: Yes, Yeah, 100% I’ve actually been like sending him emails and stuff like “Paolo, let me know when you’re back, I’ll come and help you”. So, he is really good.
Jack: Do think other people like Paolo have been affected like this?
Hayley: Yeah. There’s been a few businesses that haven’t managed to survive, a few like independent run coffee shops that would just get on their feet that haven’t managed to pull it out of this, which is a shame. I think there was a bit of a gap between the small business loans, cause a few people have suffered from it.
A Second Shot of Walmgate