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Opening ‘lecture’ given in the bar of The White Hart, South Street, Exeter, UK (Simon Persighetti and Phil Smith in blazers and holding folders.) Intro Song (From The Water-Seller’s Song in the Rain by Bertolt Brecht) Simon: (Buy my water, Buy my water) I sell water. Who will taste it ? Who would want it in this weather ? All my labour has been wasted Fetching these few pints together. I stand shouting Buy my water ! And nobody thinks it Worth stopping and buying Or greedily drinks it All my labour has been wasted Cos its Raining Cos its Raining Cos its Rain-ing (Buy my water, Buy my water you dogs !) Part 1. INTRODUCTION: Phil: Good evening, everyone. On behalf of Simon and myself, thank you very much for joining us for tonight’s “Water Walk” through the West Quarter of Exeter.
Thanks to SPACEX GALLERY and the ESME FAIRBARN FOUNDATION for supporting our endeavours. And thanks also to you in anticipation of tonight’s ebbs, flows, footsteps and ripples. The West Quarter is a special place for us. We made some of our earliest site-specific performances here. And we want to be specific to the Quarter tonight. Specific to some terrible things. In the early medieval period this was an ecclesiastical district, then a merchants’ quarter, and after that the housing decayed. Mills, breweries and workshops were built here, and the Quarter became a place of poverty, violence, prostitution, and sickness. By the early 1800s, the infant mortality rate here exceeded anywhere in Britain. Some of that suffering – like the cholera epidemics – we will be tracing in water. During the nineteenth century the West Quarter transformed itself through its own associations, charities, institutions, schools and vivid street life. But in the first part of the twentieth century the West Quarter was swept away. Cleansed. Removed like a stain. And something of that sweeping away we will be tracing in water. The residents of the Quarter were mostly displaced to what they called “Siberia” – a council estate far from the city’s public life. Today, little remains of the physical structure of that West Quarter, even less of its human history.
Part 2. THINGS WE WON’T BE DOING: Phil: To mark this absence, as well as marking it in water, we are going to remove many of the usual accoutrements of our usual Mis-Guided Tours. That includes Part 3 .our pointing, Part 4. blazers, 5.funny stories, 6.personal anecdotes and associations 7. making a joke of Health and Safety and folding it back into the meaning of the tour, 8. historical information and activities, 9. Tour Guide folders and 10. instructions.
Part 3. NO POINTING Among the things we won’t be pointing to are: the begging site of Slabda, the Swan Tender, the seahorses, the Onedin Line, the salted fish, the Baptist Church, the otters caught on Devon Wildlife’s security cameras, the victims of the Theatre Fire, the midget submarines, the giant pike, the racks of Rack Street, a ‘Coombe Street Row’, Skimmerton Riding, the flayed corpse of Bishop Blaize, Romany Rye, the secret tunnel to the Bishop’s Palace, Artful Thomas and the nuclear bunker. And this is the pointing we won’t be doing. (Simon and Phil take it in turns to point at things.)
Part 4. REMOVAL OF GUIDES Blazers & INSIGNIA Simon: During the Cholera outbreak in Exeter in 1832, the mode by which clothes etc. were destroyed was, during the first fortnight or so, by burying them in pits with quick lime… to collect the clothes and bedding…a handcart covered with canvas in order not to alarm passers by, was chiefly used; but here at the lower part of the town, and contiguous to the river, a boat…was also employed. (Simon and Phil take off their blazers.)
Part 5. FUNNY STORY Phil: The funny story I won’t be telling is about the houses in the Quarter that would occasionally collapse and bury entire families. That’s not particularly funny, but on one occasion a house near the river fell down and the husband and wife inside, in their bed, were pitched into the river, and floated off towards Trew’s Weir. Which people said was the first time they’d been seen out together for some time.
Part 6. PERSONAL ANECDOTES AND ASSOCIATIONS Simon: I will not tell you about the day of an accident at the White Hart in 1648. The inn had an old well that had long been neglected. The White Hart's owner Roger Cheek employed Paul Penrose to climb down the well to repair it. At the bottom, Penrose suddenly fell dead - a second workman named William Johnson was called to go down and investigate. After also descending the well, Johnson too fell dead. The burial records of St Sidwell's Church record that William was buried on 28th April 1649 having died of a damp of the well, at the sign of the "White Hart" in South Gate Street. A friend of the men, wishing to help his workmates, also descended the well and almost died himself. Those on the surface pulled the man back up, and he rolled around in agony, to be revived with water and oil. When he came round, he said that there was a strong smell that hindered his breathing. Some said that it was a Cockatrice that caused the deaths…a Cockatrice is a legendary creature that is part lizard, part rooster. One night I and Phil were in this very bar rather late and the bar tender closed up shop without noticing we were still in here. At first we thought it would be fun to just sit here for the night but then a strange procession of ghastly looking folk appeared before us and two weird looking men started telling them stories and ghostly tales about a deathly creature part lizard, part rooster…
Part 7. making a joke of Health and Safety: Phil: The health and safety talk we’ll be dispensing with tonight, would have included a warning to you to beware of any uneven quality, particularly in this introduction, and, when crossing roads to take particular care not to be mortally ruined by the Western Way, as half the West Quarter has been.
Part 8. historical information and activities, Simon: I will not mention about the issuing of fire buckets to every household or of the waterseller, Charlie Combe of West Street. Or that “Water is probably the most important feature of the area. In addition to powering the Brewery, the grist and flour mills and the Baryta Works, it was used extensively in the processes themselves - from the complexities of the tannery or the wool trade to the cleaning of the blood and offal of the slaughtered animals on Butchers Row. Water was dipped up …from the leats for household purposes, and until the 19th century from the river near Horsepool Bridge to load onto the water sellers carts….Up the hill, …water was a valuable commodity and had to be fetched to most private households. On a Saturday morning the turncock would open the granite conduit at the bottom of Lower Market so that the water would flow down the cobbled streets towards West Street, the housewives calling to one another "water`s on" as they ran out to stop the drains with cushions and brush down their yards in haste. But I wont be telling you any of that. I won’t be telling you about the council workers who were ordered to knock a huge hole in the ancient Roman Wall of the city to make way for the building of Western Way. A route for the efficient flow of vehicles that in turn would divide us from the flow of the very river that made the city itself.
Part 9. Tour Guide folders Phil: Simon, we can get rid of these folders that we won’t be using now. And so we won’t have to give any credit to local historians such as Peter Thomas, Hazel Harvey, Todd Gray, Jaqueline Warren, Walter Minchington, William Shapter; Richard Izake or any of those old families that used to live in the West Quarter. (Simon and Phil put down the folders.)
Part 10. instructions. Phil: Which brings us to instructions: we do actually have an instruction – or at least a request – we’d like you all to walk in silence – because although things have been written about the people of the West Quarter, and they were often witnessed for, to and against, very little – some, but very little - of their own voices was ever recorded. And so perhaps if we could be silent as we walk although we can’t pretend that brings back their voices, at least we might honour their silence with ours, and protest their silencing. And then, after a while, we’ll get rid of that instruction too, and you can feel free to chat as we go. Simon: Cling not to the wave breaking against your foot. As long as your foot stands in the water, new waves will always be breaking upon it.
ALL EXIT TO SECRET GARDEN AND THE FILLING OF BUCKETS. PHIL CARRIES IMAGE OF CHOLERA SUFFERERS AND MOURNERS ON STEPCOTE HILL AS IF PROCESSING AN ICON.
A/ Fill and collect buckets of water from tap in the pub’s ‘secret garden’ – empty some in a fake (wishing) well there and carry others with us. B/ Process under Western Way and view maze in grounds of Cricklepit Mill from the City Wall.
C/ At the Cricklepit Leat wash purple material in bucket and carry the wet material.
D/ In disused collective drying area hang up the dripping cloth.
(after this the walkers were given the option to talk while walking) E/ At the bridge over the River Exe at the Quay the group splits in two, half to empty the dye stained water into the river (from the bridge), the other half to a pier by the Fishmarket to attempt to recapture the discoloured water from the river.
F/ To the remnants of the former Water Gate (now blocked up) where we break ice from its mould (a toy car inside the ice) and place it in a recess in the Gate.
G/ To Exe Bridges where all are invited to wash their faces in the water from the buckets.
H/ To cul-de-sac under Bridge Street (end of which is Cricklepit Leat) where a bucket of water is sold to a(n unprepared) resident for one penny. I/ To foot of Stepcote Hill where members of the walking group are arranged on the Hill to recreate the image from the carried engraving. Including throwing water down the central drainage channel. J/ To George Street. Chinese Restaurant with waterfall where the group drink rice wine. K/ Cross to former site of a close (end of George Street) where residents had the right to throw water on specific religious processions. Audience given cups of water and throw them over Phil as he processes the engraving through them. L/ What water remains in the buckets is thrown down Coombe Street – route of previous/culverted stream. Pamphlets describing the making of the walk are distributed. All invited to join Simon and Phil for drink in The White Hart.