The people of is a complex, transient, portrait of place – made to be experienced live, outdoors, on the street where it is created. The project features local workers as the performers, local businesses as the performance space, and fragments of everyday conversations as the content.
The people of is led by two Manchester-based artists who become temporary residents for the duration of its creation – not from there, but there for now. They work closely with a sound artist and local project animateur, who bring knowledge and connections that are specific to the place in which it is being made.
In each location, The people of is re-made through conversations with people that work in businesses along a main shopping street. It is intentionally made with a mix of people who have citizenship – by birth or application – and people who do not. We ask each person about how they came to be there, why they stayed, about neighbourliness, nationalism and their plans for tomorrow.
Audiences experience the work as a self-guided walk using a map, and audio that can be accessed on any smartphone via a bespoke mobile-optimised website. Subverting the usual historical city walking tour, audiences are invited to stop off at the hairdresser or bookshop, community centre or late-night takeaway, and encounter the people who keep the place going.
The policeman who cycles in the Alps on his days off; the optician who’s training to look everyone deep in the eyes; the greengrocer who used to keep pigeons in Pakistan; the mechanic who’s never had a chance to learn the local language; the funeral director who inherited the family business and has really seen it all…
These conversations are edited to create a single track that lasts as long as it takes to walk the route. This is underscored by an original composition made from and for the place by a sound artist. In layering these fragments of everyday reality, we create an intricate, often contradictory, picture of the street and its wider context. The people of raises questions about permanence, belonging and who the place – any place – is for.
We spend up to four weeks as temporary workers and residents in the place we are making The people of – not from there, but there for now. In collaboration with a local project animateur and sound artist, we meet and record interviews with people who work along the street.
The tailor who learned his craft at the age of eleven; the chicken shop worker who is afraid of heights; the tattoo artist who has tattooed others all along the street; the owner of the bookstore who can’t imagine living anywhere else, and the postman who travelled for more than twenty days to arrive here and now knows every door…
We ask them about how they came to be here and why they stay, about neighbourliness, nationalism, and their plans for tomorrow. Fragments of these stories are set against an original score composed by the sound artist using material from and for this place.
The audio is accessible via a bespoke website and is designed to be listened to as you walk down the street where it was made. You are welcome to go inside the shops or stop to look through the windows.
Past versions of The people of can be accessed at: www.thepeopleof.app