1999 - 2019
In 1998, the very first dances opened at The Cabot Centre in Kings Cross, London in an area known as Battlebridge.
Spiderflower's first lady of the drum, Afra Bell, accompanied us then on the very first session, as she does to this day.
The first dances were small, intimate sessions, making a humble beginning. Right from the word go - there has been an element where dancers seem to fall in love with the work - and have always been dedicated.
In time attendance grew, sessions needed more space, so moved on to The Swanfleet Centre in Tufnell Park. where Kirby joined Afra on percussion for bi-weekly sessions.
Kirby and Afra still provide the beat for Spiderflower 20 years later. The greatest tribute has to be paid to them as they have trod the entire journey with Spiderflower - showering us with melody, bass, amazing skill, an ineffable spirit and with huge love. Their understanding of the work, alongside their sensitivity and percussive ability is a gift - and somewhere we are blessed with a very special three-way alchemy.
By 2000, dances needed to move again - this time to the very central Meeting Rooms at Covent Garden's Neal's Yard and longer dances to the gorgeous space at The Holy Innocents Church, Ravenscourt Park.
THE DANCE MOVEMENT FORM + DEVELOPMENT
During this period, the presence of percussion within sessions was core to the development and progression of Spiderflower as a dance movement form.
Repetition is a marvellous thing. Remembering the work was emergent at this stage, it found a deeper form and shape through repetition in classes.
Longer residentials at AVEBURY and CAE MABON grew from here. All work turned upon the wheel of the year, one year building to the next to open out the vocabulary of dance movement seeded with The Kokopelli Company.
Technically, this period saw the consolidation of teaching structure and stanzas that now make up and Spiderflower's 8-point wheel. The work divided into a strand for women only, and men and women together.
From laying the ground - not that much in terms of basic structure for Spiderflower has changed - it worked then and it works now - this period was about putting down strong roots through practice and has refined itself over 20 years since.
If I am to go back and count all sessions completed - I am at present without number. But what I am with is the nectarine memory of those early sessions swelling in energy, sound and rhythm and the beautiful, colourful and powerful community who graced the dance floor with their presence.
Thank you so much to all who shared that space.
THE CABOT CENTRE
Kings Cross - London
KINGS CROSS ROOTS, OLD STORIES & FOUNDATIONS
As a root and a beginning, the local history around where Spiderflower started out geographically is so interesting, and the spirit of place is reflective in Spiderflower's overall ethos and expression.
London is a fascinating city. If you take one place and peel through layers of time, there is often a story to unearth. Kings Cross is no different. The actual name of 'Kings Cross' originates from a monument to King George IV which stood at 'The King's Crossroads' where Euston Road, Gray's Inn Road, and Pentonville Road met between 1830 - 1845. King's Cross station opened in 1852 and stands by that junction.
Going right back, Kings Cross initially sprung from a village known as 'Battle Bridge', which was an ancient crossing over the River Fleet. The original name of the bridge was Broad Ford Bridge and had been settled in Roman times with a camp here known as The Brill.
Urban folklore says the name 'Battle Bridge' was the site of a major battle in AD 60 or 61 between the Romans and the Iceni tribe led by Boudicea, and continues with the suggestion Boudicea is buried beneath platform 9 or 10 at King's Cross station. That half way place between platforms (Platform 9 3/4 - Harry Potter) seems to be a bit of a hot spot.
BETWEEN RED LIGHTS & A CREATIVE HUB
The Cabot Centre was tucked away in a small community around the back of Kings Cross Station. The area is notorious as the red light district of London, but it was also a hub where creatives gathered and worked - plus the street was residential, the centre being part of Stanley and Culross Buildings (two victorian tenement blocks built in 1864 as the first 'luxury accommodation' for the working classes managed by community housing).
During the time we were there this little pocket was alive and humming. The Cabot Centre was officially a Kundalini Yoga centre and was beautifully serene once you stepped through its doors, as you cast your eye across the road from the main studio space you'd be met with the gasworks on the skyline - so the place held quite a polarity in its own right. The Battlebridge Centre stood next door to the gasworks, not far off the size of an aircraft hanger it was established as an eco-centre and was both epic and inspirational, in a derelict kind of way; with gardens, a cafe that was never open and an abundant range of workshop rooms to hire - but were mostly empty, and a little famous for their leaking roofs. . . all art of the charm.
The London Canal Museum sat round the corner, and the truly tiny Courtyard Theatre was a stones throw away - another place I rehearsed and performed at some years before, and loved it. Surrounding streets saw the setting for films such as; 'The Ladykillers', Mike Leigh's 'High Hopes' and Anthony Minghella's 'Breaking and Entering' - the legendary Irish folk/punk band 'The Pogues' founded in Kings Cross . . the list goes on. It was a quirky, hub of a place - full of all the colours of humanity, and one that I remember feeling well at home in as a beginning.
DEMOLITION & REGENERATION
In the 90s, the government established regeneration projects and the station's redevelopment led to the demolition of the area which is now beyond recognition. Following protests from community groups the tenants from Stanley and Culross were moved out in 2001, the layout of the surrounding roads has completely changed, the iconic Gasworks have been obliterated, the cobbled streets gone, the Courtyard Theatre has closed and both The Cabot Centre and Battlebridge Centre are no more.
An increasing number of high-brow establishments have taken up residence in their place. Although it's a good thing to evolve - this level looses so much. It is worth pausing and wondering about the term 'regeneration' and if it really needs to erase all the flavours of an era without trace?
I speak of this place as it was - as it mirrors so well what Spiderflower has grown from and still is. The work is about meeting and moving with the extraordinary contradictions and contrasts within human existence, we are interested in all the colours - and within that - the spectrum of expression we visit is real and wide - this seed of a place, now I look back - gifted Spiderflower with so much.
I will be forever thankful for that inspired cubby hole . . . and rest well in the knowledge that the memory of some fierce beats still rest within those streets.