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Well, bloody hell, what a day. It remains very surreal that for 5 hours on a cold and cloudy Bank Holiday weekend I was freezing my wotsits off at various locations on the Spencer Tunick Everyday People shoot to celebrate ten years of one of my favourite Manchester places, the fabulous Lowry theatre. The image above was one of the press shots on the Saturday, the first day’s shoot, when 500 brave souls visited Peel Park, amongst other places. I blogged about the event back in March and didn’t really think I’d get through, as over 4000 people applied to get their kit off in the name of art. Why? Well, I just though it’d be a cool thing to do, the type of thing you only ever get to do once and then look back on and think – I did that, I was there. Plus a few things have happened just recently to make me think you only live once and have to go for it!
The Lowry are great fans of Tunick’s installations, which have taken place all over the world, Dublin, Mexico, Sydney and New York to name just a few. What better way to celebrate their 10th birthday than have one of their favourite artists create a ‘momentous work of art’ in and around Salford & Manchester, and link the creative process with that of a local artist inextricably bound up with the area’s cultural heritage, LS Lowry.
A quarter of those who applied were ‘accepted’ and the eight locations were kept secret until the weekend of the installation. Four locations on the Saturday and four on the Sunday, with the shoots taking place at dawn to ensure privacy, peace and great natural light. The image above shows a morning lit Peel Park in Salford, one of the Saturday locations to which the press were invited, kinda glad I wasn’t at that one! I have to say that when I saw the images on-line on Saturday afternoon, I had second thoughts. A lot of second thoughts. Dismissed them fairly rapidly though and trepidation was soon replaced by anticipation and excitement!
Our instructions were to be at The Lowry at 3.30am – Jesus. And with the added note that it was better to get there even earlier to ensure your place! That weeded out the faint-hearted, party people and Mr Moregeous, who had to work that night, boy was he miffed. And a little peturbed that I’d be surrounded by willies, I think. I set my alarm for the middle of the night and tried to go to sleep at 7pm. Fat chance. Finally drifted off after a Grazia and two Living Etcs at about half ten to the sound of drunken students just on their way out. With bleary eyes, I got up at 1am and looked out of the window to see a Force 10 gale blowing the trees around. Nearly went back to bed, thinking that getting up in the middle of the night with no plane to catch was not my idea of fun, but didn’t. Stopped off at the garage for a Red Bull, a Mars Bar and some nuts, so well prepared :-) When I got to the Lowry, it was deserted, I thought I’d gone to the wrong place but oh no, wandered around the corner to see a huge queue already, couldn’t believe it. I never q for stuff, sales, tickets etc, it was so weird, but everyone was very chatty /a little delirious so the time passed quickly. My queue buddies were Louise and Tommy, two twenty somethings from Levenshulme, he was just there to keep her company, what a sweetie. He soon regretted coming though ’cause when we got to the front of the queue at 4.30 and he was about to leave, the guy in front had a spare application form, someone else had a pen and I had Mr Moregeous as an alias for him, so poor Tommy was now (un)officially on the list and getting naked :-)
A quick loo stop, warm up and registration in the Lowry and it was onto the buses to set off on our magical mystery tour. We were still dressed at this point and had no idea where we were going or when we had to doff off! Louise, Tommy and I headed to the back of the top deck (rebels eh) where I found three nutty women who’d all come along on their own too, two Helen’s and a Soo! I was kinda pleased to find some kindred spirits as none of us had ever done anything quite so loopy before, unlike other naturists we’d spoken to who weren’t in the least fazed by the whole thing. I just kept giggling to myself and shaking my head in disbelief at what on earth I was doing there.
The sun started to come up, Spencer and his crew arrived and the buses rolled away from the Lowry, heading into Manchester. We all furiously tried to work out the first destination and the general excited consensus when we parked up near the studios was Coronation Street! However the famed cobbles were spared our blushes as we moved on into Castlefield and under the shadow of the Hilton. Never in a million years did I ever think I’d be stripping off in the middle of Manchester at the crack of dawn with 499 complete strangers, it was the oddest experience of my life. 1 – 2 – 3 said Spencer through his megaphone and jeans, tops, dressing gowns, thermals, socks, undies, all were left in little piles on the floor as we braced ourselves against the cold and followed instructions – Walk, Freeze, Turn, Walk, Freeze. Oh, the wind under those arches, blimey, I was too cold to bother looking at anyone’s bits! He worked very fast and within minutes we were all shuffling in a naked crowd back to our clothes, bloody lost mine for a while which was a bit disconcerting :-) Us four girls couldn’t quite believe we’d done it, we were exhilarated and the bus was absolutely buzzing on the way to our next destination…. back at the Lowry.
There couldn’t very well be a Lowry / Tunick installation without a bit of nudity at the theatre itself could there? We’d all hoped it would be inside (warmer!) but no such luck. See these steps below? Imagine them with 500 butt naked people milling around and then comes the instruction…. Bend Over. I kid you not. What did he say?! said one woman next to me. Oh lord, what am I doing here? I thought. The people in the flats opposite who’d just come out onto their balcony for a Sunday morning cuppa got the sight of their lives. So we all bent over and someone farted. Everyone collapsed with laughter. As a crowd we were chastised like kids all the time Don’t Smile. Stop Smiling. Don’t Look At Me. Walk. Stop Smiling. Walk. Bend Over. Don’t Look At Me.
It was brilliant! I even bumped into someone I knew, now that was weird. Doesn’t really matter when everyone is starkers though somehow, and once all your clothes are off, there’s no point worrying about it really is there?
Back on the buses at 8am and off we headed out again, onto the M60 and none of us could quite believe the next location, under the wings of Concorde at Manchester Airport, wow, now that has to be a plane spotter’s dream :-) They wanted guys over 50 first, so everyone else waited on the buses til it was our turn. We all stood on one side of the hanger and Spencer and his team on the other. First he wanted women under 30, so they stripped and walked to him, then women under 40, then women over 40, then men. It was a little strange seeing random individuals in the crowd taking off all their clothes then walking out of the crowd, instead of everyone stripping at once, but you just did it and didn’t think abut it really. The hanger staff looked like they were enjoying it ;-), We were snaked under it in a long curling line whilst Spencer got a shot of all of us with the iconic nose of Concorde in the background. It was something else to be kneeling and posing under the plane itself, I can’t wait to see the photographs.
By this time it was gone 9am and we were all flaking, Red Bulls and chocolate were being consumed and a little bit of the excitement had worn off, with tiredness setting in. The final location was not so glamorous but fitted with the industrial vibe, the gasometer at Eastlands, I will never pass it again without smiling! We had to get into groups of 30ish and all felt so at ease with the whole thing by that point we were chatting and laughing like old friends. Bizarre, what shared experiences can do. Good god, it was cold. The wind howled across that car park, whipping at our bits like an icy lash and sending chills where they should never be felt. We’d to face one way then another, and when we turned round to face the wind, christ, it felt like a bucket of cold water!
And then it was over. Well, almost. Spencer had one more trick up his sleeve for us girlies and to tell you anything about it would spoilt the surprise I’m sure he has planned for the installation itself in June. Suffice to say it was bonkers, sexy, wild and totally unexpected. The watching men had died and gone to heaven, many all of them said it was one of the best sights they had ever seen. Like a giant surreal poster which suddenly moved, they said.
How did it feel? Liberating, crazy, funny, surreal. We were, without exception, all utterly thrilled to have taken part, elated and on a bit of a high. I didn’t speak to one person who wished they hadn’t done it or see one person duck out and change their mind. It was one of the most thrilling and entertaining days I’ve ever had, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking to lose their inhibitions for a few hours and step out of their comfort zone. There was nothing in the remotest bit sexual or pervy about it, instead we all felt like we’d been part of something marvellous and bonded over the madness of it, both when we were naked and when we were dressed. One day, when I’m old and grey, I’ll look back on this weekend and see myself and smile. In fact, given the age of some of the participants, when I’m old and grey I might do it all over again :-)
Very much looking forward to the opening night for the installation at the Lowry on June 11th. I think……
You can read all about other installations here: http://thespencertunickexperience.org/oldindex.htm
This is another great blog on the event from Manchester Gossip: http://www.manchestergossip.com/?q=content/spencer-tunick-everyday-people-manchester