Posted on Wednesday 17th June 2015
What were you doing at the exact moment that the Hoard was discovered just before midday on Sunday 5 July 2009?
What were you doing at the exact moment that the hoard was discovered just before midday on Sunday 5 July 2009? Some people I've spoken to know exactly what they were doing - celebrating an engagement, travelling to London to meet the Queen, cooking Japanese pickles with their girlfriend. Others have a vague idea they might have been in the garden, or at church, or simply enjoying the sunshine. Others have no idea at all.
500 Pieces is a project made up of 500 very tiny stories. 500 short snapshots of different people across the world at the exact moment the hoard was being discovered in a field in Staffordshire. Some of these stories are collected from real people, others based on real events, others imagined entirely. Together they make up a patchwork image of what the world perhaps looked like on that one ordinary day - its battles, its celebrations, its heartbreaks, its victories and its quiet moments of nothing in particular.
Each of these fragments of story has been given to a different storyteller - local people from the Staffordshire area who have volunteered to take part. During the Hoard festival they will be recognisable by their small blue pin badges, and should you see one you are invited to speak to them and discover their fragment of the story. The hope is that slowly over the course of the festival you will seek out and collect as many of these little stories as possible, miniature treasures as delicate as the pieces of the hoard itself.
The idea for this unusual project came out of encountering the hoard, or at least part of it, in the museum of the potteries. Back in 2014 myself and a number of other artists and writers who were to make pieces for the festival were given a special late-night torch-lit introduction to the Hoard. As we wandered between this delicately glittering pieces I became interested in the idea that although they were all collected here as part of a single 'hoard', each of these pieces was in fact its own story; hundreds of almost vanished lives, the only remaining trace of which was a belt buckle, or a sword hilt or a crooked silver cross. I liked the idea of creating a piece that operated in the same way - made up of tantalising glimpses of hundreds of lives, arbitrarily thrown together into a single portrait based on the random order in which you encounter them.
Being a part of the Hoard Festival has been a brilliant experience for me, most especially because it has given me the chance to meet so many of the people that work in and around the New Vic, or who visit it regularly. I've met people from all manner of backgrounds and many different parts of the world, all of whom love the theatre and the role it plays in their community. I don't think I've ever had such a broad range of people perform in something I've made and that's a testament to the generous, welcoming environment of the New Vic and the value it has for the people who live here. I can't wait for the festival to properly start.