Last night I witnessed the end of the world at Preston bus station, and as you’d expect, it was epic! The threatened Preston landmark played host to a sold out evening of performance, prose and poetry that seemed to go down a storm with Preston’s culture vultures.Advertisement
The unique event was organised by Preston based arts group They Eat Culture and Lancashire Writing Hub who gathered together writers, performers and poets to deliver a ground breaking project from the iconic building. The event was also supported by the Northern Elements project and Arts Council England.
Upon arrival at the bus station, the audience assembled in a vacant shop unit that had been transformed into a pop-up bar for the occasion. Most people took the opportunity to get a pre-performance drink and to seek shelter from the arctic blasts blowing through the cavernous building. As the giant bus station clocks read 6:40, the expectant audience donned their headphones for a unique guided tour that was conducted by Preston-based grime and drum n’ bass MC collective Shotta TV.
Much to the bemusement of other bus station users, the sizable headphone wearing crowd were led through the building looking like delegates from a cybermen convention. Arriving at Gate No1, the audience were treated to a choral performance by Tyneside’s Noize Choir who were accompanied by Manchester-based poet Bruce Rafeek.
The choir performed an experimental ‘human-voice-as-instrument’ piece that had been especially created to make the most of the unique acoustics within the cathedral like space. Bruce Rafeek gave a powerful and passionate recital highlighting the current plight of Preston’s forlorn icon.
Next it was off to Gate 34 for an audience with Manchester’s much acclaimed poet Shamshad Khan. She delivered a solo recital of her work on the themes of life, death, transformation and our seemingly insatiable desire for perfection, all very pertinent to the bus station’s own current uncertainty. By this time, I noticed that we’d been joined by several members of the public who were understandably curious about the novel and somewhat surreal happening. Their lack of headphones only added to their obvious bewilderment.
We set off again in hot pursuit of our beat- boxing guides who delivered us to another performance space populated by payphones and vending machines. Preston born writer David Hartley delighted the crowd with his new prose ‘Choose Your Own Apocalypse’ where he selected a volunteer from the audience to make crucial decisions that steered the performance and ultimately determined all our fates. The fast moving semi-improvisational piece drew gasps of surprise and peals of laughter from the enthralled audience.
Last stop on our surreal tour was the bus station café which recently featured in a BBC Culture Show Special. London author Phil Ormrod performed his latest work ‘An Hour Before the End of the World’ which was written with the café venue in mind. The apocalyptic scenario followed the experience of a couple witnessing the final hour as the world hurtles towards oblivion. Phil delivered a captivating and moving monologue with comedic moments, culminating in tragedy for the entire planet. As a backdrop to the story, the bus station café was perfectly suited to the thought provoking tale.
The ninety minute ’journey’ was a truly unique and innovative use of a public space and the organisers and performers can be justifiably proud of their endeavours. It may well prove to be the bus station’s last appearance as a live performance venue but I suspect that, for members of the audience, the evening’s events will still be remembered long after the concrete colossus has disappeared from the Preston skyline.
View more photos from the show on Bernie’s Flickr stream.
Did you go to the show? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below