IN THE CITY 2: WORKING IN THE CITY: A lexicon of Labour Movements

In The City is a 6-month programme of performance and talks about the future of our city, held at The Parlour Showrooms from July – December 2013. Each month during the series Theatre Bristol will provide an insight into each event through a showcase article gathered by ITC curators, The Showrooms Projects for

The second event in the series: Working in the City: A Lexicon of Labour Movements digs into the working life of the city, through its tools and its actions. Artists Clare Thornton and Paul Hurley have been exploring the working dynamics of the city, its edges and its centres – of production, of expertise, of interest and skill. From Thur 29th Aug – Sun 1st Sept they will present an exhibition of tools, alongside photography, drawings, and choreographed demonstrations of the actions associated with them. This event has been co-produced by Knowle West Media Centre and The Showroom Projects.

Here Paul and Clare share some notes on their process so far.

We had a good couple of days gathering tools and stories, in a series of visits around the Enterprise Zone and South Bristol, arranged by Melissa Mean, Arts Producer at KWMC. These involved meeting an array of entrepreneurs and manual workers, and being shown movements and gestures of tools and sometimes having a chance to try some of them out. There are some interesting differences between for example, old relatively small carpenter’s manual tools (dovetail saw, brace and bit, auger), which require physical strength, dexterity and accuracy, and a scrap metal baler, which is a massive 4-metre long hydraulic machine that can crush a copper boiler into a lump about the size of a cereal packet, using 6000PSI (pounds per square inch) pressure and operated with a casual flip of a lever.

The process has been conversational and interactive, a lot of talking, and a bit of photographing, videoing and trying things out. We’ve handled chainsaws, witnessed silicon body part moulding, watched a car jack being taken apart, and sat on a massive horse (not a strict part of the process, but an added invitation from one of our participants) after seeing it groomed and its hooves polished and picked.

People have been really generous with their time, their stories and their tools. This level of exchange, of human connection about labour – work, passion, diligence, expertise – has been central to the process thus far. From here, we will work on ways to display the tools – both those that have been loaned to us, and those that are too essential for people to part with, but which we want to (re)present in the gallery in some way.

We are also devising ways in which to translate the labour movements into performance demonstrations, how we will bring the embodied movement of the tool to an audience at The Parlour Showrooms. We don’t want to formalise the movements and their representation into anything theatrical – our role is merely that of operatives, of demonstrators. Their presentation will be quite intimate, maybe discursive, our performative labours abstracted from the tools’ original contexts but still bearing a relation to them. A relation that might be one of human connection to the person using them, to the production, ingenuity and skill of that work in the city.

A Lexicon of Labour Movements by Clare Thornton and Paul Hurley | Thur 29 Aug – Sun 1 Sept | The Parlour Showrooms, 31 College Green, BS1 5TB

Thurs 29 August – Sun 1 September | 12 – 6.30pm | Bring us your tools! | Free

Performance shifts
Sat 31 Aug | Early shift 7pm | Late shift 7.45pm | Night shift 8.30pm | £5
Sun 1 Sept | Split shift 1pm | £5

Down Tools Social
Sat 31 Aug | 9pm | Free Entry

Tea Break Talk: Tools of the City and Movements of Work
Sun 1 Sep | 2pm | £4

For further information and tickets visit

Working in the City: A Lexicon of Labour Movements has been co-produced by Knowle West Media Centre and The Showroom Projects.

Tea Break Talk has been co-curated by Cara Davies and Labour Movements.


  Showcase 2