Live literature producer Penned in the Margins has been awarded two grants to develop Fair Field – a project inspired by the medieval epic poem Piers Plowman.
Written between 1360 and 1390 by an enigmatic poet called William Langland, Piers Plowman tells the story of Will, who falls asleep in the Malvern Hills and experiences an extraordinary vision of England as a ‘fair field full of folk’. Politically explosive, Piers captures medieval society in crisis – a world of greed, inequality, religious conflict and political corruption – and records Will’s attempts to find ‘Truth’ and ‘Do-well’ despite it all.
A major co-commission with Ledbury Poetry Festival and Shoreditch Town Hall, Fair Field will reinterpret Piers Plowman for the 21st century, setting Will’s dream-visions across Ledbury, the Malvern Hills and east London, and exploring issues that connect the medieval and modern minds.
Penned in the Margins has been awarded a grant from the Jerwood Charitable Foundation to research and develop the project with a group of artists and writers including hotly-tipped theatre company Breach, poet Steve Ely and early music mavericks The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments. Thanks to a ‘research in practice’ award from King’s College London’s Cultural Institute, the project will also benefit from the support of academic advisor Dr Lawrence Warner, a medieval literature specialist who is currently Chair of the International Piers Plowman Society.
From faith to high finance, hoodies to homelessness
The project’s creative director Tom Chivers says: “Piers Plowman has been a part of my life since I first came across it at university. It’s an incredibly complex, beautiful and anarchic poem. And although it was written in Middle English, Piers still speaks to many of the problems we face 650 years later – from faith to high finance, and from hoodies to homelessness. I’m over the moon to have received support from the Jerwood Charitable Foundation and King’s College London, and thrilled to start working with an outstanding group of artists to re-imagine Will’s story for today’s audience.”
Fair Field is scheduled for summer 2017, with the full programme of performances, artistic commissions, online and participatory activities to be announced in the new year. Other partners signed up to the project include The Poetry Library, The Poetry School and Londonist.com.
The artists invited to a week’s R&D in the Malvern Hills are: Russell Bender, Breach Theatre, Annette Brook, Steve Ely, Nick Field, Francesca Millican-Slater, Clare Salaman (The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments), Ross Sutherland, Dr Lawrence Warner.
Follow the project on Twitter @ThisFairField
Clare Salaman, The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments