Reviews of Ghost Parade

Elisabeth Mahoney, The Guardian, Tuesday 3 July 2012

**** (4 stars)

“If the mood in Swansea was jubilant, the move to Ebbw Vale initially echoed a more sombre history, arriving a decade on from the closure of the local steelworks, once the largest in Europe and for generations the town’s main employer.

The opening event, on a drizzly evening, was Ghost Parade, a procession devised by artist Stefhan Caddick. A large crowd gathered at dusk as the plane arrived, many holding placards as they proceeded towards the old works, just as others did when the site closed in 2002.

But this procession was different. The placards, carried by children and people in fancy dress, were blank; the mood celebratory. Archive images of other marches were then projected on to the massed placards and, as the fuselage reached its resting place for this week, the Ebbw Valley Brass band struck up. The scene was strange and beautiful. Old and new, history and the future, art and community mingled together around the magnetic symbol of a once discarded, useless object given a creative lease of life.”

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Jasper Rees, The Telegraph, 2nd July 2012

**** (4 Stars)
“For Ghost Parade, the week’s drizzly opening night, the artist Stefhan Caddick reenacted an event which took place ten years ago, when the steel works were closed for good and a march to the old industry’s offices marked the moment. Guiding the plane along the route, a fresh generation of younger marchers carried blank placards, whose function became clear when the procession paused in a tunnel to find flickering images projected onto both placards and the concave walls. The film evoked memories not just of burning furnaces but also of the protests that greeted the then Minister for Industry, Michael Foot, as he delivered the news of the works’ closure to his own constituents in 1973.

The march proceeded to the sturdy General Offices, now inevitably a museum of steel. Ebbw Vale’s brass band played tunes by turns mournful and jaunty as the placards were assembled piecemeal into an outdoor cinema screen on to which was projected a history of the steel industry, and the town and people it supported. Former steelworkers who had come along for old times’ sake watched the industry’s infrastructure detonated all over again, this time with smiles of recognition.

A simple idea, beautifully executed, Ghost Parade deftly sidestepped the blast furnace of polemic to tap into the collective memory of a community. And beside the screen, Adain Avion waited with a look which could only be described as steely.”

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Jasper Rees, Wales Arts Review, July 2012

“There was no suggestion of polemical intent, no sloganeering. The theme was collective memory, the summary mass of bygone lives.

Former steelworkers who had come along for old times’ sake watched the industry’s infrastructure detonated all over again, this time with smiles of recognition. I watched alongside two delightful men who fondly remembered the friendships and the way in which the industry bonded the community. But they were also frank about the hellish working conditions which only slowly improved in time for the steelworks’ closure. Deaths were frequent, and with barely concealed relish they spoke of men sucked into molten steel and severed feet and other calamitous accidents, all from long long ago when this valley knew all-but-full employment.

Down the valley the lights of the town’s regeneration project twinkled in the gloaming. Meanwhile, as the rain spattered on, the band tripped into Monty Python’s jaunty theme tune. No polemic, but also no black weeds.”

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Emma Geliot, Emma Geliot’s blog

Ghost Parade screen nearly complete. Image by Emma Geliot“Ebbw Vale hove into view through a veil of mizzle, but the car park was already buzzing with several hundred people, clutching slogan-less placards, finishing off their rehearsals for the great parade to come. And these people weren’t artists, bussed in to swell numbers, but a huge cross-section of the community. The crowd ranged from tiny dancing crews, cadets, local youth clubs, all the way through to the added exotic flourish of the belly dancing class and older individuals who would have remembered the marches and protests that marked the decline of the coal and steel industries, the principle sources of employment the town throughout the 20th century.

… And then the blank placards made sense as the crowd quietly (well, as quietly as such a crowd can manage) took their places along the walls of the tunnel of the bridge, holding up their white canvases as images of the past flickered across the placards and faces, while two trumpeters offered an accompaniment that managed to mix a mournful air with something more hopeful. Through the arch at the end of the tunnel the dusk drew in and the clouds rolled down from the hills.

… And now the white placards came into their own, hung off an armature to create a single screen (I can imagine project manager Sian Thomas with graph paper and pencil, working this out). Against the darkening sky and the moody hills, big history and small, personal vignettes (Caddick had collected footage from the locals) coalesced as the screen was completed and the scaffolding rolled away.”

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Lyn Gardner’s Theatre Blog: London 2012 festival: reasons to be cheerful

“I love the link-up with the fabulous sounding Ghost Parade in Ebbw Vale, which marks the closure of the steel works almost 10 years to the day. A great deal of the work in the festival has a strong social factor, springing from communities and creating a community out of those who attend. It’s a reminder that the arts play a crucial role in making people feel happier in themselves but also about each other, their surroundings and their futures.”

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BBC Wales posted a gallery of Warren Orchard’s images here:

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