Any place with which one has a relationship to and memories of becomes part of an internal, personal map with coordinates that are inextricably linked to emotions and imagination. We all carry these maps. It is why people get so passionate about place – it’s personal. When we began the process of selecting sites for the Hidden City Festival we focused on five core Hidden City criteria:
Inspiring – that the sites are artistically exciting through their spatial and atmospheric qualities or through their resonances and themes.
Hidden – that they are little known, underused, undervalued and/or ‘hidden away’.
Value – that they are of substantial value to the city’s past, present or future (that is, places of architectural, historical or social interest).
Community – that they have sufficient community members to whom they mattered.
Practicality – that it would be practically possible to work there.
Everywhere we went we encountered people’s passion for place. More and more buildings and places were suggested to us and each suggestion seemed to reignite the speaker’s excitement about what that place had been, was now or could and should be in the future. Against this outpouring of passion however we had to offset practical considerations. Sites would have to be able to be safe, a reasonable amount of people (for our budgetary reasons) needed to be able to get inside or be able to see what was taking place, and we had to be able to get permission to use the site. This process included forging partnerships with site ‘landlords’ and others holding key information, including those with specialist knowledge and exploring logistical issues including access and health and safety. We poured over our ever growing list, from the oldest building in Plymouth to the longest and tried to boil it down to three for which we would commission performances and the three about which we would commission work-in-progress presentations.
We wanted the chosen buildings and spaces to reflect the diversity and complexity of Plymouth, to be entirely different in their physical and atmospheric resonances and qualities, and to hold very different stories. Local communities were a key consideration when choosing the sites. We wanted the work commissioned for the Festival to have an impact for people who cared about the sites, usually because they lived or worked in their vicinities and, who could take an ownership of the finished piece.
from the Hidden City festival Handbook by Rachel Aspinwall, Ruth Mitchell & Phil Smith