An unlikely place for performance art? Help me find Birkenhead Dada…
I’ve recently landed an exciting job working for a small organisation called Unfinished Histories. They have a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to record British Alternative Theatre, 1968 -88, through interviews and collecting of archival material. We’re on the look out for preforming artists and directors who were involved with alternative companies that performed in the Camden and Lambeth area during this period. If you were part of this scene, we want to hear from you!
One of the most fun things about Unfinished Histories so far is getting to know all of the names of the companies who trod the boards back in the day. Cunning Stunts, Beryl and the Perils, Gay Sweatshop and Brixton Fairies are some of my favourites so far. Though overall, the company name that’s really had me reeling is performance art group: BIRKENHEAD DADA.
Growing up a twenty-minute train ride from Birkenhead in Ellesmere Port, I’ve always considered myself an affiliate of the working class, post-industrial, straight-talking attitude that Liverpool and its surrounding towns seems to represent. While I have countless positive things to say about the area, I’m sure I won’t be considered unreasonable when I say that Birkenhead in the late 1960s is not the first place that you might have expected to find a Dadist performance troupe.
I HAVE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THESE PEOPLE…
A google search has not been terribly fruitful. I now know that there is a Chinese restaurant in present day Birkenhead called ‘Dada’, but that’s about it. Can anyone help me to locate former members of Birkenhead Dada? If it turns out that they performed in the Camden or Lambeth areas, I’m keen to make them one of the featured companies on the Unfinished Histories site. According to the Alternative Theatre Directory individual performers were Allan Brame, Thom Gorst, Keverne Smith and Miranda Smith. Do you know where they are now? Did you see them perform back in the day? Even better, did you take photos of their shows? Leave me a comment below, or send me an email. I will get back to you right away!
Featured image: An unlikely place for Dadist performance art? Tranmere, Birkenhead. Image by Kenn Taylor
3 thoughts on “An unlikely place for performance art? Help me find Birkenhead Dada…”
I was a member of the associated Cambridge Dada. Birkenhad Dada was primarily an art/anti-art group. In 1971 they took a lavatory pan tonto the steps of the Walker’s Art Gallery in Liverpool, stating that if Duchamp was art, so was that. They were removed by the police. We in Cambridge contributed paintings, collage, constructions, tableaux and artefacts to the Birkenhead Dada exhibition at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool in January 1972, which was closed down as scandalous by the Marxist
director. It was the greatest compliment to our work.
Great to hear this from you. Are there photos from the Everyman exhibition?
It must have been 1973. Creative young teenagers in working class Glasgow and some friends showed me a broadsheet review of Birkenhead Dada’s show at the Edinburgh Festival fringe. We thought it was awesome. Something about big buckets of cold cooked spaghetti and shouting poetry. Making the audience shout poetry. Very loud. If I remember it right: Wordsworth. (My guess is that something archival survives)
Some of us left school that summer; I left in ’74 and, you see, the year you left school was the longest holiday you were ever going to have so if something was going to happen, that was the time. So we put a play together, now girls and boys, not all working class either. And some of my old school drama group were at the RSAMD by then. Imagine my joy when I learned that we would be sharing a stage, a school hall in Edinburgh with Birkenhead Dada. As I remember it, they had the early slot. We didn’t share a lighting rig because they wanted to be illuminated by a single 60W bulb. Memory of their performance has faded. Something involving nakedness, genitals and raw liver, as I recall. We didn’t hang out.
But we caught up with their Edinburgh show a year later and went out for a drink. It was a big ensemble piece. Quite Kandinsky in a way. Lol Coxhill was guesting when we saw them & he added fun to the evening.