Tell it to the Bees

Tell it to the Bees

13 -14 August 2021, Princesshay and City Centre, Exeter, Devon

Tell it to the Bees began by introducing participants to the honeybees in their hives on the roof of the Princesshay Shopping Centre and the age old practice of telling your troubles and hopes to the bees. From there the 18 participants were led on a route through the city centre pausing at several ‘bee stations’ en route where through words, music, film and actions space was created to reflect upon the relevance of these traditions in the context of the Covid-19 Pandemic and our recovery from it. Locations included Exeter Cathedral, The Catacombs, the War Memorial at Northernhay Gardens and a leafy cul-de-sac in Rougemont Gardens. The route of the performance covered 3.5 kilometres (just over 2 miles) and took in city centre footpaths, rough and grassy tracks, steps and slopes. Some locations on the walk were inside at which times participants were requested to wear face masks and social distancing was observed.

Tell it to the Bees was guided by Louise Ann Wilson and Hugh McCann – costumed as beekeepers in coveralls, hoods, and gloves. A third beekeeper figure, performed by Xuanru Li, ghosted the performance and was seen at a distance or moving through the city – her spectral-like presence and the black flag she carried served to draw attention outwards and brought a sense of intense focus. 

The performance featured the Exeter based saxophonist Roz Harding. Often heard and seen at a distance, or not visible to the eye, Harding played a semi-improvised score that sought to abstractly embody a sense of the honeybees and the hive – sounds, feelings, perils, annual/life cycles – and acted as a metaphor/underscoring of human and honeybee life-events touched on in the performance and at each station: illness, prayer, epidemic, virus, front-line work, remembrance.

The performance part of Outside the Box: Open Air Performance as Pandemic Response.

Created, designed, written & directed by Louise Ann Wilson

Performed & guided by 'Beekeeper Guides' Louise Ann Wilson and Hugh McCann

Saxaphone composed & performed by Roz Harding

'Spectral Beekeeper' performed by Xuanru Li

Stage management by Katie Heard

Technical support Jon Primrose

Production support by Hugh McCann & David Honeybone

Film edited by Janan Yakula 

Commissioned and funded by Outside the Box: Open Air Performance as Pandemic Response, an AHRC-funded project by the University of Exeter and Exeter Culture

Produced by Louise Ann Wilson and LAW Co

Supported by Princesshay Shopping Centre, Exeter Cathedral, Exeter City Council, Exeter Library, Blackaller Apiary

Thanks to: Trevor Gomm, Hannah Overton and the team a Princesshay Shopping Centre, Jason Willis the beekeeper at Princesshay, Callum Elliot-Archer at Exeter Library, Joseph Patkai at Exeter Cathedral, Cathy Turner, Evelyn O'Malley and Giselle Garcia at Exeter University, Sophie Allen and Nick Mead at Exeter City Council, Belinda Dillon at Exter Culture, Peter Hunt the beekeeper at Blackaller Apiary, Fred Ayres at Lune Valley Community Beekeepers, Amy Shelton (Honeyscribe), St. Sidwell's Bakehouse, Exminster Bees, Emma Welton, Becky Wells (FLOW) and David Meikle

Participant feedback gathered by Elaine Faull

Production photography by Lizzie Coombes