Dance of the operculist

Scenario Chat

Archie Workman, a lengthsman who maintains the up-keep of roads (including mending signs, cutting vegetation and unblocking drains) shares his fascination of drain and manhole covers that he collects and photographs.

Archie joins the Dull Mens Club, currently based online where many (including women now) share other interests that are typically deemed ‘dull’. They pride themselves however, on ‘celebrating the ordinary’.

The DMC arrange to meet in Sheffield, has it is a central location more the majority of them who would like make an outing of studying drain and manhole covers. Among them is Archie, and another member who is local to Norton Hammer and knows of a couple of covers that are particularly interesting.

The group arrive by bus on Woodseats road, and meet the member who will act as a guide, at the top of Little London Road. As they make their way across the area, it begins to rain and they seek shelter under the tree at Athol road, opposite Robert Sorby.

Once the rain dies down, they make their way over to Centenary Works courtyard to observe the odd arrangement of drain covers.

Earlier that day, a thief heading towards the north of Norton Hammer, having run from the south of Woodseats road, sneaks along Athol road, and nips across down the alley way leading into Nursery Works in hope to remain out of sight. At the sound of a police siren, he quickly decides to hide the stolen goods under a drain cover and heads out of Norton Hammer under the train bridge at the top of Little London road.

Just before the DMC’s group of gridders arrived at Norton Hammer, the first morning session of dance lessons finished, with half an hour of parents and dance teachers to-ing and fro-ing picking pupils up and dropping ones off for the next lesson. Cars, parents and children are busy about the place at the top of Nursery Works – the thief nudges through the hustle unnoticed. It was during this that a parent decided to use the toilets to change a young ones nappy – and making the mistake of flushing it down the toilet.

Very soon, the toilet is blocked and water fills the bowl and begins to spill over and cause a flooding of the toilets. They are now unusable, a plumber is called out as some parents outside the entrance of the dance school (located in the alley that links Nursery Works to Little London road, the same alley used by the thief to nip out of view) notice water seeping out of the edges of a manhole cover.

When the plumber arrives, he lifts the loose manhole cover and discovers not only parts of the nappy, but a bundle of items wrapped in a plastic bag.

With the toilets out-of-order, some of the dancers head over to the Climbing Works (located in Centenary Works courtyard), they have changing room facilities, which they hope they could temporarily use until theirs have been fixed and cleaned.

It is as they make their way across the little space that there is in Centenary Works to walk (due to the number of cars that park there) they bump into the group of gridders who look slightly odd, staring into what seems just the floor taking photos.

They ask what they are up to and a few members of both parties talk about their day so far. The dancers learn of the gridders hobby and playfully tap their dance shoes on one of the drain covers. The location of the manhole and drain covers become points of performance and the ‘dance of the operculist’ becomes a fun ‘happening’ that even the inhabitants of the surrounding buildings peep out to see whats going on.

Later that evening the gridders make their way back home, and the dancers eventually get the changing rooms back, but a few of the dancers, and one of the dance teachers are left with an idea of how maybe something like this could happen again. It was fun to bring out the dance routines and neighbouring faces that are normally tucked away in their buildings, held tighter by the bustling traffic outdoors.

Dance teacher Zoe, begins to re-look at the area – what space could be re-looked at and could potentially be used as a place to showcase their skills, maybe not just dancers, but other hobbies? How should a space be chosen? Could there be more than one space?

If these spaces could be picked out, who else could be interested in developing this intervention? Could there be a collective of interests, that contribute to the execution of the intervention. This might help the funding of pushing this idea, so that it doesn’t just fall on the dance school.

From this point, design and testing help is needed to start to put together conceptual images of what could happen, which they hope will help spark interest and engagement with others around Norton Hammer.

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