The Push & the Pull, participatory durational event (5 hours), 2022

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The Push and the Pull was a new site-specific work by Ben Judd, for Whitstable Biennale 2022. Created in partnership with local community groups the new work developed themes of belonging and not belonging, engagement and estrangement. Over five days an historic Thames sailing barge travelled between Whitstable and the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, acting as a creative space and site for experimentation and in the process exploring ideas around community and islands, both real and imaginary.

This new work considered the river as a channel of communication that connects communities; within this context the boat embodied conflicting ideas of separateness and togetherness. The boat-as-island suggested an isolated utopian project where narratives can be invented, reused and recycled within a relatively closed society.

Judd’s performance, The Push and the Pull, took place on the boat as it travelled between Whitstable and Sheppey, embodying a fictional lost community of the island. He also worked with several local community groups to develop responses to Sheppey and the locality, including: songs by Oast House Community Choir; prose and poems by a group of local writers; a dramatic performance by Big Fish Arts; and an instrumental composition with local musicians.  

There were daily performances of Judd’s The Push and the Pull on the boat; six passengers could join its journey. These were bookended by further performances on the boat by the community groups both before departure and after it arrived at its destination. 

Judd worked with 121 Collective to co-design and build a structure that was attached to the deck of the boat and also extended below deck. The design was based on local research on the Isle of Sheppey including the historic use of boats to house people and the subsequent use of boat materials to build housing on land.

Co-commissioned by Ideas Test. Supported by Ideas Test, Arts Council England and Nottingham Trent University.

Composer: Apostolis Psihramis

Choreographer: Dionysios Tsaftaridis

Costume design: Jo Cope

Costume design: BA Design for Theatre and Screen, University of the Creative Arts: Ruth Paton, Anna Davies, Katie Bishop, Emily Buchan, Katie Vann, Isobel Shuttleworth

Exhibition design: 121 Collective

Magic lantern: Jeremy Brooker

Writers: Sarah Tait, Clair Meyrick

Performers: Lauren Case, Ioanna Georgopoulou, Dionysios Tsaftaridis, Dominic Simpson, Angeliki Potamianou

121 Collective: Salah Krichen, Madoka Ellis, Francesca Merton, Yasir Ibrahim

Photography: Sofia Nasif, Shannon Cole and Ben Judd

Video: Tom Line

Project management: MSc Project Management for Creative Practitioners, Kingston University, London: Lande Pratt, Vicky McGookin, Priyal Mittal, Tanya Swanepoel, Charlotte Elcock, Yuen Zhou, Feiyun Peng, Maria Avramidou

Big Fish Arts: Chris Reed, Jo Eden

Fiato Ensemble: Helen and Shannon Bridger-Smart, Oscar Cole, Charlotte Friday, Thomas Friday, Andy Friday 

Rumour Writers: Jo Eden, Clair Meyrick. Sarah Tait, Linda Brinklow

Oast House Community Choir: Bob Carling and choir