Expect The Unexpected



Friday 4th November 7pm (free)
Exeter Quayside

On Tenterhooks is a performance and music event celebrating the craft, creativity and commerce surrounding the River Exe and Britain's oldest surviving canal. Between October the 28th and November the 4th of this year we will present tall tales of serge and sturgeons at public places around Exeter, culminating in an evening of fire and drama at the quayside.

The project is a collaboration between Oceanallover Exeter City Council and artists, makers, musicians, writers, performers, dancers, historians, environmentalists, farmers, business owners, enthusiasts and people from Exeter and the surrounding region.

We are exploring the trade and life of the Exe, with particular emphasis on the flow of wool and woollen cloth out along the river and the imagined return of the sturgeon to its ancient breeding grounds in the upper reaches of the river.

On Tenterhooks will be shown as a series of happenings leading up to a performance with fire and fireworks at the old Customs House on the river. We will tell stories, both truth and lies; we will dance in the street; we will invite you to walk with us; we will ask you questions for which there may be no answer; we will show you what we can see; we will ask you to think, about sheep, about fishes; we will give you something to listen to and to talk about.


On Tenterhooks will present story telling and story making workshops at schools, libraries and other venues. Some of the stories will be factual accounts taken from the historical archives of the region and some will be fantastical inventions offering an alternative past, present and future. The sessions will be led by master story-teller and musician Marion Kenny and will invite contributions from local writers and performers.


The project will be animated through music and physical performance. We will work with existing music groups from the region to make a big sound for the final event on November the 4th. We will also be collecting sound samples and creating music through new technology and will use the performance interventions as a platform to experiment with sound. We will present music created during the project at a club night in Exeter.


At its core this project is an animation of the city through physical performance. We will invite both performers and audience to be brave and to expect the unexpected. Each intervention will be a bold exploration of emotions playing with mythology and history. The performers will be directed by Oceanallover's Artistic Director, Alex Rigg, and the material that they present will be created by the group in reaction to the overall themes of water, wool and people. Performances will arrive at a number of city and rural places tracing the progress of wool from sheep to sea and of sturgeon from estuary to gravel bank.

The final performance in this series will be presented as a journey across the waterfront trading area of Exeter marking the place where superfine serge left the land for its journey out into the world and the place where migrating sturgeon re-entered fresh water after sixty years in the ocean.

Costume and Sculpture

This will be a very visual project with unusual costume and monumental sculpture. We are inviting collaboration with and offering training for local artists in the design and creation of costume and sculpture. Themes for design will be drawn from the lies and truths discovered through conversations and historical research. Both sturgeon and serge are historical legends of the Exe valley and both offer a tremendous wealth of forms and creative potential.

We will build a large-scale fire sculpture for the project that will be burned on 4th November on the river during our finale event. We will also look at other possibilities for the creation of three-dimensional pieces that are inspired by serge and sturgeons. We hope particularly to explore the work of John Abbot, a 17th century craftsman and designer who made the plasterwork at the customs house.

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