Have you ever been afraid of the dark? As a woman, alone at dusk or dawn, what do you feel? What can you hear? What can you see? Do you even think about it? Are you fearful? Or do you revel in the not quite light?
These are some of the questions explored by Lone Women in the Not Quite Light: Flashes of Wilderness, a women-only event held recently on the top floor of a Salford Q Car Park from 10.30pm to midnight.
I’ve always been a bit scared of car parks. On the telly, it’s where people are attacked or abducted and, as women, it’s one of the (many) spaces we are taught to fear – we can tread there but only with caution.
As part of a wider project exploring women’s ideas and experience of aloneness, darkness and wilderness, the event gave us the opportunity to be in the between places we move through. I love companies who use unique – and often mundane – spaces in such innovative ways and there’s something magical about occupying a space for something other than its intended purpose.
If I’m completely honest some of the performances weren’t my cup of tea. I struggle with some performance art and don’t quite ‘get it’ (it also just reminds me of that scene in She’s All That with Zack and the hacky sack) so some parts of the event left me scratching my head. But there were other stories that genuinely piqued my interest.
Alison Boyes engaged us all with tales of spending the night outdoors alone in a bivvy bag as well as giving us a practical demonstration.
“Do you ever get accused of being selfish for going out and doing this?” someone asks, and Boyes responds that she does not. Women, particularly mothers, are often accused of ‘selfishness’ when engaging in situations perceived to be ‘risky’- something men don’t experience to the same extent – and I’m heartened to hear that this hasn’t been Boyes’ experience.
Dani Abulhawa’s performance of Feint Lines – a skateboard choreography with accompanying audio that explores the car park as a care taking space – was extremely interesting and fun to watch.
The event was hosted by Naomi Frisby, champion of writing by women and digital coordinator of Manchester Literature Festival, and included a reading by writer Emma Bolland and an improvised physical theatre piece by Sameena Hussain. Scottish writer Clare Archibald undertook two solo walks – one at dawn and another at dusk – and shared a piece of writing in response to her experiences, layered with the sounds and images.
So, what did I take away from the evening? As we walked towards the bus stop, across the River Irwell and towards a rowdy late-night Market Street, I found that I was more drawn to my surroundings. I wasn’t scared – oddly, I’ve never been afraid of walking alone through the city, even at night. I’m more frightened of the countryside where I grew up with its lack of streetlights and people, and abundance of cows and things that shuffle about in the dark. Tonight, however, I was more aware and intrigued. Everything seemed heightened.
After an eventful journey back to Stockport courtesy of the 191 and an entertaining drunk fella (“Is this an extension of the performance art?” I whispered to Danielle as we both stifled giggles), Danielle hopped in a taxi and I was left alone at the bus station which, fascinatingly, is beautiful at night. It’s so quiet and the famous Stockport arches are lit up and spectacular in the background.
Of course, I was cautious – I don’t think that’s something women can shake while living in a culture that tells us we should be held responsible for putting our safety ‘at risk’ (‘What was she doing in the park on her own at that time of night? I’d never do that.’). But there was nothing to fear. A man walked his dog. Another sat on a bench and smoked a cigarette. In the half-light I could see the smoke snake from his mouth and disappear. I could make out the blue glow of the Co-op triangle and the dark patch of playing field below, and in the distance cars crawled up the motorway like ants.
So, who knows? Maybe I’ll be up for some bivvying in the future. But first I’ve got to shake my irrational fear of things that go bump in the countryside night.
(All images courtesy of Alison Boyes)