Some time last year.
Winter. After a particularly dark autumn.
We are on a train.
We can’t remember.
Pablo says: I think we need to work on something about hope.
Daisy looks up.
Pablo’s face trembles (as it does when he feels emotional).
Or that might have been a different time on a different train.
Daisy nods. She says: Let’s talk about it (as she says when something needs more time).
Then we don’t talk about it.
What is there to say?
It began in earnest with a rejection. No. It began with a rejection, and then a rejection, and then another rejection, and then one more.
January 2014. We had been kindly given some space by Quarterhouse in Folkestone to expand upon an existing project. It transpired we hadn’t been successful in getting funding to support that work. Fuck it. We’ve got the space. Let’s do something else. Let’s just play. Let’s start on that thing about hope. We need some, after all.
March 2014. Folkestone. Three consecutive weekends in a disused shop. We went to Poundland and Wilkos. We bought balloons, fake flowers, a skipping rope and those bubbles you blow through a wand-thing. We also bought some oranges. We played with the tat we had purchased. We compiled a Spotify playlist. We went out and talked to people. We walked on the beach. We got quite cold. Repeat x3.
June – August 2014. We submitted the project to different platforms/festivals. Repeat x3. It was rejected by each one. The rejections made us more determined to do it anyway. Do it ourselves. Keep going, despite the odds (again, and again, and again).
September 2014. Pablo was about to visit his family in Spain. Daisy was about to go on holiday to Norfolk with hers. The unimaginatively named ‘hope project’ had been making our brains itch for a while. Let’s write postcards to each other while we’re away. Let’s write about hope. And about the show we want to make. So, we agree to write each other one postcard a day while we are apart. We photograph each one and send it via Whatsapp. There are no other rules, apart from, perhaps implicitly, to be honest.
We wrote 14 postcards each. It was intended as a conversation just for us. What was written was unplanned: spelling mistakes, personal acronyms, crossings-out and clichés. Pablo’s postcards tend towards the cerebral; Daisy’s tend towards the personal. The tone shifts; some feel like strange love letters, others like confessional diary entries. Currently we are in the studio and we have brought with us the ideas, images, and concepts clumsily explored within the confines of the postcards. We are playing with them. We are interrogating them, testing them, and seeing if they matter. Of course the postcards weren’t intended to be published. However, somehow, it feels important to share them with you. Because it’s all a bit fucking hard right now, isn’t it?
We are making a show about hope because we have none. We are saving ourselves from collapse by acknowledging the cracks.
So, here is the first pair, accompanied by footnotes and commentary.
HOPE #1 (11/09/14)
‘To wait’ in Spanish means esperar. ‘Hope’ in Spanish means esperanza. Esperar la esperanza: to wait for hope. Hope, then, is a kind of waiting; not passive, but full of expectation, anticipation, looking forward… Full of, well, hope2. Perhaps we had gotten fed up of the other type of waiting, the stasis, the passivity. So in that state of ——————————————————–
pasive [sic] waiting, of hopelessness, we somehow decided to flick a switch. We decided to wait in an active fashion. We decided to hope. Why? Because the other option was surrender, and we are too damn stubborn to give up. In broader sociopolitical ways… Hope, is a kind of activism. What’s key is that for us, in creative and personal ways, it is a kind of activism too! 3
It is not surprising that, being in Spain to visit my family, I should have chosen to start here. My choice of postcards was also a result of my visit, as I decided to use postcards from my collection of childhood trips around Spain. The rationale for my choices was: to pick as varied a range of places as possible, and for the postcards to have the name of the location printed on the front.
2 I might have picked up this sense of hope-as-waiting, not only from the shared etymology of these words in Spanish, but from the initial reading I did on the French philosopher Gabriel Marcel. I have a nagging feeling that he speaks of it in similar terms, though annoyingly I cannot remember what text it was. Incidentally, we still have to actually take his writings into rehearsal, but their sometimes poetic quality seems promising.
3 When Daisy first read this, she didn’t understand what I mean; thinking that I had gotten so excited at the sound of the word ‘activism’ that I had subconsciously repeated it twice. What I meant by suggesting that for us hope “is kind of activism too” was that our approach to hope, and what drove us to it as a concept for the piece, are rooted in a deeply politicised conviction. The ‘cause’ we need to ‘fight for’ is ourselves, otherwise we are lost.
I’ve become agitated that we didn’t start this endeavor on the same day (poor confused brain). So I’ve started at ‘0’. So now we match. Phew. Not that there was any sense of continuation of flow, but now I feel a bit stuck. I don’t want to go backwards… It’s funny, you know, looking at that imposing ZERO int [sic] the top corner, because beginnings are hopeful, right? 2 Births, new starts, shoots poking through the soil in spring… There’s the whole beginning = end = a beginning thing3. I suppose in the beginnings everything stretches out before you, optimism rules, anything can happen and nothing has been fucked up yet.
1 This was actually written later than the 11th, perhaps the 14th or 15th? I had gotten confused about when we had agreed to start our correspondence. Pablo had begun to write his as soon as he left England and I began mine when I arrived in Norfolk. I didn’t like having gotten it wrong, so I cheated and went back and wrote ‘(O)’ and ‘(1)’.
2 I don’t sound sure here at all. Although I go on to talk to about beginnings being hopeful, I didn’t find this beginning hopeful; I felt daunted by starting from zero. At the beginning of the correspondence I was quite nervous about articulating myself in such a concise way, with little planning and no spellcheck.
3 Later, Pablo told me this had reminded him of Kiss & Cry. We had been to see it at The Barbican together. “In the beginning, you don’t know that it’s the beginning (…) you don’t know that things are beginning. “ To be honest, I think it’ because I read some Edward Said at university (not that I can remember much of it now).
We had already done a lot of talking before we came to write these postcards, and we’d spent those three weekends in Folkestone throughout March. Before beginning this correspondence, we had already begun to confront our preconceptions and snobbery. Hope isn’t a value with currency in the prevailing discourse. It’s a loaded word, a dirty word; lumped together with wishes/dreams and often seen with suspicion or as delusional. We wanted to find some hope outside of religion, and beyond inspirational quotes. We are aware that the global temperature is rising, that we live on an overpopulated planet, that resources are dwindling, that politically things have swung to the right, that civil liberties are under threat… Where do you find hope when you have none? How do you get it back when you have lost it?
On 18th February 2014 David Cameron stated that his benefit cuts were giving “new hope (…) to people who had previously been written off with no chance”. Hope is a fragile word that can be easily and dangerously co-opted. Like a gauntlet thrown down, we realised that hope could be a battlefield and we needed to fight back (see how hard it is to avoid cliché). Whilst the project did start from our personal unhappiness, we realised that it had wider implications.
We want to address the tangled, messy, knotted nature of hope. Hope isn’t easy, it demands risk-taking – you have to be brave. Hope is not a solution. Hope is not a coping mechanism. Hope is a way forward.
Accidental Collective is an interdisciplinary performance company based in Kent.