Fissure

May 2011, Yorkshire Dales

Fissure was a site-specific performance in which 120 participants made a journey by train then on foot, covering a twenty-mile route that circumnavigated, descended-beneath, and finally ascended Ingleborough. On this journey they heard poetry by Elizabeth Burns set to music by Jocelyn Pook, and saw dance choreographed by Nigel Stewart. 

Fissure was Louise’s response to the illness and death, aged 29, of her sister due to a brain tumour and the grief caused by her loss. The shape of the piece was informed by key moments of her sister’s illness, death and the ensuing grief; oncology and treatment notes, but equally the liturgical structure of the Easter Tridium and narratives drawn from Greco-Roman myth.  Accordingly, the work explored the diagnosis of a terminal illness and its consequences, but also transformed this personal experience into an art work that resonated with others on both individual and universal levels. In planning the route and the places in the landscape for creative and scientific interventions, Louise chose fissured locations such as limestone pavements, shake-holes, cairns, scars, subterranean rivers, caves, and mountain tops. These choices were underpinned with neuro-scientific knowledge of the brains structure and its function and dysfunction which that landscape came to symbolise. 

In May, in the poignant promenade piece Fissure, the audience literally climbed a windswept peak, as well as wandering through subterranean caves. Devised by Louise Ann Wilson, in memory of her late sister, this hike in the Yorkshire Dales became a pilgrimage through death and bereavement, haunting figures emerging and vanishing through rock crevices and mournful songs by composer Jocelyn Pook echoing from the crags.

Kate Basett, Independent Review of 2011 

Creator, scenographer and director: Louise Ann Wilson

Writer: Elizabeth Burns

Composer: Jocelyn Pook

Choreographer: Nigel Stewart.

Experts: Professor Michael Brada (neuro-oncologist), Andrew McEvoy (neuro-surgeon), Dr Chris Clark (neuro-imager), Dr Mike Kelly (geologist), Colin Newlands (conservationist), Duncan Morrison (caver), and mountain leaders.

Dancers: Fania Grigoriou, Jennifer Essex, Julia Griffin, Luisa Lazzaro, Noora Kela, Sonja Perreten.

Musicians: Alice Grant, Martina Schwarz, Mikhail Karikis, Olivia Chaney, Sally Davies, Vivien Ellis.

Choir: Alisun Pawley, Jeff Wallcook, Cara Curran, Sarah Wallcock.

Bellringers: The Kirby Lonsdale Handbell Ringers and the bell ringers of St. James Church, Clapham.

Producers: Art Events in association with Louise Ann Wilson Company, as part of The Re-enchantment.

Funders: ACE, PRSF, Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Supported by: Yorkshire Dales National Park, Ingleborough Nature Reserve, Natural England, Ingleborough Estates, Ingleborough Cave, Above and Below and Settle to Carlisle Railway.