Waving goodbye to the Astronaut and 2022

Waving goodbye to the Astronaut and 2022
By Mark
15th December 2022


As a child I remember learning about the Roman God Janus, the god of new beginnings and strangely enough, doors. Janus had a two faces, one looking forward to those new opportunities and ‘doors yet to be opened’. The other face looked towards the path you have trodden over the past year and often lifetime. As we come to the end of what has been an almighty 2022 for Highly Sprung I find myself sitting in my office chair, exhausted, yet immensely proud of what this small team of desperately hard working individuals has achieved this past 12 months.


Two large scale outdoor performances engaging over a hundred performers from the community, children and young people as well as our core team of amazing artists. Touring Castaway across the country to festivals and a number of brave, adventurous schools to help with their students learning. We performed to several BILLION people as part of the Jubilee Pageant as well as to perfectly sized smaller audiences in Warwickshire Libraries. We ran 2 festivals of young people’s performance work both in Coventry and Birmingham, re-visited our science-based work on the transmission of Covid and our unique perspective on DNA with our ‘Moving Powerpoint’ performances. Workshops have taken us to the very northern tip of the country as well as down to the south. We even delivered workshops for ex-students now themselves teachers and educators in various settings. We won a national award as well as returning to our roots by leading a performance making module at Coventry University. We’ve delivered a number of artist and teacher training opportunities on creativity, performance making, delivering Holocaust education and physical theatre… little wonder we feel the need of a winter break.


So, as I sit thinking of what I will remember 2022 as, it will be a the year of goodbyes, not of sad farewells but joyous thank yous with tears of gratitude streaming down my face and gigantic smiles.


Our return to Coventry University’s Theatre and Professional Practice course, 22 years after our graduation from that same course was somehow beautifully poetic as not only were Sarah and I the first year on that course, but the students we worked with were the last. A poignant marking of time and a chance for us to reflect on the journey we have been on as Highly Sprung… as well as the exciting prospect of inspiring the next generation of theatre makers in the city.


It is however, another goodbye that I will remember most: Urban Astronaut. The show that really catapulted (not literally – thank goodness) Highly Sprung to many people’s radars. A show that really did encompass all the things that Highly Sprung and I hold so dear; this show developed many emerging artists, engaged audiences from families to the cynical teenagers on bikes. It was a show that challenged the perceptions of engineering and performance, challenged aerial dance as well as bringing environmental issues to the fore in a spectacle that has entertained hundreds of thousands of people in countless towns and cities across the UK and Europe.


As I performed the last ever Urban Astronaut this summer, I have to admit to having shed a tear in the safety of the astronaut’s helmet. Having only missed 10 performances from the hundreds of shows, I couldn’t help but feel that a piece of me was being consigned to the history books. Fortunately, the memories will live on forever; children staring without blinking, mouths wide, the laughter, the men telling me in their deepest voices that they don’t normally cry but this show ‘got to them’ and even the arts council officer who was nearly squashed as they attempted to get ‘the perfect picture’. Those memories will last forever.


So as I embody Janus and look back on quite an incredible year I give thanks to that Urban Astronaut for the part it has played in my life and what it will allow me to do in the future. But, for now it’s time to close that door, time to switch face and focus. 2023 here we come!