The Fantastic Mr Fox

Feature in Issue 18-2 | Summer 2006

A few words from John Fox on the occasion of the last ever gig by Welfare State International.

‘Here make-believe time goes backwards. The journey, like ours, is both complete and continuing so there is just cause for celebration.’

These lines, spoken by our young narrator at the end of the evening, bring into focus the three intentions of Longline the Carnival Opera.

The first is our completion of three years’ work connecting with the communities of Ulverston and the Bay. Nearly 500 people have had a major influence on the Longline process. At Lanternhouse we have assembled songs, stories and ideas which have gelled into exhibitions, installations, theatrical performances, concerts, CDs, DVDs, workshops, books, lectures and meetings. One job of Longline the Carnival Opera is to pull these strands into a final performance of which we may all be proud.

Its climax will demonstrate the joyous creativity and talents of so many people who have played non-competitively together, in a world where boundaries such as those between professional and amateur, young and old, have dissolved like warm candy floss. To my mind, this process is a kind of Utopia: it is rare, but could be universal.

The second intention is the show itself. A work of art should be self-contained with an internal logic reflected both in a consistent aesthetic structure and an integral and entertaining poetic truth. The truth may be difficult, and its stark necessity not always palatable to certain audiences or even appropriate in the world of surrogate social work to which so much community art has been relegated. I hope what we have presented is an imaginative and strong distillation of our concerns with which audiences can connect.

The final intention is a rite of passage for the end of Welfare State International and its extensive network of artists, supporters and friends. This is perhaps the hardest part, and certainly a part which could be out of joint with the other two intentions.

For many of us – especially the Fox family and those scores of artists who have also become family – it’s hard to say goodbye to a way of being which has nurtured us for nearly four decades. We never believed there would ever be a ‘last gig’ but times change and we are all in our own ways, moving on and mostly away from Lanternhouse.

Referenced Artists

This article in the magazine

Issue 18-2
p. 8