Remembering Bill and Bernie back to listing

We recently learned of the loss of two very different, but very representative, figures from the Outdoor Arts sector: Bill Mitchell, Artistic Director of Wildworks, and the tightrope performer Bernie Bennett.

Bill was a pioneering artist whose work with Kneehigh and Wildworks, which he founded in 2005 with his partner Sue Hill, gave us some amazing images of the power of working outdoors and how culture can be truly embedded in a community. The epic Passion, which Bill co-directed with Michael Sheen in Port Talbot in a joint production with the National Theatre of Wales, won international acclaim and remains a benchmark of narrative theatre in the public realm. Wildworks’ Wolf’s Child opens in Cornwall in July and will surely be a fine tribute to his legacy.

In a very different tone, Bernie Bennett was the epitome of broad, fun and engaging outdoor work. His joyously shambolic, wire-walking, unicycling superhero was the staple of many a family festival and brought much delight to thousands of people over many years.

In my time as producer of the National Theatre’s outdoor festival, I was lucky enough to encounter both of these mavericks. Bernie performed his act in my very first festival, bringing the Thames riverside to a standstill, and in 2012 I worked with Bill and Wildworks on The Ark – a project that we created after meeting Sue at an ISAN Conference; I remember Bill in a leaky tent in the rain on the South Bank, happily welding taxidermy animal parts into all manner of terrifying creations.

Fine fellas both and they will be much missed.

Angus MacKechnie

Executive Director, ISAN