Mike Atkinson

My 60 minutes of letting go on the plinth was a privilege of liberated fun.

Posted in features, Nottingham Post by Mike A on September 28, 2009

I’m too old for nightclubs. I’m the wrong age to be invited to many weddings. And yet I still love dancing. So, if there was nowhere else left for me to shake my ever-thickening tushie, then, I concluded, I shall just have to create my own space – 8 metres high and 1.7 metres wide – right in the heart of London’s evening rush hour.

I’m under no delusions. My dancing style is most kindly described as “enthusiastic”, and I certainly wasn’t attempting to turn myself into an object of wonder and desire.

No, my aim was to dance with honesty, non-stop for an hour – and stone cold sober.

I created a mix of tunes, spliced together as a single, 60-minute MP3 and to ramp up the participative aspect, I’d made a copy available to download. So, when my allotted hour began anyone and everyone could dance along with me.

You spend 90 minutes in the One and Other project office – effectively two Portakabins on top of each other in Trafalgar Square.

They give you a Health and Safety talk, a pep talk, you can stash stuff in a locker, you’re searched for contraband… and then you’re taken into an interview room for a 15-minute audio interview, then photoshoot.

Ascending via the cherry picker, it was heartening to see so many supporters in the square – old friends, long-lost friends, people I had met through blogging and tweeting and message-boarding, my sister, my mother, my cousin and my partner – all looking up and beaming and waving and (mostly) jiggling around with me to Scissor Sisters, Lady GaGa, La Roux, Pet Shop Boys and Dana International.

During Sharon Redd’s In The Name Of Love I admired the buildings on the south side of the square.

I took in the full height of the column, then dipped my gaze down towards the giant chess set – still under construction.

Ahead of me and below, a smartly dressed upper-middle class couple in their late fifties hurried through the square, arm in arm. They glanced up, for no more than a second or two, visibly wincing at the vulgarity of the spectacle.

An open-topped tourist bus passed down the western side of the square, two lone passengers on its top deck. We exchanged friendly waves. A while later, a white stretch limo with blacked-out windows gave me a cheerful hoot.

I was red-faced, defiant, declaiming like a crazed preacher man. Swept up in the moment. Liberated. Totally and utterly letting go.

All too soon came the final song, Together In Electric Dreams by Giorgio Moroder & Phil Oakey. Behind me the cherry picker was drawing ever closer but I wasn’t about to be cut off in my scarlet-faced, vein-popping prime.

I turned to face the cherry picker at the precise moment that it docked on top of my water bottle: squashing it flat, spurting a thick jet of water over me, soaking my jeans.

Having my hour on Antony Gormley’s plinth – to dance, and share, and smile, and entertain, and create, and meditate, and celebrate, and connect, and let go, and be fully, fully myself – was the most incredible privilege.

It challenged me, and showed me that fear can always be overcome.

And it was the best fun, ever.

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