Simon Rae at Edgbaston 2nd innings

As my notes for the Poetry Places placement hinted, I was slightly frustrated by my first spell at Edgbaston. A number of things got started but there wasn't time or funding to finish them. However, Renn & Thacker secured further funding - from Midland Arts - and that allowed me and Ravi Deepres to see things through to an altogether more satisfactory conclusion. Although most of what is described below came about after the term of my Poetry Society placement, the seeds were sown during that time, and so I have no hesitation in suggesting it goes into the account of my time at Edgbaston on the website.

Here are the notes I wrote covering all the collaborative work associated with the Edgbaston indoor cricket school. I had a hand in most of it, but by no means all:


Image & Text at the Edgbaston Indoor Cricket Centre


From the giant representation of the world on the outside wall overlooking the Pershore Road to the poem acting discreetly as the manifestation on the plate glass wall of the bar, both image and text are designed to promote a theme of universality and inclusivity, offering a general invitation to celebrate and sample what the unique game of cricket has to offer.


The Works:


1. "A Red Ball Spins" Image by Renn & Thacker; Text by Simon Rae

This spans some 25 metres on the exterior wall of the Cricket Centre, and strikingly emphasises the global reach and appeal of cricket, remdinding us that great players have come form tiny islands in the Carribbean as well as from the vast landmass of Australia and the dense populations of the sub-continent. As a Test ground, Edgbaston has of course played host to all the greats. The text, which is deliberately simple, so that it can be read at a glance from a passing car or the top of a bus, looks to the future, imagining the stars of tomorrow's world 'starting today', and implicitly pointing up the Cricket Centre's role in that development. It is, if you like, a short-hand 'mission statement' for the building.

2. "Rundial"

Canvas Banner by Ravi Deepres and Simon Rae. Entrance Lobby. This huge (6 metres by 3 metres) photomontage is made up of three images from Ravi's portfolio showing two Asian boys playing cricket in the street, a crowd scene from last year's World Cup, and a shot of Edgbaston lit for a day-night game. These are arranged to suggest the crowd is actually watching the two boys, with the underlying 'message' that talented youngsters who started in the backstreets may one day end up playing at Edgbaston. The composition is further structured by the use of the scorer's 'waggon wheel' showing each of a batsman's scoring shots. Our model for this was the representation of Brian Lara's world record 501 - scored at Edgbaston in 1994. The text around the boy batting comes from a longer poem, 'Batsman', and emphasises the total dominance of a great player making a long innings: he becomes a sundial and his shadow moves round imperceptibly through the hours while the scorer's waggon wheel darkens with the scoring strokes he records - hence the piece's title, 'Rundial'.

There are two other pieces of text. One follows the line of the crease from which the bowler is delivering the ball and highlighs the unceasing conflict between bat and ball that is the heart of the game. The other is an extract from a poem making the connection between the Warwickshire, the cricket club and Warwickshire the home of Shakespeare, by overlaying the audiences in Shakespeare's 'wooden 0' with the crowds coming through the turnstiles to watch the cricket. The whole piece is rooted at Edgbaston by having as its border/boundary a close-up of the actual square.

3. "Four Terracotta Tiles"

First floor lobby. A representative selection from the workshops which formed the education-outreach element of the project. Various images and slogans indicating excitement generated by the game and the invitation to become involved in the Edgbaston project.

4. "The Bowler"

Installation: Photo, Text & Tile. Upper floor. A composite portrait. The photo shows a bowler (Agarkar of India) in typical reflective mood at the nets; the shape-poem traces the trajectory of a delivery while offering a sketch of the complexities of a bowler's mentality; while the tile, from one of the workshops, sums up graphically the bowler's overriding instinct.

5. "The Megaphone"

Photo on canvas by Ravi Deepres. Upper floor. One of a large portfolio of crowd scenes capturing the vibrancy and excitement of 1999's 'Camival of Cricket', the World Cup.

6. "A Red Ball Spins"

Bar Manifestation - Renn & Thacker and Simon Rae. Upper Floor. The red ball as globe is presented in six different profiles to suggest the earth spinning through a twenty-four hour cycle, while the text focuses on the comforting thought that as one day ends, the sun prepares to rise on another game of cricket somewhere else in the world.

7. "World Cup: Crowd Scene."

Photo on canvas by Ravi Deepres. Ground floor side entrance.




Apart from the brief verse for the exterior wall, I also wrote a number of longer and more sophisticated pieces on cricketing themes arising from the placement. A generous selection of these was published in Raw Edge magazine (new writing in the West Midlands), and as a finale to the Red Ball Spins project, Renn & Thacker are intending to publish a limited edition pamphlet. Here are a couple of the poems:





'Shakespeare's County' blazoned on the motorway conjures the throng

crammed into his wooden 0 shading into the crowd round this

sun-brilliant oval in thrall to the Now as the arm comes over

the bat comes down or the syllable springboards from the tongue's tip

into the shaping air...






Imagine a whole day's play shot from above with some new technique for tracking the ball wherever it went a tracer bullet relayed like radar on an air-traffic controller's giant screen: the whole thing boiling in a firefly frenzy a catscradle of arcs; and then speeded up like a time-lapse sequence of night-time cars lasering around Spaghetti Junction: or Hyde Park Corner.

What would you have? A cross child's scratching between wicket and wicket, an etched penumbra of dabbed defense, then the far-flung corona of scoring strokes, while behind the stumps ropes of fairy-lights linking the slips as the ball made its way back from the keeper, via those in the covers to the waiting bowler.

Imagine a century, every ball, every shot played through in a minute the fire-flies gone crazy; and then the same for every innings on every ground in every game ever played -displayed on vast banks of screens each one showing each ball's flightpath -millions and millions, since the game began, each one unique within the pattern repeated for ever on ever more screens filling ever more acres, till time does its loop or whatever it does when it comes to the end and space contracts (or is it expands?) and somewhere for sure an atom spins and then collides with something or other which sets the ball rolling all over again.



- Simon Rae