During their work, Ergon have responded to our project The Lost Summer. They have written and performed an audio piece to imagine a summer experience here in 2020 versus summers in the future…
Listen to the audio version here:
Ergon: Lost Summer
A piece of climate art for radio – transcript including SFX
[An airy, human, ethereal, melody begins the piece. It may feel like sunlight grazing your cheek.
The click of a cassette tape and whirring as it begins to record.]
A tape starts recording.
Is it running? Ah there’s the red light. It is on.
Hello Sam, it’s your granny; Cynthia. Lou had a wonderful idea that I should record some tapes and take some time to reflect on this summer. I’m sure you will one day learn about the events of the last 6 months but your mum and I thought it would be special for you to see it through the lens of my generation. I imagine it somehow Like a pond that stretches across time [the trickling of water] and somehow this message here, this pebble will send ripples to the side where you will one day stand as a man.[The splash of a pebble hitting water. It sends out ripples that manipulate into something musical/melodic] Where we may see reflections of each other we will never meet.
The summer of 2020 will be remembered by most as the summer of the pandemic. The summer where we yearned to see our friends and family whilst forming stronger connections with those around us. We missed out on holidays [A plane lifts off and soars above. The soaring morphs into electronic pulses and a notification alert tone.] and events but created our own entertainment in the world of digita. We were pulled back by bad habits and pushed forward by new desires. We found value in our community and the people that put themselves out for us so that we could stay safe inside.
Many will remember this summer as a great loss, but some will see that we have lost parts of things we never needed. We have the chance to create a safer world for you and your grandchildren.
We have seen so many reports and articles recently about how much cleaner the air has become, especially in the cities. [Birds chirp on the wind.] I was sitting in the car by the local shop waiting for your mum, [Trolley wheels pass the car.] I had my window open, just watching the world go by, enjoying the crisp air and the warming sun. I have found it so odd adjusting to seeing so many people in face masks, but I still love to smile at the passing children as they excitedly come away from what is a rare visit to the shops with mum or dad [Childlike laughter and skipping feet.] My imagination fills in the light blue rectangle where their smile should be and I hold faith that they will protect us as they should.
So much wonderful news to share with you: Just the other day Roe deer were spotted in Danica’s front garden in the village [Hooves gallop through a garden]. The same is happening all across the world as wildlife reclaims the cities. [The skating sound of a car passes into silence] The wasp-like buzz of cars around the planet has dropped by 50% and jet fuel demands plummet as we learn to connect with each other in new ways instead of tearing down the skys. The UK has curbed coal power for 2 months, the first time since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Worldwide emissions have dropped by 17% as we begin to wake up to our privileges.
It feels like this virus – this pandemic that has brought the whole world to a stop – has enabled us to move in directions we didn’t know were possible. I hope as you enter this world that it will learn to grow with you. The next 30 years, the most important years of your life, will also be the most important 30 years for human life.
[Transition 1 – blitzing forward in time, aggressive, volatile, speeding up and slowing down. The sound of various clocks ticking loudly and out of time. Birds screech. Fire burns and oceans roar. A cassette fast forwards. This all builds to a cacophony of chaos and then…the clunk of the cassette stopping.]
The tape stops. Time flashes forward until we reach Sam. Somewhere in the future, a tape starts recording.
[A cassette tape clunks into life. The ethereal melody from before changes. It has become dischordent. Less like sun grazing your cheek and more like a bitter cold breeze on the back of your neck.]
Sam (in the future): Hey Grandma.
I have to admit this was a bit of a surprise. I was erm – we’re moving houses. Me and Em, we’re going up north actually, to Manchester. The floods have gotten really bad, down here so… [The sound of water rising gets uncomfortably loud before cutting out suddenly.] Anyways, I was going through stuff left over in our house and I found this box full of tapes… your tapes. I’ve listened to all of them. They’re beautiful, Grandma. They really are. There was one in particular, which you titled ‘A life-changing Summer’. I noticed you underlined 2020 on the back of it, I wonder why you did that?[A biro underlines 2 times] But yeah… This Summer has been pretty life-changing too. So I wanted to record my own version.
[A heartbeat pulses]
We didn’t do enough. We didn’t do enough. Today is the bi-product of a willingly ignorant generation. Today I went outside and looked up to see that the Sky had not yet returned. [Strong wind whistles, foreboding, unforgiving] The Smog has stolen her away from us. I also wear a mask Grandma, but not to protect other people. The air is thick and dry, [A ventilator assists someone breathing] and as days pass by my lungs become a home for dust to settle. Hot weather, which I saw as a source for joy, has now become a source for fear. [Struggling rasping breath met with a blazing fire and heat] The Sun is unrelenting. It killed our garden. The one you took such good care of. [Tide washes in and grows aggressive, loud] Our oceans are rising up and revolting against us after years of being oppressed. They’re taking away our home Grandma, and I don’t think I have a right to be angry about it. The elements we tried so hard to tame are torturing us. Our political chats aren’t filled with a sense of fight anymore because it feels like the fight is over, and we have lost. [Gunfire in the distance] Oil companies are now creating wars over clean water. It’s hard to even laugh at the irony anymore. Hypocrisy stares us in the face everyday in the form of newspapers being posted through the letterbox to tell us that yet another species has gone extinct because of deforestation. [The sound of a letterbox opening and closing combined with the sound of a tree being felled] The news across the sea is that other places are in far worse condition. The birds stopped singing a long time ago. Mum doesn’t talk to me anymore. She’s been devoured by guilt watching the world she has built crumble and it means that she doesn’t talk to me anymore.
I wish you were here. I know if you were you would bring me to my senses, tell me I’m not to blame for the planet imploding, because… the Earth has been around for over 5 billion years and I happen to be alive when it burns which makes it difficult for me not to feel a bit responsible.[Rocks tumble and crumble, quietly and slowly at first but by the end of the following text it is a rockfall] I wish you were here Grandma. Because I feel like I’m drowning.
[Transition 2 – The rockfall is cut short by the clunking of the cassette stopping. The tape rewinds quickly and then stops and begins playing forward. The same clocks from before are heard but they aren’t so loud. They are joined by peaceful, ethereal voices and calming wind chimes. The sound of a tape speeding up and slowing down. This builds to a beautiful cacophony and stops with the sound of the cassette being stopped.]
[A cassette tape begins recording.]
The tape stops. Time flashes forward until we reach Sam. Somewhere in the future, a tape starts recording.
[The melody returns to feeling like sunlight grazing your cheek]
Sam (in the future): Hey Grandma,
Well you’ve kept these quiet! Mum’s just given me a box full of your old tapes. They’re brilliant, of course – I just don’t know why you stopped making them. There’s one called “A Life-Changing Summer” which really resonated so I wanted to give a response to it. I noticed you crossed out 2020 on the back of it, [A biro crosses something out] I wonder why you did that? Anyways, I’ve decided to try and carry on this tradition and do my own version, because this summer’s been pretty special too.
[A calm steady heartbeat]
We made it through. Today is the result of a unified shift in the right direction. Today I woke up to the chirping of a bird. [Birds sing and leaves hum in the breeze] I went outside and looked up to see the Sky was bright blue with soft white clouds hanging still. I was walking Jack to school – he was wearing his donkey mask for his school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was awful, but Jack stole the show as expected. [Soft applause drifts into soft footsteps through grass and twigs] We walked together through our neighbourhood, looking up in splendour at the beautiful world you’ve left us. The city air feels fresh. The Sun hits like heaven. It is hot mind you, but not too hot. Our house has become entirely self-sustainable this week. She runs by herself harnessing the elements with floral insulation and solar panels stationed at her head. Em and I had a bit of an argument today over Britain’s first Green PM. She won, of course. The world is greener than ever, and the sea is peaceful, quietly washing the shores. [Soft lapping of the tide] Mum came round to do up the garden. We spoke about everything like we always do. She smiled with such pride when recounting the shift in the tide to provide a safety net for our world. I can’t wait for you to be here.
[The tide swells and changes to become calm lake waters with ripples.]
I had this dream last night.
I dreamt there was a great pond that stretched through time. I was standing at one of the edges with a pebble in my hand. [A pebble drops into water, casting ripples] I threw the pebble into the pond and watched the ripples dance across the glittering surface and as I followed them my gaze was captured by someone standing at the furthest edge from me. They looked to the directions of the water’s movement and followed it’s map to my position. We shared a smile, a moment, something… something important.
[The calm waters and soft, ethereal melody drift. The reeling of a tape emerges out of the quiet. A clunk of a cassette tape leaves us with silence.]
The tape stops recording.
‘Lost Summer’ is a piece of climate art for radio by Ergon Theatre featuring Cynthia Beresford and Sam Black
Written by Sam Black and Noé Sébert
Script editing and sound production by Robin Lyons
Lost Summer was created by Catt Belcher, Sam Black, Robin Lyons and Noé Sébert
Image Credits: Nathan Cutler