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Bill Mitchell’s Attic

Bill Mitchell's projects were inspired by his Attic, a private creation space which housed an extraordinary lifetime’s collection of artefacts: egg shells, toys, spoons, snow globes, archaeology…the flotsam and jetsam of life all arranged with idiosyncratic and exquisite care in the attic of his house. Communications and Development Assistant, Ellie Woolman, reflects on her time in the extraordinary attic ahead of their fundraising event on 5th December 2019.

Bill Mitchell was a beloved member of the Kneehigh family, joining in 1988 and worked as Artistic Director from 1995 to 2002. For Kneehigh he devised and directed many iconic productions including ‘Ship of Fools’, ‘Carmen’ and ‘Arabian Nights” and designed most shows from ‘Tregeagle’ in 1989. His design projects included, ‘The Red Shoes’, ‘The Bacchae’, ‘Tristan & Yseult’ ‘Nights at the Circus’ and ‘A Matter Of Life And Death’.

Bill’s innovative and exciting designs and direction played a major role in the history of Kneehigh. He experimented with landscape and the elements and created many audience favourites works. In 2013, Bill said “The Kneehigh creative team is a wide experienced community of artists from many disciplines who are able to share ideas and problems. This is a rare, valuable but vital element to creating good work and you treasure it when you find it.”

In 2005, Bill founded WildWorks where he focused on his landscape theatre work and produced many extraordinary shows including The Passion and The Beautiful Journey.

Bill sadly passed away in April 2017.

His legacy lives on through his remarkable work which continues to develop. A physical space where Bill’s imagination came to life sits in the attic of his home in Redruth, Cornwall. Bill’s Attic is a huge 3D collage of disparate things, whilst also being an intricate filling cabinet of memories and future ideas.

I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Bill’s Attic last winter, working with Seamas Carey, Alastair Goolden and Lucy Gaskell who created a research and development project surrounding Bill’s space. Seamas’s aim was ‘to gently illuminate the smaller worlds – using light, hidden sound, text, music and darkness’ and it was a very special and emotional piece.

Ellie Woolman in Bill’s Attic, December 2018. Photo by Thom Axon.

As someone who had never personally met Bill but spent so much time with both his WildWorks and Kneehigh friends and family, it felt like finally getting to know him a little better. Being surrounded by his treasure chest of items which he avidly collected revealed his story.

We spent the R&D week exploring the hundreds of boxes in the attic which were full of vintage Christmas decorations, snow globes, fake teeth, china dolls, miniature sculptures and scrapbooks.

Bill described himself as a ‘collagist’ and his attic revealed the abundance of inspiration that he ultimately poured into his work as an artist, designer and theatre maker.

Although I didn’t know Bill, I always felt very welcome in the space especially by his partner, Sue Hill (also of WildWorks); I spent many days there drinking tea, making lunch together and learning about their adventures of making work around the world. I loved exploring Bill’s creative world and I’m excited about the plans to make it an open, accessible place for others to investigate.

WildWorks are working with FEAST with an aim to transport Bill’s Attic to a space at Krowji, Redruth to provide inspiration for a fresh generation of creators, makers, thinkers, radicals. It will become an open space to explore and gain inspiration from one of the most creative minds I’ve encountered.

In order to make this happen, they need to raise some money, secure some pledges of practical help when it comes to the removals, and hear your ideas for the new Bill’s Attic. A fundraising evening of music from Seamas and Jim Carey, food from El Huichol, charity auction and drinks will aid in raising funds on Thursday 5th December at The Redruth Drapery.

I’m looking forward to it and I hope you pop along too.