Hybrid Cultures: The full story!

Here’s the development of the ‘Hybrid Cultures’, Elen Caldecott‘s Fun Palace workshop, over the course of the day. Participants heard the story so far, and added their own ‘body’ to the map, letting the story evolve as they did so.


10am: The table was set up with black cylinders and decorations. The map had four islands, with three small communities living on them – the ribbon people, the red-and-yellow people, and the blue people. There was no contact between the different peoples at the start of the story. One island was uninhabited.


10am-11am: The communities grew, following their own traditions, until a bridge was built between two of the islands. The first person to cross the bridge was a red-and-yellow, who adopted a little of the style of the ribbon people, so that they wouldn’t be alarmed by him.


11am: One ribbon person responded enthusiastically to the new arrival, the hybrid culture around the bridge took on an effervescent quality!


11-11.30am: Meanwhile, one of the blue people had seen the red-and-yellow style, and admired it, replicating it in his own fabric.


11.30am: He was mirrored by a red-and-yellow person who admired blue style, but was forced to replicate it in her own fabric too. That was until their mutual admiration opened up a trade network around a port (represented here by the fabric samples). Economic exchange was swiftly followed by artistic exchange. Here we see a storyteller following the trade route.


11.30am: Here’s a view of the storyteller from the blue perspective – will her colour and vibrancy be a threat to the monotone blue way of life?


12pm: Having ships at sea meant one thing for the uninhabited south island – a colony of pirates invaded. They adapted the traditional styles of the communities in a way that seemed to be about intimidation and display.


1pm: A brave mariner was the go-between from the established trading port in the north and the unruly pirates in the south.


1pm: The hybrid on the bridge (remember him?) and a pirate on the south island shared an interest in yellow and green. This gave rise to a spontaneous new culture. A small festival was established to celebrate greens-and-yellows.


2pm: By the afternoon, we had a resolutely conservative group of ribbon people; hybrid and spontaneous cultures around bridges; an egalitarian trade route in the north-east and a raucous colony in the south. One person took action to protect the threatened blue culture, taking it onto the red-and-yellow island, at the junction of the two maritime routes.


2pm: The highest point on the islands was given a hermit – the beginnings of religion?


3pm: With organised trade came wealth, and with wealth came social hierarchy. Here, the red-and-yellow people are given a chief, grown rich on the trade with the blue people.


3.30pm: The conservative ribbon people, with their flourishing religious base were also given a chief. The power balance at the bridge became unstable, leading to our islands’ first war.


4pm: The war between the red-and-yellows and the ribbon people saw them both consolidate their power in their heartlands, leaving the hybrid culture around the bridge to wither.


4.30pm: the final scenes. After a flourishing of contact between the communities with hybridisation and exchange, eventually the emergence of hierarchies and different ideologies caused the limits of territories to become entrenched.

4.30pm. The aftermath. With massive thanks to the Fun Palace organisation, the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership for their support, my fellow PhD students for their enthusiasm and planning, and Colourful Minds for help with the craft idea. And huge thanks to to all the participants for making, and for sharing their own cultural stories with me too.