Wishing Well

2007 – 2009

The Wishing Well  was an interactive  performance and then later an installation which set out to record the wishes, dreams and deepest desires for the wellbeing of the world and each other. It offered the opportunity  for people to make a wish and have a look what the world is wishing for. It was originally developed for the 2007 / 2008 Woodford Folk Festival and ran for 3 years, gradually morphing over that period from a performance based project into an installation project.

Linsey Pollak & Maureen Baas first came up with the idea in early 2007…..and  it developed over the next 11 months in collaboration with a team of five (also including Dave Murphy (designer), Penny Baron(performer) and Jessica Ainsworth (performer)). The basic idea was that people would speak their wish aloud at the Well and this would be recorded, and when they threw a coin into the water their wish would be spoken back to them. Then the wish would also be performed back to them as a song.


It is late at night. The stars are out. You are welcomed at the entrance to an enchanted pathway. The pathway is lit by lanterns which lead to a small and intimate space in the forest (or park). You are about to visit the “Laboratory” of the infamous “Voice Collector” (Linsey Pollak) and the “Wish Singer” (Terri Delaney) as well as The Wishing Well hostess (Maureen Baas).And then you arrive. The space is cosy and there is a pool of water “The Wishing Well”. The audience takes a seat in this intimate outdoor space. The Wishing Well hostess welcomes the audience and converses about dreams and hopes, and the need to wish and dream. She also talks about the place that dreams and wishes have in creating change – specifically changes that are needed to improve our world. She asks the audience to ponder on their wish, reassuring them that they take their task very seriously. So seriously, that they indeed also encourage the audience to think about how they might make their “wish come true”…. . “Yes, Ladies and gentleman, how are you going to achieve world peace?”

The audience are then invited one at a time to share their wishes / hopes / dreams. Each wishmaker undergoes a period of preparation (a 7 minute guided journey inside “the preparation dome”). At the end of their preparation they are taken to the Sound Laboratory. Now ready to make their wish they first write it down on a ribbon and then The Voice Collector then records them speaking their wish. To consummate the wish the Wish Maker is asked to throw a coin into the Wishing Well. As soon as the coin hits the water in the Wishing Well the wish that was recorded will be immediately heard through the sound system. (The coin hitting the water triggers the sound sample of the wish that was recorded. This is done by a sample triggering system. We hear the actual person’s voice that was sampled by the Voice Collector).

The Voice Collector and The Wish Singer then perform the wish to the Wishmaker who has been placed in the special hanging “Listening Throne” which is raised by ropes into the air. The Wish Singer sings the words of the wish to the Voice Collector’s improvised live looping of various layers of sound using sound samples that have been collected at The Wishing Well over time. This is totally improvised as the words have just been collected in front of the audience. At various times the wish recorded by the Wish Maker can be triggered by throwing a coin into the well. The genre of music can vary from Jazz to rock, ambient to funk, soundscape to reggae depending of the mood of the night and the wish itself and the particular energy of the “Wishmaker”. At the end of the wish song the “Listening Throne” is lowered and the Wishmaker returns to their place and a new person is invited into the Preparation Dome and a new wishmaker exits the preparation Dome to record their wish in the Sound Laboratory.


Change to an installation:

At the 2008 / 2009 Woodford Folk Festival ‘The Wishing Well’ became an installation open each day of the Festival from 10am – 6pm where people could come and record their wishes………and what wonderful wishes…couples wishing for babies……… the elderly couple who spoke their wish together which called for blessings on their children and grandchildren…….. The little girl who wished her mother would give up smoking forever……. the little boy who wished he was Avatar so he could save the planet and the universe………The teenagers who arrived saying they wouldn’t make a wish who in the end wept as they wished for sisters to know how beautiful they are and for their families to love each other even in the hard times.

This new process enabled us to sample over 1000 wishes over the 6 days of the Festival. We would give each arrival a note book to help them formulate their wish……some would come and sit for hours…it became a space of quiet contemplation….away from the busyness of the Festival. The actual walk along the Wishing Well Path was also an important part of the wishing process and we put dozens of signs with wishes already recorded along the Pathway for people to read as they walked up to the Well. Matt de Boer also created a huge Bower at the entrance to the Pathway that began the journey.

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