On campus this week, company of two, Action Hero offer a chance for you to listen to love songs and change your perceptions of Europe in every sense of the word.

After travelling 46,000km around Europe in a van collecting love songs from different areas, Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse are now seeking opportunities to share the voices and stories that they stumbled upon.

Showcasing the body of work that they have called Oh Europa, they will be on campus on March 12 and 13, at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts.

Speaking about the piece, co-artistic director, Gemma, said: “The original thought was that we wanted to make a project that was thinking about Europe. It was something that seemed relevant at the time.

We started thinking about the project at the end of 2015 and then when the referendum happened in 2016, there was a real urgency. If we were going to do it, we knew we should start soon.”

Reinforcing the fact that Brexit was a catalyst rather than a starting point, she added: “It’s not just about the EU, it is about all of the different ways of thinking about Europe. The EU is just one of them.”

The piece that is travelling to Sussex is an installation of the songs and experiences gathered on the roads of Europe, presented in a micro-exhibition from inside the van in Postcards from the Edge.

There will also be an eight-hour-long radio show cleverly entitled RadiOh Europa, where audience members are invited to listen to the love songs as part of a ‘deep listening party’.

These are two of the ways in which the pair have decided to showcase their gatherings, but they haven’t stopped there. This multimedia project has an app where you can unlock the voices of a region by travelling to one of the ‘beacons’ that have been placed at junctures and boundaries throughout Europe.

Speaking about the form that the project has taken, Gemma said: “People have described it in lots of different ways. The core is inviting people into the van to sing their love songs.

“We’ve worked with sound and audio a lot in the past but the form for us is always led by the project.”

As the company toured Europe in their van, in a journey that started in April 2018, Gemma recalls the different levels of enthusiasm that locals had towards getting behind the microphone and singing.

“People didn’t tend to feel uncomfortable because if they did, they wouldn’t sing”, she noted.

There was, however, a need to nurture and make the van a space for whatever the individual wanted:
“Some people really wanted to feel that they were wanted in that way.”

In contrast, she describes how “In Hungary being a ‘good singer’ isn’t a thing.

“There were folk songs that everyone sang in a way that was just unjudged, like the act of brushing your teeth. In other countries, there is a social anxiety.

“You get to be a very good judge of what somebody wants in that moment.”

The company will be at the Attenborough Centre of Creative Arts on campus, showcasing the 940 love songs that they have gathered so far, in hope of getting us thinking about Europe and our personal connections with it in a different light.

The free-entry events start with the Postcards from the Edge exhibition which will be outside the theatre from 12 pm until 8 pm on Thursday, March 12.

The radio show, which will be available online at oheuropa.com for 24 hours from 8 pm on March 12, will be open to audience members in the ACCA from 12 pm until 8 pm on March 13.

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