Capital of Culture: Shaft Sign Balloons

This post has been lying on my desktop for almost a week now. At least parts of this post have, because if I had actually managed to finish writing it I would have posted it as well. Which I didn’t. Obviously. I’ve been so insanely busy with work and other stuff. Mostly other stuff, I have to admit. I will be equally busy over the next few days with this other stuff, so I thought tonight it’s now or never.

4 weeks ago I wrote about the Shaft Sign Project at the RUHR2010 (European Capital of Culture). I was a volunteer at one of the sites and even thought it turned out to be different than I expected, I still had a great time. The weather could have been better though. I spent two of my four shifts sitting in the car, just guarding the balloon on the ground, because it was raining. The sun was shining for my other two shifts, so all was well. I actually expected to be helping out at a site where a club, any kind of association, a church group or any other group were responsible for the balloon and all the events on the ground. That there would be events on the ground. It turned out that there were sites where there were only volunteers, responsible for the balloon and where there would be no special events, entertainment or food stalls. Just the balloon and us. Oh well. It was still fun, because even though there wasn’t a lot too see except the balloon, there were still people visiting. Asking questions, telling stories from old times and all. On Saturday morning an old lady from the neighbourhood showed up and she was so happy that she was able to see the illuminated balloon the night before from her balcony. She even returned half an hour later and brought us some snacks from the bakery. She was such a sweet old lady.

When I wasn’t at “my” balloon site I still tried to catch a glimpse of the various other balloons when I was on my way to work or anywhere else in the region. It sometimes was quite the challenge to discover those balloons as yellow spots on the horizon. But it was always a lot of fun.

Last Saturday I met with some friends for a small Shaft Sign tour. As I got stuck in a traffic jam on my way to our meeting place we headed out later than planned and instead of visiting to spot with a view whe just spend a lot of time on only one. A few centuries ago the region started to convert the waste rock piles from the coal mining into real hills, by planting trees and other plants, build footpathes and most of all some kind large scale art of various kind. On a large scale because they should be like real field marker and be visible from all the other hills in the area. It’s quite a neat idea, I think and I have to admit I have never been on such a hill before, even though I’ve lived in this region forever. I didn’t climb all the way up though, but two of my friends did. Even from top of the hill there is a great view all across the metropolitian area and there were quite a few yellow balloons to see. Some near, some far away, but scattered all across, which was the point of this whole project. To indicate and ilustrate the location of the many many mining shafts in this area, which has been so defined and shaped by coal mining and steel manufactoring and all that.

We had small, but lovely and yummy picnic at a secluded little spot and some sparkling wine (in cans, I admit) to clink glasses (or cans *g*) because this trip actually was a birthday present (back in April) from my friends. So we needed some alcohol to celebrate that, right?

In the evening we went to Sausalitos (just like we did on my birthday *g*) for some cocktails and mexican food. And even later in the evening we wanted to check out the Night Shaft Signs (illuminated balloons) at the industrial cultural site of Zollverein. Despite the slight rain and the cold there were quite a few people around, taking pictures (or like me trying to take pictures, because my camera is crap when it comes to night shots).

The sight of these illuminated balloons around/among the remains of the industrial complex will stay in my memory anyway, because it was something so extraordinary and I’m glad I was part of this project as a volunteer. Even if this meant spending afternoons sitting in a car, while the rain was pouring down outside :-)

Stay tuned for another loooong volunteer post tonight. Hopefully tonight, I have to say, because I might be too tired to write it after an almost 10 hour day at the practice run-through of the “Day of Song” concert.

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