From the Medieval to the 21st Century – a weekend of free Live Art events on the streets and in the surroundings of Much Wenlock
In May 2012 McKeown was commissioned to take part in an exciting Disability Arts led London 2012 Festival/ Cultural Olympiad DASH (Disability Arts Shropshire) event entitled M21. Creatively for McKeown, this project became very important to his research and development trajectory. He undertook research in and around Much Wenlock, the birthplace of the modern Olympics Games and this led to a decision to undertake an experimental and in career terms early projection-mapped event at the site of the main church in Much Wenlock. As the project evolved McKeown commissioned live performances and created a complex series of animatronics to accompany the work. As part of the research process, McKeown worked with Paul Burrows of Lecia Geosystems to 3D scan Holy Trinity Church which is located in the centre of Much Wenlock. Further, McKeown undertook research and development work in advance of the event with Leeds based arts event company Lumen. Based on the 3D scan, McKeown and his team created 15 minutes of complex projection-mapped material.
The event went live on Saturday the 5th May 2012 with the large scale multi-point projection-mapped presentation supported by the blind Soprano Denise Leigh who McKeown had commissioned to support the visual event along with her blind accordion-playing husband. (Denise went on to headline at the opening of the London 2012 Paralympics).
M21 was commissioned by the Unlimited programme, part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Unlimited encouraged collaborations and partnerships between disability arts organisations, disabled and deaf artists, producers and mainstream organisations to celebrate the inspiration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and to create original and exciting works.
A Disability Arts Online review commented that:
"For me the highlight of the weekend was Simon McKeown’s ‘Light Cast – Milburgas Modern Miracle’. The performance included 3D projections, hidden animated creatures and a wonderful soprano, Denise Leigh, accompanied by an accordion player."
M21’s line up of specially commissioned performance works ranged from spectacular outdoor projections onto Holy Trinity Church by Simon Mckeown, to the Mayor of Much Wenlock sitting for a public portrait by Tanya Raabe, Ann Whitehurst training herself to be herself, Sean Burn performing a pentathlon with a difference, The Disabled Avant-Garde taking to the streets as ‘the wayward mascots’ Manlock and Wendeville, Noëmi Lakmaier presenting herself as a human baton in a 400m relay race, the Invalid Film Crew from Croatia exploring the orientation of blind and deaf people in a foreign country, Alan McLean and Arty Party inviting audiences to join them on a search for a missing artist, and manifestos on land rights from The Wandering Jew.
The overall M21 festival was covered and promoted by the UK's prestigious Live Art Development Agency who went on to produce a booklet and DVD about the overall event as well as featuring it on their website.
Work from the festival went on to be featured at the South Bank Centre in London during the Unlimited Festival in 2012.