By Vita Forest
Yesterday Lucy and I flew, yes flew! over the Cutaway at Barangaroo. If you head there before the 24th January, you can too. As part of the Sydney Festival (Number 40) Olivier Grossetete (should be an accent on that second e) is building an Ephemeral City in the Cutaway. Huge buildings are being raised out of cardboard and packing tape (you can join in) while smaller participants can build swords and tiaras out of the same medium (don’t you love cardboard?) Above it all, loops a flying fox for the adventurous amongst us.
Lucy and I decided we would fly despite the wait. But then the wait became fun. When you are surrounded by people who are curious and expectant, and watching others who are engaged in work that they are carrying out with a lot of care and good humour, the wait becomes enjoyable.
We opened our eyes, relaxed and tried to work out all the “systems” on display. The line snaked around through cardboard-covered barriers, feeding people into different centres – what were they all for? We noticed the crowd had different coloured wristbands (allocated by time? How many of each?) We realised there were lockers for bags and anything that was not tied on (getting closer we were told, there was to be absolutely nothing in our pockets, if you wore glasses, they had to be strapped on). We watched the flyers get kitted up in harnesses with complicated straps. We saw them try on helmets of different colours and tried to work out the system (were they colour-coded by size? Yes they were!)
And most of all, we watched the staff. It was a labour-intensive fun machine. There was the “concierge” where you signed in and were given a wristband, the bag check person, a couple of “kitter-uppers”, a helmeted fellow who did the final launching of flyers out into the abyss, a gloved guy who pulleyed up loads of just-used helmets and harnesses from down below, and a couple of staff who ferried up the triangular swings that were used to attach the harnesses to the flying fox railing (they appeared at regular intervals with their arms slung through metal triangles carried on their shoulders with yet more in their hands. I hope they used the lift.) They all seemed extremely enthusiastic and dexterous – helping each individual into their complicated harnesses and demonstrating arm movements to pull buckles tight. They even tracked down some tape (from the cardboard city I guess) to strap on summer footwear that would have flown off otherwise. The flyers were very appreciative and mirrored the staff with their exuberant kicks to check that their shoes would not indeed fly off. And when it was my turn, our helper made me try on a couple of helmets, declaring I had a child-size head (who knew?) and procuring me one from the dumb-waiter pulley system.
And every now and then, we would hear a whoop from over the balustrade and a bunch of people would rush to look over and report back that the cardboard tower below had been raised another level by the team of city builders.
The time passed quickly and soon we were close enough to hear the French accents of some of the workers who called for adult volunteers to jump the queue as they waited for child-size harnesses (alas Lucy wouldn’t let me). And then it was time to enter the cage of the launching pad and be clipped onto the triangle. Then gripping tightly onto the rails, launching off into space…