Spreading the Worm (1986)


Spreading the Worm was a one-off project. We didn't mean to create a Company–but the success of the work led three of the original team to consider the possibility of continuing together in partnership.


As part of their interpretation work, Leeds City Art Gallery invited Gerry Turvey to run a dance-based collaboration alongside their exhibition looking at Surrealism in Britain in the 1930s.

The team consisted 3 performers, 2 artists, 1 singer, 1 musician and a director. We used the exhibition as inspiration and created a surrealist performance that was performed live in the Gallery.

Apart from the final performances, the team invited people to come and see their work in progress in the gallery, and created improvised performances for the exhibition opening and on the pedestrian area outside the Gallery.

The poster from those first-ever performances. Photo: Phil Moody


The work was commissioned by Leeds City Art Gallery. The education team was very positive about finding ways to involve people in their major exhibitions.

We pushed to make it more than just a performance-based residency, running a series of open workshops as well as taking the work out of the Gallery and onto the streets at every opportunity. We all enjoyed the feedback and interaction with people at every stage of the process...something we would take forward into the new Company.


The project received project funding from Leeds City Council and the Arts Council (or Yorkshire Arts as it was then). That was given on the basis of Gerry's track record. It wasn't much, certainly if you looked at it in terms of a daily rate for 8 people. But it was a start.

One of the improvised outdoor performances: Austin Allen and Adrian Sinclair's legs!

What We Learned

  • The excitement, alongside the challenge, of a collaborative project.
  • That the creative process is not universal. Artists from different disciplines work in very different ways.
  • Working as performers in an Art Gallery was challenging on both sides. The key was to spend time getting to know the Gallery attendants (or the caretakers in schools, the park-keepers, etc)

Where Next?

Time to visit an accountant, see a lawyer, and create a full-time Company: Heads Together Physical Theatre.

Then work out what we could do next.

Detail of Tamsin Spain, performer by photographer Phil Moody