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Bring the Marie Celestial to life

A performance art project to create a living, mobile spaceship – the Marie Celestial. It’s not necessarily what you expect to hear about whilst speed networking. But at a women’s business event recently, I was inspired by Juliet Webb and Ruby SoHo’s kickstarter campaign to bring an art installation to life, whilst giving young people the chance to learn new skills and unleash their creative potential.

The Marie Celestial is being hand-built by Ruby SoHo, with the assistance of a collective of emerging artists working across disciplines from welders to aerial circus acts to graphic novelists. When complete, this mechanical metal fabrication will be powered by performers and built and rebuilt in interaction with audiences at public events.

Marie Celestial kickstarter

The back story is that the Marie Celestial is a space-craft from a distant, dying planet, designed to re-propagate its species. Whilst mourning the loss of its crew, it remained hidden under the sea for generations, and now it will slowly come back to life to become a human-powered breathing, moving stage.

Ruby has vast experience in creating mechanical, art installations at major public events, including the main stage at Secret Garden Party. But the Marie Celestial is particularly exciting for her, as it’s the first project she’s devised on her own with all the creative integrity that allows – and the challenges of funding.

The catalyst for the Marie Celestial was at this year’s Burning Man Festival. Ruby worked on the beautiful Lost Tea Party installation with Alex Wreckage. From the heat haze of the Nevada desert to steamy breathes in a chilly workshop tucked away in St Phillips in Bristol, her passion and determination to make the Marie Celestial project happen is clear.

The team hope that the Kickstarter funding will help them invest in the Marie Celestial over the longer term to develop a more sustainable street theatre culture in the UK. For instance, Les Machine de l’île , a French street theatre company based in Nantes, is a huge influence, creating projects such as this impressive mechanical elephant. With a thriving scene in France, many performers are invited here as there are fewer home-grown projects, in part because of funding. The Marie Celestial team seek to turn this around and contribute to a growing, revitalised national scene.


The project in turn will support the arts and local community through education. With Ruby’s background in training young offenders and those excluded from school, she plans to run training days and apprenticeships for young people, who may not have the money or resources, to learn these valuable skills hands-on in the workshop.

In the Kickstarter video, Ruby places emphasis on giving young women the confidence to enter realms which traditionally have been male preserves:

“I want everyone to weld, but I think that it’s a lot harder to just walk into a workshop and just try something if you’re a girl.  Certainly when I walk into a building site or any other kind of site I have to prove myself again and again and again. I just want to open that up. The best crews I’ve ever worked on have been a mixture of men and women.”

And the Marie Celestial will certainly be an inspiring project for young people to get involved in, with its imaginative story-lines and construction, including CO2 cannons to make the sails billow and flame jets. The team plan to tour the show throughout 2015, and the Marie Celestial will land first in whichever city raises the most money in the Kickstarter campaign. (Come on Bristol, get supporting!) Then a UK tour will follow with prospective performances across Europe. For me, the Marie Celestial is well-placed to seek public support as it spins around interactive participation, and sustainable development of the art form through education and evolving performances.

To help Ruby and the team unleash the Marie Celestial, check out their Kickstarter campaign which ends on 3 December. Depending on the level of investment, funders can own a limited edition graphic novel of the Marie Celestial, attend workshops or even take part in performances.

If you live in Bristol or surrounding area, you can visit their workshop when it opens to the public on Friday 28 November. Marie Celestial is taking provisional bookings for 2015 and there are opportunities for artists and performers to join the crew. To find out more watch their video, and keep up to date with progress on @4mariecelestial.

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