Why Sardine Street in the title of A Sardine Street Box of Tricks? After all, Phil Smith and Simon Persighetti's book describes and discusses a series of walks, interventions, experiments, and other myth-making merriment, on Exeter's Queen Street. So why sardine? Because, they tell us, sardines were depicted on models or banners in mock funeral processions to mark the last day of Carnival (as in Goya's painting The Burial of the Sardine). 'Carrying [the symbol of a sardine on a pole] was a mark of a promise to ourselves to attend to (and tend) the smallest and seemingly most insignificant things of the street.'
They took a year doing it, and the book is a terrific resource for anyone wanting to attemt something similar on their own street, wherever that may be: it is 'a handbook for making a one street 'mis-guided tour'. Identifying your significant street, mounting your walk, and collecting your own relics.' It complements rather than supercedes their earlier Mis-Guides and is especially helpful for its detailed explanations which accompany each step of the methods described along the way:
The extraordinary in the ordinary: there is a particular dynamic between materiality and immateriality. By taking a piece of detritus from the street, or a can of abject booze, or a momentary juxtaposition of a dove and a white plastic bag and mouldig each of them, through an action, into an idea.
I liked what they said about the Mis-Guide 'wear[ing] something that sets you apart and allows others to have permission to approach you: "Excuse me, what are you supposed to be?" Or: "what are you doing?"' 'The role of 'mis-guide' should expose the problems of the conventional guide (prejudices, the anti-democratic expert, the limitation of meaning).' This made me decide, that when I take a group of WI ladies on a tour around Lydford next week, I shall expose my ignorance of the subject-matter by wearing a set of L-plates, my invitation to them to critique me and make their own contributions to a new story we might build of the places we walk. Having said that, this Sardine Street Box of Tricks has also reminded me of the great value of deep, intensive research (theirs, on-street, in-library and on-line, took three years before they started their walks). So I'm off to do some deep digging into local history to inform the stories we share as we tour these village streets next week....