In the midst of COVID-19 when all mass public gatherings have been cancelled, Papaya Stories managed to catch the last glimpse of magic and took part in Murrays Bay Wharf Birdman 2020. It was the festive time when creativity, hugs, fun were real not virtual. Our team was grateful to be a part of it.
Books don’t fly. That was the most common statement that we heard during the festival. And it makes sense. The thing is that Birdman is a world-known competition for human powered flying machines and involves human ‘bird creatures’ attempting to “fly” the furthest distance off the end of a wharf into the ocean. So when you think of a Birdman entry ideas such as creating a bird-like object or a plane might pop up. However we got competing among baby sharks, All Blacks and Silver Fern, community patrol car, pirate ship and many more.
Photography by Piet Ubels, Shiva Prasad.
And there comes an orange book of Papaya Stories. It does make you question. It makes you wonder how on Earth someone can make the book fly if there are no strings, wings or any engine attached. Disruptors by nature, Papaya Stories enjoyed watching the crowd solving that puzzle.
When six of us (Atlas, Anna, Milica, Piet, Toma and Yana) met in late February to brainstorm ideas, we decided to keep things simple. Time was not on our side, we only had 3 weeks to do something. Limited resources and money didn’t provide a forum for random, expensive and big ideas. We had to be realistic. But we wanted to be cool. We wanted to create something meaningful that will not only represent Papaya Stories but can be also used in public spaces besides the Birdman Arena. The idea of Book of Inspiration came to life. It has many interpretations. That’s why we asked our team to share their thoughts about what book means to them.
To some people from our team the book of inspiration also meant hours of dedicated work and sweat. If you ever thought that ideas come to life with ease and grace, you are very wrong. Each project is a process of love and hate, breakthroughs and dead ends, certainty and doubt, frustration and progress. And this time wasn’t an exception.
30 hours of labour and human effort went into creation of this gorgeous book. We had our own hard-working Papa Carlos, Piet and Jan Ubels who built that book from scratch. Later Piet hand-painted the logo, while Yana learnt how to deal with sander, filler and paint roller too. Yay to upskill effect. This project is a representation of a true team effort when we relied hugely on support of one another and our community.
When that amount of work and energy results in 3 minutes performance, you feel a bit sad. You want to repeat the performance all over again. And by sharing the performance routine with you here, it feels like we reliving the same moment.
Dressed up in PJs, covering our light bulbs with night caps made by wonderful Erika, our costume designed, we got ready for the bed time story. We dove into the world of reading One by one we looked through pages and used them as a source of inspiration. The pages (made of bed sheets) served us as parachutes that we used to jump off the wharf. A few of dreamers managed to jump off into the dreamland, while others felt asleep while reading a book. That was a break free moment. A moment of the perfect escape for our fairy who got locked in the book. The real fairy (Toma) jumped off from the book and became real. Enjoying this life to the max, fairy followed the example of fellows dreamers with no hesitation. Stealing the last page of the book and using it as her magic carpet, she jumped off the wharf too.
Together with our lovely army of dreamers we came up with a theatrical imaginary piece that told our story. We managed to win the “Most Innovative Team” prize. By watching the rehearsals video below you can see why.
What the Birdman event encapsulate does resonate with me a lot. It perfectly describes what we face now as a humanity. Embracing the unknown, our deepest fears. Learning how to fly when things get tough. Listening how to navigate through the wind of change and natural flow of things. And the most important lesson is that we can’t do it alone. We have to rely on each other, ask for help and get ready to adapt quickly and ideally with a smile on our face.
For me as a team leader, creative director at Papaya Stories and our dream team, it was important to understand that all we have is enough. Bringing a team of dreamers on board who are not afraid of implementing creative and experimental ideas was a break through. We worked hard and celebrated each other strengths. That symbiosis proved that we really can do anything when we come together. And maybe it is a lesson that we can take out to the society. Let’s continue to inspire and encourage each other to be a better, kinder version of ourselves. So current limitations lead to new possibilities that will teach us how to fly during turbulent times.