Part of the Pécs2010 – European Capital of Culture event series, May Day was a performance with the participation of several hundred people from Pécs. It took place between 30 April and 2 May 2010 in the former Count István Széchenyi mine shaft and in the community center of Pécsbányatelep.

 


 

We wanted to tap into the creative energies of Pécs citizens by providing a framework for a performing arts event that offered even uninitiated outsiders a chance to get involved and join the experience.

Our three-day-long event was given the subtitle Forgotten Story of the Utopia University Guild, inspired by the award-winning project coauthored by Márton Szuhay and Bálint Fazekas. The centerpiece of the narrative we devised for the event was the abandoned Count István Széchenyi mine shaft. In our storyline, the mine shaft originally held a machinery, the so-called Transhuman Machine. Members of the Utopia University Guild would have used the machine to make snapshots of the contemporary Zeitgeist and creative energies for posterity. However, during World War II most guild members were taken to extermination camps and coal mining stopped. When the Machine was abandoned, it became self-aware and turned against the city of Pécs. Present-day descendants of the guild members decided to revive the guild with new members and repair the Machine.

The most important element of the project was the team game where every secondary school student from Pécs was invited. The Utopia University Guild was looking for new volunteers. At the end of the two-month game, 35 of the volunteering students were found persistent and dedicated enough to become the next generation of guild members.

 

Day 1:

On 30 April,  volunteers could roam the streets of Pécs armed with a GPS device while listening to stories of ’former guild members’. The recordings were prepared interviews with old miners but visitors could even meet some of these guild members live.

Day 2:

On 1 May, the revived Utopia University Guild opened its gates to the public. More than four hundred people could take part in ’repairing the Machine’ which was in fact a large-scale pre-choreographed oratorio. Directed by Árpád Schilling,  it featured the work of the composer, Marcell Dargay, some secondary students and music students of the city, several creative organizations and a local miner band. Special thanks to the Cultural Laboratory Social Cooperative and the Retextil Foundation for creating the visuals for the event.

Day 3:

On 2 May, we indulged in pre-written May Day festivities in the courtyard of the community centre of the city district closest to the mine shaft. The climax of the celebration was marked by the presentation of a giant mural, painted by Pécsbánya youth. We hope that it will stand as a memento of our work in the community for years to come. Work on the mural was coordinated by Kriszta Katona and her team, the Mural Moral Field. They professionally prepared the creative youth and supervised the work. A photo exhibition was also on the set list, presenting photos made at the workshop overseen by one of our crew members, Máté Tóth Ridovics. The multi-week workshop had Roma youth from another Pécs suburb (Hősök tere) examine their surroundings and its residents from a highly individual approach.