Godspeed you Black Maze


Today sees the end of an era, the passing of a great friend: But there’ll be no blaze of glory, no pomp nor fireworks.

The Black Maze will limp with wounded tail-lift to the Leyland DAF hospital on Neachells Lane and there, (no doubt with the very hammer and pliers that were used to fit her up) she will be unceremoniously ‘de-commissioned’. Stripped, gutted, de-mythologised. The Maze will return to its former guise – that of a postal service van. But oh, if those walls could speak…! The Black Country is famed for its scrap merchants, so it’s appropriate also that the Brothers Trow (Jack and Harry), natives of that territory, should execute the task.

I learned the craft of Mazemaster while attending to the earliest, fixed version in The Gas Hall, Birmingham back in 2000. Since then, The Maze has worked its magic and mystery over countless thousands of visitors. I saw grown men queue for 40 mins then crumple before entering, I watched the blind scoot through, dragging their terrified ‘helpers’ behind them. I welcomed obsessive youths drawn repeatedly by its Cultish allure. I flushed out lovers and rescued trapped minors. In one memorable (and beautiful) encounter I salvaged a tearful lady in her 60’s who had been revisited by repressed memories of a hideout during the Blitz. It could be therapeutic; many times I heard people emerging from the Moebius truck exclaiming “I’m claustrophobic!” – duh! Invariably, the cocksure would fail and the meek would triumph. A testament to the Maze’s power was that it didn’t discriminate on the basis of age, gender or disability**. Rather, it had the uncanny ability to converse with your headstate. The ‘Darkness’ was not so much inside the truck but in your mind. Hence control freaks need beware because yielding to the Maze was a key to its success. It worked as a beguiling physical journey, it worked as a haptic installation, but it could be visceral, emotional, even spiritual an experience. “It was like being born” or “It was how I imagine dying” were two regular responses.

James conjured the Maze up as one of his imagined ‘ideas from the bottom drawer’ back in 1995. I was quietly unsure of the idea at the time, but since its construction (by James, Craig and Mark Anderson), and in the the 11 years of it’s lifetime, it proved itself to be a hugely popular and an influence on successive generations of intimate/environmental performance. I know The Black Maze will be greatly missed and reminisced about ’til that time when we ourselves leak hydraulic fluid and our tail-lifts malfunction.

May the twinkly stars appear to guide her home. Bravo, Black Maze! Let’s raise a glass, my friends.

[** I should mention that The Maze was not wheelchair accessible, so perhaps this is a moot point]

link to Stan blog


One Response to “Godspeed you Black Maze”

  1. 1 Peter Moore

    Boo! I wanted to experience the Maze but never got the chance. I will get my wife to put a bag over my head and push me down the stairs, but I doubt it will be quite the same…

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