When I sat down to work on this piece, I found myself thinking, how on earth did I end up writing about Kate Bush?
Maybe it started the night Hilary and I taught Kate Bush’s famous red dress “Wuthering Heights” dance in the Media History Research lab after class. Or maybe it started when our advisor Darren Wershler told us about the 1984 Kate Bush Convention “BushCon” in Winnipeg, Manitoba, my hometown. Or maybe it started six years ago when I first saw the “Wuthering Heights” video on YouTube and was introduced to a whole new world of music and self-expression.
The point is, it does not really matter where our fascination with Kate Bush began, only that it has created continuous new opportunities since. The biggest of these being our upcoming Kate Bush “Wuthering Heights” dance event on July 16th at 3:00PM in Parc Jeanne-Mance, Montreal. This event is happening simultaneously with others across the globe, in cities such as Berlin, Sydney, Atlanta, Tel Aviv, and Stockholm, with a potential 500 people scheduled to attend our Canadian event. Inspired by the 300 Kate Bushes at Brighton’s Shambush event, we hope to gather the most Kates ever and re-create the “Wuthering Heights” experience together in Montreal.
Organizing the Montreal edition of “The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever” has been a strong community-building experience. It has brought our team (Karissa LaRocque, Sandra Huber, Hilary Bergen, and I, Eileen Mary Holowka) much closer together. But it has also introduced us to many other amazing people such as Jeremy Sandor, our talented videographer and Kate Bush look-alike (see picture), or Tim Brackmann from Berlin who designed a beautiful poster for all of the events across the world. The event also gave us the opportunity to work with the incredibly talented Emilie St. Hilaire who created our promo videos. We have found ourselves in many wonderful conversations with Kate Bush fans across Montreal and have made connections with the other amazing organizers across the globe. We can only imagine the inspiring kinds of people we will meet on the day of. And all of these connections come back to Kate Bush. Maybe it is just a coincidence or maybe she really is magic, but I think there is something to be said for the kind of inclusive and creative community that “this woman’s work” can inspire.
One of the most frequent comments we get upon telling people about our event is that it is weird, bizarre, and strange. Some describe it as “wonderful,” but usually those people are pretty weird, bizarre, and strange themselves. We like those kinds of people.
But we will be the first to admit that this is one of the strangest projects any of us has ever worked on, and there is a reason for that. Beyond being an amazing international community-building event, this project is all about breaking the boundaries of what is “normal,” especially what a normal academic project should be. I still remember the first time I saw Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” video. I remember saying: “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” and then immediately thinking, “I have to recreate this.” (And I did.)
To me, “The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever” perfectly represents what universities and students could (and perhaps should) be creating: art that pushes boundaries. The song “Wuthering Heights” is a literary analysis that gives voice to an otherwise almost invisible character (and not just because she’s a ghost.) Catherine Earnshaw Linton’s personality in Wuthering Heights (the novel) is only ever conveyed by the descriptions of others, while in “Wuthering Heights” (the song) we see her perspective fully explored and embodied by Bush’s movements and stunning vocals–those unreachable notes.
Catherine Earnshaw Linton is a complicated character. She’s wild and resistant, but not always likeable. She marries to climb the social ladder, but can you blame her? Kate Bush perfectly captures Catherine’s complexity through lines as simple as, “I hated you, I loved you too” and in doing so, helps represent a broader range of female characters.
Like Catherine, Kate Bush is not simple. She is rumoured to be a perfectionist, a wild-child, a hippie, a genius, a hermit, a superstar… but she is never simply one thing and that is perhaps what makes her so enticing. She’s always a mystery, just like Catherine’s character in the novel.
Kate Bush is tricky to pin down. But, then again, why would you want to? If you listen to her talk about women’s rights, you will find that her views are not particularly ground-breaking. It is her music and her career that have broken boundaries and opened up new possibilities for women artists. Songs like “This Woman’s Work” and “The Wedding List” are inherently feminist in their messages. She is known for being performative and edgy–a queer icon–but also for staying out of the spotlight. Kate Bush’s resistance to labels has, instead, turned her into a label for others, such that many female artists (Florence Welch, Joanna Newsom, to name a few) are described as being “like Kate Bush.”
Kate Bush is witchy, performative, experimental, popular, beautiful, and grotesque. She is always on the edge of what you expect, somewhere between reality and fantasy, romance and disillusionment, “the past and the future.”
She teaches us to explore our creativity to the best of our abilities, to try and avoid the systems that might prevent our goals. Likewise, our advisor Dr. Darren Wershler has been enormously helpful in making this event a possibility, encouraging us all along the way that these kind of events, these kinds of explorations and analyses, are important.
What Kate Bush has taught us, more than anything, is the importance of “stepping out, off the [academic] page [and] into the sensual world.”
So, join us on Saturday July 16th at 3PM in Parc Jeanne-Mance for “The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever” or find an event near you.
Featured image courtesy of Emilie St. Hilaire, featuring [left to right] Sandra Huber, Eileen Mary Holowka, Hilary Bergen.