It’s about 4,000 miles from Atlanta to the wiley, windy moors of Yorkshire, but a group of local folks will be bringing a touch of Northern England to Candler Park this weekend.
Clad in red dresses, they’ll be re-creating the video for Kate Bush’s 1978 classic “Wuthering Heights,” an atmospheric beauty based on the Emily Bronte novel. It was the musician’s first single, and went to No. 1 in the U.K. and was a huge hit in much of Europe.
Atlanta isn’t the only city represented. This is a worldwide phenomenon that was inspired by a 2013 flash mob-style re-enactment of the video by a group called Shambush. The video of the event went viral, inspiring last year’s international Kate-a-thon, officially known as “The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever.”
Atlanta participated then, too, drawing about 75 dancers and several dozen spectators to Candler Park on a warm July morning.
“We had set it for July 30, because that’s both Emily Bronte’s and Kate Bush’s birthday, but then I noticed that Germany was doing one, and Sweden. I got in touch with those groups and moved our event to coordinate with them,” Manning says. That’s when the event started to snowball, picking up cities around the globe from Melbourne, Australia, to Montreal, Canada.Organizer Kim Manning was inspired by that viral video. “I saw the Facebook post of the 2013 Shambush event and I posted and said, ‘We should do that here,’” she recalls. “I didn’t really mean it,” she says, laughing, “but I had several friends say, ‘Are you serious?’, so I got excited about it. And it just grew.”
It’s a fascinating and unusual tribute to an artist with an equally odd career trajectory. Despite success in the rest of the world beginning in 1978, Bush would have to wait a while to make an impact here in the U.S. In 1985, “Hounds of Love” and the single “Running Up That Hill” both managed to climb to No. 30.
She released seven albums from 1978 debut “The Kick Inside” to 1993’s “The Red Shoes,” and then silence. For 12 years, there was nothing, then in 2005 she returned with the acclaimed “Aerial” and released two albums in 2011.
Even more significant, in 2014, she did 22 shows at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. Bush hadn’t toured since the late 1970s, and had made only a handful of brief live appearances in the decades since.
Her impact has been far-reaching, despite landing just one single in the U.S. Top 40. Her influence is there in the work of Tori Amos, Bjork, Lorde and even Lady Gaga. But she’s also been lauded by artists such as John Lydon (the guy formerly known as the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten) and OutKast’s Big Boi (“(She) became my favorite artist of all time. Her and Bob Marley would tie for first,” he told the Los Angeles Times back in 2010.)
This year, organizers expect participation from 20 cities, in seven countries on three continents. It’s all in tribute to a solitary video, created nearly 40 years ago by an extraordinary artist who still inspires exceptional devotion today.
“It’s just great that she’s so earnest and yet doesn’t take herself too seriously,” Manning says, when asked what draws her to Bush’s music. “Every once in while, there’s a wink.”
Wuthering Rights Atlanta, part of the international Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever event. 10:30 a.m-noon July 15. Free, but supporters are encouraged to donate in advance through the Eventbrite page, or in person at the event, to Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates. Donate $25 or more for a limited-edition, screen printed “Wuthering Rights Atlanta” poster. Candler Park, 585 Candler Park Drive NE, Atlanta. www.bit.ly/wutheringATL, wutheringatl.eventbrite.com.