A bit of a departure this week from the usual visual and public arts stuff I do – I’ve ventured on stage! Don’t worry I wasn’t actually allowed to act, sing or dance (though I did pull a muscle trying to hula hoop on the first day…).
The project, based in Tameside, was to create a theatre piece based on The National Theatre’s production of War Horse. Working with young people from St. John’s Primary School in Dukinfield and West Hill Comprehensive School in Stalybridge, we put on a production at the beautiful Stalybridge Civic Hall on Saturday night called ‘Over the Wall’.
In the lead up to an intense week of workshops at the Civic Hall, StoneSoup and Arbarus worked with some of the students from St. John’s Primary School exploring themes, building prototype puppets and helping to prep the script. Then we arrived in Stalybridge on Monday morning with lots of ideas, lots of equipment and materials, seven artists of various descriptions, a fabulous empty space and 75ish young people.
By the time Saturday night’s 45 minute show in front of 250 people had finished (standing room only), everyone in the group had been involved in most parts of putting on the production including – the music, the acting, the set design and build, creating props, creating (and puppeteering) dog and bird puppets, making costumes, and lots of other stuff I’m sure I’ve forgotten.
The boys from West Hill School in particular were absolutely fantastic and really came into their own on the ‘art department’ side of things, essentially leading on a lot of the design, set-making and puppets with a massive amount of effort put in to get everything completed for the Saturday night deadline.
A special mention to the teachers and TA’s from both schools who got completely stuck in and were brilliant!
I was too busy to take any of the pictures myself, so another special mention to the young people of West Hill who took all of these photographs (apart from during the production – thanks to Richard Dawson of Arbarus).
Last week, myself and Richard Dawson spent a very wet Monday installing a memorial bench (Richard’s work) and then some withy bees (my work) for the RSPB up at Dove Stone Reservoir in Saddleworth.
Kate from the RSPB came along to help. Bonnie, one of her dogs, thought the best place by far to sit was on top of me, whilst I was keeping the base of the bench in place. At this point, I’m slightly worried that all the other dogs are going to think the same thing!
Following two weeks of hard slog in the rain at the RHS Tatton Flower Show, we have been awarded a silver medal for our show garden ‘A Year in the Life of the DreamScheme’. The culmination of 12 months of work and preparation, the garden shows the young peoples’ journey through Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter using colour, texture, planting and artwork to recreate the seasons.
Myself and Peter Castle worked with young people from New Charter estates to interpret their ideas and designs and turn them into a show garden. Using a circular format as the starting point, we designed each section to represent one season looking at overall effect, impact, the relationship between the seasons and plant associations. Our final plant list included over 100 different types of plants totalling almost 1000 individual specimens.
Once on site, the hard physicial work began, with the hard landscaping and building happening first, followed by laying out and lots (trust me – lots) of digging, then planting. The finishing touches included placing all the artwork made by the young people (mosaic slabs, withy sculptures, Colin the mosaic corgi etc), checking over plants and trees and dressing the garden.
Achieving a silver medal for a first attempt at a show garden is a massive achievement, so we are all incredibly pleased. New Charter received a bronze medal for their first show garden in 2010, so the pressure was on to gain an equivalent or better rating!
Next year, we thought we’d give the silver gilt medal a miss and just go straight for gold..!
Three weeks of frantic lantern making ended on Friday with a brilliant lantern parade on the Johnson Fold estate in Bolton. During the three weeks leading up to the event I worked with holiday clubs, Johnson Fold Primary School, a mums and tots group and the Youthopia Youth Club to create a multitude of lanterns. Most groups made the traditional pyramid lantern – we had almost 80 of these at the final count!
Youthopia also created some large-scale lanterns – the only rule was that they must be small enough to get out the front door of the youth club! Everyone really got into it and worked really hard to make some amazing shapes and characters out of withies – we had a fish, a shark, a dress, some headphones and an ice-cream amongst others.
I had to have a few late nights in the workshop (music as loud as you like once your neighbours have gone home – yippee!) tweaking, securing fastenings and adding LED tealights to get them all ready for the big day. I then had a tense couple of hours on Friday bringing the lanterms down on our (outdoor) hoist whilst the wind and rain raged but finally got them successfully delivered to Bolton At Home’s newly finished UCAN centre on the estate. Here’s some photos of the parade and the lanterns with the children and young people who made them.