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!
For the next couple of weeks I’m working with lots of groups in Johnson’s Fold, Bolton to create withy lanterns for their lantern parade, organised and funded by Bolton at Home. Here’s one I made as an example…
I’m also about to start making some withy / willow sculptures with a New Charter group in Mossley, Tameside for the RHS Tatton show garden. One of them is going to be an enormous snowman, which feels entirely appropriate after the snow we had last week! I’ll be using brown willow for this so I’m currently soaking the withies in my lovely new ‘water trough’ – a perfect shape and size for the job. I’ll post a picture when I remember to take one…