Salford Community Theatre Project

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What next...?

27 August 2016

 

Wow. Love on the Dole is almost two months in the past. It was an overwhelming week for cast, production team and audiences. We couldn't be happier with how it went and want to thank all of the audiences for their great feedback and participation.

You can see some photos of the production by clicking any of the photos at the top of this post! Photos are all courtesy of Colin Armstrong Photography.

So, what happens now? We have dedicated community volunteers, we have lots of supporters and we have a passion to carry on the work we've begun. Love on the Dole was lead by a team of artists and arts professionals in the typical set up for a community play however Salford Community Theatre as a company will now be handed over to the volunteers and community members whom it is made up of. The company will be lead by Salford residents with guidance from the team who lead Love on the Dole with the view to it being completely cooperatively lead in the future. The artists can step back in for projects and shows or the company may wish to look for new artistic influences but the week to week running of Salford Community Theatre will be in the hands of Salfordians. Rightly so.

There will be a small committee of volunteers with specified roles to manage administration and relationships with a larger group of community members there to support, participate and develop more work under the SCT banner. 

There will be more information about how to be a part of this collective coming in the next few months as we're always keen to recruit people into our folds to continue making important, politically charged theatre.

Project Shed

15 May 2016

Project Shed

by Cat Stobbs

On Tuesday 26th of April, I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening of Project Shed: an exhibition by The Lower Kersal Young People’s Group, brought about by artist Beth Barlow and Thomas Lever. The project aims to enlighten the participants through art and horticulture and also has a focus on the idea of giving altruistically; knowing that you may not receive a tangible return for your gift but instead understanding the value in the act of giving itself.

Stepping inside the shed gave me an instant uplift (and I was far from unhappy in the first place) and the effect was enhanced by the beautiful stained glass windows, designed by the young people, which captured the light in a warm and welcoming way. For a small space there is no shortage of things to investigate - and as the project focuses on the idea of reciprocal generosity and giving for the sake of giving – mementoes to take home with you. I came away with a card made and designed by one of the young people for a friends’ birthday and a delicious rose hip syrup drink. I also wish I’d picked up some of the homemade jam and seed bombs but at least that gives me another excuse to go back. Garden furniture has been improved and designed by the young people and if you take a walk around the shed you’ll find loads of ways to access the stories of the young people and community – in this way the shed is almost a comfortable store house, a collective hub, for tales of the allotment, the project and the people.

The allotment itself is a platform for the growth of one of the things that we all give and share many times in our lives, perhaps without even knowing it: food. I’m a big believer in this idea, it reminds me of that early rehearsal where Eileen brought in thai green curry for us all. There’s something very simple and wholesome in sharing a meal with friends and family and I can imagine this feeling is multiplied if you have grown and nurtured the food yourself.

When we returned back to St Aiden’s the tea party really got going and, sat happily with carrot cake, scones and a brew, I felt fortified for the following discussion. The two benches were brought in from the shed and placed either side of a display table full of resources and art from the project and (joy of joys) more cake. What followed was a discussion that was arranged so well I think it’s a structure that all people-focused groups should consider copying. To guard against too many voices crowding the topics or spiraling into tangents, four of the assembled community members put themselves forward to take a seat on the benches and engage with the discussion topics, which included questions of how negativity in the media impacts our lives, and what we, and the media, could do to combat this, and also questions about communities and their heartening ability to pull tighter together at the times when things look most bleak. As new questions were brought up or when it was time for a new voice or two, those sat on the benches would swap with the guests who had been listening. The discussions were also recorded and I’m sure will have thrown up as many interesting thoughts and questions for everyone else as they did for me.

If you want to check our Project Shed for yourself – and I really hope you do – you can contact Thomas Lever: tommylever@yahoo.co.uk

Inside Outreach

14 April 2016

When we first began discussing Salford Community Theatre, and what the outreach team’s role would be once rehearsals were underway we all agreed that we wanted to offer the cast something extra - something outside of the focus of the play but with all the opportunities for socialising and challenging yourself. We’d already held three successful workshops in the summer to drum up interest in the play so it seemed natural to want to continue these. But we didn’t want to give people acting-overload, not when there are so many other opportunities to enjoy yourself out there!

So we found other workshops, other community groups, other activities. This saw us visiting the Kersal Kickers line dancing group in March. I think one of my favourite moments of this journey so far was seeing one member of our cast, Brian Peaurt, walk into the line dancing class in full denims and a Stetson, clutching a guitar. That’s when I knew for certain that we’d be having a good night, and I was right. The ladies and gents of the Kersal Kickers were wonderful hosts, dealing with our (my) complete ineptitude with good grace, showing us the steps and laughing with us when we got them wrong. There was a lot of laughing. For some reason, they’ve invited us back, and I’m excited to be attending the opening of ‘Project Shed’ later on in the month.

We’ve also been singing with Salford City Singers – a community choir that focuses on the fun and enjoyment of singing and is talented enough to produce brilliant results. We have one member of the cast hopefully joining the choir when the production wraps and those are the kind of effects we were keen to have when introducing ourselves to other community groups – to show people what’s out there. It can be intimidating to join a new group of people, whether what they practice is something that you already have experience in or something that you want to explore, we’re trying to make those connections now, so that when the play is finished and the community members we’ve been working alongside are brimming with their newly discovered creative energy and talent – they have somewhere to channel it.

Despite throwing themselves into a six month rehearsal process with a week’s run of performances to end on, some of our cast would not class themselves as ‘theatre goers’. Some have literally never been to the theatre. My goal in the Community and Outreach department is that by the end of the project no one will be able to claim this (I’m discounting our own performances obviously, because it goes without saying that the cast will turn up for them …). We had our trip to The Dance House to see Take Back Theatre’s Ten Takes on Capital which was deservedly packed out. We watched ten script in hand performances inspired by the March budget. Stand out performances there from John Henshaw, Danielle Henry and Julie Hesmondhalgh – who I’m pleased to say will be speaking at our discussion on how we can use theatre to build communities and political cultures – link to more information here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/communities-and-building-political-cultures-what-can-theatre-do-tickets-23465638356

 

This is just one of the events we have coming up. The cast have organised their own fundraiser, a night of music and spoken word to raise funds for the production and we have another theatre trip lined up to see our multi-talented directors Steph and Sarah in their own devised theatre piece Prefer Not To Say in May – link to more information here:

http://www.coliseum.org.uk/plays/prefer-not-to-say/

 

With more events in the pipeline, and the production itself fast approaching things are getting very exciting for Salford Community Theatre – and if you want to know just how exciting drop an email to cat.stobbs@salfordcommunitytheatre.org or Rose.fowler@salfordcommunitytheatre.org and we’ll tell you how you can grab a slice of the action too!

Love on the Dole: Rehearsal Photos

11 April 2016

Rehearsals have been taking place most weekends since January and the we have blocked Act 1 of the show. 

The cast are working hard and currently trying to learn their lines. 

Here are some rehearsal photos taken by Colin Armstrong. 

Cast Fundraiser: Band Night

11 April 2016

The cast have put together their own fundraiser for the play.

You can find all of the details on the Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/869410296501033/

 

 

Workshop sessions

06 July 2015

A photo from our first workshop session on 'Voice'. Thanks to everyone who came down, it was a great day! Please don't forget our next session on 'Movement' on Saturday 11th. For more information, check out our events page.

Salford City Radio interview

13 June 2015

Our very own Catherine Stobbs recently appeared on Salford City Radio to advertize our community theatre workshops. Fast-forward to the 15 minute mark if you can't wait to hear it!

Click here for the interview.

July theatre workshops, in the Gazette

31 May 2015

From Manchester Gazette:

In July 2016 The Salford Community Theatre Group will be producing an adaptation of Walter Greenwood’s Love on The Dole.

The story is set in Salford in the 1930’s and centres around the Battle of Bexley Square, tackling questions of unemployment and inequality in Salford.

Community Theatre is a chance for anyone interested to be a part of a unique, collective event.

No experience necessary. Love on The Dole is a Salford story and needs a Salford cast

to tell it. It’s an opportunity to build confidence, friendships and pride – both in individuals and in the area in which they live.

The Salford Community Theatre group will be hosting preliminary theatre workshops on the 4th, 11th and 18th of July from 11am – 2pm at The Working Class Movement Library for anyone interested in learning more about the project or about theatre in general.

The workshops will cover skills in acting for the stage including voice, movement and working from a script.

Anyone who thinks they can help us tell this Salford story please email:

cat.stobbs@salfordcommunitytheatre.org

To register your interest or for more information.

Why the Community Play?

30 May 2015

An essay by Sarah Weston

 

How does a community play differ from any piece of amateur dramatic theatre? Firstly, a community play project is entirely invested in the location of the specific community who undertakes it. It is not simply about putting on an existing play or musical, but about creating a piece of original work that is embedded in the community’s past, and perpetuated by the community’s present. A playwright is commissioned to write a new script that has a historical basis in the local community. At the same time, this script endeavours to reflect the community’s present: the current socio-political and cultural issues that affect and reveal community identity. In this sense, the community play tells us something about the past at the same time as saying something about today.

A community play is not entirely led by the community itself, but in dialogue with a professional production team. Many past participants in community plays advocate this model as it brings a level of excellence, skills and experience that would otherwise be absent. This sharing of skills is not one sided however: it is not just about the ‘professionals’ teaching the ‘amateurs’, but for a collective, dialogic distribution of skills and knowledge: alongside the professional theatre skills that the production team bring, there is a responsibility on the community to bring their own local and cultural knowledge into shaping the project. Involvement in a play reveals skills participants never knew they had. Community members take the responsibility to be involved in every stage of the production: performance, backstage, design, ticket selling, publicity, outreach etc. As Jon Oram writes, through taking on a community play, ‘a community begins to accept a responsibility for its own cultural development.’[1]

The scale of a community play creates a collective experience that few participants forget. Being part of a large cast, over a long period of time, performing a piece of professionally steered theatre generates new feelings of camaraderie and solidarity in the community. People who live on the same road but never talk, meet each other in a new way. Older generations interact with the younger. Being part of a collective endeavour implicitly establishes participants on equal terms. The joy and celebration of a co-operative end goal draws people together, undermining established cliques or identity groups, and ‘by demonstrating everyone has a valuable contribution to make preconceptions and prejudices are broken down.’[2] Further than the participants, this also runs into the community play’s audiences. This is in the unique way that the community performs to itself that is characteristic of the plays. The promenade staging of the plays results in the cast and the audience sharing the same space in the performance, meaning that the audience are integrated into the community of the play, at the same time as the cast are simultaneously from the same community as the audience. This presents the cast member of a community play in a unique position different to the professional actor, where they can talk to the audience member in performance both as an actor, and as an equal. This is what Jon Oram describes as the ‘social actor’, distinctive to the community play: ‘actors who live and work in the community to whom they perform are uniquely placed to offer something professional actors aren’t generally placed to do.’[3] This role allows the community actor to express the contemporariness of the issues in the play to the audience: they perform a character of the past, at the same time as imploring the issue as a member of the current community, to other members of the current community. This ensures that the community play is socially and politically relevant to the present community experience, rather than just a recreation of the past. I believe in this sense, that a community play is a highly progressive and radical form of theatre practice that experiments with form and content in a way that most professional productions are unable to achieve. It is therefore a valuable contribution both to the artistic life of the local community, and to the state of contemporary theatre practice.

A community play accordingly makes both an imprint on the life of the broader community, as well as the individuals within it. Friendship, bonds and memories are formed that are unique. It changes people, both internally, and in relationship to where they live: the places that people just used to walk past become sites of the community play, events in the story, memories from performance, or markers of friendships. It is in this sense ‘life-changing’: it leaves a mark both locally and personally that is very hard to forget.

 

[1] Jon Oram, Claque Theatre: www.claquetheatre.com

[2] Jon Oram, Claque Theatre: www.claquetheatre.com

[3] Jon Oram, ‘The Community Theatre and the Genesis of the Social Actor’. Claque Theatre. http://www.claquetheatre.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Article_Community-Play-and-Social-Actor.pdf

Preparing for workshops!

29 May 2015

The Salford Community Theatre Project team are now hard at work designing our workshop sessions for July. Please check our events section for more details!