Two drama productions were created as part of the Brierley Hillness project; focusing on Brierley Hill past, present and future.
“One Boy. One Town. One Big Idea!”
This was a Dudley Performing Arts dance and physical theatre production, involving Buzz Youth Theatre and 110 children from four local primary schools. It was performed at the Civic Hall in Brierley Hill to an audience of almost 200 people.
Featuring real life stories of local residents, this production looks back on Brierley Hill’s past and celebrates its modern changes. Throughout the play, the audience meet George at six important stages in his life. Within each stage we meet George in different buildings in Brierley Hill.
The production ends with a plea, the central theme of the narrative; that celebrating and cataloguing the past is important, but you must also be an active part of the town’s future. This is the big idea alluded to in the title – becoming an active planner of the future for your town.
The play was written and directed by Rachel Sharpe from Dudley Performing Arts. Buzz Theatre Company, a local youth theatre group, are aged 14 – 25 and either live locally in Brierley Hill or the surrounding area. In between the scenes on stage performed by Buzz Youth Theatre, children performed contemporary dance pieces, inspired by elements of the story. See extracts from One Boy. One Town. One Big Idea! script © Dudley Performing Arts.
From the initial planning discussions, it was always envisaged that the production should be an honest reflection and celebration of the people of Brierley Hill. Charting the ever-changing, and at points contentious, built environment which houses a diverse, proud and passionate community.
Research began with books written on the local area; in particular the books of Ned Williams were useful, giving a pictorial and anecdotal record of the town’s history. Research continued through face to face interviews with local people, in particular community leaders. This information was then used to form the basis of the devising process.
Download Approaches to Community Engagement and Lessons Learnt for a slightly extended and print ready version (PDF). Download a TEXT ONLY VERSION Approaches to Community Engagement and Lessons Learnt (Word).Participants and staff discuss the project during the final rehearsals.
Working with local schools
Dudley Performing Arts devised and managed a programme of work with four local primary schools. The schools bought in the services of the dance tutors, and the Brierley Hillness project funded the script writing, staging and production management of the performance at the Civic Hall.
Two dance artists from DPA worked with two schools each over two whole days. There was a further rehearsal morning the day of the performance.
Workshops on the first day concentrated on focused performance techniques, increasing confidence and talking about the history of the town. Schools were encouraged to discuss the project with their pupils and some local history before the workshops began.
The children were involved in the research process of the project. At the end of the first day they were asked to find out more about their local area. They were set a challenge to actively go out and find certain buildings in Brierley Hill, and given a word search about the town.
They completed questionnaires at home with their parents. This enabled us to maximise the number of people we consulted with during the project. Many of the parent’s voices come through in the responses. See some comments from parents.
The dance artists shared with the children the initial research by Scriptwriter and Director Rachel Sharpe and built on this, feeding the children’s own research into their five-minute dance piece.
Both pieces had pre-planned movement ideas and imagery, some included props. Each piece also had creative aspects where the children devised movement themselves.
100% of children who responded to the post-performance evaluation said that taking part in the project has helped them learn about the history and heritage of Brierley Hill.
Source: 17 self-completion questionnaires
“Brierley Hilliness “
The second is a drama piece inspired by street interviews filmed during 2011 as part of the Brierley Hillness project. Mike Tinsley worked with Age UK’s drama group, based at Merry Hill, who wrote the piece, which was performed outside the shopping centre and filmed.
We had filmed twenty-five street interviews with local shoppers, residents and traders for another part of the Brierley Hillness project (see Interviewing in the Streets).
Transcriptions of these interviews were provided to Age UK’s weekly drama group, based at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre. Over five one-hour workshops, and with the support of local writer and musician Mike Tinsley, Age UK’s drama group scripted a fifteen minute drama piece, inspired by the real life voices of local people.
The transcripts were used as a starting point for discussion about Brierley Hill, and members of the drama group each contributed their own perspective, experiences and opinions of the town. The group decided which comments made during the interviews would feature in their creative piece.
As the majority of the group were not from Brierley Hill, but surrounding areas, and some had not been to the town for years, the film transcripts of real interviews was an excellent starting point for script development and for group discussions. It also enabled us to give a voice for the shoppers, residents and traders through dramatic expression.
Filmed and edited by James Reader.
The scene was set in bus stop to create a space where people of different backgrounds and interests would naturally meet. Each member developed their own character and lines in the play. Fran Cartwright and Carol Duke led the writing of the overall script, ensuring that comments made during the street interviews were woven into the dialogue. See extracts from Brierly Hilliness script © AgeUk Dudley.
The piece was filmed outside the shopping centre in a mock up of a bus stop to screen at the Brierley Hillness project finale event.
Script writers and cast members from AgeUK tell us about the process and what the project has meant for them.
Download Approaches to Community Engagement and Lessons Learnt for a slightly extended and print ready version (PDF). Download a TEXT ONLY VERSION Approaches to Community Engagement and Lessons Learnt (Word).