Black Country Touring: Black Country Touring’s Young Promoters Scheme; The Words of a Teacher

Young Promoter Scheme [yuhng] [pruh–moh-ter] [skeem] Run by Black Country Touring, a community arts organisation, the Young Promoters Scheme enables young people...

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Women and Theatre: Women of Longbridge Research blog 2


Emma Fall has been the Shadow Artist for our community musical theatre performance Women of Longbridge, which premiere this Saturday (23 June) in our latest blog she talks about W&T’s research, rehearsals and what she’s learnt about Longbridge in the process. 

I am so pleased to be part of another interesting project with the wonderful Women & Theatre. I love community events and performances; it doesn’t matter how old you are, where you come from or your ability; being part of the project is what matters. For me, it’s helping the interviewees, cast and audience to come together and share one ‘culture’ and experience.

It has been so interesting to speak to the women of Longbridge. There have been so many varied stories about the Factory, working at the factory, life in the town both past and present.

It has been great to hear about, as well as engage in, existing groups that are still keeping the community alive. One such group was the Austin tea dance where locals gather to socialise and dance as well as raise money for charities. The other team members had a great time dancing, I was encouraged to, however, I didn’t have ‘me dancing shoes’.

I’ve really enjoyed supporting the choir and drama workshops at the Factory youth club, and even though I was informed by a resident that there was nothing for the kids to do, I saw that the youth club was thriving most evenings. The younger people that got involved with singing and drama were very talented and confident individuals with a keen interest to share their opinions and perspective on the area.

Truthfully, before I started the project I didn’t know much about Longbridge. Even though I’d heard news reports covering the 2005 closure, I wasn’t fully aware of the impact it had on the local community; how people lost their homes, how social groups disintegrated and how people became ill or died, ultimately, as a result of the factory closing down.

These stories have been extremely emotive and this is tangible in the script writing and the songs. Looking at Longbridge now, as an outsider, it seems like any other freshly built town with the shops as the central hub. However, as you walk around the grounds of the shopping centre there are little gems or reminders of the history of the factory and the effect it had on the community. It’s great to know that this project is not only embracing the past but that it’s bringing people together to look at the positives and to maintain strong positive relationships.

Rehearsals so far have been great, we have a very talented cast who have not only shared their stories, but have quickly used their creative skills to express the many voices we have listened to.

I’m looking forward to the big day, as it will be a celebration of relationships, community and history that’s deep rooted and alive in the Women of Longbridge. It needs to be shared!

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Of All The People In Salzburg

Of All The People In All The World - Salzburg

We have just returned from spending ten days at the Sommerszene2018 Festival in Salzburg where we performed Of All The People In All The World in the beautiful setting of the Kollegienkirche.

Around 7,000 people saw the show during our time there, people from all over the world. Below are some observations on some members of the audience, collected over one hour on the final afternoon (16th June 2018) …

People looking down at piles of rice and people looking up at Baroque domes.
A boy with a pirate T-shirt and a girl with a top that says Love.
A couple with rucksacks, a guitar and a neatly rolled tent.
A woman with a crutch, a couple holding hands.
Three women with heart shaped biscuit necklaces with the initial S and F spelled out in icing.
A pregnant woman with her hand on her back.
A man with shoes but no socks.

Green plimsolls, white plimsolls, blue plimsolls. Green suede shoes, brown leather shoes, trainers with stripes and trainers with ticks. Sandals, sandals, sandals, walking shoes, espadrilles, high heels, sandals and socks, painted toe nails.

A tour guide describes in German.
A man drips ice cream.
A woman coughs, a man sneezes, a family laughs.
Two girls giggle on a bench.
A man takes his girlfriends’s hand.

Arms folded,hands tucked into trouser waistband, hands behind backs, a hand on a chin, hands in pockets, hands pointing.

A woman puts coins into the box on the votive stand and lights a candle.
A man dips his hand into holy water, crosses himself and backs out of the church.
A mother strokes the head of her baby held in a sling.
A woman kneels and says a prayer.
A baby cries in a pushchair.

Several pink shirts, a jumper draped over shoulders,stripy shirts and spotty shirts, a traditional Austrian dress, denim shorts, lederhosen, jeans with rips in the knees.

A girl runs around dodging piles of rice.
A father lifts up his daughter with one arm.
A man pushes his wife in a wheelchair.
A woman nods in agreement to her friend.
A father strokes his daughter’s arm.

Straw hats, baseball caps, bicycle helmets, dreadlocks, green hair, pink hair, no hair. Two full beards, close cropped stubble, a beard on a chin, a moustache that twirls at the ends.

A woman walks tentatively with two alpine walking sticks.
A girl takes a rest in her little sister’s pushchair.
People write messages on their mobile phones.
A man in a red checked shirt has a heated debate with a man in a linen jacket.
People take photographs of rice and architecture and each other.

A red leather handbag, shopping bags from expensive looking shops, cakes in a clear plastic bag, a pretzel in a paper bag. Sunglasses worn on the face, on the tops of heads, on a chain around the neck, clipped onto shirts by one of the arms.

People from Austria, Italy, the USA, India, France, Scotland, England, Brazil, Japan…

People who look like people you know.

Fierce Festival: Club Fierce: Dance Amnesty

Birmingham International Dance Festival is upon us, inspired by themes of imagination, body, mindfulness, and digital art, showcasing great choreography and opening up new and surprising ways for you to experience dance. For the finale to the festival, we’ve teamed up with BIDF to bring you Club Fierce:Dance Amnesty. This will be a night of spectacular performance and DJ’s through which you can throw down your own notorious moves. In preparation for the club night, Maud (Fierce’s latest intern) asked Last Yearz Interesting Negro/Jamila Johnson Small and Brian Lobel some questions about their upcoming performances for Club Fierce and BIDF.

FuryZ Last Yearz Interesting Negro with Rowdy SS. Photo by Ayka LuxFollowing her sold our World Premiere at Fierce 2017 LAST YEARZ INTERESTING NEGRO/JAMILA JOHNSON-SMALL presents new performance Fury1 in collaboration with Rowdy SS who plays a live sound set. They are coming straight from performances at the Palais De Tokyo in Paris.

Does your piece inspire new ways of seeing dance? What new ways of seeing would you like to inspire? Or participation; how would you like an audience to respond or participate in your dance?

To be honest, I am always very sceptical of this idea of ‘new’ and wouldn’t want to claim that for anything I might be trying to propose through my work. Of course there are things – behaviours, expectations – that have become conventions in regards to watching ‘contemporary’ dance that I think can limit potentials of experience, exchange and thinking, that I work to disrupt…but what happens for anyone in that gap the disruption might create, I couldn’t say! We could say that Fury1 is an ongoing experiment, a live formulation or unfolding of our responses to/ experiences of the different environments (including people) in which we come to perform, and each other.

You like to keep your dancing flexible for the time and space in which you perform, are you looking forward to dancing in ‘Club Fierce’ what vibes do you expect to feed off of, how do you think it will affect your piece?

I don’t know that I would use the word flexible! I think it might be misleading in the way it suggests an openness and adaptability for someone else’s purpose. I think it’s more that the dancing happens in relation to the choreographic score as it meets each environment or context and tries to find a way to inhabit those spaces. We were definitely excited to experience this work in a club context. No expectations!

BRIAN LOBEL’s Hold My Hand and We’re Halfway There; links Depression- era Dance Marathons, where contestants danced until they dropped in pursuit of fame and fortune, to young boys dancing in their bedroom after school, where they too dance until they drop, often hoping for fame and fortune. For this performance, Brian recreates his childhood bedroom and invites us to watch or join in with the marathon.

Have you tried ‘Hold My Hand We’re Half Way There’ in a club setting before? 

The first major installation of Hold My Hand was at Shunt and ran from 10pm-2am every night for 4 nights.  On bare rock floor. In a club. Where everyone was drunk. So I’m used to doing it in such an environment.

I’ve performed the work in public squares (in Italy and Thailand), fancy dance venues (Sadler’s Wells), as a 5 day installation in an abandoned shoe store in Lower Manhattan, White Nights all night parties in Brighton and Brussels, and lots of different places… I like when the crowd is different but I am basically doing the same thing, it changes the energy of the piece in unpredictable ways.

Do you think, in this setting, you’ll ever really be dancing alone? 

I usually dance alone for about 60% of the time. People do join me, but very often, people do their own thing on their own tv sets.

Has dancing ever become a chore for you through doing this performance? – do you think you could join the dancing after your performance?

Yes, the dance always becomes a chore, and this is the purpose. While it’s fun, it’s exhausting, and smelly, and sweaty, and draining and thrilling. It’s the kind of exhaustion which is really difficult to tell whether it is worth it or just painful. This is the tension which I’m trying to bring forth in the world, and the metaphor that I think connects the work to the isolated queer body in a bedroom – are they alone, are they lonely?  Are they isolated from others? Or are they isolating themselves?

What’s your favourite dance move you’ve learnt from copying the musical routines? Could this be done on the club dance floor? 

My favourite dance I’ve learned is Rich Man’s Frug – – which is probably the most amazing dance scene of all time. And yes, of course any of these moves can (and are) used on dance floors.  Ugh. I love it.

What advice would you give to the Fierce clubbers?

My advice? Focus on the camera shots, not just the moves. If you’re watching Muriel’s Wedding (Waterloo Scene), or Jesus Christ Superstar (the Superstar scene) you’ll find the dance moves even more fun if you think of playing to an invisible camera capturing the sickest angles. 

Other performances at Club Fierce include SAFFRON and JAMES BATCHELOR. DJ’s include JONJO JURY and TE TE BANG. MC’d by the fabulous YSHEE BLACK.

Tickets are £5 advance from HERE

Club Fierce: Dance Amnesty is a part of the BIDF’s Saturday Session Special Offer which is a full day of events and performances for tickets and info please click HERE.

Women and Theatre: Call Out For Chorus Members

Female singers needed for our new musical theatre production Women of Longbridge.

We are after female singers to join us in learning a new community song, which will be part of a new outdoor musical theatre performance in Longbridge on Saturday 23 June.

You will need to attend the rehearsal on Thursday 21 June and ideally the dress rehearsal on Friday 22 June (but not essential). Attendance at all 3 performances would be wonderful, but if you can make just one, we can still include you, so do come along.

Call Women & Theatre on 0121 449 7117 for more information. We look forward to seeing you!

Rehearsal: Thursday 21 June from 730-9pm at Longbridge Methodist Church 1654-1658 Bristol Rd S, Rednal, Birmingham B45 9TY

Dress rehearsal: Friday 22 June from 6-9pm at Bournville College, Longbridge

Performances: Saturday 23 June at 11am, 3pm & 6pm. Longbridge Town Centre

Graeme Rose's Blog: Sweeties here…

Furnace FJSM A5 Leaflet - PF4

Furnace FJSM A5 Leaflet reverse - PF4

The Box Offices are now open for the July performances of Fred Jeffs: The Sweetshop Murder, commissioned as part of FURNACE, Birmingham REP’s Community Engagement Programme.

Tickets for the three shows are free, but limited in number so please book ahead if you can.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Why Buy Now?

Tickets are on sale for our new show The Capital that opens in October and although I love the purity of turning up on the night of the performance handing over folding money in exchange for a ticket and walking into the show, here I expound five brief arguments as to why this is a terrible idea.

Book now because in doing so you separate the pain of payment from the joy of consumption leaving you psychologically free to enjoy the show even more.
Book now because you will enjoy four months looking forward to seeing the show rather than four months of thinking ‘I really must get round to booking for the new Stan’s Cafe show’.

Book now because it means you will see the show. If you don’t book now your diary will fill up with other things that you will enjoy less but which can’t be moved or cancelled. Stake your claim on your own time for something that you love doing and which happens very rarely the performance of a new Stan’s Cafe show.
Book now because the show’s going to be tremendous, very popular and if it sold out you’d kick yourself for not having booked in earlier – you’ve know about if for four months after all!

Finally a reason that will be recognised by anyone who has ever put on any kind of event… Book now because good early sales generate a positive feeling around the show and positive feelings around a show create a better show.

Graeme Rose's Blog: Dionysus & Cupid

Here’s a couple of hapless Greek deities from the 1992/3 show, ROUGH, devised by Bodies In Flight

Instagram Photo

Photographer and printmaker Edward Dimsdale has collaborated with Bodies In Flight throughout its history; not only documenting the work, but developing a visual language which provides the interface between the core themes of ‘Flesh’ and ‘Text’. Ed is currently compiling images from the company’s back catalogue in preparation for a programme of 30th Anniversary artworks for 2019. As well as a publication from Ed, there are plans for a new performance piece, which, I am excited to say, I will be a part of.

In ROUGH, four seemingly redundant Greek Gods are reduced to touring the Working Men’s Club circuitwith their whirlwind interpretations of the Greek tragedies; all the juicy, gory bits compacted into a tasteless melange. When things go a little too far – even by their own standards – the Gods don their angel wings, pick up their lyres and ascend to a heavenly place…

Scan 4

Backstage with Bodies In Flight. (clockwise) Simon Pegg, Graeme Rose, Catherine Porter and Charlotte Watkins. Bristol, 1992



Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: We Can Remember It For You Wholesale

Spoiler Alert – this review of Friction Art’s Everything Must Go describes what happens in the event. I recommend you go to the event THEN return to this review and see if you agree with it.

Sunday is the last performance. Tickets are just £10 for adults and lots of people are eligible for concessions at £5.


Birmingham Wholesale Market occupies a huge site, 28 acres of prime real estate a mere apple’s throw from New Street Station. It seemed inevitable that redevelopment and the commercial imperative would catch up with the vast 1970s concrete warehouses and that time has finally arrived; the traders have moved out, the bulldozers are on the horizon and squeezed in between, to conduct the last rites, are Friction Arts with their performance event Everything Must Go.

Friction Arts are stalwarts of the Birmingham performance scene, burrowing their way into their local community to make true socially engaged art with an international perspective. Wholesale Market is right on their doorstep and they have long been building relationships there both with the weekday traders and the denizens of the site’s huge Sunday morning Car Boot Sale. Tonight’s requiem carried evidence of the investment made in these relationships and was charged with the company’s emotional engagement with the site and those who have animated it through almost 900 years of history.

Site-specific events carry an frisson when the site is specifically somewhere you’re not normally able to access. This evening a ramshackle group of us gathered beyond the security barriers and the vacant guard’s hut on the great concrete deck of the Market’s plaza. A beautifully produced Audience Manual gives us a brief history of the site as the very origins of the settlement that is now the City of Birmingham and a guide as to the art we will encounter within.

We are admitted to an initial cavernous space designed as a drive-thru for articulated lorries but the entrance into the main trading hall is blocked by a very large screen carrying a video recording of a brightly lit wholesale market scene, passing vans, forklift trucks, piles of boxes of vegetables, traders and customers wandering around, a market day winding down. This scene spools on unblinkingly until eventually the image fades and the screen is slowly raised revealing the same scene here and now grey, hollow and apparently lifeless. Like many moments in the evening’s event it is a simple idea well realised and effective.

The trading hall is vast, grim and intimidating, truly spectacularly Soviet-ugly, I like it. We are given time to explore artworks commissioned by Friction commissioned documenting or responding to the site; these range from Dan Burwood’s large, sombre photographic portraits of workers, to a witty sculptural of fruit trays held in place by miniature figurines. Marcus Belben had pulled together a lot of local history and in a small back office – whose wall was lined with photographs of the site in action – half a dozen telephone receivers carried aural histories from workers on the site.

Not all the commissions were strong, some possibly weren’t shown to their best effect on site and there was always the lingering suspicion that you’d missed something out – which wasn’t necessarily such a bad thing.

When as an audience we started kicking our heels, collectively acknowledging that with the best will in the world we weren’t going to read all the historical documents or listen to all the testimonies or sit through all the film loops, the worker/performers started to rattle into action, calling and whistling, pushing carts and cages and pump trucks. Eventually they coalesced at the centre of the three pronged building, on a form of traffic island whose perimeter hosts a series of vast cylindrical concrete pillars keeping the roof up and whose centre is marked by a totemic square pillar wearing a vast circular concrete collar maybe 6m from its base.

The performers are in dirty work wear, boots and dark rubber gloves, they do jobs, they pile wooden pallets against the central pillar and hug the peripheral pillars. They embellish the pallets with more found objects, fake grass, golf clubs, some clothes on hangers, maybe a necklace and some half broken furniture. Everything is removed and then rebuilt, the hugging repeats.
It becomes clear we’re not being told a story, we are watching something happening. There is an invocation of the market in the week and on the Sundays. There is a homage to and struggle with the fabric of the space. Vegetables and fruit arrive and a chopped up, ripped up and peeled, the shavings and peelings fall and with the performers circling rings emerge of different coloured offerings – a rangoli, the waste.

This group performance section concludes neatly with a triangle of the performance space being enclosed by industrial cling film layered, higher and higher, partitioning the performers off from us and fading them away.

We have smelt decay in the air, we have seen age old grime and fetid water, discarded materials, the fruit and vegetables but as yet no flesh, this is to come. Lee Griffiths’ voice booms out through the space, we seek it out and find his thin naked carcass cling-film wrapped from neck to knees to an old hand cart, half stood, half reclined facing us. This startling image quotes an initiation rite for newbies working on the markets, yet here the voice isn’t new but ancient. Griffiths recites etymological roots of Birmingham’s name, he invokes the spirit of the city and its markets, he acknowledges the energetic cycle of destruction and rebuilding which helps define the city, he links us, the City’s residents with those who have gone before us.

As Griffiths is wheeled off, by a rather perfunctory stage manager, his place is taken and the mood leavened by a sprightly gentleman in a black yoked donkey jacket tap dancing to the evening’s first music – up until now a soundscape of found noises has echoed through the halls, but now there is music, as if the horns and reversing hazard sounds of all the trucks and fork-lifts have shifted pitches and come together to form a happy band.

The dancer leads us to the golden centre of a vast spiders web that fills one end of the building’s north limb, where the flowers were sold. Entering the centre of the web we follow a long twisting tunnel made of broken down fruit boxes, black plastic and yet more cling-film. We have our hands shaken “goodbye”, “goodbye” we get an item of fruit with a label and thought attached and that’s us and it finished, out into the (relatively) fresh evening air.

After months and months of anticipating this event the Friction team ultimately had to pull it together in double quick time and the did a remarkably good job in trying circumstances. Having once been called Funding Pending the company made excellent use of Heritage Lottery and Arts Council money to make a strong, slick and thoughtful piece that was big and bold enough to escape that fate of much site-specific work and not get overwhelmed by the site. I knew when to make some noise and spectacle and when to let the venue do its own thing.

The event didn’t capture or remind us of the vibrancy, life and colour of the market, there weren’t the jokes, or the teasing, banter, robustness or camaraderie that one imagines filling the air in these dynamic work places; but tonight didn’t feel as if it was aiming to be a recreation or re-enactment of anything, ultimately if felt as if we were witnessing and part of a ritual, a ritual conducted with the fragmented remnants of something, a ritual conducted by artists to say goodbye and thank you to the Wholesale Market on behalf of a city.