Newport is a town layered with story and memory. The canal remembers busier days crowded with boatmen, Chocolate Charlie bringing pocketfuls of sweets back from Cadburys for the local children and harsh winters of frozen barges. Three fish swim on gates, walls and flags, heading towards the King, leaving prosperity in their wake. You may still catch a glipse in a window of Elizabeth Parker in her wedding dress, waiting all her life and beyond for her fiancee. When night falls, Madam Pigott haunts the roads and lanes watchful of her chance to take revenge on any young men out alone.
Throughout September and October I worked with dancer Rose Gordon and choreographer Bettina Strickler on a fantastic ‘Find Your Talent’ and DanceXchange collaboration to celebrate the history, folklore and people of Newport.
We collaborated with several schools and community groups in Newport to gather, combine, retell and celebrate stories of Newport. The project culminated in a fantastic Hallowe’en performances with two marvellous young storytelling tour guides leading audiences around the Madam Piggott exhibition and a school haunted by ghostly dancers.
This project was designed to enhance a sense of community in Craven Arms and to encourage participants to share their ideas for the future of their area.
I teamed up with Fiona Collins to work with KS2 children interviewing local elders about their memories, hopes and fears for the community with the aid of ‘fantastic faces’: faces made from vegetables with paper features on which were scribed local sights, sounds, smells, tastes and memories. The sessions were non-threatening, empowering and filled with laughter. Through preparatory sessions with both the schools and groups of elderly people we were able to match children with interviewees so that all had a positive experience. Leaving the traditional clipboard of questions behind led to more active conversations, while using writing in an unusual and interesting context led to the children gaining new understanding and increased confidence in using the medium, as well as some wonderful cross-generational communication.
Project Leaders: Amy Douglas and Michelle O’Connor (visual artist and mosaicist)
Our project was to create a nine metre square wall mural with the The Bridge School at their old site to welcome them to their new school as part of the Hadley Learning Community.
We worked with14 – 17 year old students with a wide range of physical and educational special needs for a week. The theme chosen by the school was the story of the Wrekin Giant. This story was told every morning with the aid of a specially made storysack, the students telling more and more of the story each time. Each day focused on a different aspect of the story and included a large number of wide-ranging activities to keep attention, enthusiasm and to allow opportunity for all children to shine.
For example, one day focused on water. I told a local flood story, and we re-created the flood using lengths of shimmering blue and green material. We then talked about different types of water – puddles, rain, streams, rivers, lakes. With the students inside we threw buckets of water at the window so they could watch the shapes the water made. We went outside and played with trays of water – sketching the shapes the water made when it had a stone dropped in. We added oils to water and made reflective imprints by laying paper on the top. Using wire hoops we made large bubbles and drew the shapes of them. We headed off on a walk to a local pool and looked at all the plants growing around the water and the wildlife in and around the pool. The sketches produced were taken the next day to Jackfield tile museum and used for ideas as our stundents painted tiles which were fired and used in the Welcome Wall.
This was an exciting, successful project helped greatly by the enthusiasm of all the teachers and support staff at the Bridge. The staff led by example, supported us in our ideas and extended the project by follow on work after we had gone.