Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Celebrating Participatory Community Arts:Shoebox Theatre cic - a not-for-profit community theatre

with thanks to friends & colleagues at the universities of Staffordshire, Kaunas and Warsaw  who shared with me the theories and practice of cultural animation that informs our work. 


Sometimes nothing seems to go right and you hit a run of bad luck or misjudgments. When that happens we are liable to forget that the reverse also happens. Shoebox Theatre has hit a lucky streak, and I want to celebrate that on their behalf.

Shoebox is a very small concern that I set up in 1998 and it has continued in one form or another since, but has been community managed since 2002 and for the past six years has been a Community Interest Company - a limited liability company with a substantial benefit for the community, in the case of Shoebox Theatre that is its entire raison d'etre. It is run by volunteer member directors who have no financial stake in the company, so there is no  share capital and no dividend payments. Mainly funded, it has a modest income from donations and sales of donated craft goods. There used to be a steady income from school and residential home bookings, but in these austere times, that has virtually dried up. Recently, a partnership with Tamworth town library has enabled the company to find an additional source through public sharing of participants' creative output; and the company has had a good run of grants to support the development of work with a variety of community participants who might not otherwise have the opportunity get involved.

Now things are looking up! from January 2015 we will have funding in place for our all-ages group, and will also be helping to deliver Tamworth B. C.'s Taster Sessions workshops across the town as part of the creative community arts project I AM TAMWORTH (IAT) rolling out in January. We will have the chance to bid for a longer project under the umbrella of IAT.

A visit to our website Shoebox Theatre cic will give you an taste of what we have been doing over recent years; and an exploration of the site will give an overall view of our activities.

If you'd like to get involved, contact us through that website, or directly by email.

Shoebox is also on Twitter and Face Book.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Sir John Moore's Foundation, Appleby Magna

This is where G. & I spent an afternoon dancing and filming over the weekend. It is a 17th century little gem, built to a design by Christopher Wren at the request of the then Lord Mayor of London.     Founded initially as a boys grammar school it is now a maintained village primary school serving the children in the locality and within Leicestershire  Education Authority. If you want to learn more about its history and its founder, there is an article about both in Wikipedia.

Sir John Moore, the school's founder
 I'm sure the contemporary staff come down heavily on infants and juniors wielding penknives, but clearly in the past the kids got away with these elegant graffiti, which, for all we know, was part of the boys' woodwork and arts & craft education! For us, it adds to our sense of the building's history.

During the whole of our 50 year partnership G & I have not once danced together - as a leisure activity it has never entered our heads - not our scene. But since embarking on the fun of acting for student films, we have been led into the intriguing world of stereotypical pursuits for the older generations. Dancing is what old people do. Not that I am unfamiliar with the common view of plenty of professional film-makers, I spend a considerable part of my working life playing demented women or sweet little old ladies, with old-fashioned ideas who can't manage anything technical later than the treadle sewing machine. That's real acting for you, because they are definitely not me: "old" and "woman" are the only words I will accept apply.  

We spent the entire day dancing with each other in two very different locations - the morning in the communal hall of a very smart, well equipped sheltered retirement 'village', then here in the old school hall. It was quite a challenge. By the evening 'wrap' we'd more or less got the hang of it in a shuffling kind of way.

Thank you, Jaye, for the experience, it was very enjoyable; and, with so much exercise over the day, I excused myself from the gym the following day.  Mustn't overdo it at my age. 



Tuesday, 4 November 2014

London for the morning

Check out Margaret Jackman (@MargaretJackman):

Saturday, 18 October 2014

At last! a video upload!

With Shoebox Theatre, our not-for-profit community enterprise, I have been working on a local WWI project since January 2013. Our latest presentation at the beginning of this month was a mixture of poems from 1914-18 and contemporary writings which grew out of that conflict, together with another showing of our film, based on research into local stories. The group comprises adults across the age and aptitude spectrum, with a handful of teenagers. People come and go as other commitments allow, or their interest in a particular topic draws them in.

At last, after taking receipt of a purpose-built editing desktop and software upgrade, I have been able to export to a suitable format and upload the film to Vimeo for everyone who is interested to view. For ease of handling, I have divided the 45 minute film into 4 sections of unequal length, but as long as you go in the numerical order of the titles, it will make sense.

Poster for our first WWI presentation

Included in the film are interviews with individuals who researched family members or others with a local connection, who were involved in The Great War in various capacities. Also included are improvised sketches based on the stories we unearthed.

Most of the community participants were conducting research for the first time, and it was a pleasure to see how absorbed and dogged they became as they strove to unearth the stories they had chosen to find, and how much information it was possible to uncover despite the lapse of time. They searched archive copies of the Tamworth Herald, and with the facilities of Tamworth town Library and the support of its staff, checked facts in local history collections and parish records. On the internet they plumbed the BBC WWI history site and contacted unknown family members through ancestry. com and Face Book. From the Commonwealth Graves Commission website they found the resting places of the fallen, and through the Google search engine discovered poems and letters.

Of you would like to see some of the results you will find the film at this location. It is not a professional work, so please forgive the lack of finesse in the making.

 Shoebox Theatre - "Lest We Forget": stories from WWI, 2014 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Coming Soon.

This Friday, I'll be Mrs Newman in "Statues" in the CBBC series "All at Sea". 5.30pm.