Around 12 months ago Andrew Kristy asked me if I would be interested in joining a project he was the musical director for which was to be taking place at the Black Country Living Museum and the Wrosne Canal Tunnels. I was delighted to be part of something so special – for more information from the Leaps and Bounds website please read below:
Wrosne: An Underground Experience
This project has focussed on young people drawn from Dudley’s Wren’s Nest and Priory estates, both of which face exceptional levels of economic and social deprivation. Over a period of twelve months the Leaps & Bounds team have used their unique programme of personal intervention and development, one-to-one pastoral support, and professional quality arts activity to help 60 young people turn around their own lives and that of their local community.
It culminated in a sold out week of performances, deep underground at the end July 2008, followed by a programme of projects and support which will remain in place for many months.
We have once again delivered an outstandingly successful project that has supported and encouraged the personal development of 60 young people from Dudley. All of which worked so hard with the Leaps & Bounds team and theatre professionals to ensure they would fulfil their potential and create an unforgettable show.
Wrosne is the Anglo Saxon name for link in a chain and saw this project linking young people from two estates either side of Wrens Nest in Dudley. The project started in May 2007 working 60 young people over 18 months and culminated in eleven sold out performances staged in the caverns of the Dudley Limestone Mines.
The young people were taken on a unique journey of personal development, one to one pastoral support and professionally led arts activity. They helped to devise the theatrical performance alongside a team of professional artists resulting in an outstanding performance. Geological fossils such as the Trilobyte (fondly known as the Dudley Bug) and the rock formation of the seven sisters informed the creation of the work led by Dudley’s Keeper of Geology.
The production created an additional challenge by being performed in the mines beneath Dudley with access only by canal and boat. The production took audiences on two boats through the canal tunnels to the underground singing cavern and created unique performance sites such as a floating pontoon, a ledge in a cave, a cantilevered platform overhanging the canal, a stage within the cave and video projections onto the rock surface. The story was told by theatrical skippers and the Wrosne sisters on the boats, dancers on the canal path, singers and live musicians on the boat and in the singing cavern, performers in masks on a stage in the cave, and new media projections onto rock surfaces and screens.
The outcomes from this project have exceeded all expectations with all performances sold out and 98% of the audiences saying it was good or excellent. The BBC filmed excerpts of the show which was seen on BBC 1 on Inside Out on 15th October 2008. 32 young people gained a BTEC in Performing Arts and 10 are going on to take Performing Arts Courses at Further Education College. The project started with 27 people classified as Not in Education or Employment of Training (NEET) and only 1 remains in this situation at the end of the project.
The young people have since performed on centre stage at Birmingham’s artsFest and one young person from the project was invited to the National Youth Theatre summer school in London.
Leaps & Bounds worked in partnership with local resources such as Dudley Canal Trust, the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley Performing Arts Team, Ruskin Glass College and local choir Stream of Sound. The project linked local artists with nationally known artists, the National Youth Theatre and Youth at Risk.
Working on such a stunning project for such a good cause was a fantastic experience. The group of professionals booked to be involved with the production from the sound and lighting technicians, Andrew and all the musicians, Donald the choreographer and most importantly all the kids involved it was a pleasure to be part of and I will hold the memories with me for a lifetime.
Hopefully we will get to do another project together again soon – and the friendships I’ve already made on this production will hopefully grow in the future.