A Peek Behind the Curtain – A Wind of Change in Meanwood
Plans for the new community show ‘A Wind of Change’, which kicks off in Meanwood in a few weeks time, are going well and the groups are filling up; Group 3 – ‘A Hidden Wind’ is nearly completely full! We are still looking for folks who live, work or have a lasting connection to Meanwood to take part and the deadline to sign up is the Wednesday 27th September: www.commonchorus.co.uk/awindofchange
It is a big project, where logistics can start to take over, so I thought it would be nice to lift the curtain on the creative side of things a bit as this is the exciting part. Through the summer I have been meeting with north Leeds’ very own master storyteller Matthew Bellwood, and we have been plotting and planning.
Something we decided early on was to use a ‘Frame Story’, a bit like Arabian Nights or A Christmas Carol where a charecter is on some sort of journey and as part of their story they witness, or are told, other smaller stories. The idea is that each of smaller stories help inform or impact upon the main story – like how Scrooge learns from each of the ghosts that visit him. So Matthew has created the overarching frame story for us that will run right through, and then each of the groups are going to create their own smaller storytelling performances that will fit in with it.
I think fiction is a powerful way of exploring what is real, and that is a motif that runs through Common Chorus’ work. We have been talking about how to have the show grounded in real life stories that come from everyday people, whilst at the same time having a sort of fantastical element that interrupts that. It was Ness at InterACT who first suggested that we should make the central theme of the show about change. I had this idea about the winds in the wood, which morphed into a wind of change, which in turn reminded me of Mary Poppins and the way she flies in and out of her story as the wind changes. Mary Poppins blows into the dysfunctional Banks family home, and with a spoon full of magic and fantasy she addresses the real world problems at the centre of their lives. Our story isn’t going to be set in Edwardian London, it will be set in Meanwood today. However, our lead charecter will be a young person coming to terms with a change that may be beyond their control, but how they respond to that change is still for them to decide. Here is a short extract from what Matthew has been writing, and a photo that was taken when we were exploring Meanwood that gives us a sense of setting.
The stranger’s hair is white, but streaked with strands of grey and black. She is tall and slender, though her shape is hidden beneath the folds of a large, grey duffle coat. Her feet are clad in bright yellow wellingtons and she holds an umbrella in her hand. The ferule at the umbrella’s tip is long and sharp. It is yellow, like the wellingtons and pointed like a beak.
The girl stares at her doubtfully. She knows she shouldn’t talk to strangers – but it seems rude to just ignore the question. “I’m Sophie” she says.
“Well then, it’s good to meet you Sophie. You may call me Mrs Heron if you like. You people seem to have an obsession with naming things and I suppose that it’s as good a name as any.”
“But … but who are you? Where did you come from? Have you been here all the time?”
“Yes,” says the woman, musingly. “I suppose that you could say that. The water has followed this course for generations. Thousands of gallons over thousands of years, down from Adel, through the Meanwood Valley, and then on into the centre of town – although the beck was there before the town of course. This watercourse has been here for longer than I care to remember. It helped to carve this valley out of solid stone, it shaped the landscape; fed the woods and trees and later on, it fed the mills and tanneries and dye works that grew up along its banks. It was the beck that bought the people here in the first place. It fed them and nourished them and gave them power. Of, course, it does not flow as strongly as it once did, but it’s still an important feature round here. But then you know that, don’t you?”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you think I mean? You made it an offering. The beck has had many offerings over the years and it always listens carefully. An offering is a kind of prayer you see? It comes with a question and the beck heard yours. That’s why I am here. I have come to help you answer your question.”
Today Matthew and I shared his whole story with the rest of the production team and group directors. We have had a great brainstorming session around it and I am really excited about the ideas that are coming out about how the groups will make what they will make. It is all top secret at the moment, mostly because it still needs people like you to come and help us make it into what it will one day be.
If you want to be involved, there is still time left! All of the sign up info including the groups and a rehearsal timetable are here. And the sign up form only takes three minutes to do and is here: Click to go to sign up form