Magic Me’s biggest project of 2015, Rooms with a View involved more than 300 people of all ages from the East End. The project explored some of the many stories that describe life in East London. Perspectives varied because of our life experiences, our ages and stages, and out of that cacophony Magic Me created this project.
A core group of older women from Tower Hamlets, and the local area, and students from the Mulberry School for Girls, collected stories and personal histories about living in East London in the research phase and shaped them into an immersive theatre experience, the performance took place in October 2015. The touring exhibition featuring oral histories and images from the project was seen by over 12,000 people. Alongside project activity, Magic Me offered CPD Training for professional artists and the creative sector who are developing their intergenerational arts practice. A research report, written by Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey was launched in April 2016.
The project was conceived by Magic Me Associate Artist Sue Mayo and Raj Bhari, co-director of Talk for a Change.
Rooms with a View was supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to share stories of home from residents of Tower Hamlets, old and young.
From January 2015 a group of 16 younger and older women explored archival material from Bishopsgate Institute and Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives as well as online resources such as the Spitalfields Life Blog. The women also learned research and interview techniques. In March 2015 the group ran a series of public drop-in events to collect stories, memories and anecdotes from local people. The public were invited to write a postcard to London, explore the local archive, and share their own memories and history over tea and cake.
Thanks to everyone who came along to the drop-in events and to our hosts & project partners Sutton House, Bromley-By-Bow Centre, Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archive, and Geffrye Museum.
No place can be described through a single story.
A living archive of the stories and experiences of local people was cut and shaped into a unique performance, Speak As You Find. Featuring a cast of over 40 people of all ages and recorded oral histories of local people, the performance revealed layers of conversation and shared memories of East London.
The performance took place over three days in October 2015 at The Centre in Bow.
An interactive exhibition continued to tour cultural and heritage venues in East London until February 2016. For more information visit the exhibition webpage here
Sharing our learning
Alongside the project, Magic Me offered Continuous Professional Development training for our pool of professional artists, to share the learning we have done on the project as well as develop our practice. The four areas of training were;
- Community Conversation: How can we deal with conflict within a group and facilitate difficult conversations? Led by Raj Bhari, Talk for Change
- Making good art with community groups: How can we prepare people and work with them to achieve the best possible outcome? Led by Sue Mayo, Associate Artist at Magic Me
- How should we use people’s life stories? How can we honour the person, be imaginative with the story? What are the ethics of this? Led by Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey, Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance, Queen Mary, University of London.
- How can Magic Me artists respond creatively to often quite restricted spaces? Led by Punchdrunk.
In February 2016, we hosted a sector wide event for artists and arts organisations interested in intergenerational work, introducing Magic Me’s approach and sharing the learning gained from this project.
Rooms with a View: Disrupting and Developing Narratives of Community through Intergenerational Arts Practice documented and examined the two year project Rooms with a View and its culmination in the intergenerational site-specific performance Speak As You Find.
The research was carried out by Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey, Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance, Queen Mary, University of London.
This report attends to the creation of public spaces for dialogue in community contexts and is informed by two questions:
- How can intergenerational arts practice facilitate conversations about community with the people who live in them?
- What organisational tools and structures are needed to develop this work responsibly?
The report was launched in April 2016.
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