Occupying the Space between Professional, Amateur
and Community Arts
I just found this report from the DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport)
It seems to support my thinking that there are many things to learn in
The space between Community, Amateur and Professional Arts Programmes
I was exploring this notion in my latest project ‘Dancing Days’ in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland
Born out of a belief that there are amazing stories to be heard from the dance halls of Fife we created a new theatre company, Fife Performance Ensemble as an off-shoot of my new company The Performance Ensemble – an ensemble company of performers over the age of 60.
We began a search to find those memories and to meet the dancers and the musicians who had played in the many dance halls around Fife in the 1950’s and 1960’s, notably the Burma Ballroom in Kirkcaldy.
It inspired, informed, and shaped the beginnings of a brand new piece of theatre, Dancing Days, which we will continue to work on for another year before opening it in October 2014.
In this project we will occupy the space between community, amateur and professional arts working with people from each of those areas to create an ensemble of equals, bringing different skills and experiences to the process.
An Ensemble of Equals
The project was organised by Fife Cultural Trust and was initiated by local writer Stuart Paterson, designer Neil Murray and myself – who have been working together for 25 years – with local people who have reached the age of 60. Some of the people we worked with were from the local amateur dramatic societies, some were people who danced at social dances across Fife and others were members of the local community who had little or no experience of participatory arts but who brought their own uniqueness to the project.
We have been very lucky. The communities around Kirkcaldy are very interconnected – word of mouth got around very quickly, and with this place having such a strong community, it grows.
From attending the afternoon tea dances at the Adam Smith Theatre, I began to discover many more classes in Fife, including dances at Burntisland, Buckhaven, Windygates and The Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO) in Glenrothes. All were eye openers for me. When you walk in, it hits you.
There’s something so special about that feeling you get at these dances. I hope that’s what our theatre piece will reflect, authentic theatre from the heart of communities .
The first performances of Dancing Days was a short musical theatre piece informed by and created from the people who attended Fife’s dance halls. Passages were written by Stuart Paterson and locals Tom Young and Bob Christie, it was directed by me and designed by Neil Murray with a community cast from across Fife. Live music from some of the original Burma Ballroom band members joined with dancers from local dance groups lead by professional dance teacher Betty Cunningham.
This version was ‘work in progress’ and lasted just over an hour. Over the next year the plan is to develop the production, with the participants, into a full-length theatre piece involving a number of professional, amateur and community based practitioners to create an ensemble that makes theatre of the highest standard.
Making contemporary theatre – created by older performers – for audiences of all ages.
Dancing Days was first performed on Mon 28th, Tues 29th and Wed 30th October, at Pathhead Hall, Kirkcaldy.
The project was funded by Creative Scotland and Fife Cultural Trust with support from Luminate Festival and Fife College.