The making of ‘Puppets in Scouseland’

A Learning Disabilities group taking part in Cultural Connections enjoyed a tremendous five-week course at the Bluecoat  in Liverpool, with an exciting outcome.

The seven-strong team worked together to produce an animated film in which they starred!

Working with Becky from the Bluecoat, the team began by practising their sketching skills, making a series of freehand drawings, which would provide the backdrops for the animation.

During week two the group visited galleries in Liverpool, including the Tate, to look for inspiration and to appreciate different artistic styles. By week three the team were taking photographs of Liverpool’s iconic statues and buildings along with portraits of themselves to add to the animation.

Next the digital images were printed out and cut to shape to add to the earlier sketched backdrops.

During week four the group could hardly contain their excitement when the animation process began to come together. Working in twos, the group assembled the pages manually before taking still images which were edited together by Becky.

The final piece of the jigsaw came together with the addition of the title pages and  music score and, five weeks later ‘Puppets in Scouseland’ – the title chosen by the group – was on ‘general release!’

Becky gives a lesson in stills photography at the Bluecoat.


Theatre trip ends on stage!

A fantastic production of ‘A Government Inspector’ at the Playhouse Theatre in Liverpool was the latest play to enthral the St.Helens Men’s Mind group.

The Northern Broadside theatre group’s hysterically funny tale, set in a northern town, told the story of a group of unscrupulous councillors’ attempts to bribe a man– who they mistakenly thought – was a government inspector.

The St.Helens group was rolling in the aisles thanks to the hilarious script, interspersed with music from a live, on-stage brass band.

The afternoon was complete when – after the production – cast member Andy Cryer alias ‘Bob Longbottom’, agreed to have his picture taken on the historic stage with the St Helens party.

The play’s publicity literature states: If you like your humour broad, your references topical, your heart warmed and your brass live, look no further than A Government Inspector.

For the group the play ticked all the boxes: “Really funny and I thought it was great to see the brass band playing live on stage as part of the play,” was typical of the views at the end of the production.

Appetites further whetted, the group left the theatre looking forward to the next outing.

Cast member Andy Cryer, who played Bob Longbottom, on stage with the guys from St.Helens.

‘Steptoe & Son’ entertains St. Helens Men’s Mind group

A ‘re-imagined’ version of Steptoe & Son at Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre provided a thought-provoking session for St. Helens Men’s Mind Group.

Ray Galton and Alan Simpson’s sixties icon had been re-worked for a new generation, however, with many of the group familiar with the original Harold and Albert, the Kneehigh Production Company had a hard audience to please.

The St.Helens Mind Group and ‘Mr St.Helens’ Gary Conley

The group left by coach from the Theatre Royal in St. Helens and once the tickets had been handed out and the paperwork completed, they soon got into chatting about the play they were about to see.

Just time for a quick coffee before curtain up, the group took their seats in the historic theatre.

Smiles all round form being in a cultural environment with friend.

Two hours later and back on the SHIFT minibus in the safe hands of Sean the driver and the group began to discuss the performance.

Quotes like: “WilfredBramble was one of a kind” and “A completely different production” outlined how deeply the group had analysed the play. Group members also thought the production was, “Cleverly done” and “thought provoking” as well as focusing on “the darker side of family life and flash points”.

Getting off the bus – looking forward to the next trip.

All in all the group had a great time and, on arriving back in St Helens, were already looking forward to the next trip to the theatre.

Unlimited Festival

Back at the beginning of September St.Helens Council’s Arts Service organised a group trip  to London to see a selection of shows – showcasing the best in disability arts from across the UK.  The idea was that we could have a look at the shows and then programme our favourites up in St.Helens….. We’ve already programme Ramesh Meyyappan – This Side up into Central Library on Monday 26th November.

Chris Coffey wrote a fantastic review of the trip – read it below….

Six of us, Owen from the Arts Department, Jimmy from the Citadel,  
Marion from one of the Sutton groups, David from Photographic Minds, 
Debbie, and myself, went on an Arts Council funded trip to the
SouthBank in London to experience Unlimited, an arts festival 
devoted to works created by people with disabilities.

On the first evening we went to see “Resonance At The Still Point 
of Change”. I found the title alone pretentious, and when I read 
that one of the seven musicians was playing a “prepared piano”, I 
was prepared for the worst. The music was one of those pieces that 
sounded to me free-form, lacking a tune or melody or noticeable 
rhythm. The lyrics were projected on the screen, but they were a 
list of words with no cohesion I could grasp.

There seemed two screens, usually with two separate images but 
occasionally combined. They were generally bleak images of the 
bleaker parts of the Essex coastline. I did like the clever moving 
images of the telegraph wires, with the effects you get looking at 
them from a moving train - I stayed behind for the audience question 
and answer, I suppose in the hope there was something I had failed 
to grasp that would enlighten me. Four of the party passed judgement
by not staying for it. We all have our likes and dislikes and this
was firmly in my dislike bin.

The following morning I caught the Javelin train from St.Pancras to 
Stratford for the Olympic Park. I was sat opposite a 17 year old 
from Anfield who had just come down. He had just failed to be 
selected for the Table Tennis team but was invited to be part of the
squad to gain experience. I couldn’t get into the Park as all the
tickets had been sold, so plonked myself awhile just ten yards from 
the entrance, and felt the buzz of the huge flow who did have 
tickets. I have never seen so many people in wheelchairs.

Back to the station meant going through a shopping mall, so I found
HMV and bought Isles of Wonder, the music for the Opening Ceremony 
of the Olympic Games. Dame Evelyn Glennie led the percussionists on 
“And I Will Kiss” and “Caliban’s Dream”. Just four weeks earlier I 
had seen her in concert at the Liverpool Phil as the biggest event 
to date of Merseyside’s own DaDa Festival, which is also a 
Disability Arts Festival. Ironically the DaDa Festival had a 
programmed event at the Citadel while we were down here in London.

By teatime I had returned to the Southbank where loads of people 
were gathered alongside that stretch of river, and there were many 
performing arts to enjoy under that rare thing this summer, a  clear 
blue sky. I went exploring the Spirit Level of the Royal Festival
Hall, and was amused that instead of the sound of a voice in the 
lift they had the sound of a choir whose voices gently rose as the
lift rose, or descended with the lift. A deep voice sang the floor 
at which the doors were due to open.

The evening performance was Bobby Baker’s Mad Gyms & Kitchens. Bobby
developed this show out of her own experiences of illness and hard
won recovery. We saw "an extraordinary of fantastical ‘recovery’
apparatus all developed with wellbeing in mind“ and joined her on 
the road to wellness and beyond. At the end we were all served with
a cup of tea to make us feel better, and it worked for me. We all 
found it excellent, imaginative and hilarious, and it would be a 
brilliant choice to bring to the Citadel.

On the Thursday tea-time we returned to explore more of the 
SouthBank happenings. Graeae & Strange Fruit performed The Garden, 
with some of the  performers on four metre high sway poles creating
stories in the air to some excellent music that had the English 
whimsy that reminded me of the Incredible String Band (for those of
you old enough to remember them.

We split into two groups on the final evening and the final work was
just stunning and brilliant. “Skewered Snails” was the story of a 
boy who flees to the tree tops to seek solace from the brutality of 
his father, vowing never to touch the ground again. - No actual 
trees on the stage, just half a kilometre of rope hanging from the
ceiling, and “with an eclectic mix of visual and physical theatre
styles, create dynamic physical work often using circus techniques” 
No surprise then they used an Aerial Choreographer, an Acrobatic
Consultant, and an Aerial Rigger - Sadly we cannot bring it to St.
Helens for where could we hang the ropes?  We stayed for the after-
performance Q&A. The Glasgow based Singaporean - Ramesh Meyyappan 
has been deaf since birth and wonderfully expanded this all-mime 
piece from his solo work where he played all four roles, (the Boy,
the Father, the Mother, the Sister), into the one hour story that
was amazing to watch. Ramesh was a year below Owen at LIPA and will 
keep an eye on suitable Ramesh projects that we can bring to St.

Unlimited was the concluding part of the Southbank Centre’s 
Festival of the World.

Ramesh Meyyappan Performing In ‘Skewered Snails’