Other Ways Of Being

The ‘Other Ways Of Being’ commission has started with already amazing results in St Helens.

The nationally acclaimed Geese Theatre Company is running this project to explore the stigma and experiences of people suffering with alcohol misuse issues. ‘Other Ways Of Being’ is the third of three commissions funded by Arts Council England and exploring how the arts can be used to improve people’s health and wellbeing. Alcohol misuse is a big issue for many people in St Helens, who often don’t know who to turn to or feel too self-conscious to ask for help. Through a series of theatrical workshops it explores participants’ issues around alcohol problems, culminating in a film or performance for those who want to perform live. St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing Councillor Gareth Cross said: “This is a fantastic project that will give participants the opportunity to explore issues around their drinking and create a new performance exploring stigma in a safe environment with a fantastic theatre company.”

The commision have targeted two venues to run this programme out. One, the Central Library, and two, the Addaction Centre. Lead practitioner is Adrian Dakers who orchestrates the sessions. The first two weeks saw five attend the Library group and fifteen attend the Addaction group. Adrian said ‘The sessions were fantastic and there is a real buzz with regards to this project, Gary and I are happy with the start and I know that the Library group will slowly grow in numbers.’

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Adrian with the group where participants are provided with an opportunity to creatively explore their relationship to alcohol.

By week three both groups had maintained their numbers but with both drop off’s and new starters. (something we expected). The two groups are distinctly different. The library group quiet, focused and proactive . The Addaction sessions, noisy, vibrant and very open.  Adrian, Daniel and Liz from Geese Theatre Company have thrown all sorts of weird and wonderful exercises at the groups and they have all embraced this active and thought provoking style of working. So far the groups have explored the following: The use of masks, simple theatre techniques such as the use of brief mimed sequences, and used active, experiential exercises to provoke discussions around alcohol, perception and stigma. It is fair to say that the creative journey that each group wish to take during this project has truly begun.  Watch this space as both groups are embracing the opportunity to have a public voice, and through the arts they will creatively deliver their message on Thursday 12th December.

Adrian Dons The Masks

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Martin, one of the participants graciously wrote his feelings for the project :

I have been attending the Wednesday afternoon workshops at Addaction on Bickerstaff Street. The groups have been good fun and quite challenging too. Adrian, Dan and Liz are the workers and they showed us techniques to help us build good communication and confidence. The Geese work using masks, the masks showed me how in addiction we sometimes hide ourselves behind different masks, like anger or pretending to be a certain way, like being a joker or an angel. This was mind blowing to see as Adrian put the masks on and immediately transformed into the different personas, it was even a bit uncomfortable at times, because it was close to the bone. We have a laugh during the groups and they are very well attended, we are starting to rehearse for the final production which will be filmed before we perform live in December!’

Role play abounds at Addaction

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Liberty Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park by Chris Coffee

On Saturday 7th September 2013 a party of three chiefs and 4 Indians travelled by train from Central via Lime Street, Euston, St. Pancras, and Stratford International, to visit the Liberty Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. We were very lucky with the sunny but occasionally windy weather.

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The Festival was an outdoor showcase mixing disabled artists performing, and paralypic athletes spreading advice. Our focus was on the former, to see who would be appropriate for St. Helens audiences if we could book them. Thus it was similar to our previous Southbank excursion, written up elsewhere on the blog. We only had five hours when arriving on the site, to grab a programme, look at the four avenues on the map that indicated where everything was, marquees and zones etc., and go a-wandering.

It had a marvellous Festival atmosphere, with exotic smells, plenty of music (though very little live), and stalls to sell you arts and crafts. For me, the disabled artists group Greaea, performing the tale of the Limbless Knight, was easily the best of the bunch that we saw, and hopefully we can book them in somewhere, preferably outdoors or with a very high ceiling, as some of them sway around on the top of very tall flexible poles. They were ace when I saw them at the South Bank as well.

I also found some familiar faces in the DaDaFest tent. They are based in Liverpool and came down in a van.I didn’t envy them that trip.

It was rather a hectic dash back to Stratford International, but the Javelin train ensured we had plenty of time at Euston. However it was after 11pm when we caught our trains back to St. Helens. I got off at Lea Green and as it was a fine night, I wheelchaired it home.

There are several storytelling hubs in the Borough, but each are naturally focussed on their own venue. The following day, after seeing the many ways disabled artists told stories, and being influenced as to how Laurel and Hardy could tell stories in silent movies, I decided to form a Borough-wide storytelling Network. I went online and discovered the Society for Storytelling which I joined immediately. There is a National Storytelling Week in February which gives our new Network a target. The next DaDaFest will be at the end of next year, so something else for our Network to aim at.Image

Parkside Colliery Choir And Brian Astonish The Library With ‘Mining Memories’

As part of the ‘Adult Learning Week’ Gary, the Cultural Coordinator, organised a cultural event at the Central Library to try and entice more ‘mature’ men into engaging into cultural activities.

parkside choir evening 009The choir was formed in1969 when the colliery it represented, Parkside, was in full production and mining was a huge part of St Helens life.

When the pit closed in1992 it was the last colliery in St Helens. The choir decided to carry on and to keep ‘Colliery’ as part of its name to keep the memory of the colliery alive.

parkside choir evening 010The concert was an outstanding success and featured music from throughout the decades. The crowds personal favourite was ‘An American Trilogy’ which had the Central Library giving the choir a standing ovation.

Interspersed through the night was poet and ex miner Brian Salkeld who read poems he had written throughout his life including the moving ‘Memories’ which was featured in the Channel 4 series ‘Three Minute Wonder’ read by local celebrity Johnny Vegas.

As the audience left the library with glowing smiles, the choir was approached by 2 gentlemen who wanted to know more about the choir and how could they join.

Job done.

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