Emma Fall has been the Shadow Artist for our community musical theatre performance Women of Longbridge, which premiere this Saturday (23 June) in our latest blog she talks about W&T’s research, rehearsals and what she’s learnt about Longbridge in the process.
I am so pleased to be part of another interesting project with the wonderful Women & Theatre. I love community events and performances; it doesn’t matter how old you are, where you come from or your ability; being part of the project is what matters. For me, it’s helping the interviewees, cast and audience to come together and share one ‘culture’ and experience.
It has been so interesting to speak to the women of Longbridge. There have been so many varied stories about the Factory, working at the factory, life in the town both past and present.
It has been great to hear about, as well as engage in, existing groups that are still keeping the community alive. One such group was the Austin tea dance where locals gather to socialise and dance as well as raise money for charities. The other team members had a great time dancing, I was encouraged to, however, I didn’t have ‘me dancing shoes’.
I’ve really enjoyed supporting the choir and drama workshops at the Factory youth club, and even though I was informed by a resident that there was nothing for the kids to do, I saw that the youth club was thriving most evenings. The younger people that got involved with singing and drama were very talented and confident individuals with a keen interest to share their opinions and perspective on the area.
Truthfully, before I started the project I didn’t know much about Longbridge. Even though I’d heard news reports covering the 2005 closure, I wasn’t fully aware of the impact it had on the local community; how people lost their homes, how social groups disintegrated and how people became ill or died, ultimately, as a result of the factory closing down.
These stories have been extremely emotive and this is tangible in the script writing and the songs. Looking at Longbridge now, as an outsider, it seems like any other freshly built town with the shops as the central hub. However, as you walk around the grounds of the shopping centre there are little gems or reminders of the history of the factory and the effect it had on the community. It’s great to know that this project is not only embracing the past but that it’s bringing people together to look at the positives and to maintain strong positive relationships.
Rehearsals so far have been great, we have a very talented cast who have not only shared their stories, but have quickly used their creative skills to express the many voices we have listened to.
I’m looking forward to the big day, as it will be a celebration of relationships, community and history that’s deep rooted and alive in the Women of Longbridge. It needs to be shared!