In 2009 our first project 'Benches' was inspired by conversations with strangers on public benches around Stoke-on-Trent. This led to an unshakeable commitment to centre our projects around the lived-experiences of the people we live alongside. As our work developed we sought ways of deepening participation in our projects, which has led to our unique creative practice of co-creation.
We now create our performances collaboratively with people telling their own stories, shaping their individual and collective narratives into a unique performance experiences which are supported and framed by a team of professional artists, whilst driven by the people who are experts in the experiences we are exploring..
1:1 interviews – we always undergo a series of 1:1 interviews with willing participants to discuss the issues we are exploring. We take a rigorous ethical approach to all our interviews and group work, ensuring everyone we engage with understands where the information they share may go and has an opportunity to stay involved.
Group sessions/sharing events – We organise events for people to come together to share something of their experience. For example on our last project 'You Are Here' we held 3 events called 'The Culture Exchange' where we invited people to come and share something from their culture. This helped us to meet new people but also begin conversations around culture, migration and belonging, and recruit interested participants to join us in the creation of a new performance.
Workshops – alongside this we often hold workshops, as tasters of what to expect in our performance work and to engage more people in the performing arts in our city.
Research & development – We then take a committed group of people through to join us in researching a new site to hold the performance and how we might create a show together in this building. In this time we try out ideas, sing, dance, write and work together in groups... as well as lots of talking and eating together!
Rehearsal and performance – Finally we enter a rehearsal period, as we work with combined community and professional casts we rehearse at weekends for several weeks before performing.
Our performances are created and driven by the people we work with, but with a drive for artistic excellence. We aim to inspire and connect more people as participants and audiences. We believe the ownership we foster through our process is intrinsic to the quality of our performance work.