Tag Archives: cath ford

The Power of Song

Truce Choir Leader, Janet Swan, reflects on her experiences of the project and working with the choir for their performances at The Rhyme of No Man’s Land and Christmas Truce at ASFC:

truce logo bwIn the summer of 2014 my good friend Iain Broadley asked me to be part of a project that I knew he had been working on and which Mid Pennine Arts had raised funds for. I was thrilled to be asked to lead the singing side of the project. I had sung as part of the Roses and Thorns choir in 2005 in a concert called “Kirstbestand” (Flemish for Christmas Truce) with the acapella trio Coope, Boyes and Simpson. That had been a defining moment for me – in being part of a group of singers that had the power to move, and even change people.

Now I had the opportunity to create something with Iain and other artists and to get more local people involved in learning about the Christmas Truces of 1914. It was also to be a chance to use my skills as a natural voice practitioner – to give the possibility of singing in this choir, to those who don’t read music or don’t consider themselves as singers even.

When Iain had to step back from the project because of illness, I was determined to do justice to his vision and to give it my best. Thus began several months of incredibly hard but very rewarding work, putting together the two concerts in Accrington, getting permissions for songs, learning then teaching the songs, communicating with singers and adding audio files to “the box” – the shared space where those with access to the internet could learn their parts without the need to read music.

My reward for being in this project was the privilege which came from working with all the Mid Pennine Arts’ staff, especially Cath Ford. But also working together with heritage performer John Meredith and Gill Brailey of the county’s Heritage Learning Team which lead to the successful weaving of words and songs around each other to create the magic that was The Rhyme of No Man’s Land.

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Truce choir at Accrington Stanley

What has been the most amazing thing for me was discovering how committed people were to this choir and this project, and how much work they were prepared to put into learning the songs. For that I want to say a really big THANK YOU to the 70 + singers involved. Thanks also go to Ian Enticott, the vicar at St James Church, Accrington, who let us use that very beautiful acoustic space and to Rob Houseman, Director at Accrington Stanley Football Club for his support of the Christmas Truce event happening around and during their important match on 20 December.

To all of you: thank you. We did it together and, as the comments from the audience and participants (The Rhyme of No Man’s Land) testify, we created something really special:

“It was really really good. The choir were great: lovely singing and a good balance, and the music chosen was a really good mix, including the Urdu song which sounded super. Dad was particularly taken with the Sgt but enjoyed the whole event, I am never sure what he thinks of some of the things we go to, but this was a real hit!”

“It was one of the best experiences of my life and one I will treasure. There was such an atmosphere of camaraderie amongst all participants and the audience that somehow reflected the spirit of peace, comradeship and shared humanity that the British and German soldiers demonstrated in such a wonderful and humbling way that Christmas of 1914. My paternal grandfather, who was Scottish, fought in the 1914 war, though fortunately he was not injured. So, like many others taking part, I felt a special bond with the Truce Project.”

“Great performances by all concerned: musical, moving, and the ‘trench humour’ came over too…. Thanks, for a memorable night out.”

“I thought it was absolutely fantastic, especially the choir (the harmonies were lovely) and the actor playing the sergeant who was a great anchor throughout.  I also thought the food parcels were a brilliant idea and if the people around me were anything to go by we all swapped and chatted to strangers!”

Truce choir at The Rhyme of No Man's Land

Truce choir at The Rhyme of No Man’s Land

As several of these comments show and as we all observed – the audience loved it and were engaged throughout, probably because of the power of the performers who were giving it their all. There was no shuffling, yawning or other signs of people falling asleep, and even better there were people who were moved and maybe even changed.

Visit the Truce website for more information.

Truce was funded by: Heritage Lottery Fund, Lancashire County Council Arts Development Team, Granada Foundation & Hyndburn Homes.  It was also supported by Accrington Stanley FC and BBC Radio Lancashire (Up for Arts).

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Todmorden Artist’s Tour 2014

For the 10th year Mid Pennine Arts, funded by Todmorden Town Council, has commissioned an artist to provide a theme based workshop to all seven primary schools in Todmorden.  This year the art form was visual art and the theme was Environment.   Mid Pennine Arts and all the schools involved are very grateful to Todmorden Town Council for their financial support in making these wonderful workshops happen.

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What follows are extracts from the project evaluation:

Before his retired in October 2013, MPA’s David Smith discussed the theme of the 2014 tour with Maria Cooper, head teacher at St Joseph’s RC Primary.  Maria emphasised how involved all the schools are with environmental issues, as is Todmorden as a whole.   The theme of environment would allow the artist some scope to adapt the theme for each school based on the particular topics they were addressing. As always with the artist tour the primary aims are that the workshops are enjoyed by the schools and that they will make an effective contribution to the children’s learning.

Once the theme was approved by the Town Council, MPA knew just which artist to work with. Cath Ford is a very experienced and versatile community artist who has worked with MPA on several projects and has the issue of environment at the core of her own practice.

Cath planned three activities from which each school could choose their preferred option. She would spend a day at each of the seven schools and run a two-hour workshop in the morning and afternoon. The school could choose whether to have two separate groups or one group doing both sessions. Each workshop focussed on work at Key Stage 2 which allowed the schools the choice of involving children from Year 3, 4, 5 or 6.

The overwhelmingly popular choice of activity was Eco Totem in a Day with six of the seven schools choosing it. Ferney Lee was the exception, choosing instead Scrap Sculpture and Assemblage/Trash to Treasure.

Eco Totem: Along the north-western coast of North America (America and Canada), some Native Americans create totem poles. Depicting people and animals, totems are used for different reasons in different tribes, but often tell stories, family histories or are used for protection. Totems can be used to make a statement, to tell the story of a family or group (the word originates from a word meaning ‘his kinship’) and to communicate an idea.

In this workshop pupils explored the idea of totems and how they are used to tell stories and make community statements. The class worked on faces, animals and symbols which make a powerful statement about their attitudes to the environment and to creating a more environmentally friendly world. The resulting 6 foot plus totem was then displayed in school.

Scrap Sculpture and Assemblage/Trash to Treasure: Artists throughout history have used found objects and other people’s trash to create unique and expressive art works. Artists often look differently at the world, seeing beauty in places, people and objects discarded by society. Trained artists and outsider artists create magic worlds from rubbish that enrich our world and ask questions about what is trash and what is treasure.

In this workshop pupils created temporary sculptures from scrap materials, experimenting with design and form during a series of group challenges before looking at the work of artists who create assemblage sculpture from scrap objects. Using the learning from the first challenges and looking at artists’ work, each pupil created their own piece of assemblage in the form of a face/human.

Tod 2014 - collage 2

Outcomes: Cath encouraged the children to consider their own response to environmental issues throughout the workshops, discussing how their choices impacted on the environment and pollution through, for example, recycling. All the materials were sourced from a specialist scrap store, so that the children could see how items could be reused and not discarded.  The children had to work in small groups and cooperate to create the final pieces, enhancing their team building and communication skills.

Facts and Figures

Schools:

  • Castle Hill Primary
  • Cornholme Primary
  • Ferny Lee Primary
  • Shade Primary
  • St Joseph’s RC Primary
  • Todmorden Junior School
  • Walsden St Peter

Participants:

  • Classes = 9
  • Girls = 114
  • Boys = 123
  • Total = 237

Teacher Feedback:

  • It was a very rewarding experience for the children. They learnt a lot, reinforced learning from other areas of the curriculum and produced a beautiful piece of art communally at the end. It also necessitated working cooperatively, solving problems and discussing solutions together.
  • It was interesting to observe how to use other areas of the curriculum to inspire and create such a good piece of art that the children can be proud of.
  • It was an excellent day, full of creativity, team work and ideas. I would highly recommend it.
  • A fabulous job […] well timed and organised, the children had plenty of time to think and work, good balance.
  • I liked the use of all the different materials and how all the parts came together to create a larger object.
  • The children learnt about the benefits of recycling and how it can change the environment for the better.
  • The children had to work together in small groups and cooperate to make the final product. So team work, listening and taking turns was a vital part of the project.
  • Very good at raising awareness of environmental issues – ideas of being green.
  • Children enjoyed group work and working as a team.
  • Artist very knowledgeable and interacted with children.
  • Good to see a day long workshop and how something can be taught and created in a day – good for teaching isolated topics.
  • Artist was really child friendly and approachable.
  • Very impressed with final product.
  • Children really enjoyed the workshop.

Tod 2014 - collage 3

Pupil Feedback:

  • It felt like it meant something.
  • It felt good to work as a team.
  • It was really fun and creative and tells a good story.
  • A super workshops and I would like to do it again.
  • I liked how we used rubbish which was going to [be] thrown and we made something good out of it.
  • Nice to share all our ideas with the group.
  • I really liked how we had to think about which material would look the best.
  • I thought it was a really creative idea.
  • I like having the choice to make what I wanted.
  • Was pleased to be part of the team.
  • Really enjoyed working with the different materials […] enjoyed the free choice.
  • I thought it was creative of Cath to get some junk and make a totem pole with [it].

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ground-UP at Anfield Home Tour

MPA’s Creative Learning Programme Manager, Dr Steph Hawke, is one of three creative collaborators working on Burnley Borough Council’s project ground-UP along with Cath Ford and Iain Broadley.  The three of them joined a group from Lancashire visiting Anfield Home Tour, part of the Liverpool Biennial programme. Here’s Steph’s blog about the day.

Anfield Tour

Is it really possible to know a place if you have never lived in it? Existential philosophers have expressed an interest in sense of place as ‘lived experience’. They wanted to get to the very essence of place through a study they called phenomenology.

On Wednesday 5 December 2012, Cath, Iain and I hopped on a minibus in Liverpool and came screeching, slap-bang, face to face with a tale of lived experience so heartbreakingly poignant and electrifyingly angering that we were able to think of little else that week. We didn’t live in that place, but through an incredible artistic intervention we certainly experienced its phenomenology.

This was the Anfield Home Tour. Originally commissioned as part of Liverpool Biennial, the tour is a careful weaving of personal experience, literary talent, comedic improvisation and theatrical direction that combine to tell a story, or many stories, of life in an area of housing market renewal. The tour reveals tension between insider and outsider accounts of Anfield’s situation; the resulting ‘insider’ narrative is so rich in colour and texture that lived experience in Anfield is brought into sharp focus.

Housing Market Renewal arrived in Anfield some fifteen years ago. As ‘Carl’ our tour guide pointed out – the emphasis here is upon housing market renewal, not community renewal. In his view, this has been a project entirely focussed on the future with little regard to the ‘now’. The gleaming Keepmoat future has yet to arrive for many who continue to live in Anfield, in a diverse housing stock of Victorian terraces, some humble, some grand: five bedroom redbricks with period features. These are the houses Phil and Kirsty dream of except for their ‘location, location, location’. Because in Anfield residents have been told their location is one of deprivation, undesirable, and their houses not good enough. Conversely, as Jayne Lawless explained when our minibus parked outside what was once her family home, “we didn’t feel deprived”.

Anfield TourHere stood the now ‘tinned up’ terrace in which Jayne’s parents raised their family, both worked and Jayne had a comfortable home in a safe and caring community. When they were just five years away from paying off their mortgage, Jayne’s parents were forced to sell through compulsory purchase order. They didn’t get a fair price and, for their new home, they had to take on more debt which Jayne will be liable for when they pass away.

As did Bob, who climbed on board our minibus outside what was once his home. A DIY enthusiast, he’d invested in his house over many years, only to watch the damp creep in when surrounding properties fell empty and the council failed to make them watertight. Hospitalised with pneumonia, kids setting fire to empty houses on his street, he was finally delighted with his relocation. He chose not to dwell on the money he lost in the transaction and the fresh debt he’ll pass on to his offspring.

On and on the tour went, with one resident’s story layered upon another until finallyAnfield Tour we were asked inside Sue’s house. Bought by her grandma in 1920, she described the ways in which her family had modernised and in turn restored this beautifully presented home. A compulsory purchase order has hung over it for years and Sue still doesn’t know if she is staying or going.

She hangs on as her surroundings fall into the ‘controlled decline’ of absentee private landlords, antisocial tenants and neglected empty houses from which flora grow through into the walls of Sue’s loft space. Sue was barely able to conceal the emotional pain and burden of stress this has weighed upon her for no small number of years.

At the conclusion of our tour, we disembarked at Homebaked. Here over hot tea and fresh bread, we were reunited with all of this story’s characters and they explained what they plan to do next…

HOMEBAKED

Jeanne van Heeswijk has been working with the community in Anfield for the last two and a half years. Through the 2Up 2Down / Homebaked project the community can take matters into their own hands. Here the community have come together to reuse a block of empty property made up of a former bakery building and two adjoining terraced houses.

They have set up the Homebaked Community Land Trust, a cooperative organisation with its roots in the garden city movement. This will enable the collective community ownership of the properties and the reopening of the Bakery as a social enterprise.   Visit the Homebaked blog to see what they’re up to.

Loaf by loaf, brick by brick, 2Up2Down is building a new idea of community, work, social space and with it a new community resilience.”

Find out more about ground-UP and the South West Burnley Museum.

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