On Friday 10th September we launched our exhibition to showcase the results of our six-month community project, ‘Invisible Visible’, which explored the concept of invisibility in society.
It was incredible to have all those involved in the project under one roof to celebrate this achievement and share the outcomes with others.
The project began in the first lockdown in 2020. We worked with a number of community groups to discuss how age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socio economic status and career choices, can all directly affect how society perceives us. Why are certain people and roles not valued as much as they should be? Why are some people ignored, isolated, forgotten or taken for granted?
By continuing our exploration with these group, we were able to find new ways to tell their narratives and set about working with four different mediums:
A multi genre twine - created with a sewing and craft group in Wolverton, Milton Keynes
An illustrated book - designed by local artist Jess Bolam, which responded to the thoughts and ideas of an LGBTQ Creative Group in Oxfordshire
A short form video interpretation - six monologues written and filmed by six talented MK College students
An audio podcast - involving with four local women with extraordinary stories to tell of invisibility and visibility.
We had some excellent feedback from our visitors on opening night:
“Thank you for this project which speaks so powerfully and has such relevance to lived experience. And good to see the range of creative expression, illustration, sound, film, performance, collages. And great to see the engagement with the MK College students. Thank you for this enjoyable launch event last night, Rosemary.”
“I thought it was really interesting. I loved the illustrations and the collages.”
“The artwork was just beautiful.”
For me, witnessing all the elements finally coming together and seeing those involved in the project sharing their experiences was a defining moment. Their stories were no longer invisible, they were very much visible.
These mediums are all available to experience at the MK Gallery until 3rd October. Please do come and immerse yourself in some very interesting and thought-provoking stories. It is a free event.
This project would not have been possible without the support from The Arts Council. This funding provided us with the financial resource to continue to support our wide range of freelance artists, performers, collaborators and educators and it enabled us to further our mission to support artists making new work.
Hidden Stories - four playlets by four local writers
Hidden Stories is our brand-new project, which has long been an idea in my head. I am fascinated by stories not told or stories where we have a particular accepted version but there’s more to say.
I have been working alongside three local professional theatre practitioners to each write a short hidden story based on true events or personal experience, which we can share with you on stage.
You can see the following playlets, which are around 30 minutes long, on Saturday 23rd October at 7.30pm at MK Gallery.
Darlint Peidi by Rosemary Hill
The story of Edith Thompson who was executed in 1923 alongside her young lover, Frederick Bywaters. Edith Thompson apparently knew nothing about the plan to murder her husband, Percy. Bywaters always maintained he acted alone. But Thompson was older than him and an adulterer. She was seen as an immoral seducer. She was also a dreamer who wrote letters to her lover which depicted their perfect life together after her husband had gone. Was she really executed for committing adultery rather than murder? Was she a victim of the social climate of the time? Her case is now seen as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in British legal history.
Now You See Me by Carly Halse
The “hidden” story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. The year was 1955. Ruth Ellis openly admitted to the murder of her lover David Blakely who she gunned down at the Magdala pub in London in 1953. What is little known though is that Blakely was violent and controlling. A few days before the murder he had bruta lly beaten Ruth Ellis and she suffered a miscarriage. At a time when she needed support and help her close male friend Desmond Cussen gave her a gun, showed her how to use it and drove her to the Magdala pub. Yet he was never called to account. Her case led to changes in the law recognising the defence of “diminished responsibility”.
Daughter Of The Waves by Lisa Lovell
Lisa is the child of Windrush parents. She has experienced racial discrimination all her life, but has fought these barriers throughout her career to become a senior manager. Very recently though Lisa experienced the worse racism and hostility she has ever faced. Everything she believed in was shaken to the core as people she thought were trusted colleagues, allies and friends colluded with the hostile environment policies put in place in the last few years. Lisa was on the verge of losing everything. It was only the support of true friends and the “kindness of strangers” as she describes them which pulled her through this terrible period in her life. Lisa tells her jaw dropping story in a compelling monologue.
The Saltiness Of Time by Shirley Jones
When Amelia stepped away from the life, she knew to become the primary caregiver for a frail and aging loved one, she had no idea how dramatically it would alter her life. Struck years on by the realisation that her "new normal" is nothing like the past and nowhere near what she had envisioned for her future how should she now be viewed by society? Selfless, foolish or a martyr?
I was very interested in Lisa’s playlet (Daughter of The Waves) because it was true and it happened to her, but the true emotional and psychological cost for someone who has suffered because of the hostile environment policies is rarely told.
Similarly, Shirley’s piece (The Saltiness of Time) is about what carers give up when they take on caring for a loved one full time.
I am also interested in how women are treated by the justice system. Both Ruth Ellis (Now You See Me) and Edith Thompson (Darlint Peidi) were treated harshly. Ruth Ellis was the last woman to be hanged and she was clearly in a very fragile state of mind when she shot her lover, Davis Blakely. The case led to changes in the law bringing in the defence of diminished responsibility. Edith Thompson was one of the greatest miscarriages of justice ever. She was really executed for adultery. Her love was younger (only 20 and she was 29). He always claimed he acted alone. She was seen an immoral seducer who led him astray. She had to be drugged and dragged to the gallows. A harrowing case.
Some intriguing stories here I am sure you agree. I hope you will be able to join us next month to witness these for yourself.
Tickets are selling fast. You can purchase yours directly from MK Gallery.
About our theatre practitioners:
Rosemary founded the company in 2008 to stage thought provoking theatre from the classical canon, modern work and to work with new writers. She first trained as a Drama and English teacher and worked in Leicester for seven years before deciding to follow in some of her students’ footsteps and train as an actress at the Drama Studio in London. She worked briefly on the Fringe but was then offered a job at the BBC as a producer and director. Rosemary travelled the world producing documentaries for both TV and radio, often about very difficult subjects and in tense situations. Later she worked in Radio Drama. She left the BBC to go freelance in 2000 which allowed her not only to continue to work in the media, but also to go back to her roots in theatre. She works as an actress and director.
Carly trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and has a passion for devised theatre and new writing. She has worked extensively with Rosemary Hill, playing Kathryn in “Splendour”, Nora in “A Doll’s House”, and performing in “Austerity”, “Shoulder to Shoulder” and the One Act Play Festival. Carly also gave the keynote speech for our “Taking the Stage” festival in 2019.
Shirley is well known on the local theatre scene. She is an actor, writer, director, and producer. She chairs ETC Theatre Company who recently performed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at The Arches Theatre.
Lisa is a community practitioner with over 30 years of working with communities and an advocate for those who feel they don’t have a voice. She is a poet and actor who has been performing for many years with various local groups. She is a versatile artiste who has been fortunate to tour parts of the UK, perform at the National Theatre in Ghana and for the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Lisa is also passionate about theatre as education.