Her Hidden Histories visit the People’s History Museum

Our Her Hidden Histories groups had a fantastic time visiting the People’s History Museum on Monday afternoon. Young women from Cedar Mount Academy and Newall Green High School came together for the first time in this phase of the project to gather inspiration for their upcoming performances at Victoria Baths in May. The performances will explore the role of everyday working women in the struggle for the vote and the groups came away buzzing with ideas!

Now we’re gearing up for more visits and creative workshops in the Easter Holidays: we’ll be heading to the Pankhurst Centre and the Working Class Movement Library as well as trying our hand at some music and dance. We can’t wait!

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Her Hidden Histories – Centenary Celebration

As today marks 100 years since the first UK women were granted the right to vote, it’s about time for an update on our Her Hidden Histories project!

Last summer saw two groups of young women, from Wythenshawe and Gorton, create some fantastic performances at both the Museum of Transport and the Greater Manchester Police Museum. ‘In the Driving Seat’ told stories of the first women to work on trams and buses, largely owing to the absence of men during the First World War. ‘Top of the Bill’ explored experiences of the first women in policing during a similar period, many of whom had also been on the other side of the law as suffragettes. Both performances enjoyed a rousing inter-generational musical finale, thanks to our fantastic Herizons group!

This year, we are bringing both groups of young women together to create another ambitious performance at the stunning Victoria Baths. ‘Turning Tides: First in the Fight’ will weave together the stories uncovered in the previous two performances and celebrate the role of everyday women in the struggle for suffrage. Exact times are yet to be confirmed but there will be 3 chances to catch this exciting new piece, with an evening performance on Thursday 31st May and both a matinee and evening performance on Friday 1st June.

Watch this space for more details!

Strong Manchester Women!

The Herizons group excelled themselves in a rousing performance inspired by strong women from Manchester’s history at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House last night!

From Peterloo activist Mary Fildes, to modern day anti-racism campaigner Louise Da-Cocodia, they took their audience on a lively journey through time with sketches and songs.

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The group have been working on the performance in weekly sessions since the beginning of March and were delighted to be able to share the stories they’d uncovered to an enthusiastic audience:

‘Fabulous performance – entertaining and informative, well done… When’s the next one?!’

‘I hope you continue to inspire others and carry on being powerful!’

‘Loved it all – the final song was very uplifting, great!’

Herizons is a community performance group of local women who meet every week for music and drama workshops at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House. Some members of the group first came together to devise and perform ‘Gaskell: The Musical!’ – a sell out sensation at Manchester Histories Festival 2016 – and we are pleased to have welcomed new members along the way. The group were recently honoured to perform at Manchester City Council’s International Women’s Day Awards at the Town Hall. This term, the Herizons group has been funded by the One Manchester Community Fund and sessions are delivered by enJOY arts and Claire Mooney, in partnership with Elizabeth Gaskell’s House.

We’ll soon be able to share some exciting news about what Herizons’ next adventure will be – so watch this space!

 

Reprising Gaskell: The Musical!

We’ve had a fantastic week teaming up again with enJOY favourite Claire Mooney to reprise ‘Gaskell: The Musical!’ for both private and public audiences at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House. The show was devised and performed by a warm and lively group of local women and originally premiered at Manchester Histories Festival back in June. The sell-out success of the initial run led to various requests for a reprise  – which we were delighted to be able to arrange with support from Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, One Manchester and Places for People.

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Production week began on Monday, bringing our wonderful performers back together to brush up on the songs and then pretty much hit the ground running with full technical and dress rehearsals. The enthusiasm and camaraderie of the cast, most of whom had never met each other before the original project, sprang quickly back to life as if they’d never been apart.

Tuesday was another busy day with 2 performances for staff, tenants and friends of One Manchester and Places for People. It was great to have another opportunity to share the piece with even more local people and the feedback from these audiences was incredibly positive:

‘It was lovely to see women that I know excelling at something I didn’t even know they were involved in. LOVED IT!!!’

‘Fantastic – actors did an excellent job – makes me feel empowered as a woman.’

‘A superb introduction to the house, which I never knew was on my doorstep! Just the right mix of prose and music, wonderfully performed.’

On Wednesday, Elizabeth Gaskell’s House had commissioned a private performance as a treat for their hard-working volunteers, most of whom know both the House and Mrs Gaskell very well. It was lovely to be able to give back to this fantastic team whose support around the House has been invaluable throughout the rehearsal process. The cast were particularly pleased to have an enthusiastic endorsement from this audience:

‘Totally outstanding. Very talented women, clearly enjoying performing together. Incredibly professionally put together. Elizabeth Gaskell would be proud!’

‘Well done! Absolutely brilliant, brought the house to life and captured the spirit of Mrs Gaskell and her family.’

‘It got right to the essence of Elizabeth Gaskell… EXACTLY what the house should be doing. A triumph!’

Thursday saw our final show of the week to a public audience, which we were delighted to find had sold out again! This audience was a real mix of people including members of the Gaskell Society, people from the local neighbourhood, students and more. It was wonderful to end the week on a high with even more incredible audience comments:

‘Great idea. Brought me to the house for the first time. Learnt some things and loved the rap!’

‘Brilliant performance. Lovely it’s local people – more please!’

‘A wonderful production. So alive, so filled with energy. Bringing history and world changing needs into music and drama.’

‘Excellent performances. Please do something else ladies – don’t go back to the day job!’

It’s safe to say our talented cast of women have definitely got the performing bug now and we’re busy plotting what our next project with this group might be… so watch this space!

 

 

 

 

Gaskell: The Musical! – sell out performances!

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Massive congratulations to the cast of ‘Gaskell: The Musical!’ who performed 3 sell-out shows at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th June!

Over the past 10 weeks, we have been working with women who live locally to the house to devise this innovative new mini-musical – inspired by the life, work and times of the Victorian writer. The group took particular inspiration from the Mrs Gaskell’s social conscience and the diverse range of people whose stories would have echoed throughout the rooms of her house: from famous contemporaries who visited regularly, to the working people in whom Elizabeth took an active interest and whose plight she immortalised in her novels.

In a series of lively creative workshops, we explored all these ideas and more through a mixture of songwriting and drama activities. We were thrilled to partner up again with wonderful singer-songwriter Claire Mooney throughout the process. Many of the group had never performed before and some of them have been working towards an employability qualification as part of this community project. We were delighted to present these special promenade performances as the culmination of the project and part of Manchester Histories Festival 2016.

The camaraderie of the performers and their determination to perform their uplifting finale outside, despite the inclement weather, was truly awe-inspiring. Here are just some of the rave reviews left by audience members in their post-show feedback:

‘A brilliant way to see the house, bring the community together and find out more about local history!’

‘Amazing! Loved everything about it!’

‘Such an eye-opening event.’

‘Very inspiring, very interactive – felt like I wanted to join in!’

‘Brilliant performances from ordinary non-actors – some definite hits in the music too!’

‘Inspirational – more women’s projects please!’

We’re incredibly grateful to all the staff, volunteers and trustees at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House for their support in making this project possible and to Manchester Histories Festival for including the performances in their 2016 programme. We’d also like to thank Arts Council England, One Manchester and Places for People for funding the project.

Photographs courtesy of Sangita Mistry.

Political Pride Performance with young people at LGBT Youth North West

On Saturday 29th August young people from LGBT Youth North West took part in a performance on the theme of ‘Political Pride‘ which they shared with other young people and members of the public. This performance was part of a programme of events designed to provide an alternative space over the Manchester Pride weekend, with an emphasis on bringing Pride back to its political roots.

We worked with young people in creative sessions to share their feelings and opinions on this topic and to devise the final performance. The resulting piece included poetry, song, abstract movement and political awareness raising, in addition to boundless energy and lots of laughter!

You can check out the original song which young people wrote and performed here:

A big well done to everyone involved – we always enjoy working with LGBT Youth North West and look forward to our next project together.

Tales of Manchester Life Celebration Event and Short Film

We had a fantastic time returning to Elizabeth Gaskell’s House to celebrate the achievements of the young women involved in our Tales of Manchester Life project last night!

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All of the young women earned their Bronze Arts Award as part of the project and were given individual medals and certificate packs. We were also pleased to be able to present each young woman with a framed professional photo of themselves taking part in the project as a special keepsake. The young women and their guests – including proud parents, teachers and youthworkers – took their seats for the film premiere of their ‘Gaskell, Interrupted’ performance before enjoying a lovely celebratory buffet. We’d like to say another huge well done to all the participants and a big thank you to everyone who worked so hard on the project!

Here are a few photos of the night:IMG_0530 IMG_0516 IMG_0514 IMG_0511

IMG_0531We couldn’t leave you without a taster, so check out a short Behind the Scenes film about the project here:

And, if is this has left you wanting to know more, we’re running a special training and networking event inspired by the project for youthwork and heritage professionals on Thursday 16th July. The event will take place back at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House (our new home from home!) and you can get tickets here.