Delving deeper into the Museum of Transport

We had another great day at the Museum of Transport yesterday, exploring the archives and uncovering some fascinating stories with our Wythenshawe group of young women. The group are working towards a performance at the museum as part of our Her Hidden Histories project and so we took this opportunity to dig a little deeper and start taking creative inspiration from the museum’s collection. We were joined on the visit by the wonderful Heather Roberts, our Archive Consultant on the project, who helped the young women get to grips with some great journals, records and photographs from a bygone age. The group particularly enjoyed rooting through all the ‘old stuff’ and clambering into the driving seats of various different vehicles! They’ve got loads more ideas for their upcoming performance now so we’ll be sharing more details of that very soon…

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Merry Christmas from enJOY arts!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… and so ends another busy year for enJOY arts. 2016 certainly hasn’t been without its challenges for many, making creative community projects more relevant than ever and we’re determined to look forward to 2017 with hope and positivity. Looking back over this year, however, we’ve also found plenty to enJOY (scroll down to see our photo slideshow)!

In our first year as resident artists at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, we’ve delivered a number of exciting projects in partnership with them; from creative storytelling with older people as part of Dementia Awareness Week in May, to family activities inspired by Beatrix Potter during the summer holidays. We’ve also been working with the House to develop their education programme, delivering interactive drama workshops to both school and university groups. For Heritage Open Days in September, we enjoyed working with members of the local community to develop an exhibition of Living Memories of the House and neighbourhood.

By far our biggest partnership project this year was ‘Gaskell: The Musical!’, working with local women to devise and perform an original musical which premiered as part of Manchester Histories Festival in June. We had tremendous fun working with such a warm and lively group, many of whom had never performed before and really grew in confidence throughout the project. The initial performances were such as smash hit (selling out 3 shows) that we were asked to reprise the run in September, which we were delighted to be able to do. Harnessing the enthusiasm of the talented cast, and with the support of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House and One Manchester, we’ve now been able to secure more funding to run a regular creative women’s group which we can’t wait to start in the New Year.

We’ve continued to develop other projects with women and girls throughout 2016. For International Women’s Day, we worked with young women from Wythenshawe and Salford to create a textiles exhibition celebrating women from Manchester’s history. This was displayed at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House and there were squeals of delight from some members of the group when they first saw their own handiwork on show in such a beautiful historic venue! Some of the young women who worked on this display had also taken part in our ‘Tales of Manchester Life’ project in 2015 and we were thrilled when this project was recognised with a Community Histories Award in March. The girls loved attending a fancy event at Manchester Town Hall to receive this award and we were even more pleased to officially become a multi-award-winning organisation!

Since the summer, we’ve continued to run drama workshops with young women in Wythenshawe, some of whom are now working towards their Silver Arts Award. This project will culminate in an interactive performance and drama workshop led by the young women for their local junior youth group early next year. We’ve also had a great time delivering drama workshops with young women’s groups for our friends, The Proud Trust, at their LesBiCon and summer camp events.

Over the summer, we were very pleased to be able to return to MASH – a fantastic organisation for women which we first worked with as students back in 2011 – to deliver a series of drama workshops in their weekly drop-in. The women here really enjoyed the opportunity to play creatively with props and costumes and devised all sorts of imaginative scenes, from a botched bank robbery to a zombie apocalypse!

Aside from solely female-focused projects, we’ve continued to work with hard to reach young people across Greater Manchester and Salford, delivering the Bronze Arts Award with groups from Eccles to Monsall. It was lovely to be shortlisted by Manchester Young Lives as their Partner Organisation of the Year and we hope to develop more projects with them in 2017.

We’d like to thank all our partners, funders and friends for their valuable support and enthusiasm this year: Arts Council England, One Manchester, Places for People, John Grant Davies Trust, Comic Relief Local Communities Fund, Wythenshawe Community Housing Group, Wythy Tree Youth Bank, Elizabeth Gaskell’s House (projects funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England), Claire Mooney, The Proud Trust, TLM Centre, MASH, Tandem Theatre, Art with Heart, Manchester Young Lives, Direct Access, Manchester Histories, Arc, Greater Manchester Police Museum, Museum of Transport Greater Manchester, Digital Women’s Archive North and Victoria Baths.

We’re very much looking forward to 2017, not least because we’ll then be able to announce our plans for an exciting new young women’s project we have in the pipeline…

But for now, may your days be merry and bright – and we hope your festive season is an enJOYable one!

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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!

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes of Gaskell: The Musical!

Check out this lovely ‘behind the scenes’ film of Gaskell: The Musical, put together for us by the wonderful Maria Ruban:

We had such a great time working on this project and we’re now busy working out how we might be able to reprise the performance in the future – 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.

Our award winning young women’s heritage project!

We’re absolutely delighted to announce that Tales of Manchester Life, the young women’s creative heritage project we delivered last year, won a Manchester Community Histories Award on Friday!

It was fantastic to bring the young women who took part to a great event at the Town Hall, organised by Manchester Histories. Here, we got to find out about all sorts of wonderful projects and the incredible people who run them, including Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, PANDA, RECLAIM and WOWzone.  Jorge, Tammin & Tyra from our project spoke confidently in front of a large audience and all the young women were thrilled to be presented their award by the lovely former Coronation Street actor Julie Hesmondhalgh!

We are so proud of all the young women involved and very grateful to Manchester Histories for this honour. We’d also like to thank our project partners, Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, Tandem Theatre, Wythenshawe Community Housing Group and Salford Youth Service and the project’s funders, Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Community First.

We’re looking forward to developing more creative heritage projects with these young women and others in future – watch this space!

New women’s performance project at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

We can’t believe it’s March already! And, in the week of International Women’s Day, we’re excited to announce our new women’s performance project which will be kicking off with taster sessions next week!

Investing in Voices – Gaskell the Musical is a project where women local to Elizabeth Gaskell’s House can come together and get creative. We’ll be taking inspiration from the house to devise and perform a new musical which will be part of the Manchester Histories Festival in June. Absolutely no experience is necessary and, with a bit of music, drama and a chance to play, there’s sure to be something for everyone!

Just by taking part, women will also have the opportunity to earn a Level 1 BTEC qualification in Employability, which will be great for anyone looking to get back into the world of work or volunteering.

The project begins with two taster sessions on Tuesday 15th March (1-3pm) and Wednesday 16th March (3-5pm). These taster sessions will be in the Community Room at Cornbrook House (please see the flyer for address details) but regular weekly sessions after that will be at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House. All women are welcome, there’ll be plenty of tea and biscuits – and we’re sure to have a lot of fun!

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We’re delighted to be working again with wonderful musician Claire Mooney on this project and to have secured support and funding from Arts Council England, One Manchester and Elizabeth Gaskell’s House.

Please call the number on the flyer if you’d like any more information or watch this space for updates!