Having been employed for the first time on a project by performance company Restoke this year to research and evaluate their engagement processes, I was intrigued to see what it was that engendered such camaraderie and devotion in their participants, having witnessed this phenomenon from the peripheries in previous years. I have a background in visual arts but not in dance or performance so I always felt astonished that so many people, sometimes with no experience of the arts, could blossom into performers with such confidence and in such a short space of time. Suffice to say, I know why now.
From the first Culture Exchange, Restoke set the tone for the entire project; a comforting mix of anything goes, none judgemental sharing and reassuring demonstrations of the quality of their previous work. Attended and delivered by members of various migrant community and cultural interest groups across the city that Restoke had invited, these events felt like series’ of micro excursions, a whole world exploration from ones own seat. Participants here were not just from somewhere else- they were the experts in the room.
As the project continued and the committed participants began to meet in the performance venue, The Wedgwood Institute, sharing became less about showcasing individuals’ cultures than getting to know the individuals themselves- their journeys, both emotional and physical. Here themes of migration and culture became less about learning and more about bonding. The more the group talked the more the differences fell away. Now, with the confidence of each other’s support and a shared stake in each other’s stories, the participants were guided by Restoke to explore creative ways to express them. Using movement and voice to impress their message onto the fabric of the building, the whole Restoke team have developed a performance that is inextricably linked to the building, and to the people in it. There has been no coercion necessary with this project, as I know that the participants will be proud to deliver THEIR performance to the public, assured that the greatest care has been taken by Restoke to form, with the lightest of touches, their memories, stories and ideas into a performance of the highest quality.
Nicola Winstanley 27/09/16
Restoke is a performance company led by 3 co-directors and artists Clare, Sarah & Paul. They are parents to small children, and lovers of Stoke-on-Trent. They combine dance, music and visual art to produce works that breathe new life into forgotten spaces, working with people of all ages and all experience levels, lead by the real life stories of people living in the city.
‘You Are Here‘ is their latest live performance involving dance, live music and spoken-word, and is taking place between 5-8th October within the Wedgwood Institute – Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. The performance is inspired by the experiences of the cast members who have moved, or been moved, to Stoke-on-Trent.
Tickets are on sale now through The New Vic Theatre box office. Or in person at the theatres box office, opening times are 10am – 6pm or call 01782 717962 for more questions about booking tickets.by