Hello everyone! How are you? We’ve been a little quiet over here on the blog, but exceptionally busy, all over Pennine Lancashire. And I mean all over. We’ve been gallivanting around on a dancing double decker bus! Did you catch ‘Back of the Bus’ last week?
We were in (deep breath) Burnley, Darwen, Colne, Accrington, Nelson and Blackburn. With 18, venues, 13 shows, 6 towns, 4 dancers, and several flourescant jackets, after months and weeks of planning, stressing and generally not sleeping well (Stephie that is, I’m sure Matt slept fine) I can safely say it was all well and truly worth it.
In theatre, dance, and the arts in general, we expect all too often our audiences to come to us. To sit in a theatre, wander around an art gallery, or partake in a workshop in a studio. These places can be alien and intimidating to audiences. Especially new audiences.
Not everyone in Pennine Lancashire has sat in a theatre seat, but most of them have sat on a bus. If we want people to start engaging with the arts and theatre, maybe it’s time we started taking the theatre to them.
Over 13 shows, Java Dance, entertained and amazed audiences, who boarded a bus that looked so ordinary, at first glance one audience member was disappointed to note ‘I just feel like I’m off to do my shopping’ safe to say, she didn’t feel the same way ten minutes later!
That’s why I love site specific theatre, because it can take something ordinary, or somewhere overlooked and turn it into something extraordinary. It’s not often you hear people describing themselves as feeling ‘exhilarated’ after getting off a bus, but many of our audience members did! One even went so far as to say they had seen their ‘home town in a different light’ which is personally one of my favourite responses! We hear ‘Nothing happens around here’ a lot working on this job, so to not only be able to change that, but also to change peoples perceptions of their towns is brilliant!
We also got to turn up in one or two places where audiences were already waiting. A particularly special moment for me, was when we had our dress rehearsal in Walton Lane Community Centre, which is an Age UK day centre for elderly people and people with dementia. The residents were ready and waiting for us, and the staff were amazing, taking lots of photos. It was definitely something I will remember for a long time. Those residents would never have made it onto a bus, and can’t easily get down to the shops never mind a theatre, so to be able to go to them, even for ten minutes was something I’d definitely like to see happen more often!
Before I get too sentimental about the whole thing I can’t leave without saying a massive thank you to everyone who was involved. Our venues as always, everywhere we visited in each town, Java Dance for being an absolute joy to work with, and perhaps most importantly Transdev who not only provided our lovely blue and yellow for the week, but also several fantastic drivers, without whom the whole show wouldn’t have been possible!
And as always here at Plugged In there is never too much time for looking back, we’re on to our final show of the season this Sunday at The ACE Centre 2pm. Gorilla Gardening is the perfect show to encourage under 7’s to explore the great outdoors this Sunday, plus we’ll be getting up to some gardening of our own in the bistro courtyard from 12.30! And then we’re on to an exciting summer of trips to Edinburgh Fringe Festival with some of our community promoters, a theatre open day at Darwen Library Theatre and lots of planning for our wonderful Autumn season!
Speak soon, Stephie x