Saturday, September 05, 2009

Making a drama out of a memory

It's Heritage Weekend in England this Saturday, and all over the country churches and historic buildings will be open to the public. Only in Salford, however, will you find young people acting out the past, having turned people's memories into short dramatic pieces.

The action takes place at Chapel Street and Hope United Reformed Church on Chapel Street in Salford. Not many people know the name, but most will recognise the ancient brick building on the opposite side of the street from Salford Central Station. It has a distinctive pair of staircases looping up to the front door, and has the date sign 1819 over the front door, the same date as the Peterloo Massacre in nearby Manchester.

The church will be open from noon to 4pm on Saturday, 12 September 2009, and the first thing to greet visitors will be old family snaps and photographs collected and arranged by artist Lawrence Cassidy. This display was opened on 14 February this year but has been substantially re-arranged and added to, with photos that people have brought in during the open days of the exhibition.

The photographs will be in the lobby area. In the main body of the church will be tables piled high with old maps of the area, so that people can identify the houses they used to live in, which have subsequently been demolished. However, all is not lost: artist Lawrence Cassidy has started to archive photos and family snaps he's been given, and has begun to arrange them into a new collection – The A to Z of lost Salford streets. This archive will be available on the internet eventually, if funding can be found to support all the work needed to make it complete. Meanwhile, Lawrence has the 'pilot' version available on his laptop computer, and it will be showing on 12 September.

Between this main area of the church, and the Coffee Bar at the rear, there will be a number of strolling players, young actors who have been trained by Blueberry Youth, the young people's drama coaches at Salford Arts Theatre on Liverpool Street in Salford. With the help of a grant from the Arts Council, the adults have been working with the children to transform verbal memories that have been collected since the exhibition opened in February into short dramatic works. These will be presented informally throughout the afternoon, and visitors will be invited to follow this up with a visit to Salford Arts Theatre in late October, when a longer version of the work will be available on stage.

It's a first, the first time that Salford residents have had their reminiscences portrayed as drama, and the first time that all their old photos have been collected together, to start the major piece of work – The A to Z of lost Salford streets.

Further details: Lawrence Cassidy 07946 176291


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