Saddleworth folk tale of Alphin and Alder among Oldham Coliseum Micro Commissions

THE Saddleworth folk tale of Alphin and Alder is among the micro commissions unveiled by Oldham Coliseum Theatre for audiences and participants to experience online.

The audio drama ‘A Tale of Two Giants’ has been created by Tori Burgess and is a precursor or accompaniment to a walk around the setting at Dovestone Reservoir.

Tori is among seven artists selected to create a micro commission for the theatre, with the works to be released throughout the Spring months of 2021.

Oldham Coliseum Micro Commissions: (L-R) Grant Archer, Joyce Branagh, Tori Burgess, Dare To Know Theatre, Caitlin Gleeson, Chloe Heywood and Rowan Prescott, Jade Williams

Exploring themes of health and wellbeing, local stories or work for and with young people, the works respond to the world we live in today, almost one year from the beginning of the pandemic.

The works include:

  • Joyce Branagh’s The Newcomer– exploring the true story of a survivor of a Polish WWII concentration camp who came to Oldham aged 12
  • Jade Williams’s creativity and wellbeing project for young people inspired by Black British history
  • Grant Archer’s investigation of how lockdown has affected people working in the creative industry
  • Tori Burgess’s audio drama A Tale of Two Giants– based on the Saddleworth folk tale of Alphin and Alder
  • Dare to Know Theatre’s community verbatim piece The Wobble Room
  • Caitlin Gleeson’s One Foot In Front Of The Other– exploring health and wellbeing through the lens of walking,
  • Chloe Heywood and Rowan Prescott’s piece about growing up in a poverty cycle in Oldham.

Theatre director, writer and actor Joyce Branagh was inspired to create The Newcomer following a writing workshop she held with the Coliseum’s over 50s group.

She will work with the concentration camp survivor and local young people to explore her tale.

Presented either as an audio or a film piece, the joyous true story will be a crucial link to talking about immigration historically and in the present day with both older and younger members of the community.

Jade Williams is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative facilitator. Her four-week workshops for young people from Oldham will use movement, writing, drama and media to boost wellbeing and confidence with the overarching theme of exploring Black British history and figures to honour them in a creative way.

Digital artist Grant Archer will collaborate with ballerina Nicky Henshall, actor Shobna Gulati and composer Akshay Gulati to explore how the events of the past year can be turned into a positive to drive us forward.

Filmed on the Coliseum stage, the timely piece will reflect not only the struggles of the creative industry, but the impact on the health and wellbeing of society as a whole.

A Tale of Two Giants from Tameside-based artist Tori Burgess will be an audio drama for young people, exploring Oldham local folklore in an accessible and engaging way.

The play will be framed to work as a precursor or accompaniment to a walk around the setting at Dovestone Reservoir, with possible further materials such as scavenger clues and further folklore reading.

In The Wobble Room, Dare to Know Theatre will follow the story of nurses working in ICU wards at Oldham Royal Hospital, celebrating and documenting the dedication and heroism that nurses have shown throughout the pandemic.

It is hoped the piece will echo the feelings inside hospitals around the country, exemplifying the need for support and understanding about the pressures healthcare workers are facing.

One Foot In Front Of The Other from Caitlin Gleeson is a collection of six short thematic audio pieces that consider walking from a personal perspective, creating a narrative that is gently hopeful.

Based on Caitlin’s experience of walking during recovery from Long Covid, the project is made up of non-fiction blended with invitations to participate in mindful observation.

Chloe Heywood and Rowan Prescott grew up in Oldham, meeting at Oldham College and going on to study at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and Arden School of Theatre respectively. Both are back in Oldham studying at home due to the pandemic.

Their piece will be a filmed 25-minute play filled with authentic stories, injecting comedy and laughter while tackling the harsh realities of growing up in a town where deprivation is prevalent.

Shortlisted artists included: Girl Gang Manchester, Kenton Thomas, Carole Solazzo, Susanna Amato, GW Theatre, Coalesce Dance Theatre and Lauren-Nicole Mayes.

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