Where did the inspiration from this project arise from?

This project springs from a desire to open up the world of Black History and go beyond the most popular well known stories to make it more personal to those telling and receiving it. Growing up in Northern Britain, I was exposed to rare encounters with Black History that often seemed too distant and unrelated to my lived experience. This project is an opportunity to explore the topic on my own terms - what happens when we look at history through the lens of a Northern Black woman? 

Tell us about British History Retold

British History Re-Told is a theatrical exploration into key moments of our history, related from the point of view of a Northern Black Woman. It seeks to look at questions about race, identity and heritage that the artist has encountered throughout her life. The project will also investigate black history in line with British history to explore the relationship and interdependency between the two. Working with a team of Artists, the project centres around a week long R+D to develop a theatrical piece of storytelling that recounts key historical moments alongside reflections on identity and heritage. The piece will include, storytelling, music and projected illustrations. The week will culminate in a short sharing of the work developed so far to an invited audience followed by a Q+A.

The piece will be for all to enjoy but specifically aimed at KS2 aged children. In order to gauge content appropriateness, interest and levels of interaction within the piece, the rehearsal week is precluded by a series of workshops with a group of Y6 children at Micklehurst Primary School.

About the Artist

Alicia McKenzie is a Manchester based actor, musician and storyteller originally from Darlington. She has 20 years experience working in the arts and 9 years as a professional actor touring internationally and performing all over the UK with companies such as Northern Broadsides, The New Vic and Octagon, Bolton. Alicia has extensive experience conducting storytelling workshops in various settings. Her work seeks to bring to life the engaging stories of unheard voices in a theatrical and interactive way. Alicia has a Masters in Applied Theatre, specialising in performance for young audiences and she also worked as Youth Theatre assistant director at the Unicorn Theatre.

Alicia will be working with the following artists in this exploration:

Simone Watson-Brown – Director

Leanne Armstrong – Illustrator

Lavender Rodriguez – Composer / Musician

Jan Blake – Narraturg

An insight into a day in the project, written by Alicia McKenzie

On Thursday 30th September, we had the second of our school’s workshops. I spent an hour and a half with the year 6 class at Micklehurst primary and we had a great time. We explored the slave trade and slavery in depth with an extended role play. We looked at Britain’s role in the slave trade, how the African’s might have felt to be taken from their home, slaves trying to escape or buy back their freedom and how public opinion started to change. Next week we are looking forward to exploring the ex-slave abolitionists and the cotton Industry in Manchester.

With thanks to…

The project has been made possible thanks to support from Manchester Independents who have helped with organising, venue, providing a platform from which to voice the project and of course key funding. I'm delighted to be rehearsing at the Hope Mill Theatre and to be able to share the results of the R+D with members of the panel. Art's Council England have provided additional funding to support my research and development of the piece. Huge thanks must also go to Sophia Hatfield of Stute Theatre who has provided invaluable help and advice to produce the project.

Meet the team

We’ve also had planning meetings with all of the creative team which has been really exciting. Half of us are Manchester based and half will be travelling up from London for the R+D week in October. Here is some more info about some of our team:

Alicia Mckenzie – Lead Artist / Performer

Alicia McKenzie is a Manchester based actor, musician and storyteller originally from Darlington. She has 20 years experience working in the arts and 9 years as a professional actor touring internationally and performing all over the UK with companies such as Northern Broadsides, The New Vic and Octagon, Bolton. Alicia has extensive experience conducting storytelling workshops in various settings. Her work seeks to bring to life the engaging stories of unheard voices in a theatrical and interactive way. Alicia has a Masters in Applied Theatre, specialising in performance for young audiences and she also worked as Youth Theatre assistant director at the Unicorn Theatre.

Simone Watson-Brown – Director

Simone is a London born Theatre Director and a Freelance: Associate Consultant Executive Coach and Creative & Corporate Facilitator.

She trained in Musical Theatre at The Brit School of Performing Arts before obtaining a 1st Class Hons Degree in Contemporary Performance Practice from Winchester University in 2006. 

Theatre Directing / Devising Credits include: ‘Work That Pussy’ by Juliana Ayeni-Stevens, (Talawa Theatre) First Bites, 2021.  ‘Apple’ (Pleasance Theatre), Future Fringe Festival 2021, and Vault festival 2020.  HUGeNestDriftwood (The Galloping Cuckoos) ‘It Came Out of The Blue’ (Roundhouse London & Vault Festival). ‘The Wrong Side of Right’  (Etcetera Theatre and Camden Fringe Festival) 2012 . ‘Knickers to That!’ (Oval House and Etcetera Theatre), 2013. ‘If The Shoe Fits’  (The Space & Vault Festival), ‘Graveyard Gang’ (Purple Moon Drama on Tour) to name a few. 

Simone also works as Head of Partnerships at Theatre Peckham, is Founder and Director of Dramatic Momentum and is an Executive Communication and Impact Coach and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant.  She sits on the board of Trustees for Chain Reaction Theatre Company, Purple Moon Drama and Diverse Voices Edutainment. 

You can connect with Simone via twitter @sim1_watson and on LinkedIn via https://uk.linkedin.com/in/simonewatson1 for updates and news on new work, projects and events.

Leanne Armstrong – Illustrator

Leanne Armstrong is a graphic designer and illustrator based in London. With over 10 years of design experience, Leanne has built a name for herself under the name of Leanne Creative, producing creative work for large organisations as well as start-ups and individuals from a variety of fields. She is a freelance designer specialising in print design and marketing and has illustrated several children’s books, including writing/illustrating her own book in late 2019. In 2017, she launched her own range of greeting cards and gifts featuring her illustrated portraits of people from the African diaspora, celebrating the rich diversity of skin tones, hair textures and patterns found on the continent. The mission of Leanne Creative’s greeting cards and gifts is to celebrate and represent black people as royalty one card at a time, addressing the balance in the greeting card and gift industry.

Websites: leannecreative.com

Shop: leannecreative.etsy.com

Lavender Rodriguez - Composer / Musician

Lavender Rodriguez, also known as just ‘Lavender’, was born in Hackney, London, raised in Hampshire and now lives in Manchester.  She prides herself in being a “creative” – using any output to explore and express a plethora of ideas, through composition, performance (through the likes of violin and bass guitar primarily) and arranging.

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Comments

  1. JjT
    Really interesting

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