It’s been quite the year for New Writing South’s Celebrating our Stories project. Led by Artistic Director Dinos Aristidou and supported by Arts Council England and The Baring Foundation’s Celebrating Age initiative, we have been collecting the stories of older LGBTQ+ people throughout 2019 to turn into a brand new verbatim theatre festival Hear Us Out in 2020.
We started 2019 by holding story gathering training in Brighton and Hastings. 14 people were trained up as Story Gatherers to go out and record the stories of older LGBTQ+ people across the South East of England. Rather than interviewing people, the story gatherers coached our story tellers to tell them an uninterrupted story on one of the project’s chosen themes of Family, Identity, Celebrations, Home, How We Changed the World, and Folklore.
After collecting more than 30 stories, we held Story Listening Workshops in Brighton and Hastings where we brought people together, including many of our story tellers and story gatherers, to listen to and discuss the stories we had collected and make suggestions about how we might use them to create performances.
We’re currently in the phase of the project where we’re working with LGBTQ+ writers and performers to turn the stories we’ve collected into performances. Our first writing workshop in Brighton sold out and it was such a pleasure to hear all the wonderful writing that had been inspired by the stories we had collected.
Early next year we will be holding a writing workshop in Hastings (date TBC) and an additional Brighton Writing Workshop on Thursday 30th January. We will also be holding our first Performance Workshop on Saturday 25th January. Both our writing and performance workshops are open to LGBTQ+ people of all ages and abilities who want to help celebrate and amplify the stories of the older members of our community. Whether you just want to participate in a workshop or join our company of community performers who will perform in the festival next year, we would love to have as many LGBTQ+ people involved as possible.
Early next year, we will launch Hear Us Out, the name chosen for the festival by our Steering Group. The festival will launch at two social events in Brighton on Thursday 16th January and in Hastings (Date TBC). At these launch events we will listen to some of the stories we have collected so far and maybe even see a couple performed. We’ll also be letting attendees know what’s coming up for the project in 2020 and how they can get involved as an individual or on behalf of a local organisation.
Our festival will include a new stage production created by Artistic Director Dinos Aristidou with a team of community performers and writers. It will be performed on Saturday 19th September 2020 at the Sallis Benney Theatre, Brighton Centre for Contemporary Arts. We will also be presenting a number of satellite performances, socials and talks in non-performance spaces such as Residential Homes, Day Centres, Libraries and Community Centres. We have some partners already working with us on the project but we would also very much like to hear from South East based organisations and venues who would be interested in hosting an event as part of the Hear Us Out festival.
If you have any questions about the project or would like more information on how you can get involved, please contact the Celebrating our Stories Project Manager Lee Smith firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the winter festivities and have a happy new year. We can’t wait to see what 2020 holds for the project and hope you’ll stay tuned for Hear Us Out!