Laurence Clark

Laurence Clark came to St Helens and entertainment a packed Citadel Theatre with his critically-acclaimed comedy show, Independence in February 2017.

Everybody seems to want their independence right now – but be very careful what you wish for!  Laurence spins his tales of adolescence, love and Harry Potter, discovering he doesn’t have to be Superman and do everything.  But life sometimes throws up the unexpected when you depend on someone else to fasten your jeans for you.

Heart of Glass chatted to Laurence about his comedy and the new show.

How did you get involved in comedy?imageresizer

I’m a stand-up comedian who happens to have cerebral palsy. My comedy thrives on breaking taboos. Disability still seems to be considered a taboo which is why you get so many comics doing material about it.

But because I’m disabled I think sometimes there’s a preconception that my act is going to be worthy in some way and not particularly funny.

Sometimes people say to me “you don’t do comedy about disability do you?” as if they think it’s going to be really depressing.  However, no one would dream of telling a Chris Rock to not do material about being Black.

All stand-up comics use aspects of themselves and their experiences to create material and I don’t see why disabled comics should be any different. So I tend to use uncomfortable, socially awkward past experiences as inspiration – it’s very cathartic!  Oh yes, and funny!  Very, very funny!

I really wanted to write comedy for a long time and was sending off scripts to the BBC and getting nowhere.  I loved stand-up comedy and really wanted to give it a go but couldn’t see how someone like me could pull it off.  Then I saw a show the comedian Dave Gorman use PowerPoint slides and was completely blown away.  He made me realise that stand-up doesn’t have to be just one person standing on a stage talking to an audience for an hour.  All my life I’d had stuff to say and a dark sense of humour which I’d inflict on those around me. Suddenly this gave me an outlet, an entry point into the mainstream. My wife was also glad as now she wasn’t the only one expected to laugh at my jokes!

Tell us about the show?

This show is about how I live my day-to-day life as someone with cerebral palsy who has to rely on other people to help me with things like dressing and shaving. I talk about what it means to me to live independently. However, along the way it covers my 8 week stint in Scottish physical dance theatre (not an obvious career choice for a wheelchair user!), being impersonated by Daniel Radcliffe and what to do when 500 incontinence pads get mistakenly left on your doorstep!

For a long time now I’ve really wanted to make a show about what it’s like to go through life relying on others to do personal tasks for you. Oops, as I typed that last sentence and read it back I realised how dodgy it sounds!

I mean the kind of things I can’t do for myself. When I came up with the title ‘Independence’ a year ago I had no idea just how topical it would be after Brexit!  There is a bit of politics in the show, but mostly I think this show is very personal to me.  I’m probably the only comedian who could deliver this material.

Eggs Collective

Eggs Collective are a trio making sharp, fun, culturally-observational performance that falls somewhere in the cracks between theatre and cabaret.

They make performance that is accessible, comedic and multi-layered, whilst being unafraid to speak its mind and pour out its heart. Our work is politically-charged, but always hospitable and kind.

Tasked with creating a show to celebrate the people, the history and the future of St Helens, Sara and Léonie worked with the residents of Raglan Court, Parr Mount Court and Reeve Court housing schemes, uncovering a unique town through the eyes of those who know it best.

​Created and performed by the residents involved, A Proper St Helens Knees Up was part-party, part-show, featuring original live music and comedy sketches. The sold-out audience were served local Pimmie’s Pies by students from St Helens College and everyone took away a souvenir brochure, illustrated by Lowri. Performed at St Helens’ iconic Citadel for one, very special, night only.

 

Eggs Collective are Sara Cocker, Lowri Evans and Léonie Higgins.

 

Michelle Browne

Michelle Browne Now Thus Now Thus is a semi fictional tour through Alexandra Park, the site of the Pilkingtons Glass heaquarters and factory that existed in the town of St. Helens for over 200 years. In the past Pilkingtons was one of the main employers in the town.

Drawn from research into the company, interviews with local people, ex-employees of the company and conversations with the current staff at Alexandra Park, the tour looks at the contrast between the working lives of those who had worked for Pilkingtons in the past and the conditions for workers in the present day. Pilkingtons as a company epitomises how capitalism has cha
nged over the centuries and its subsequent impact on the worker. During the tour of the building, real stories of those interviewed are woven into a fictional narrative that maps out the changing nature of work over the last 200 years.

Now Thus Now Thus was presented as part of The Invisible City commissioned by Heart of Glass

Marisa Carnesky

Marisa Carnesky worked in collaboration with Lisa Lee And local artist Victoria Edgerton on Haunted Furnace.

The scary walkabout performances featuring live performers in the haunted Hotties furnace at The World of Glass.

The interactive shows, which sold out within a week, were put together with 27 females from St Helens.

Marisa and the team were able to work first hand with the participants to create a show that surprised at every turn and reveal a series of mysterious ghostly stories of St Helens.

Haunted Furnace took over the underground tunnels of the original Pilkington’s glass factory (now The World of Glass Museum).

Carnesky, who directed the shows, is responsible for original interactive shows that work with themes of the funfair, magic illusions, horror and the bizarre.

This project was part of the TakeOverFest, a Heart of Glass initiative developed and directed by SCOTTEE for St. Helens. Supported by the Helena Housing Make it Happen project.

Lowri Evans

There was standing room only as a 1960’s St. Helens bus returned to the streets as part of a Heart of Glass artist commission. Artist Lowri Evans took on the role of conductor / tour guide for two sold out explorations of St Helens with stops at Windleshaw Chantry, Lowe House and Victoria Park bandstand.

The project, a Heart of Glass commission, was developed and led by a newly formed Community Commissioning panel – a group of individuals from across St.Helens who have been working with Heart of Glass over the past couple of months to initiate new projects.

The group commissioned Lowri to develop the project that saw an ex St Helens corporation bus return to the streets of the borough. In the development of the project Lowri met and recorded stories and anecdotes from around the town.  These personal and historical facts were retold to passengers as an ‘alternative tour’ as they visited local landmarks throughout the town on the vintage bus.

A recording of voices and music collected during Lowri’s walks during 7th – 12th September will also be pressed into a limited edition vinyl as a legacy and record of the project and its participants.

The project was bought together by Heart of Glass with the support of Northwest Museum of Road Transport at the Old Bus Depot on Hall Street, St Helens.

Lowri, said: “It was like a real coach trip, with lots of camaraderie. There was laughter and tears and cheers aboard the bus. I found out lots of stories tied to places as the bus looped around St. Helens – the stolen records that turned up in the junk shop, which baker really does the best pies in town, the crowd-funding adopt a bell scheme in the 1920s at Lowe House.”

“We beeped and waved at passengers’ relatives who we passed on the route who came out to see the bus. It seemed like a celebration of not so much the town but the people in it, a sort of portrait of St. Helens made from chance encounters, the kindness of strangers and fragments of memory. But instead of it being a nostalgic trip, it felt like it was about now, and I was surprised by how much there is to look forward to, it was a confirmation of the life and lives, after industry.”

Joshua Sofaer

Your Name Here was the opportunity to nominate someone to become the name of a park in St Helens. We received hundreds of qualifying nominations, an amazing response which draws a portrait of the town.

There were a number of themes that emerged: stories of forgotten figures from St Helens; people who have given to their community; nominations for loved family members and tributes to friends; memorials for those who have passed; and people who nominated themselves with very different reasons. Nominations were sometimes funny, often deeply moving, and always sincere.

In towns and cities across the country, streets, parks and buildings are named after people. Those selected are normally kings or queens, ministers of government, or those who have contributed something of great cultural significance to society. Most of them have long since passed from this world. Rarely is there a chance to name a place after the ordinary people who live there. Your Name Here was such an opportunity.

The justification for naming a place after a person is generally that they are already celebrated. Their name is well known because of their status or what they have done. When naming a park after another kind of person, a person who is not known beyond their immediate social circle and who has led a quiet life, what kinds of criteria can you use to judge? What makes one person worthy of having a park named after them more than another?

It is an extremely difficult task. People will hold a range of opinions and yet more important than any one individual being singled out is the idea that we, as citizens, have the power to take control over our environment and leave our mark on it.

During the call for nominations a giant neon sign reading Your Name Here was installed on St Helens Town Hall and 100,000 fliers were distributed across the borough. Over 500 people took part in workshops in schools, libraries, community centres, clubs and societies. Your Name Here unearthed all kinds of interesting accounts about residents of the town. The judging panel were delighted and impressed by the wealth of engaging people and inspirational stories. As one member put it, “We need more parks to name!”

Vera Bowes happened to attend an oral history reminiscence workshop in the communal lounge of her sheltered housing. It was at this meeting that she shared her story.

The judges commented:

‘We were greatly touched by Vera Bowes’ nomination of herself as a child, under her birth name Vera Page. For a project with the title, Your Name Here, it is wonderful to see someone who has tried to imagine what it would mean for them personally to have a park named after them, and to think of the opportunity as a way of confronting demons of the past. Vera’s story of abandonment, despair and hardship may resonate with many of us; it is also uniquely her own. We want the naming of Vera Page Park to stand as a symbol for all of us who need to acknowledge the hurt of the past in order to heal.’

Vera’s story is a reminder to recognise all neglected children. It is a tribute to both the young and the old, and the struggles many of us go through in life as we try to make peace with our past.

I am nominating myself as a child.

I can’t forget the little girl who thought she wasn’t wanted and how it affected my life.

My real Mum died when I was a baby. My Dad didn’t want me after he re-married. So my Grandma brought me up with the others, but she died when I was four. After that my Aunt Rose looked after me. I called her Mam, thinking she was my mother. But at 15, she had to tell me the truth, because her husband didn’t want to keep me.

I married and had five of my own children, but lost two of them. My husband knocked me about and I suffered a nervous breakdown. The nurses had to teach me to walk and talk again – I’d gone completely.

People tell me to forget the past, but they don’t know what those years did to me.

by Vera Bowes

Vera Page Park was launched on Saturday 5th September 2015 and it will remain in place for people to enjoy in perpetuity. It will become part of the fabric of the town, and all the maps will have to change.

A selection of the many hundreds of nominations were published in the town newspaper, the St Helens Star.

Hunt & Darton

Hunt & Darton is a Live Art collaboration between artists JENNY HUNT and HOLLY DARTON. They have been working together for over a decade sustaining a performance practice routed in their Fine Art background having met studying at Central Saint Martins (London). They work across mediums – often creating installations to perform within most of which take on recognisable day to day formats in public arenas.

Their award-winning pop-up performance/installation, the Hunt & Darton Cafe a fully functioning café where everything was considered as Art that in its full iteration took over empty shops for the duration of a month, has been presented at Tate Britain, Edinburgh Fringe and Latitude Festivals, and 3 cities in China with the British Council. During 2014-15, the Cafe was presented at 14 locations around the UK as part of a successful Arts Council Strategic Touring bid, reaching 10,000 new live audience members and culminating in a symposium to 100 attendees. Described by the Guardian as ‘A pop up establishment of disarming eccentricity’.

They have created a series of playful competitions put through the Hunt & Darton mill and open to all. Notably, in 2014 they received a Circulate commission for outdoor family friendly work to tour to 6 outer London regions. The initial work, titled Hunt & Darton Food Fight was scratched throughout Autumn 2014 and through further funding developed into a full-length performance event. ‘The Punch, The Sandwich, The Cake’ is for up to 30 participants and has been shown at Artsdepot, the Albany, Eclat Festival in Caromb, France and the Barbican. Their Not Great British Bake Off an absurd 3-day cake baking contest took place as part of Forest Fringe at Edinburgh Fringe 2015.

In 2014/15 they toured a full-length theatre show titled ‘Boredom’ (created in residence at Cambridge Junction in 2013, supported by ACE) to venues including Shoreditch Town Hall (London), Peninsula Arts Plymouth, Edinburgh Fringe, Buzzcut Festival Glasgow and The Basement Brighton.

They are currently on UK tour after a further successful ACE Strategic Tour bid, visiting 7 locations with their new outdoor public artwork – Radio Local. This is a new radio station broadcast live, straight from high streets in a 12-24 hour show built for and with the places it visits.

They regularly host events, make brief appearances on the alternative cabaret scene and various other London subculture stages with their performance poetry.

Hunt & Darton are associate Artists at Cambridge Junction and Artsadmin.

 

 

French and Mottershead

French & Mottershead are the UK artist duo Rebecca French and Andrew Mottershead.

Creating multi-artform experiences that are as playful and poetic as they are subversive, French & Mottershead invite participants to think again about who they are, and their ties to place and one another.

Brass Calls, a sound work using fragments of speech translated from personal and public use, into bugle calls that punctuates Church Square echoed the civic back on to itself.

This exciting artistic collaboration sought to bring St Helens’ issues to the forefront through specially composed musical compositions broadcast into Church Square in the centre of town. The music evolved from the bugle call; a short tune, originating as a military signal and routinely used as a way to make an instruction or call to action. French & Mottershead researched, interviewed and earwigged in a bid to capture a sense of the borough’s affairs and relay them in 16 brand new bugle calls.

The resulting work, Brass Calls, was made up of short musical pieces that call on people to take action. The work filled Church Square with sudden, bursts of brilliant music for two full days at regular intervals as citizens went about their daily business. Working with composer Adam D J Taylor, the calls were created from gathering personal tales and local phrases, turned into musical scores that were performed and recorded by The Haydock Band, one of the oldest community organisations in St Helens.

Locally relevant issues such as zero hour contracts; town centre skateboarding, the Hardshaw Centre benches and Saints were on the agenda, along with personal tales from St Heleners.

The subjects chosen in the calls convey human stories about relationships to one another, to work, and the town. Each mini-drama inspired a lyric, written as a short poetic call to action. From a parent calling ‘get out yer pit’ to their teenager, to a skateboarder defending their rights, and the clarion call to keep the last glass ‘ribbon floatin’. These were then elevated into brief, beautiful musical phrases filling Church Square.

 

 

Rhona Byrne

And, on that note’
This event on December 10th 2014 at Langtree Park, Rugby Stadium,

hosted an evening ‘Silent Night’ with visual and musical elements alongside an event linked to the anniversary of the World War 1 Christmas Truce of 1914. For one evening this event brought together school, church and community choirs from across the borough, forming a mass choir of some 500 local singers and an audience of approx 1500.
‘And, on that Note’ is a visual art commission alongside this event that combined choral voices with sculpture, performance and audience participation. Working with a team of 35 locally based artists and students from St Helens College and Carmel College, dancers from ‘Watch this space productions’ and a Cheerleader group

all helped in the production of the works as well as performing in the event.

 

‘And, on that note’ considers moments of transition, states of uncertainty, inbetween private thought and public behavior. The performative works present individual and collective endurance – the patterns within moments

of exertion where action, feeling and meaning become one. Each element looks at the ‘self’ during moments

of human interaction and gathering, reflecting on the tensions between isolation, desire, connection and unity.
A Moving threshold, a fabric sculpture for which performers provide a flexible support structure, greets the audience as they enter the Arena and moves around the pitch to observe the event. The choir of 500 people reform as an ‘Emotional Choir‘ with three experimental choral interludes exploring laughter and obsession.

A carpeted landmass sits still in the darkness of the arena’s pitch until it rumbles and falls apart. A mass of moving sculptures of boulders and black clouds negotiate this terrain. An inflatable sculpture manifests as a collective breath in the opposite stand of the stadium.
The Choir of 500 people performed three interludes during the event where they became an ‘Emotional Choir’.
These interludes were choreographed to coincide with the moving sculptural elements.
Part 1 A laughter Choir where each row laughed in turn until the whole choir were laughing and the clouds moved across the pitch and were passed into the audience.
Part 2 The Choir and audience approx 2000 were invited to repeat the name of a person they loved while the landmass errupted and fell apart.
Part 3 The choir sang a high note, while holding a gold card infront of their heads until they couldnt hold the note anymore.

 

Scottee

 

 

Thank you St. Helens!

Heart of Glass invited me to think about developing a festival of art events for St. Helens. After several brews and a few pie barns we launched Take Over Fest in September!

Across 9 events, over 3 months a massive 2000 of you from across all 5 boroughs laughed, cried and ate roast dinner sandwiches with us.

We transformed old shoe shops into art cafes, The Hotties into a feminist ghost train; we even put a pop-up-stand-up-poetry-club in Central Library!

My personal highlights include watching 150 children at Kids Rave get covered in cereal, the beautiful Le Gateau Chocolat transform the World of Glass cone into a night at the opera, the brilliant Grey Ladies (a performance group of local young women) make me jump out of my skin for Halloween, Jayde Adams’ unforgettable Adele impersonation at Camp and Jack Rooke’s intimate taxi journeys across town discussing the loss of his Dad.

All of 30 artists involved from across the country have all said how warm the people of St. Helens are, in fact whilst touring Camp one audience member said they knew St. Helens and before they could say anything Jayde Adams said “I hope you’re going to say something nice, the people of St. Helens have been kind to me!”

By far the greatest thing I will take away from Take Over Fest is the response from you – the punters! You gave us your time and money and we’ve had some really lovely feedback from all the events.

I’ve been given a Saints kit, got a loyalty card at Lily’s and experienced the warmth of you lovely lot so I’m committed to St. Helens! This week I’m at the Heart of Glass office (the old Beechams building) planning some exciting new things for 2016! I can’t give away too much just yet but keep your eyes peeled! As a famous man once said – I’ll be back!

Scottee