By Paul - Booth Centre Project Worker
The Edge runs regular drama and singing workshops at the Booth Centre and together we have produced a unique company making high quality theatre. The summer production, That’s the Trouble with the Poor, was set in Manchester 1819.
The idea to create a play based on the theme of Peterloo came from a planning meeting; the group wanted the play to have a message that championed solidarity, our heritage and our uniqueness as a city.
The actors and director Janine Waters organised visits to places such as People’s History Museum and Manchester Central Library to learn more about the Peterloo Massacre and the ideals that people were fighting for. As the group discovered more about their characters we felt immense admiration for these people who had so little but contributed so much. That in the face of such adversity, still believed that the world could be a fairer place. During the research stage a narrative started to form based on the people involved and their lives in the weeks before the massacre. This included people like Elijah Ridings and his dream of St Peter’s library, and the excitement of a group of activists hearing the news that Henry Hunt was coming to address the crowds in the hope of bringing about change.
Using improvisation workshops, creative character building sessions and the history of a few of the people involved, our message became clearer each session as the truth that a handful of people really can change the world became our inspiration. The company is often referred to as a family by the people involved and this is a feeling we all share. Each member of the company takes on their role as an actor but also as an encourager for their fellow actors, to provide support and be each other’s inspiration. I am inspired to push myself and my acting skills each week after seeing the huge amount of talent involved in every production. It’s not too far to say I am in awe of all the actors and it’s my absolute pleasure to be part of this unbelievable company.
This particular play was Mohammed’s first play with the Booth Centre. Mohammed says
‘I had never acted before. I was encouraged to take part in the drama workshops and when I eventually came to my first session I was immediately relaxed because of the connections I had with the group and the encouragement I got from everyone there. I am originally from Morocco but when I was involved in the play I felt British. You don’t need a passport to be part of a country, what you need is connections or feeling part of a family and I am in the drama group it feels like I am with my family. I didn’t know about Peterloo beforehand but I feel I know a lot now about the history of Manchester. At the end of the play when we each read out a name of one of the people that had died at the massacre, I read out the name William Dawson. Having acted in the play and the information I discovered I had the feeling like I had a connection with the people involved. I was proud to be associated with this important topic. Pride is my main feeling toward what we achieved together with this show. It was huge.’
Our next artistic adventure is our exhibition of banners and prints to be displayed at the People's History Museum. The exhibition is called LISTEN UP and is a project of expression, celebration and pride. Each piece is a celebration of individuality and diversity. Protesting stereotypes, prejudice and unsupported ideas. Our work will be on display in the Protest Lab from Friday 30th August to Friday 27th September.