I’ve been volunteering for a little while on the From Docks to Desktops project doing some recorded oral history interviews, and was invited to the Workers Playtime event last week. The session began with a music-themed workshop. When I arrived there was a mix of storytellers, volunteers and theatre makers sitting around little tables in Bubble’s rehearsal space, with mood lighting and crackly vintage music playing. I thought I’d walked into a speakeasy! And actually that’s a good word for it – it can be hard to walk into a room full of people you don’t know, but every time I’ve been to Bubble they make it very welcoming and help everyone feel at ease and get communication going. I guess that is a big part of why I’ve enjoyed volunteering on the project so much. I sat at a table and met Sylvie who has lived in Bermondsey all her life and has a wicked sense of humour!
Listening to hits from the 1940s, 50s and 60s we all had a bit of a sing-a-long and a great music quiz with famous theme-tunes from retro radio shows. The elders were at an advantage so we had to rely on their superior knowledge of Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald and Arthur Askey! It was interesting to know that factories sometimes used to play music to the workforce to make them more productive and the songs evoked many memories.
Next we got together and made Christmas decorations which was a very relaxing and fun group activity. On this production line it was the tea, home-made cakes and chat that fuelled our amazing creativity!
Claire and Peth (with tech support by Deshaye!) then did a presentation about the From Docks to Desktops project. The story-gathering and researching is still going on and the next stage will be starting to devise a performance piece. I’ve never been involved with theatre before so it’s all new to me – and Bubble have their own way of collective creating. I really like the feeling that everyone is contributing to the piece and that the process of making it is a journey with an unknown destination at this point. It feels like all these encounters and conversations with people along the way, whether they are recorded or not, add to the story somehow.
By this time the space was packed as children, teenagers and adults from Bubble’s theatre groups prepared to share the work they’ve been developing recently. Their pieces were warm, original and funny and very inclusive – yes by the end we were all singing again! I think at this event I started to understand what community theatre can be. It’s not just about a community creating theatre, it’s about how theatre can build a community. This was a very fun and inspiring afternoon.
The next workshop session is about smells. Many of the storytellers we’ve met have mentioned all the different smells coming from each factory in the area…biscuits, custard, perfume, jam, vinegar…plus the stink from the tanneries! You could find your way about Bermondsey by following your nose apparently! So, we’re going from songs to pongs…see you there!
To see pictures of the workshop please follow this link https://www.londonbubble.org.uk/page/gallery/