Performing places Bexley
(UnfamiliarEyes Phase 2: 2017-2020)

Further information and resources
Films, Booklet, Evaluation and Education Resource Pack

Following on from Performing Local Places, Performing Places Bexley sought to develop further research into how we can ease location through performing places. Working closely with the London Borough of Bexley Council, experiments in performing place were undertaken to improve relations between new and settled residents including changing attitudes, atmosphere and behaviours in the main shopping area of Bexleyheath, the Broadway.

Expanding on research in Performing Local Places (Phase 1 of UnfamiliarEyes) Performing Places Bexley [PPB] again used a fictional meta-narrative to provoke consideration of how public space in Bexley (specifically Bexleyheath Broadway) might more easily be shared between new and settled communities and how those different to oneself might be perceived more favourably in this contested space. The PPB meta-narrative made use of a fictional parallel universe, Par Bexia, which was falling apart through lack of place-care and community coherence. The metaphorical narrative was played out over eighteen months. Activities were bespoke and included workshops in schools and community groups, talks, mini performances at community events and nine days of street activities (in the summer of 2018 and 2019) on Bexleyheath Broadway.

PPB engaged approximately 8,000 people, aged 0–90 through, more than 75 workshops (including, for example, taking a pod around schools in which was a Par Bexian trying to come out and creating an AR — augmented reality — trail around Bexleyheath), assemblies (updating secondary school pupils on the narrative and encouraging their attendance on the Broadway in the street activity days), talks (e.g., to the Townswomen Guild, primarily to encourage their presence on the Broadway in the afternoons) and storytelling sessions (e.g., to zero–five year olds in the Bexleyheath library), an ‘in-role’ website, an associated production for primary schools and nine days of street participatory performance. Selecting and embedding an overarching narrative allowed us to work with the council agenda of engaging new and settled communities by sharing the space through a fictional set of activities as well as gently reinforcing messages of welcoming strangers and supporting ‘people’ in need. A post- event Education Resource pack was created for use in the four secondary schools in 2020, reinforcing the messages and narrative of the work.

Partners included Bexley Council, Bexley BID (Business Improvement District), Bexley Library Services, Emergency Exit Arts, Little Fish Theatre and Mash Up Productions. Partners commissioned and co-designed the work with the research team, as well as assisting in delivery.

Collaborators contributed to the research project, helping create bespoke practice aligned with the partners’ overall commission and design. Collaborators included:

Key players: Suha Al-Khayyat, Claire MacNeill, Ross Bolwell-Williams, Patrick Bullock, Dan Starmer, Adelina Ong.

If you do use this website resource, please just let Sally Mackey know by email - so that we can have a sense of how the work is being used.

Lead investigator: Sally Mackey, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.

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