1. A Place Where…

In various areas of the studio, three signs are placed on the floor. The first one reads ‘a place where you felt comfortable’, the second ‘a place where you felt uncomfortable’ and the other ‘a place where you felt…’

The instructions are that the group, in their own time, must visit each place and write a response to each sentence. They are to include in their answer, the emotive response they had to each space, what they see and hear and who else may be present in the scene of that particular memory.

This writing exercise is completed independently until the group returns as a collective. Here members of the group are free to share their memory if they so wish.

3. Creating New Places in the Studio

The group are split into smaller groups where they can pick various items from a pile of furniture, cloth, costumes, outdoor equipment etc. The aim of the exercise is to create a scene that transforms the group to another place. When the group have created a scenario, the teams come back together as a whole and discuss and explore the possible location and narrative that unfolds through discussing where, what, how and when.

The participants also take part in a whole group improvised scene; the scene allows movement, characterisation, soundscapes and visual displays to happen simultaneously. The exercise is over when the scene naturally finds an ending. In this case, the scene becomes a train stop whereby everyone gets on the train and the train leaves the platform.

5. Market Performance

This clip demonstrates a series of activities inspired by the people and place of Tommyfield Markethall, located in the heart of Oldham Town Centre. The group went to the market to watch and explore the everyday movements and sounds of the general public and context of the given space. After giving the time to reflect and discuss observations, the material is brought back into the usual working place in the Studio.

In this studio, the market is represented and brought to life through still images, movement motifs, bizarre costuming of characters and a soundscape is created and recorded that represents the market experience. The session culminates in a somewhat spontaneous and extended ‘performance’ of the market in which the market and the studio are connected through soundscapes, movement, colour and visual pathways.

2. Mapping Oldham in the Studio

The group are informed that the floor of the Studio will be a representation of the borough of Oldham. If Oldham Theatre Workshop is in the centre of the space then other districts can be measured in accordance to the distance to the centre and scale of the room. The exercise begins with finding out how familiar the group are with areas of Oldham and whether they know their geographical location. These include places such as the Library, Royal Oldham Hospital, green spaces and Tommyfield Market.

The second part of the exercise makes connections between these places and their daily routine. The group are asked to create noises using either their voices or using instruments. Each place had a different sound to which the group would respond by visiting each ‘place’ in the room. Variation to the exercise is later added by asking the group to visit each place influenced by speed, noises, and familiarity to area.

This was one of many exercises in the Studio which played with ‘placing’ the migrant communities in Oldham and considering this location in different ways.

4. Bringing Mario to Life

The stimulus for this storytelling exercise comes from an ‘on-site’ session created earlier in the process (see 'On Sites: Dovestone Story Trail'). The narrative is influenced by a participant’s clay model which she names Mario. Exploring the character is done through the medium of music, movement and improvised storytelling.

Also during the exercise, a painting is created on the floor of the studio. This is a bird’s eye view of Dovestone Reservoir where the group had previously created the clay models. The group place their models on the painting to represent their stories. This brings a new place to the foreground (Dovestone Reservoir - where they had a very positive day of activities) and as part of living in Oldham - the place where they now reside. Extending and playing out the character invented (Mario) personalises Dovestone.

6. Light or Dark Place

The group are introduced to a new outside space just behind the studio. It is one of the first times work is taken outside. For the purpose of this exercise, the space has two different areas: an area that has a locked gate surrounded by trees and another, adjacent space that leads to the Gallery Gardens. This space is open with benches and steps leading to greenery that overlooks the surrounding area. The group decides that these are ‘opposite’ spaces of dark and light.

Back in the studio, the group then work with the stimulus of dark or light space. They create frozen images building from their expressions of each area. This is an early and gentle introduction to how we might reconsider everyday places (and, in this case, places that aren’t usually noticed) such that they take on different resonances for the participants when they pass that area in the future.