This week, Flickbook spent our first of six sessions in the towns of Grantham and Louth, starting work on the “Our Lincolnshire” project. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that starting the project has been rather an eye opener, and a challenge.
It’s interesting that the project title is “Our” Lincolnshire, because in entering these two beautiful towns, we couldn’t have felt more alien – like these towns clearly don’t belong to us at all. And this isn’t through there being any kind of unwelcoming atmosphere… quite the contrary. I think it’s just that, in order to learn, you must first accept that you know nothing. At least by comparison.
In going in to Grantham and Louth, with our “bright, young” optimism and passion to make an impact, we may definitely have been a little naive. The truth is, as part of greater Lincolnshire, these towns are very individual and unique places in their own right, that have both run for a very very long time, without the impact of any nosey young theatre makers.
To the specifics:
Louth was our first visit, and probably the most challenging of the two towns. In our initial Sunday there, we threw a birthday party for our company to break the ice. We were pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of the locals to be involved in creative things, when we discovered that there is a ukulele band that rehearses in a pub every Wednesday night, with weekly participants reaching into the 20s. Naturally (as the good old uke holds such a special place in our collective heart), we dropped in to introduce ourselves and invite the members of the band along to our workshops. A few seemed keen, and certainly impressed with what we were doing, others less interested (as to be expected). In the end, 3 people joined us for our party, two as a result of someone from the ukulele band passing on the message, plus one band member himself. It was nice to know that there is a kind of a network of creative people in the town. And thus, the discussion about Louth – its past, present and future – began. From speaking to the two ladies at the birthday party, and the people we went out into town to speak to during the following session, it’s clear that there are dividing opinions on what Louth has to offer. Many people are very happy there and very proud of the quaint market town they call home, others are more eager for change. Obviously we spoke to these people separately, and (as previously stated) as outsiders looking in, so it was very difficult to see how our project could make an impact without getting these people in a room together. In the coming weeks we plan to gather more local input, through interviews, and hopefully getting a few more people in the room to really engage with the subject. Stay tuned on that…
Grantham was actually a very different experience. In our first session, we were blessed with the company of a lovely local lady named Anne, who had about 50 years of Grantham-ian knowledge. She had seen our show in Leadenham and come along to join us on our creative journey to make something about and for Grantham. Anne offered us some glorious insight into, not only the present day gems and issues she feels the town has, but also into its surprising wealth of history. In fact, what we learnt from our time with Anne and exploring Grantham, was that history is an incredibly integral part of what Grantham has to celebrate and that it would be a total injustice for our project not to acknowledge that in some large way. I, personally, found myself walking around the town with my eyes wide and my mouth agape, feeling like a young girl on a school trip (I always loved history)… which was something I certainly didn’t expect to feel when I first arrived. This was, at least in part, due to the fact that Grantham’s history is quite well hidden. The local people we encountered seemed only too willing to show or tell us about any history they had to offer, but, on the outside, the town itself doesn’t do too much to show it off. Grantham could even be said to be a pretty special place for feminism, being the home town of both the first female British Prime Minister and the first female police officer in Britain; there is something entirely beautiful and inspiring about that, but again, it isn’t massively shouted about. Opening ourselves up to learning was such a key part of the success of our first session in Grantham, and I only hope I just learn more and more every week. Special thanks to Anne for being an amazing tour guide.
Here are some pictures of ways we began to engage with the local community when we struggled to get people in the room:
So, I think, our first week has taught us a very valuable lesson… to allow ourselves to celebrate these places for what they are (although their varying inhabitants may have very different opinions on that matter – as we found out particularly in Louth) and to allow ourselves to learn from the people who live and breathe them. And actually, perhaps our impact (if there is to be an impact), can come from allowing the people to show and teach us about these places, and in turn perhaps realise they are more passionate about where they call home than they thought. It doesn’t matter if that means they want to make things better, spark a debate or conversation for change, or just celebrate everything there is to love about what already exists.