[Image courtesy of Karen Gordon, photographing the Silent Heroines Disco from Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. Find more here.
acta associate, Jody Cook, recently secured Arts Council England investment to deliver her “Silent Heroines Disco” project in Lockleaze this year. Inspired by her trip with the acta staff team to the International Community Arts Festival (ICAF) in 2017, acta supported Jody to make a bid to deliver her own version here in Bristol in 2021. An immersive theatre piece delving into the untold stories of the all-female cast, through an exciting, alternative audio performance.
Jody joined acta Foundation as a drama worker in 2016, and following her learning year, has worked on a range of acta freelance contracts in Lockleaze, before becoming one of six acta associates in 2019. Jody currently co-leads all of acta’s Lockleaze programmes with Rosalie Pordes, acta Projects Director.
How many shows has Jody made with acta over the last five years? Too many to count! Ranging from magical mystery tales with primary school children, to the hard hitting and real-life stories of loan shark victims in “Drowning in Debt”, Jody has worked with a broad range of acta participants, most prominently in her local community of Lockleaze. For Jody, being able to make theatre with people in her local community is incredibly important.
What is a silent disco theatre project?
Every three years, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, plays host to the International Community Arts Festival (ICAF). Performers, artists and practitioners from across the globe are invited to celebrate the value of participatory arts. It just so happened that this triannual event landed during Jody’s first year on the acta Foundation scheme, and it was here that she experienced the idea of a Silent Heroines Disco. It hasn’t left her mind since.
“We arrived at the theatre on a party bus, lights flashing, we didn’t know what to expect. You were given a headset, and the stories were told to you while you watched it play out on stage.”
The idea was created by the company Women Connected, who developed the first Silent Heroines Disco in 2016 for International Women’s Day. Since then, they have grown the idea: performing at two ICAFs, touring to Gotenburg, Sweden, inspiring Citizens Theatre in Glasgow to create their own (image above) plus a 2019 performance with 1,000 women, and even a Silent Heroines The Movie in April 2021!
With its success clearly proven, it was certainly an idea that could be replicated here in the UK. In a collaboration with Lockleaze Neighbourhood Trust in 2019, Jody produced a show using the headset format for the first time. The response from the audience was just as she’d hoped: “An intense feeling, of blocking out the rest of the world. You can’t look at your phone, or hear a crisp packet opening, or someone coughing behind you. The experience felt real, and for those minutes you’re fully engaged; absorbed in it all.”
Pandemic hits. Planning starts.
Lockdown 2020 enabled Jody the time to virtually meet with both Kaat Zoontjens of Women Connected (community arts network) and Elly Goodman of Glasgow Citizens Theatre (whose image is above), who have both put on their own Silent Heroines Discos, to discuss bringing the concept to Bristol. With Rosalie as mentor, and support from acta, Jody developed a full project proposal and sent off her first ever bid to the Arts Council.
Then in January 2021, Jody received news that her bid had secured funding, and Silent Heroines Disco Lockleaze was going ahead; the devising process is ready to start immediately, despite lockdown restrictions; the performance will be outdoors (most likely in Lockleaze in September); an all-female cast of acta community performers will be gathered from a diverse range of different groups; it will feature untold stories of underrepresented women: our heroines.
How to get involved
Community performers who have previously performed with acta are encouraged to get in touch for more details. The devising process, where we’ll get to hear your stories, can be done over the phone, or by video call, voice note, or when the weather improves, outside in a park! We want to make the process as accessible and “lockdown-friendly” as possible, whilst working towards a time when we can all be together again.
Contact Jody here: firstname.lastname@example.org