A Research & Development project created by verd de gris arts and supported by Arts Council England.

At the heart of verd de gris’ 3-year community engagement project MANY VOICES project is ONE VOICE, a creative steering group of local women representing the varied social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds of women in Calderdale.

All of these women are passionate about the arts and self- expression. They are also passionate about what they can do together to increase opportunities for local women through creative engagement. The group want to give voice to many of the issues and concerns women face in our local communities. ONE VOICE meets once a week at Square Chapel Arts in Halifax: to talk, to share, to create. They also engage widely in cultural events across the region: including theatre shows, exhibitions and ‘happenings’.

The women from ONE VOICE took part in a R&D theatre project during Nov/Dec 2019. The group collaborated with four commissioned women artists:

Actor / Director Sameena Hussain
Photographer and theatre practitioner Carolyn Mendelsohn
Poet and collector of words Katie Atkinson
Concert cellist Helen Thatcher
as well as verd de gris’ project leader Sharon Marsden

The artists and the group met for 6 x creative sessions to co-produce an open pop-up performance at the Copper Space at Square Chapel Arts Centre.

‘I AM because We ARE’ is a developmental piece of theatre. We want to use this experience to explore how words, movement, voice and music can be used to challenge notions of how theatre is made, who it is made by, and for whom.
We want to show how ideas, dreams, thoughts are worked through and coalesce into a whole, through co- creation and co-production, and create something real for a different kind of theatre audience.’
Sharon Marsden, Director verd de gris arts

The project was very much about testing out new ideas, giving the commissioned artists an open brief, and the space to breathe and experiment. It resulted in a number of achievements relating to our original aims, including:

Creating a safe, collaborative space for the women & the artists to co-create
Creating a rich & rewarding performance experience for a local audience, made up predominantly of people who don’t normally attend theatre / art spaces / creative events
Helping us to make contact with some key local and regional organisations, including Kala Sangham, Northern Broadsides and Leeds Playhouse.

“I strongly believe work like this is so crucial and a game changer. We did not parachute in, we did not dictate to the group what art they should make, we did not set the criteria. We made offers and created conditions that the group could allow themselves to play and create.” Sameena Hussain, director

“I participated in the event and I felt so proud that WOW! I did it. I was so happy, especially when I was on stage and reading the poem – I saw tears in the eyes of the audience which made me realise that Yes, it is getting to their hearts.” Rabia, participant

“Powerful and emotional and incredible. I wish I could be part of this! So incredibly important to bring women together and to give them the space to share their experiences and use their voice.” Audience member

You can watch Carolyn’s short film used as part of the stage projection here:

I Am VDG 17.12.19