What a rollercoaster of six weeks! My task has been to co-write a micro opera for the Re:sound project with participants based at Emmanuel House Support Centre in Nottingham, an amazing centre which supports the homeless and rough sleepers in Nottingham.
The sessions start on Tuesday 17th May at 12.45 - lunchtime. This timing is crucial as it is precisely the moment when a small group of vulnerable citizens are given lunch at the centre. A majority of these are Polish - more of that later. This overlap is important as it gives me the opportunity to engage people who might not otherwise have been aware of the sessions.
Given the nature of the centre and the people being supported, it soon becomes clear that this project is going to develop in a unique way; you never know who will be there from week to week or how long they will be able to stay, so any formal structure is clearly unworkable. I have to think on my feet and react quickly to any response I get. What is clear is that the co-writing process here is going to be about making sure I grab the strands of ideas that I can get when they appear and pull them together, rather than working in a linear fashion.
The project is about taking a fresh look at the City of Nottingham, so, to get in the mood, we start each week with what we like to call City Bangers - well-known songs about cities. It soon becomes clear that Polish versions of these songs are needed and one of the favourites and most joyous moments of the process is the rendition of Petula Clark’s ‘Downtown’ with a rousing refrain in Polish of ‘Śródmieście’!!
We start exploring individual’s relationships to the city and a fascinating theme soon comes out, relating to the fact that the main shopping centre in Nottingham, the Victoria Centre was, until 1967, the main Railway Station - Victoria Station. All that remains is the red-brick clock tower - to this day a focal point and place to meet up. Soon, local characters began to emerge and the idea of linking the past to the present in these character’s lives, through the prism of Victoria Centre/ Station becomes the obvious route. Steve then comes up with the line ‘Everything happens at the clock’ and a tune to go with it and we have the start of our micro-opera.