We’ve just completed a great week at Customs House, as part of our North East Artist Development Network residency. As well as welcoming back Matt Feerick, we were joined by our costume designer, Rosie Bristow, who has added more lumps and bumps to our costumes. Our designer, the wonderfully talented, Kelly Jago, has also built us an incredible set. And our stage manager, Patricia Verity Suarez was there too to lend support to the growing production elements and scene creation.
The week ended with an outing of the Canaries to Whitley Bay Metro Station as part of the Arthouses. The community festival brings contemporary artists’ video, site-specific installation and live performances to the streets and community of south Whitley Bay. Bemused passengers watched improvised and set pieces from the show.
Back at Customs House, our lead artist for Public Engagement, Patricia Verity Suarez, ran a two-hour creative workshop that explored history and storytelling looking at historical sources like posters, statistics, articles and stories of the WW1 Munitionettes.
What a full week! With just a one week left, we all feel like the process could have been 3 months, rather than just 3 weeks. Next week we’ll be hurtling to the finish line, shaping the pieces we’ve created for a showing to peers, partners, programmers and friends next Friday, 1pm at Dance City. I’m excited, nervous, worried, elated and proud, all at once.
Phew what a week! Last week Miss Alys, Miss Katie and Miss Robyn were busy working with Matt Feerick, Karen Bell and Bev Fox creating funny, meaningful and surprising routines drawing on our research into the munitionettes.
Miss Patricia led two workshops one at Space Six and one at Headway Arts using theatre, movement and clowning to engage with archive material on the munitionettes.
This week we look forward to working with Matt again and our designer Kelly Jago and costume designer Rosie Bristow at The Customs House, South Shields.
On Saturday at The Customs House there is a creative workshop that will explore history and storytelling. We will look at historical sources like posters, statistics, articles and stories of the WW1 Munitionettes to ask questions like “Were we tougher back then?”, “Would we support the fight for Queen and Country now?” and make a bit of theatre all whilst drinking tea! https://www.facebook.com/events/845661872195731/
Last but not not least don't forget to pledge your support on Kickstarter. We still need to raise £350 in nine days to reach our target. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/655199758/the-munitionettes
Stiff upper lip!
Wowee so far we have £475.00 pledged on our Kickstarter page and we want to thank:
Davva, Siobhan Burke, Uncle Tacko, Jack Burton, Holly Wallace, Paul Dewhurst, Jane Williamson, Jane Park, Jane Angel, Kerrin Tatman, Kat Borrowdale, Michelle Fox, Ben Ainsley Gill, Sarah Smith, Ged Camille, Cameron Hall, Falbala and Steph North.
You are all good sports.
However, we still need to raise £525.00 in eleven days! We need to raise the full amount or we don't get a penny. When you pledge you could receive such goodies as: a postcard, sponsoring a button, suggesting a line for the show or a speciality munitioned explosion in your honour.
As Fun in the Oven start their adventures in the studio Miss Robyn Hambrook reflects on a field trip to the Devil's Porridge Museum in Gretna Green.
The Devil’s Porridge
"The nitroglycerin on the one side and the gun-cotton on the other are kneaded into a sort of a devil's porridge" wrote Arthur Conan Doyle, in a 1918 article following a visit to the Munitions Factory in Gretna.
Described as the ‘Greatest Munitions Factory on Earth, HM Factory Gretna’, it stretched for 9 miles and employed 30,000 workers at its height, to manufacture RDB Cordite, a type of munitions propellant.
For centuries, the quiet, rural area around the tiny hamlets of Eastriggs and Gretna lay undisturbed with only a few farms and small settlements dotted about. Then in 1915, soon after the start of World War One, the men from the Ministry of Munitions arrived and everything changed.
By 1917 the factory was producing 1,100 tons of cordite per week, more than all the other munitions plants in Britain combined, providing much-needed ammunition or the troops fighting on the front line.
Two new townships; Eastriggs and Gretna, were designed and built by the pioneers of the Garden City movement to provide housing amenities and recreation for the 30,000 factory workers who came from all across the Empire.
This remarkable story is told by The Devil's Porridge Museum. On a visit on a sunny Friday afternoon, Katie and I, along with a couple of friends explored this wonderful museum in Eastriggs. A superb journey through interactive displays and past unique objects, revealed the secret wartime history of southwest Scotland and Cumbria. From the worst rail disaster in British history to what life in the factory and hostels was like for thousands of people. Upstairs piles of folders were filled with the collected stories of women who had journeyed from across the United Kingdom to work there.
Devil's Porridge was the name given to a mixture of nitroglycerin and gun-cotton used to produce cordite at the Factory. The side-effects for women working with these toxic substances included headaches, dizziness, feinting spells and skin turning yellow, which earned these women the nickname, Canary Girls.
The museum adopted the name Devil’s Porridge. Over the past 17 years it has been expanded by the local community, from a small exhibition in St John Church, Eastriggs to a larger uninsulated industrial shed into a fantastic interactive museum. Well worth a visit!
Now some behind the scenes gossip from Miss Patricia Verity Suarez.
Here at Fun in the Oven we like to drink tea, chat and make theatre. It’s a good thing I love to drink tea and coffee because as part of my job I have had the opportunity to have meetings with many lovely people over coffee and pots of tea.
At these meetings I have had conversations about the munitionettes, feminism, theatre and plotting and planning workshops. I also drink plenty of tea and coffee whilst writing our newsletters and uploading the posts onto our blog because we want to keep in touch with you.
Here is a picture of Miss Katie and I having a spot of tea and cake at The Olde Young Teahouse in Middlesbrough (you should pay them a visit they do awesome tea and cake).
Join me in having a cup of tea or coffee right now and check out our Kickstarter page:
We need you! Yes You! To keep us decent! Keep us safe! Keep us making explosions!
With your help we can make magic with the help of our darling production team to make costumes and a set to bring our show to a venue near you. In exchange we will give you a unique rewards such as having a line you suggest in the show, or having your own explosion in the show.
Click here to support us and our Kickstarter project:
In researching 'The Munitionettes' in preparation for our August residencies, we came across a fantastic Kate Adie documentary,'The Women of World War One'.
The documentary examines what it would have been like to be a woman pre, during and post World War One, following the journey of the suffragettes, and exploring the impact World War One had in women's fight for equality.
Kate Adie describes in detail the variety of jobs that women did, much of them involved hard labour, life threatening risks and highly skilled tasks. Maybe the most dangerous jobs the women adopted during this time were the roles of The Munitionettes. We hear about these women handling explosives, working heavy machinery and dealing with hazardous chemicals that made their skin turn yellow and led to chronic health problems.
The documentary is packed with inspiring stories that depict the heroines of World War One. It is well worth a watch: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04hzmh4/the-women-of-world-war-one
Stiff Upper Lip!
Miss Alys North