'The highlight of your life was goin' down to Bangor for the day on the Co Down Railway. And you stuck your head out the windee and you finished up pockmarked with the soot out o’ the engine. Those memories cling til ye. They stick til ye'
These memories could only come from Belfast. The city's stories and the unique way in which they're told are the inspiration for Open Arts' world premiere performance of Several Stories High. This major multi‐disciplinary performance will be held in Stranmillis College Drama Theatre on Friday 21st of June. It will include disabled and non‐disabled participants, in keeping with Open Arts' ethos of promoting the inclusion of disabled people in the arts.
Local composer Iain McCurdy, used Belfast Street stories as the inspiration for an atmospheric composition for the Open Arts Gamelan and Open Arts Community Choir, with electronic music to bind the separate elements together.
'Many of the memories stood out for me,' said composer Iain McCurdy. 'Sometimes simple things that people remembered from their early childhood, such as the sound of rain on the roof of a black taxi, caught my attention. I particularly liked the stories that revealed the mischievous side of the older generation, such as the lady who cut penny shapes out of the lino to put in the gas meter, or the woman who pretended to know a person who has died in the street in order to get lemonade and a bun at the house.'
Open Arts Facilitators collected and recorded street memories at workshops with several community groups around Belfast. These groups were a cross‐community amalgam of disabled and non‐disabled adults.
The nostalgic stories tell of Belfast in the old days: of honeymoon trips to the front room, pigs feet from Mac’s Butcher on Newtownards road, and watching the coronation in the church hall because no one had their own TVs.
Open Arts actors will tell some of the street stories in recreated conversations. Some of the original recordings will be played back through loudspeakers, making the most of the storytellers’ naturally poetic voices.
Artist Ed Reynolds attended the reminiscence sessions and made sketches of scenes from the street stories as he listened. From these he has created 12 paintings that will be shown in an exhibition in the foyer alongside the performance.
'All of our recent ideas, about creating a reminiscence project, and tying together the many elements of Open Arts work, fitted perfectly with the Voices of the City theme of Belfast City Council's Creative Legacies II programme,” said Kate Ingram, CEO of Open Arts.
Luminous Soul Open Arts dance group will also perform an outdoor dance routine for the audience as they arrive at Stranmillis Drama Theatre.
Visit www.openarts.net for more information on Several Stories High. Please contact Una McCann to book your free ticket: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02890 240 765.
The Open Arts ‘Several Stories High’ project is supported by Belfast City Council's Creative Legacies II programme, part of the Belfast PEACE III Plan by the European Union's European Regional Development Fund through the PEACE III Programme.
The Creative Legacies programme uses arts and culture to inspire projects influenced by Belfast's history. The
programme aims to help communities to develop shared cultural spaces and a sense of belonging to an open, welcoming and vibrant city.
Several Stories High
What: An Interdiciplinary performance by Open Arts of storytelling, music, song, art and acting that celebrates nostalgic stories about the streets of Belfast.
When: Friday 21 June at 7pm
Where: Stranmillis College Drama Theatre.
Contact UnaOpenArts@gmail.com to book your free ticket. Tel: 028 9024 0765 or visit www.OpenArts.net.
The stories were collected from the following groups across Belfast:
Looking Ahead, Duncairn Community Centre
Senior Bingo, Whiterock
Chest Heart and Stroke Group ‐ The Royal Hospital
Chest Heart and Stroke Group ‐ City Hospital
Dee Street Seniors
Chest Heart & Stroke Connswater
Jigsaw NI, Divis
Kidnap, Now Project
Brook Activity Centre Twinbrook