Exploring and examining the complex themes within Fibres (a story of love, laughter and the untold legacy of Glasgow’s shipyards) has taken our creative learning associate, Rosie, on a rollercoaster ride of experiences. From creating short pieces inspired by the themes and characters within the play with community groups, to connecting with universities across the UK to share and explore their research around the asbestos epidemic, we speak to Rosie about her creative learning experiences and where the exploration will go next.
Citizen’s Theatre Community Collective
As the project is a co-production with the Citizen’s Theatre it made a lot of sense to access their incredible Community Collective to initially explore the play and it’s themes. The collective are an amazing group who meet weekly and use theatrical tools to play with ideas, create stories and present work. The group consists of people from all walks of life and the high levels of engagement and turn out for every session is testament to the group leaders, Neil and Elly, as well as the cohesion and efforts of every member.
The group never shied away from exploring the difficult issues around asbestos, and I was completely bowled over by their use of humour and clever creative responses to the tasks at hand. Some of the more creative responses included a creation of ‘Asbestos – The Musical’ and a representation of asbestos as a family man who was doing what he needed to in order to ‘get by’.
Ultimately the sessions with the Community Collective provided the group with tools to explore hard-hitting issues and to create their own work inspired by difficult to handle subjects. Taking a break from more traditional theatrical techniques allowed the group to create wild and wonderful things. Of course the impacts of the project were bigger than just the work the group created: raising awareness about asbestos is important, but also using these horrifying and difficult stories to inspire new ways of making and exploring. Whether raising confidence in ways of storytelling, using performance as a tool to share lived experiences, or encouraging community cohesion through group writing techniques, the impacts and results of the project were far reaching and complicated. As Neil so aptly put it “it’s not drama therapy, rather, it’s therapy through drama”.
One of the amazing things about Fibres is that it is inspired by a true story and mirrors hundreds of similar stories which have been unheard throughout Glasgow, as well as the rest of the UK.
Clydeside Action on Asbestos have worked closely with Stellar Quines throughout the projects various stages. They are one of Glasgow’s primary support services for people impacted by asbestos, including those dealing with the impacts of mesothelioma. Phyllis Craig from the organisation is keen to share the stories of those living with the impacts of asbestos and we have collaborated with her to gather some stories from Glasgow on how the shipyards and asbestos are impacting people’s lives now.
These oral histories are currently being transcribed, but not only will they be available through Stellar Quines’ YouTube page within the next few weeks, but the transcripts will be shared with Strathclyde University Archive so that these stories will be available for everyone to access, forever, meaning the previously unheard voices of those living with the impacts of asbestos will be supported and shared. Just like with Fibres, this strand of Creative Learning will shed a light on the true stories surrounding Glasgow’s shipyards.
The shipyards of Glasgow were vast, they expanded the length of the Clyde and the impacts of the asbestos used so readily there is still being understood. One of the aims and ambitions of the creative learning programme which partners Fibres is to work with communities impacted by asbestos along the Clyde.
With this in mind, workshops exploring the themes and ideas of Fibres have culminated in the bringing together of voices, ideas and creativity from a variety of communities. One of the key community partners has been in Crownpoint Glasgow: an affinity has organically grown out of some initial storytelling workshops focusing on family and relationships with a group of women seeking to tackle social isolation. The group is hugely varied, with some being recent widows and others tackling unexpected disabilities, but what unites them is that they are all facing the possibility of becoming socially isolated. The storytelling that we undertook was gentle and generous in it’s nature, with the group finding surprising similarities and also conflicts. The kindness and generosity of telling stories was mirrored within the group listening to stories, and a natural rhythm of sharing was developed across several sessions.
Just as Fibres seeks to reinterpret a true story of love and grief, the women’s group has started working towards a reinterpretation of their own stories of love and grief. These will eventually be collected and made into a small book (as well as being available to read on our site). The group will be seeing Fibres in the coming weeks and it will be interesting to uncover how their stories of love, loss, grief and friendship mirrors many of those within the play itself.