Storyteller Pilot Festival

WonderZoo created a 5 day arts festival with 11 events, a mix of 5 workshops, 5 evening events and an exhibition, all at small venues around Stonehouse, Plymouth.

Overall it was a huge success. Lives were bettered and beautiful memories were made.

The amount of commitment, vision, energy, passion, love, hope and benevolence required to manifest this epic project, was just off the charts.

Slain McGough Davey has had the vision of a grass-roots arts festival in Stonehouse for many years, and I’m very proud and glad to have been involved in the process of making it all happen, last year and this year.

In 2021 we were funded by POP to collaborate with 3 other creative groups to create our first pilot festival of eight online events over 4 days during Covid19 restrictions. That was called Lost Time.

This year, we collaborated with 17 organisations to create 11 in-person events in 5 venues over 5 days. Also funded by POP, this was a step-up from last year, and served as a good learning opportunity, in order to hopefully create an even bigger festival next year.

The 5 evening events showcased some amazing local talent and culture.

At Enchanted Plays, everyone seemed to enjoy the poignant and magical theatre performances, with lovely vegan food, and a relaxed, chilled vibe at Cawfee. Wild Air Stories (led by Gin Farrow-Jones and Jon Nash) was about life told from the perspective of non-human life forms, raising awareness about environmental issues. Faeries Bazaar was a play written by Izzy Robertson, musically accompanied by her son, Jed. It was a journey into a charming imaginary world.

The WonderZoo Show at Union Corner was a great event of diversity and fun. Our headliners, Black Swan n Robin (@blackswannrobin on Instagram), performed an intimate and interactive piece, talking about the real issues faced by black people in this country. The combination of a black man from London and white woman from Devon created an interesting dynamic, as they shared their poetry and told their story of how they came to be creative collaborators. There were 10 other great acts on that night, ranging from comedy, music, theatre and spoken word.

A Press of Suspects Presents at the Lord High Admiral pub was really funny and professionally put together. Organised by Will Skillington, he also gave an amazing performance as Willtordian Ballorian Edwardian, and was on top form with much thought and creativity in his set – lots of props and great audience involvement. Other comedians included Jullie Mullen, Ems Coombes and Frankie Doré. The evening was comperèd by comedian Christian Russel-Pollock.

African Night, organised by Diversity Business Incubator at Jabulani in The Plot, was a welcoming event of great food, culture and African proverbs and wisdom teachings from different parts of Africa: Botswana, Rwanda, Nigeria and Kenya. It was lovely to hear these four people share part of their culture. They said they were really happy to be involved, as no one had asked them to do such a thing before.

The food and drink was generously provided for free to all guests, as the organisers wanted to provide a feeling of hospitality and welcome, how they would treat guests who came to their home. It was a really wonderful feeling of being amongst so many lovely people. There was an open fire burning outside to give the sense of this tradition in Africa.

IMPERFECT CINEMA history walk, film and meal was also very popular and much enjoyed. Using tablets, Dan and Allister guided their audience from Derry’s Clock down Union Street to Cawfee, showing images of what this area looked like in the past, and talking about the 11 old cinemas of Union Street from back in its heyday. This was followed by a Laurel and Hardy documentary about their lives, and a meal.

Slain was particularly moved by this film as it reminded him of us, the creativity we combine together to make magic happen. We both feel the same way as Laurel & Hardy, our best things happen when we’re working together, two souls united.

The 5 workshops were run by Peter Roe, Tam Martin Fowles (Hope in the Heart), Ryan Cheetham (Fotonow (CIC)), Trace Jared-Davis (Omnium Radio) and Art and Energy. They all had good outcomes with people making friends, learning new things and having fun.

The exhibition at Raay – Royal Adelaide Art and Yoga on Adelaide Street showed a short film by Alusché Latuka, and photos of the different organisations involved. The images and film highlighted the amazing community work in Plymouth that our partner organisations create. Matt Thomas has been a steady rock over the years supporting Slain.

Next year we hope to secure further funding to produce a 7 day Storyteller Festival in Stonehouse, building on this year’s success and working with more groups and individuals to create something even more spectacular.

We hope to see you there! Thank you to everyone who helped to make it all happen, including the whole WonderZoo Crew.

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Press release by Chi Bennett at WonderZoo

Mini systems – themes emerging

  1. Notes on conversations about collaboration:
  • People recognise it’s important, but what actually is it?
  • Some feel there isn’t enough, that often projects may not even be aware of each other
  • How does collaboration actually happen? Is there a guide for it?
  • Complex issues need collaboration
  • There’s lots already going on that people just aren’t aware of
  • We need to ensure we collaborate with the existing community – find what they need and what they are doing, not just our ideas
  • We say “collaboration”, but it can be easy to already have your idea in mind, and end up just trying to recruit for it
  • We want to collaborate around values – but what does that mean?
  • What really is a “values based conversation”?
  • Social prescribing – it’s collaborative
  • Collaboration requires inclusivity. Even some exercises at the groups weren’t fully inclusive
  • Collaboration is a verb – a thing you do
  1. As we think about action, what should the approach be and what do we need?
  • To understand then act – to have purpose
  • There is a national framework, how can we work with that?
  • What data do we need?
  • What existing projects work within the national focus?
  • How can we do a small thing and deliver on it, and then build?
  • We also need to affect systems, but how, if they are so large?
  • We need to listen to the issues within these areas, not rush in with our answers
  • Let’s not rush in too fast!
  • Stories
  1. The values and attributes mentioned:
  • Caring
  • Listening 
  • Proactive
  • Trust
  • Learning
  • Creativity
  1. Areas of interest expressed
  • Art Therapy as a way to reach middle aged men (high at risk group) – but maybe not call it “therapy”
  • Trusted adults in the community
  • Befriending services in the community – requires collaboration
  • Financial literacy and help – when you only have X amount left for the month
  • A toolkit for wellbeing?
  • Information: celebrate what already is going on, festivals, digital marketing
  • Video campaign – ‘oh’ moments
  • Virtues project & skills builder

Progress update 14/6/22

We had 38 initial sign ups, 5 do not wish to participate anymore, 8 have been in contact but have not yet been able to attend a session and 7 have yet to engage. 

We have run the following sessions:

  • Three online sessions – 7 collaborators, 9 collaborators, 2 collaborators
  • Two face to face sessions – 4 collaborators, 7 collaborators

21 collaborators have connected and engaged over these sessions.

The time commitment so far for collaborators has been:

  • Minimum time commitment – 1 hr
  • Maximum time commitment – 7 hrs
  • Ave time commitment – 2.6

Session design

The online sessions used a mapping exercise and work in pairs to simply meet one another. The face to face workshops continued to help collaborators get to know one another and also explored their hopes for process. For the second workshop we adapted to group need and ran an exercise to help identify areas of interest. The notes taken during the face to face workshops are here. 

Throughout we have been very explicit about only focussing on people getting to know one another and hold off getting to specifics too quickly.