Somerset joins together to create a county-wide panto

People in Somerset will have the opportunity to appear on the virtual stage with Cinderella.

Venues in Somerset have come together to create the perfect solution for panto in a pandemic. Each scene of ‘In Search of Cinderella’ will be recorded at a well-known theatre or arts centre as part of an online performance.

Families across the county and further afield will be able to enjoy the virtual panto from the comfort of their own homes as they join together to celebrate Somerset. 

Acts will be performed at venues around the county, and the winners of the Ugly Sisters competition will be filmed trying on Cinderella’s slipper.

The play is produced by Richard Crowe, Over the Wall in association with The Engine Room. Writer Richard Crowe of Over The Wall said:
“We’re creating something very special with and for the people of Somerset. There’s a fantastic local tradition of panto, and we wanted to involve people across the county at this unusual time. This story belongs to us – Somerset isCinderella. We’re the county people drive through without stopping, and we’re the county that punches above its weight. We don’t always acknowledge the amazing things that happen here, such as Carnival and all our local traditions. This is an opportunity to join across the county and celebrate what we’ve got and who we are.”

The participating venues are: Strode TheatreTaunton BrewhouseThe Regal Theatre MineheadBridgwater Arts CentreThe David Hall South Petherton, and the performance will end with the Prince and Cinders’ wedding at Glastonbury Abbey.

As well as the Ugly Sisters competition, designs are invited for the glass slipper and the wedding cake to appear in a gallery as part of the show.

Children at Butleigh C of E Primary School are gearing up to record their ‘It’s behind you’ moments for the performance.

The project is funded by Arts Council England, Somerset West & Taunton Council, the BARN initiative (via Take Art) and by the people of Somerset and further afield, through a fundraiser.

In Search of Cinderella premieres online at 6pm on Wednesday 20 January. Information about the performance and competitions will be available at


Notes for Editors

In Search of Cinderella is a Richard Crowe | Over the Wall production in association with Somerset Film and Wassail Theatre Company and with the participation of the theatres and arts centres of Somerset.

Donations will be in aid of the participating venues to help support them in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

The production was created and recorded in accordance with the latest government C-19 guidelines.

Disabled Actors Joined by Coronation Street Star for Lockdown Play

A cast of Devon-based disabled actors will be joined by Coronation Street star Cherylee Houston in a short film which explores isolation in lockdown.

‘When The Wheels Come Off’ is a new drama which will be premiered online on Thursday 29 October. It is produced by CEDA and performed by their drama group, a company of actors who use performing skills to tell their stories of life and disability. Their work deals with the trials and frustrations, the victories and challenges of everyday life.

The group worked together online to build a story around thoughts, feelings and ideas which they had started to discuss in workshops before lockdown. The drama starts before lockdown, with a news report about Rona, a wheelchair user who was isolated in her flat for over six weeks because the lift was broken.

As part of the drama, Rona looks out of the window and the audience hears her thoughts which are voiced by Cherylee Houston.

CEDA’s Craig Bowden said:
“When we were looking for someone to voice Rona’s thoughts, we felt it was vital that that person was a disabled actor. We invited Cherylee to be part of the project, and we were delighted when she accepted. It’s been a great experience for the team to work with her as an actor, and as an advocate for disability access.”

Actor Cherylee Houston said:“Lockdown has made us all on a level, a place where we can all get into the same virtual room; this for disabled people is very different in life away from COVID. I absolutely loved meeting and working with the CEDA team, it was great to be part of a film which was led by the group members’ ideas and experiences – CEDA are doing great work! I was keen to be part of the project for this very reason – often our stories are untold, and our everyday experiences ignored. It’s great when disabled people are allowed the space to advocate for themselves and tell our stories in our own words. That’s how life will change for us – change how we are included in society, to be allowed our proper place alongside everyone else.”

Writer and Director Conor Magee said:
“Many disabled people experience isolation in their lives, and feel the frustration of not being able to do the things they need to or the things they enjoy, because the system lets them down. During this unusual time, we have all had a taste of what that’s like – but will we all remember after the pandemic has passed? That’s the question we ask through this drama. It’s a tough question to confront the audience with, and it’s a very important one.”

The drama was filmed using mobile phones with remote direction via zoom. Although this process was challenging, it also opened up possibilities for the team.

The drama was produced as part of CEDA’s ongoing partnership with Exeter Northcott Theatre and will be premiered online, followed by a live Q&A on Thursday 29 October as part of Unlocktoberfest.

Creative Transitions – Creativity helps wellbeing for vulnerable young people in Torbay

Young carers, young parents, and young disabled people in Torbay are receiving creative packs in the post as part of a project to improve wellbeing.

As part of Creative Transitions, artists are using creativity to benefit vulnerable young people who face challenges as they go into adulthood. The project, which is organised by Torbay Culture, aims to help the young people gain confidence, build resilience and improve their communication skills.

The three groups of young people taking part are facing transition to adulthood in different ways.

Participate Arts  have been working with a group of young carers, sending them regular parcels during lockdown, with all the things they need for a creative project, including a snack to make the experience even more enjoyable. Activities have included creating a mandala, making a matchbox keepsake, clay modelling and writing journals. Meetings happen online, and will continue digitally.

Becci Eriksson from Participate Arts said:
“These young people are caring for relatives who are vulnerable, which often has meant the whole family has been shielding during lockdown. The young carers are more isolated than usual, so the idea behind our project is to send out weekly art packs and then follow up with the participants. Each pack’s task is connected to a Creative Journal they are making, giving them some time out to enjoy something for themselves. It’s an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings, express themselves creatively and be heard.”

Visual artist Anna Bowland has been meeting online with a group of disabled young people from PHAB. Everyone in the group receives a box of materials to create artwork which they then share and discuss.

Musician Laura Forster is working with a group of young parents from South Devon College. She has created a pack of simple musical instruments for each family and held zoom singing sessions. The group is creating a series of songs which they plan to make into a CD to share. When college starts again, they plan to meet together as a group to continue their activities.

The project is part of Torbay’s Great Place Scheme which helps residents lead healthier, happier lives through creativity. The Scheme is delivered by Torbay Culture which aims to improve the quality of life for people in the Bay through participation in culture, as outlined in Enjoy, Talk, Do, Be, Torbay’s ten year cultural strategy. Creative Transitions builds on the knowledge gathered through a series of ‘test and learn’ projects over the last four years.

Torbay Culture Director Martin Thomas said:
“One of the objectives of Torbay’s ten-year cultural strategy is to harness the health and wellbeing benefits of culture. An increasing amount of academic research shows the beneficial outcomes that culture can provide. With this project, we’re creating the opportunity for groups of vulnerable young people to take part in a creative project focussed on building resilience and supporting the transition into adulthood.

“Each of the projects has responded to the needs and desires of the young people taking part, and we hope that this project will catalyse the creation of ongoing groups, led by the young people, to create safe spaces and sustainable activities.”

The projects run to the end of October; some groups will continue digitally, while others hope to meet in person.

Creative Transitions is a Torbay Culture project delivered in partnership with Public Health Torbay and Imagine This…

Thousand year old riddle inspires interactive artwork

red field contrasting with bright blue sky. Telegraph cables in distance

A thousand-year-old riddle has brought together printmakers, historians, a poet and a filmmaker.

Riddle 57 from The Exeter Book has inspired artwork which has been used to create an online interactive version of the riddle.

Double Elephant Print Workshop invited visual responses to Riddle 57 from The Exeter Book – one of only four surviving manuscripts of Old English poetry and probably the oldest surviving book of English poetry in the world.

Poet Jacob Polley wrote a series of prompts as inspiration for artists whose contributions have come from around the country, and further afield. These visual responses have been used in an animation.

Three experts were invited to translate the riddle, and viewers can now select from a range of possible meanings to create their own modern-day version of Riddle 57. With seven lines, and three different translations, there are 2,187 possible versions of the riddle.

Each translation is an interpretation of the original meaning. This is interesting enough with a regular poem, but with a riddle, possible solutions may be closed off when the translater makes choices about the words to use. The writer of the riddle was playing with words to intentionally misdirect the reader, so each translator has to make decisions about what the original writer wanted to say.

Poet and Professor of Creative Writing, Jacob Polley said:
“These artistic responses to the riddle 57 are new interpretations of a text that’s lasted over a thousand years, showing that the mysteries of the riddles can provoke and inspire extraordinary creativity today.”

Emma Molony, Project Manager, Double Elephant Print Workshop said:
“We’re interested in how the language and imagery from a riddle that’s a thousand years old can resonate today and inspire new work. This has been a really positive project for us to focus on during isolation. It’s been a new challenge for us to pull it together collaboratively online with project partners locked down across the world.”

The interactive animation of Riddle 57 will be online from Thursday 20 August.

The project has been funded by The National Lottery through the Arts Council England Emergency Response Fund and is an Exeter UNESCO City of Literature Associate Project.

Lockdown inspires creativity for Exeter artist

Artist painting onto a ceramic jug in her studio, surrounded by paints

The adversity of lockdown has sparked even more creativity for Exeter-based artist Veronica Gosling.

At Studio 36, Veronica has created a quirky, inspiring space within which, in normal times, she has held exhibitions of her own and other artists’ work, and used it as a gathering space for activity groups, and a place for informal performances with a talented group of local musicians, poets, and dancers.

Wishing to contribute, during this strange time, to her own community of Newtown & St Leonards, she has begun a project called Get On Board. Using a large and beautifully designed noticeboard, she has encouraged local artists, and writers, young and old, to unlock their thoughts, feelings and observations by sharing artwork, photos, poems and stories. The response has been enthusiastic, with art coming from people of all ages – enough to fill the board for the first month and beyond.

Another project involves personal online input from the Studio’s mailing list. It is entitled
House Lights On and features weekly input from studio visitors including their ideas, thoughts and often what they do, boatbuild, fish, weather details, woodwork, plus paintings of shoes, cartoons, jewellery, ‘Hedge Chairs’ many poems and a description of  some vivid COVID-19 dreams.

Veronica’s own art is all around Studio 36, the place where she lives and works. Creativity spills out into the sculpture garden, where her latest creation depicts two passers by peering over the fence. Her quirky paintings often feature animals, which she uses to express her feelings. The texture, shape and story behind a found object often inspires a magical creation.

As well as showcasing her own work, Studio 36 has been a hub for a group from Age UK. Exeter called Budding Friends. Thought of as ‘Conversations in Colour’ the sessions which need neither language nor memory bring people with dementia and their carers together to chat and paint.

Veronica said:
“Lockdown has made me more driven; I’ve become obsessed with my work. It helps me to stop thinking about the situation we’re all in, and stops me feeling lonely. I  like meeting new people and sharing this place with them. It’s  a shame we can’t do that at the moment. Every time we have an exhibition, the place is full. I think people enjoy the informality of  the gallery and garden.”

Veronica is planning to open the sculpture garden for private bookings for small groups in the near future.

Night & Refuge

Online premiere hosted by Cement Fields,
Noon, Friday 10 July

A new film-poem created during a live night-time collaboration by five poets will be premiered on Friday 10 July. Night & Refuge creatively documents the process of writing together online during lockdown, and ends with a reading of the new poem.

The project was created by Caroline Bergvall who invited poets Leo Boix, Vahni Capildeo, Will Harris and Nisha Ramayaa to collaborate.

The writing process took place in May, when the writing and conversations between the poets were shared live with an online audience through a Digital Writing Desk created by artist Mays Albeik.

The poets explored themes of the night and of seeking refuge. Their collaborative process was inspired by the tradition of Renga – an ancient Japanese form of collective writing with strict rules.

One audience member said:
“It was the totality of the various threads of writing, talk about writing, the stories, locations, medium and context that fascinated and moved me. I did take pleasure in watching the poets edit their text, rooting for my preference and learning from their choices.”

The conversations and the developing lines of the poem were recorded by the project’s sound artist Jamie Hamilton, and recomposed into a film-poem by Andrew Delaney.

The premiere will be hosted by Cement Fields, a commissioning organisation which grew out of the Whitstable Biennale.

Caroline Bergvall said:
“I see this Night & Refuge as a meditative, and deeply human work rooted in the night and in our need to find a way through the darkness that enfolds us. It is intensely involving, reviving the ancient idea of performance as public gathering while exploring how poetry, music and memory all help us carry our truths within and without us.

“My motivation as a poet and interdisciplinary artist is to create live works that energize a personal engagement with one’s surroundings, with one’s time, and with others: spaces of respite and of shared critical spirit. My material is often rooted in languages, spoken, written, remembered, reclaimed.

“With Night & Refuge, my focus was to initiate a live writing event between a few UK based poets, which was open to the public. Due to Covid-19 this took place online. Night & Refuge opens the final stages of my ongoing cycle of performative works Sonic Atlas, which has focused on encounters with poets and language-activists who work with different minorised languages in the UK and EU, as well as with thinkers and practitioners from various fields.”

The Night & Refuge project was made possible with funding from Arts Council England and support from Cement Fields and Counterpoints Arts.

The recording of the full, unedited writing event, which took place in May as a 3-hour long Zoom meeting, is available online [add link].

The sound-poem will be premiered on the Cement Fields website  at noon on Friday 10 July.

Quarantine Quilt

People from across the country will be contributing to a Quarantine Quilt.

The Quilt will be created as part of a project by Devon-based organisation Significant Seams CIC, which  has received Arts Council England funding to lead a national stitching  project in response to the effect Coronoavirus is having on our lives.

People are invited to send stitched words or designs which reflect their feelings and responses to the pandemic.

The project is inviting people to make patches for one of several community quilt projects across the country. They are also providing free learning materials online, and developing new ways to deliver remote arts-based courses. The first courses will be delivered free to Devon residents this summer via Devon Recovery Learning Community, which is part of Devon NHS Partnership Trust.

An emerging network of organisations, artists, and projects across the UK are producing quilts in response to Covid-19 and the changes it has had on people’s lives. Significant Seams is also examining the evidence for the health and wellbeing benefits of these activities. Alongside Significant Seams, so far,  there are projects in Oxford, Cambridge, London, Essex, Bradford, Derbyshire, West, Derbyshire, Somerset and West Yorkshire. These include textile projects in response to Covid-19, arts & health organisations, and community organisations supporting one or more such projects.

Everyone is invited to contribute one of two types of patches:

A stitched word for ‘The Wall of Words’ on a 5inch high x 7 inch wide rectangle with a word or phrase within the 4 x 6 inch centre area (leaving a ½” seam allowance all the way around the design. Alternately (or additionally) SW residents are encouraged to submit

Any design representing feelings, responses and experiences related to the coronoavirus pandemic on 7 inch squares with your design centered within the 6inch centre area.

Patches should be sent to: Significant Seams, Apple Studio,  ℅ Carpenters Cottage, Crediton Hamlets EX17 5BX

The Quarantine Quilt will be part of an online exhibition in the first instance. Further plans are subject to evolving circumstances.

Artist seeks ceramic fragments with stories to tell

Artist David Mach is appealing for broken pieces of pottery with a story behind them. He is asking people to send the fragments to help create a new artwork for St Austell, Cornwall.

Ceramic memories might include the handle of a cup that was bought on honeymoon 35 years ago, a shard of a decorated plate found on the beach, or part of a favourite mug that got broken and just couldn’t be thrown away.

During lockdown, while many people are digging the garden or investigating the contents of drawers as part of a spring clean, they are encouraged to collect any pottery pieces they find so that they can be part of the newceramic collage.

The artist will use thousands of fragments to create a major new public artwork, ‘Earthly Delights’, which is part of a programme of new commissions by The Whitegold Project.

David Mach said:
“China clay was exported to make pottery, and connects St Austell with the rest of the world. This new artwork will celebrate that far-reaching impact of the Cornish China Clay industry.

“I’m asking people to send me pieces of pottery with a story to tell. We’ve all got something at the back of a drawer – the broken fragment of something that we couldn’t throw away because of the special memory it carried. I want to hear that story – was it a piece of a broken thimble your mother used to use, a spout from a beloved teapot, a piece of a commemorative plate you bought in holiday….”.

Over many years, David Mach collected thousands of pieces of pottery on his local beach in Methil, Fife. The fragments were made with the same clay that is sent around the world from Cornwall. The artist wants to use donated pieces to make his installation, and to extend that connection. The commission will be almost 20 metres wide and will decorate a wall in St Austell.

Whitegold Project curator Alex Murdin said:
“This is a wonderful way to involve everyone in creating this impressive new work of art for a public space that tells the intimate histories of china clay. We’re hoping that people from St Austell and further afield will send pieces of ceramic and share their special stories to help create something that connects St Austell and Cornwall’s heritage with places around the world”

Donated ceramic pieces might include a fragment of an old treasured possession, or something found in the back garden whilst digging during lockdown. They could be a small fragment the size of a postage stamp or a larger, whole piece.

Contributions, along with any stories behind them, should be posted to:
Earthly Delights, St Austell BID Office, Burton House, Trinity Street, St. Austell, PL25 5LS. The risk of viral transmission through the post is minimal, but it is still important to follow hand hygiene procedures when sending mail. Those sending donations are asked to: follow Public Health England guidance and wash their hands thoroughly when preparing post, where possible to send a package which can go through a letterbox, to purchase Royal Mail postage online and to maintain social distancing if visiting post offices.

Spreading creativity in Torquay

People in Chelston, Torquay have been making willow sculptures to decorate their gardens during lockdown.

The idea began when a community project to create willow sculptures for the local parks was put on hold. Local people wanted to continue making sculptures, and found a way to share their creations with others. Woven willow hearts and stars are now hanging in windows, on doors and around front gardens so that anyone taking their daily walk can enjoy them.

Celebrate Chelston is a project designed to increase residents’ pride in where they live, grow a greater sense of community and encourage people to take part in creative activities. As part of Torbay’s Great Place Scheme, it is one of a number of initiatives to improve people’s wellbeing through arts and heritage.

When the community workshops were postponed, Coach House Arts – the organisation behind the willow-weaving – quickly found a new way for residents to continue their creativity. Over 200 small mini willow sculpture kits have been sent in the post, instruction videos made available, and the results shared in gardens and online for everyone to see.

Celebrate Chelston lead artist Vik Westaway said:
We’re building a sense of community and collective endeavour even though we must all stay at home. Local people really enjoyed the community workshops before lockdown, and it’s encouraging to see the living willow sculptures which we made back then for local parks have now started to grow. The residents of Chelston have responded so enthusiastically to this new way to keep the creativity going. It’s wonderful to see people looking out for the hearts and stars hanging in people’s gardens when they’re on their walks.”

Cllr Mike Morey, Cabinet member for Infrastructure, Environment & Culture; and Board member of Torbay Culture said:
“Celebrate Chelston!’ really caught the imagination of residents. What started as a creative group activity has had to adapt to the extraordinary circumstances we’re living through. That’s made it even more special – it’s connecting people creatively, whilst we follow the NHS advice, and stay apart.  Celebrate Chelston! has truly captured people’s hearts.”

Celebrate Chelston is a Torbay Culture project in partnership with Torbay Community Development Trust as part of the Great Place Scheme

Whitegold Ceramics Prize 2020 shortlist announced

Worth over £20,000, the prize is part of the Whitegold Project, an initiative set in St Austell in the heart of Cornwall. The Project aims to create art, craft and design inspired by the area’s industrial and post-industrial landscape and its global china clay connections.

Conviviality is the theme of the second Whitegold Prize, to be awarded to ceramics projects which enable convivial community interactions through their engagement with food and clay.

Applications were invited which combine environmental sustainability with creativity. Themes include cooking, eating, drinking, creating a festive and sociable environment, ceramics for growing, works that consider clay as a part of the soil and life cycle, and environmentally friendly food production.

Selected from a strong field of international entries, the shortlisted projects are:

Clayground Collective
Creative practitioners Duncan Hooson, Claire West and Julia Rowntree collaborate across artforms to engage the public, educators and researchers through clay.

Francesca Anfossi
Francesca Anfossi’s interdisciplinary practice takes the tradition of crafts as a starting point to make and collaborate, using ceramic as a core material.

Portland Inn Project
The Portland Inn Project is a creative arts project for a community in Stoke-on-Trent that aims to achieve community cohesion, economic, social and cultural development.

Adam Sutherland, Grizedale Arts
Grizedale Arts is a local resource and  an international arts organisation. Its activity is drawn from existing, available resources, from raw materials to cultural heritage.

Whitegold Project Co-Curator Katie Bunnell said:
“The Prize recognises outstanding ceramic practices that connect people, culture and place. The aim of this year’s prize is to inspire projects which use ceramics to encourage conviviality and connections within local communities. We are hoping that shortlisted artists will be able to start working remotely with local communities through digital technologies. We just don’t know how things will play out in the longer term, but we are hopeful at this stage that ‘hands on’ community projects will go ahead later in the summer. While the future is uncertain we feel it is important to recognise the hard work and extraordinary creativity from all our applicants. In particular, we wanted to share the good news about the shortlisted artists, and to give the people of St Austell something to look forward to when the time is right.”

The shortlisted artists and groups are each invited to develop a proposal for a new community project for St Austell that uses clay and food to bring people together. The Whitegold jurors will review these four new proposals and select two finalists who will be allocated a budget of £2,500 each to produce and complete their project.

The original aim was for these projects to coincide with the Whitegold Festival in September 2020. The Whitegold jurors would then experience the final outcomes and work with the local community to make the final decision about which of the finalists would win the Quartz award of £10,000 and who will be awarded the £5000 Feldspar Award.

The 2020 jurors are:

Neil Brownsword – International Ceramic Artist Educator. Winner of the Whitegold Quartz Award, 2019
Caroline Cheng – International Ceramic Artist and Director of the Pottery Workshop
Céline Holman – Curator, Eden Project Ltd
Ashley Shopland – General Manager Imerys UK, St Austell, Cornwall
Ben Quinn – Canteen Cornwall and Woodfired Canteen
Katie Bunnell – Co-Curator, Whitegold Project