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The Utopia Séance

The Ghost Lab

This event took place at the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle under Lyme on July 29th, 2016 in the Main Auditorium as the culmination of work taking place in the North Staffordshire coalfield area during February to June 2016 and involved the project team working with Borderlines at the New Vic Theatre to develop an initial co-production event (“Is there anybody there?”), a community outreach process (“Utopia Ghosthunting”) and an intergenerational preproduction event (“The New Vic Ghost Lab”) leading to a performance called ‘The Utopia Séance’.

 

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Reflections from Sue Moffat, New Vic Theatre

The ghost lab at the New Vic had 15 community members and a real connected and diverse group from people who had been involved directly with the fight for the coalfield communities during the strikes, and those who had become involved with those post industrial devoted communities through work with the Stoke on Trent City council but also Trussell Trust food-banks, young people (in difficult circumstances, unemployed and to a certain extent currently unemployable) from coal mining families who had all but lost those connections, and young adults with learning disabilities equally contributing and engaged.

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The community cast reached the number of 13, again a real mixed group including a young man with autism, a young woman with cerebral-palsy, our oldest member was 75, a retired community midwife from a coal mining background in Barnsley and others connected through friendship or work with the coal mining stories.

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The material used for the performance was generated from our ghost hunting series. We reached 38 individuals and had on-going meetings with 9 Unite Community members who are x NUM and who shared their direct stories of the experiences of the 84/5 strike and the on-going 12/13 year battle to keep the coalfields open. Some of their voices were heard during the performance.

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We were also privileged to accompany our community members on the Justice for Orgreave event, traveling in the minibus with 8 x miners 2 who had been at Orgreave 32 years earlier. We met Bob Burnett and Kevin Horne and we have maintained contact with them through social media. It was great to see the various dots joined together as the connectivity of the coal-mining communities of the UK became apparent crossing the country and actually generations, what a privilege. Also phrase which had become almost mantra like which we heard form so many different mouths completely independently.

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And finally what a great turn out for the performance over 100 in the audience, again completely inter-generational and a real community occasion full of warmth and camaraderie, and moving and real. We did not skirt around the issues but in the best tradition of the neutral space which is theatre, created a safe space where conflicting and difficult narratives could exist alongside the presence of absence and the indeed the ghosts played their part. The feedback has been extremely positive and we will look for ways of developing what we started with this project and maintain our connections with the communities who played their part with us in achieving ‘The Unquiet’.

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At the Utopia Fair

The Utopia Ghost Lab – tarot reading, creative writing, drawing and banner making…

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The Ghost Lab Comic

A comic created by Jim Medway, based on our Ghost Lab with young people from Hackney Voices of Youth at the AHRC Utopia Festival.

You can download a copy from https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.3504962.v1

Ghost Lab

The Utopia Seance is part of the Social Haunting project. More information can be found on their Website and Twitter