Chapeltown residents turn tales into art
The 'Shelf Life' project began with a series of workshops, led by performance artist Gillian Dyson, in collaboration with Feel Good Factor on Louis Street. The residents used personal objects and accumulated memorabilia from their homes to express personal stories, memories and sense of place. The group explored the idea of why we 'value' certain objects in our home.
The stories and experiences of local residents will form the basis of a final performance and display of work by Gillian at East Street Arts' Union 105 space in Chapeltown next year.
Gillian commented: "We wanted to explore how people can tell their stories and describe their sense of place through objects, such as souvenirs in their domestic environment. The women who got involved with the project were all over 50, and alongside Feel Good Factor, we agreed that reminiscence and reflection would be an attractive form of engaging the local community."
Two of the four women involved were from St.Kitts, one from Jamaica, and the other had spent significant time in Gibraltar. Some of the conversations were around their experiences as teenage immigrants in the late 1960s, and their first impressions of the streets of Leeds.
Gillian explained: "There was a reluctance amongst the group to be nostalgic about where they came from. Some of them said they cried for months about the cold weather when they first arrived. All they had brought with them were suitcases containing clothes and books."
Participants were asked to bring something from their home which they placed some memory or value on; a hundred year old Mother of Pearl dressing table mirror, fire heated antique hair straightening combs, and a childhood toy were some of the objects in discussion.
Gillian is planning to develop some of the threads of conversation into a dramatised art work to be performed at Union 105 in March 2014, with plans to speak to more residents as the research process develops.