In response to its temporary closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Corn Exchange Newbury invited artists from all disciplines to submit an application to receive one of five digital engagement commissions.
The Corn Exchange received applications from a wide range of creative practitioners, including those working in dance, film, theatre, music, poetry, circus and visual arts, and from these selected five projects to commission. The successful projects were submitted by Arji Manuelpillai; Ian Nicholson and Amy Godliman; Jonathan Oldfield and Lorna Rose Treen; Matthew Rawcliffe; and Sophie Ross and Sarah Shephard. These will be delivered over the coming weeks and more information will be released in due course.
Arji Manuelpillai, a poet, performer and creative facilitator, will be hosting online writing workshops called Arji’s Poetry Jam. These will be aimed at both professional writers as well as those with no previous experience and will use guest artists, such as actors, musicians and painters, to inspire the creation of poetry. Arji is a co-founder of children’s theatre company A Line Artand is currently a Jerwood-Arvon mentee.
Arji said, ‘The Corn Exchange Newbury has provided me with the funds to push Arji’s Poetry Jam to the next level. This will mean more people, from all walks of life, can come together online to experience and enjoy multi-disciplinary poetry workshops that will help us all through this isolation. I am proud, excited and simply over-the-moon, thank you so much.’
Ian Nicholson and Amy Godliman have created a storytelling game entitled Looking for a new England. This innovative and beautifully illustrated game invites friends and families to discover their own rituals, and celebrate them throughout the year. It encourages people to come together whilst apart by forging new bonds through shared acts, and re-invent this age-old English ritual tradition.
Ian Nicholson is a theatre director making public art. He has worked with Jeremy Deller, Stan’s Cafe and Birmingham REP creating participatory public artworks. Amy Godliman is a writer, games developer and artist. She works in various media including paper-cut illustrations and videogames, and has a particular interest in narrative.
Amy and Ian said ‘We’re really excited to be creating this storytelling and ritual game for Corn Exchange Newbury. At this time of the world-turned-upside-down, we wanted to discover how old English rituals might be used to foretell our new future after this upheaval’.
Jonathan Oldfield and Lorna Rose Treen of PillowTalk Theatre, a comedy, storytelling and theatre, collective, will present#dreamOUT. Each week, the PillowTalk storytellers will provide families with a short tale to engage children and inspire adults. Along with the story, there will be three questions, three ideas for fun activities to do at home, and one illustration.
Lorna Rose Treen is a clown and freelance radio producer for the BBC (500 Words and Woman’s Hour) and Jonathan Oldfield is an award-winning actor and writer. Lorna and Jonathan said ‘Whilst our theatres are closed, our imaginations don’t have to be. The #dreamOUT project is here to help with short stories, drawings and fun activities. We’re thrilled to be giving children space to create in partnership with the Corn Exchange’.
Matthew Rawcliffe, winner of the Contemporary Final of BBC Young Dancer of the Year 2019, will work remotely with a group of young people over the course of a week on HomeMade, a contemporary dance intensive course. Participants will have the opportunity to take part in virtual classes in their homes, taking inspiration from stories and objects around them, and exploring how dance can be created in confined spaces. Matthew said, ‘I’m someone who likes to move around a lot and I’m discovering so much about how little space we need to still create something exciting. Through my training I remember so many teachers asking us to dance as though we were in our bedrooms, the idea being this is when we’re most fearless and ourselves. And now we actually have to do that I really want to embrace it - everyone involved gets a chance to be the main character in the story and I think that’s really unique and doesn’t happen very often’.
Sophie Ross and Sarah Shephard will be organising virtual coffee mornings to offer support to parents during this period. Stories and anecdotes shared will inspire original music as part of a short series of songs called An Ode To… which will be presented in a living room gig via social media.
Sophie Ross is a video content producer and editor of online kids activity tutorials and is an Associate Artist 2020 at The Point. Sarah Shephard is Co-Artistic Director of Filskit Theatre and Founder of Discover Gosport. Together Sophie and Sarah facilitateMothers Who Make Eastleigh. They said ‘We are extremely excited to be partnering with Corn Exchange in order to create some brand new online content in response to the Covid-19 crisis. We hope, amidst the current uncertainty, to spread some joy and raise a few smiles through original songs, community spirit and solidarity’.
Katy Griffiths, Director of Corn Exchange Newbury said ‘We made the call-out as we wanted to support artists and knew they would have lots of creative ideas on how we can keep our community culturally engaged while we all stay safe at home. We have been so inspired by the amazing artists who have taken this opportunity to find new ways to reach audiences and are looking forward to working with them on this fantastic range of projects’.
For more information on these commissions and the other digital engagement activity being offered by the Corn Exchange Newbury please visit www.cornexchangenew.com.