Young people from Kirkgate Youth Theatre are presenting a sold-out original show, ‘Following My Footsteps’ on 7 December. ‘Following My Footsteps’ is a funny and touching exploration of who we are and where we come from. The show is in two Acts, with each Act a distinct story.
The Young Performers (ages 9 – 13) present Act 1, which is a straightforward story of a bear and a cave and a factory – rooted firmly in West Cumbria. Everyone keeps telling the bear that he isn’t a bear until he begins to believe this. The show was built from lots of workshops exploring the children’s own sense of identity.
Act 2 is an amalgamation of stories from the Young Actors (aged 13 – 18), who spent many weeks sharing stories about their family histories. It was fascinating to discover family connections across the world – from Ireland, to Essex, to Kastoria in northern Greece, to Africa’s Gold Coast.
Kirkgate Youth Theatre is led by professional drama practitioner Letitia Thornton. She says ‘We created a fictional girl, Emma, played wonderfully by Maia, and all her fictional family are a mixture of real family members and stories from the whole group. We used names from everyone’s real histories for our characters and we show the pivotal moments when people decided to move and leave their homes, tracing how ‘Emma’ ended up in Cockermouth.’
Interestingly enough almost all of the young people had at least one parent who was originally from outside of Cumbria. ‘However’ says Letitia, ‘I didn’t want to ignore those whose heritage goes back right here, and one of our members had a fund of stories about, for example his Grandmother who worked in the carpet factory in Salterbeck and his Grandfather who worked in the steel works in Workington. So that went into the play too.’
She adds ‘It’s been an absolute privilege to create theatre alongside this group of talented young people who have worked with an amazing openness, enthusiasm and commitment. I think the discussions about who they are, about what it’s like living in Cumbria and the sharing of family histories gave them a real sense of shared identity whilst recognising and appreciating how different we all are too.’
‘Following My Footsteps’ is part of the wider 18 month Kirkgate Arts and Heritage project ‘In My Shoes’ celebrating West Cumbria’s diverse heritage, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Francis C Scott Charitable Trust, Cumberland Council, The Papcastle Recreational Fund, Arts Society and Cockermouth Town Council
Quotes from the participants:
It was really interesting building characters based off real people – Kelsey
I feel as though we grew closer as a group during the making of our play. Now we are really good friends who can have a good laugh – Grace
I really enjoyed working with the rest of the cast, and finding out about their family histories was particularly interesting. I feel so lucky to be part of a cast with such amazing people – Bethan
NOTES TO EDITORS
Kirkgate is a charity based in Cockermouth, Cumbria. It operates an arts and heritage centre as well as working with towns and villages in West Cumbria to encourage a diverse programme of arts, culture and entertainment. Its vision is to ensure that creative talent is valued, developed and supported with opportunities for all to engage actively with, and enjoy, the arts, local heritage and community life.
The Kirkgate Centre brings the best cultural, theatrical and entertainment events to Cumbria. From the best feature and documentary films to live streaming of top London shows, to local talent, heritage exhibitions, music, theatre, comedy and more, there is something for everyone.
In the historic Kirkgate Quarter of the Gem Town of Cockermouth, sitting on the edge of the Lake District National Park, the Kirkgate Centre is the perfect venue for special occasions, conferences, meetings, courses, exhibitions or private film screenings.
Kirkgate manages Arts Out West which stages performances in community venues from Furness to the Solway, ranging from nationally-recognised theatre companies to international musicians with events that are as much a social occasion as a performance. It is a member of the National Rural Touring Forum supported by Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation.
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For more information:
Emma Heys m. 07919 178284 l: 01900 829966 email@example.com www.kirkgatearts.org.uk
The Kirkgate Centre, Kirkgate, Cockermouth, CA13 9PJ