Bid Writer and Fund Raising Lead Sought

We are looking for someone to take the lead in seeking funding for our next project. Could it be you? If you have a track record in seeking out, applying for and successfully gaining funds in the arts world we want to hear from you. You can find out more here.

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Founder Member’s Fundraiser for Unscene Suffolk

One of our fabulous founder members, Clare Burman, has taken on the challenge of travelling the USA’s iconic Route 66, virtually; to raise much needed funds for Unscene Suffolk.

Clare will be indoor cycling and walking with her guide dog Saffron to rack up the 2280.3 miles from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles California, and has until July 4th to complete the distance.

Clare explains here why she decided to raise funds for Unscene Suffolk:

During the last year I’m not sure how I would have coped without Unscene Suffolk.

I, like several members of the Unscene group, live alone (many of them have also been shielding) and having weekly online singing and drama sessions, run by Unscene Suffolk, have helped so much to combat the isolation.

Unscene recognised how much more lockdown and social distancing was going to affect the visually-impaired community that they worked quickly to move our regular sessions online and teach us all how to connect in the virtual world. Having that support and maintaining an element of pre-COVID routine was the thing that got me through the first lockdown and has kept me going ever since. We are like a family – always there for one another.

I know that it’s going to be much more challenging to get funding for our drama and singing sessions now, as so many charities and organisations are bidding for such a limited pot, and the usual fundraising events have not been able to take place.

I honestly don’t know what I would do without Unscene Suffolk, so if I can contribute in a small way to keep sessions going by completing this challenge, that would make it all worthwhile – I am after all a bona fide couch potato, so this is going to hurt!”

If you’d like to donate to Clare’s fundraiser and support Unscene Suffolk’s vital work you can do it here. Thank you!

Good luck Clare and thank you so much! You are amazing!

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Unscene Suffolk’s Unheard Christmas Tales

Unscene Suffolk’s first virtual lockdown project was Unheard Christmas Tales, created jointly (for the first time) by our drama and singing groups. We present a compilation of sketches and songs that take the listener behind the scenes at Christmas!

Spoken sketches were created and recorded at our Zoom drama sessions, then edited by Clare Burman and Paul Nugent. Songs were rehearsed during our Zoom singing sessions, but as recording singing together is not possible online, members made individual recordings that were then mixed together by Emma Bishton. The whole track was then mixed together (complete with sound effects!) by Clare Burman.

Grab a cuppa and some cake, sit back and enjoy! You can listen to the audio recording here.

This version of Unheard Christmas Tales does not include the singers’ performance of A Winter’s Tale, for copyright reasons.

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Rotary Club of Ipswich Donation

Rotary_logo_wordmark_logotypeWe are delighted to announce that we have received an incredibly generous donation from the Rotary Club of Ipswich.

We were pleased to attend a Rotary meeting in January and tell the club about our work, and when all of our activities were put on hold due to the Covid-19 lockdown the Club contacted us to ask how they might be able to help. We told them about the online sessions we were hoping to run to replace the weekly workshops, and how we wanted to support our visually impaired members through the increased isolation they are experiencing in the current situation.

The Rotary Club responded by offering to fund a series of online singing sessions run for us by Emma Bishton. These have already begun and are providing an opportunity for the group to stay in touch and interact with others at this difficult time, and of course enjoy some singing!

We want to say a huge thank you to the Rotary Club of Ipswich for supporting us, and for making these remote workshops possible.

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Remote Drama Workshops

Things at Unscene Suffolk have changed a lot over the past few months. Like so many other theatre companies our drama workshops and rehearsals are suspended, and our production of ‘The Mystery of Syleham Manor’ has been postponed.

Never ones to give up easily, we have rallied our tech skills and taken our drama workshops online where, after a few weeks, our confidence is growing. What started as a few games and improvisations has grown to an abundance of ideas and ever more ambitious undertakings. Last week we attempted a courtroom drama and, with only a little preparation, the group sustained a brilliant improvisation for near enough the whole session! One of our fantastically talented participants created a short audio clip which you can listen to here.

The current situation has even further increased the isolation already experienced by people with visual impairment and we are pleased that these online sessions are able to provide structure and a sense of normality for our members.

We would like to continue to offer these remote workshops, so if you would like to support us and are able to donate, you can do so at our Virgin Money Giving Page. Your help is greatly appreciated.

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Drama Project Blog

Welcome to the final instalment of the drama project blog.

After all the months of hard work, collaboration and experimentation, Unscene Suffolk’s latest production, The Tree Dreams, was finally performed at the New Wolsey Studio. On its mini-tour of Ipswich the show was also shared at Castle Hill Community Centre and the Avenue Theatre.

The last few workshops were spent going over individual sections of the play, rehearsing the movement in sync with the audio description, and finalising costumes and props. The week before the performance we rehearsed for some full days, running the show through completely, incorporating sound and Nathan’s audio description with the help of our technical stage manager Yasmin.

Then, just two days before the performance one of the actors was taken ill, and Jenni had to find a replacement very quickly! Luckily, she was able to persuade Julian Harries, a local, professional actor to step in and, with some clever disguising of his script, Julian did a great job as our ‘real-world’ George.

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Ellen and George sit with a scrabble board on their knee. The villagers gather behind them

Show day was a very long, hot but ultimately exhilarating time in the New Wolsey Studio. A dress rehearsal and two performances meant that by the evening both cast and crew were shattered (myself included!), but it was all worth it. The feedback we received from the audience was fantastic. They enjoyed the story but especially loved the use of dynamic audio description which had been built-in, suggesting that it really enhanced the narrative and storytelling. The response was equally positive from visually impaired and sighted audience members. We captured the following responses from people as they left.

“The show, because of the audio description, became a lot more accessible. Brilliant acting, brilliantly performed this year. A really good story. And it was solid from the point of view of having the audio description over the top of everything else, able to pick up the actions a lot easier. For someone who’s visually impaired it was a brilliant, brilliant show.”

“Really enjoyed the sound effects – added an extra level – even for a sighted person.”

Members of the group too had the chance to feed back about the experience at the evaluation session which was held the week after the performances, not only about the final show but the development process as well, which is after all a huge part of what Unscene Suffolk’s workshops are about.

Many people felt that the group had created something fun yet poignant; a slightly off-the-wall story with a ‘real world’ and a ‘dream world’, lots of sheep, a monkey, a skunk, talking trees and all sorts of nursery rhyme characters. But, it also had a positive message about mental health, about looking after yourself, and about the need to talk to people and to share your worries with them. An issue which is more relevant today than perhaps it’s ever been.

The group reflected that the process of creating this show had at times been challenging. With such a flowing narrative, lots of movement and many different characters, some felt it had been harder to grasp in the early stages, but all agreed that in the final rehearsals, when the movement, audio description and dialogue all came together, there had been a ‘lightbulb’ moment and they had loved performing such a creative and collaborative show. An overriding response was the feeling of team work, as the group had to work together both physically and mentally. A huge amount of concentration was needed to create such a fluid piece of theatre, but it also allowed for more freedom of movement. This was something that director, Jenni had been keen to create, and which one actor felt had been a highlight. She explained:

“The thing I liked best is that it was so physical. As well as all the words to say, I’ve never been able to pretend to paint, or dance, and generally mess about and move on stage. It gave me a lovely sort of liberated feeling, and a new dimension. None of our plays have been that physical. I don’t know if it was the same for others but I thought so.”

Many others also suggested that the sound and audio description had given them more confidence with movement:

“I definitely liked the physical side of it, especially the dancing bit, because Nathan’s audio description really kind of opened that up to me. I’ve never been able to do it before.”

“I think it enabled us to co-ordinate those movements, because if you’ve got no vision you cannot know if you’re doing something at exactly the same time as everybody else.”

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Tree-Dwellers holding bright coloured branches spin around in a sweeping arc on a black stage

There were, as always, various issues which cropped up. Having proper theatre lighting at the New Wolsey Studio turned out to be a real benefit to those members of the group who have some vision, but in the community venues this was not available. The change in aesthetics at each venue also meant we had to adjust markings for visibility: in some places contrasting floors and furniture again assisted those with more sight, but in the studio the black floor and dark chairs made it impossible, and so these had to be marked up with fluorescent tape.

The aim to share Unscene Suffolk’s work with people who wouldn’t usually get to see it was definitely achieved. Many of the audience members at Castle Hill Community centre had never seen one of our shows, and it was especially rewarding to share our work with members of Red Rose Chain’s Avenue Community Theatre (ACT), a group for actors with a mix of disabilities, learning difficulties and other issues. We had a great chat with them after the performance and are looking forward to seeing some of their work in the future.

All in all the show was a great success, and despite issues like a last minute cast change, everyone pulled together to make it happen. (I’m happy to report by the way that group member Mark is back on his feet now and feeling much better). It’s been so interesting to watch the production develop from initial ideas to final show, and even better to be a part of it.

Unscene Suffolk is on its Summer break now, but we’ll be back in October to start the process all over again. If you fancy joining us on our next adventure you can find more information on our workshops here, or keep up with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Caroline Roberts
Workshop Assistant

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Quiz Night Fundraiser & Autumn Raffle

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Quiz Night in aid of Unscene Suffolk
Friday 4th October 2019 @ 8pm
Claydon and Barham Community Centre, Church Lane, Claydon, IP6 0EG
£5 per person, teams of up to 6 people
Book as a team or we can team you up on the night for smaller groups and individuals.
To reserve your place please email quiz@unscenesuffolk.co.uk or call Marianna on 07799 784895

All proceeds from this event will be put towards our work providing accessible workshops and performance opportunities for visually impaired people.

Can’t make it but still want to help us with fundraising?

We are selling raffle tickets for our Prize Draw which will take place at the Quiz Night. CASH prizes of up to £100 are available. If you would like to purchase some tickets, or sell some on our behalf, please contact Marianna using the details above.

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Radio 4 In Touch

Unscene Suffolk featured on Radio 4’s In Touch programme on 16 July 2019

Reporter Toby Davey visited our rehearsals for The Tree of Dreams and interviewed cast members Wayne Witney and Audio Describer Nathan Geering to gain an insight into the unique form of description that was used as part of this production. The report also includes audience feedback from visually impaired people who came to the show.

Feature starts at 11 mins 25s into the programme which can be found at the link below.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0006sp2

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Drama Project Blog

Welcome to the third instalment of Unscene Suffolk’s Drama Project Blog.

Denise and Ann rehearsing for The Tree of Dreams. In the background, the chorus hold prototype branch props in the air.

Denise and Ann rehearsing for The Tree of Dreams. In the background, the chorus hold prototype branch props in the air. Credit Daniel McKee

This is the latest instalment of my drama project blog which aims to offer an insight into how an Unscene Suffolk production develops from first ideas to final performance.

It’s been a little while since the last blog and we’ve been very busy. Things have moved along quite rapidly (as they often do at this stage of the production process) and we now have finalised characters, script, and music!

Jenni developed her concept of ‘dreams as metaphor for our real-life fears’ into a story ‘The Tree of Dreams’ about a retired couple, Ellen and George, coping with the strains, and often stresses, of growing old and learning to accept change. In Ellen’s dreams she meets some strange yet familiar characters who need her help to save their beloved tree. George meanwhile is left to worry about Ellen’s health and tries to get into her dreams to rescue her. Some of the characters devised in earlier workshops such as Little Bo Peep, Maggie Pie and Little Boy Blue have been incorporated, and a clever divide between the ‘real’ and the ‘dream’ world allows for two sets of actors to play Ellen and George. The rest of the cast take on multiple roles as nursery rhyme characters, animals and the tree itself.

With the script mainly in place, Jenni and Nathan of Rationale Method have been working through the show as we ‘block’ the action, when we decide how each scene will look and where everyone will be on the stage. During this process the dynamic audio description has been developed and the script has evolved with it. In other words, the cast perform the dialogue, and the sound effects are created to work best with the movement of each scene, then the audio description is incorporated at the right place to enhance the audience’s comprehension and create the richest visual imagery possible. It’s fascinating to watch it develop and come together, and this time I’m the other side of the stage as Jenni has involved me and another helper in the action.

Along with the script and audio description, more music has been added. The wonderful Pat Whymark, a writer and musician who worked with the group on their first production several years ago, has returned to get involved again. Jenni has been busy providing audio tracks to people and there are even some lovely harmonies. Pat has also added a tango vibe to some of the music and Nathan took this as a cue to get ‘dream’ Ellen and George dancing!

The design of the show is also coming together as our set designer, Maia, has been working hard creating some wonderful aesthetic and tactile branches, which not only look amazing but feel realistic too. Danuta our costume designer is putting together an array of ‘tree-like’ colours and patterns for the ensemble, and creating simple and effective characters through representative pieces: a monkey in a suit, a punk skunk and ‘Lady Washalot’.

Nathan Geering with cast members rehearsing 'The Tree of Dreams''. Credit Daniel McKee

Nathan Geering with cast members rehearsing ‘The Tree of Dreams”. Credit Daniel McKee

A few weeks ago we had a visit from Daniel McKee who filmed one of our workshops with Nathan Geering as part of a documentary he is making for the “I’m Here, Where Are You?” festival at Cambridge Junction. The two-day festival was a celebration of disability arts featuring nationally and internationally renowned acts. Some of the cast attended the Symposium event to perform an extract of ‘The Tree of Dreams’ and to share the group’s work alongside other fantastic inclusive and disability arts projects from across East Anglia. The symposium was attended by arts professionals and funders from across the region and helped us to raise our profile too.

Those that were able to attend felt it had been a really good experience. Jenni suggested it allowed the group to “put something in front of an audience, get over some of our nerves and hear their enthusiastic feedback and interest in our process.” Our newest participant, Ann, was quite overwhelmed by the experience as she had never performed before, but everybody rallied round her and she gave a fantastic performance. I caught up with her at the last workshop and she explained:

It was my first ever time acting in front of an audience and I was actually so terrified and I didn’t think I could go on, my mind went blank. I had loads of support from the rest of the cast encouraging me to go ahead and do it, which I did. Afterwards I was so elated I was buzzing. I felt really good that I’d gone ahead and done it in front of an audience for the first time ever. So thanks to all my cast and the support I had on that day. Now I’m looking forward to doing the production in July

With this short performance under their belt, and every scene now ‘blocked’’, the group is going into the final rehearsal phase of strengthening characters, brushing up on movement and, most important of all, learning their lines!

As the production starts to look like a real show we’re having some longer rehearsals and extra days. Everyone is working very hard and the performances are looking good. Our production dates are set now for Saturday 6th July at the New Wolsey Studio, and two opportunities to share the group’s work with the community at the Avenue Theatre on 9th July and at the Castle Hill Community Centre on 10th July – our very own mini-tour!

We’ve had a week off for the half term but it’s back to business this Thursday. I’ll continue to keep you posted as the performances loom ever closer!

Caroline Roberts

Workshop Assistant

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The Tree of Dreams

Unscene Suffolk presents

The Tree of Dreams

A beatbox-infused collaboration with Rationale Method

 

 

Our 2019 Drama Project was an innovative collaboration with Rationale Method, combining audio description with beatboxing sound effects!

Here’s what the audience thought:

“It was absolutely fabulous. Filled with laughter – such an enjoyable evening”

“Outstanding. Brilliant show.”

“I’m severely sight impaired and I thought it was absolutely brilliant and it was so nice not to have to the headphones on. It was really impressive. (the AD) was explained to me at the touch tour and I just can’t say how good it was, it was really, really impressive. Much better (than other audio described shows I have seen). I liked the way the cast also joined in the audio description.”

“I’ve seen every show you’ve ever done and this one was just amazing!”

Performances took place on:

Saturday 6 July 2019 3.30pm and 7pm 
New Wolsey Studio, St George’s Street, Ipswich, IP1 3NF
Tuesday 9th July – community performance at Red Rose Chain
Wednesday 10th July at 7pm, Castle Hill Community Centre

SHOW INFORMATION

Ellen and George have always been happy, and slept soundly. But life is getting on top of Ellen. Her world is turning upside down, and her dreams are filled with sinister sheep and thieving magpies. “Someone’s been neglecting their responsibilities. The woodcutter is coming, and people aren’t happy.”

The Tree of Dreams is a story about expectations, reality, fantasy and family, devised by Ipswich’s resident company of visually impaired people, with dynamic Audio Description by the internationally renowned Rationale Method, using beatboxing sound effects to heighten the experience for both blind and sighted audiences.

This is an amateur production presented as part of the New Wolsey’s annual Open Season

ACCESS INFORMATION

The show has built-in audio description in the script, so you won’t need a headset for this performance.
However, we are inviting any visually impaired audience members for a touch tour immediately before the show. If you’d like to attend this, please be at the venue 20 minutes before the performance, and we’ll let you in first so you can see and touch some of the props and costumes up close before the show starts.

Funded by Arts Council England and the Foyle Foundation. Supported by the New Wolsey Theatre and Sensing Change.

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