Preparations for the ‘Influencers meeting’ are progressing. Rebecca Southin is pulling together names of who to ask and an invitation has been designed and printed. ‘An ‘Influencer’s Meeting has been Jacquie’s for this project, and a good one it is. These early days depend on established ‘drivers and shakers’ (such as those on the set up committee) To call together more leaders of local groups, and others with political influence gives us an opportunity to get them ‘on-side’. If they in turn spread the word among encourage their groups and encourage them to the public meeting in April we have a better chance of getting the wide representation we want. Meanwhile Fabio is seeking out groups who might hold Soundings for us
Feb 4th Wednesday
As a general rule Fabio, Kirsty and I are meeting on Thursdays in the Guildhall but everyone’s got a full ‘to do list’ of things so I’m as happy not meeting tomorrow if we’ve nothing specifically to discuss that e mails can’t do email. I’ve arranged a meeting at the Garrick Club - they have funded my work in the past and the Cityplay is perfect for them. Fabio is finding ‘interest groups’ to do soundings with but I’m thinking an open public sounding would be good – it might be something for Spice host? I could talk to volunteers at same time or it could be a volunteers night with sounding attached - whatever works. I’m looking at the Mayors High street fund and searching out other local funding streams. I’ve set up Management page on the web site – it has a password so we can work on the feasibility report before sharing it publically. I’ve started filling in the funding, income and expenditure sections to get sense of the budget. Fabio and Kirsty are now both editors of the website.
The Cityplay website is developing more opportunities for visitors to share there thoughts and input information.
Feb 6th Friday
We’re working on a Cityplay postcard so that we can hand them out as we meet people, it explains who we are and what we’re about. It helps.
Feb 7th Saturday
This evening was the 5th or 6th Camden Road Lantern Parade; it’s now an annual feature in Tunbridge Well’s calendar. The first was a parallel project for the Vanishing Elephant, the community play I wrote for Camden Road. The first parade project aimed to not only to attract community involvement but draw attention to the fact that Camden Road had no decent street lighting, certainly not for the town’s most populated street of independent traders; It succeeded by drawing in close to 500 participants and in getting the attention of the Borough Council. Four months after the parade they installed new streetlights. Tonight a good 1,000 people were involved. It grows substantially each year; an example of one of the plays legacies.
Feb 9th Monday
Got a report from Fabio about where he’s at and the progress he’s making.
On Friday he’s at the "Buyer meeting" in St. John Cass school. H’e been reading Rocket Science’s "Aldgate cafè and pavilion consultation" from Caroline Masundire; it seems the second thing people would like to see most in the new space, after healthy food option, is "Activities such a play and events that bring the whole community together.” That’s before the play was ever discussed. That bodes well. Fabio’s booked a sounding with "Portsoken Pioneers" (a Bangladeshi women’s group) for the 3rd of March at the GreenBox. As they are learning English Caroline Masundire, who runs it, has suggested a short very simple presentation with drawings and sketches more than words.
Feb 12th Thursday
Rebecca has started negotiations with Sir John Cass School about having the April public meeting there. This is a good call. It’s a neutral space in religious, political, cultural terms. The only school on the City, it’s a line into the residents who live here. The school is of significant historical interest, but also central in the Aldgate project’s new square, sitting on the west side opposite St Botolph’s on the Eastside. It’s essential to get the school involved if we are to call this a ‘community play’.
Feb 13th Friday
Kirsty is setting up a public sounding at the Artizan Library sometime in early April. From the first day Jacquie Cambell put the idea of a Cityplay to me the name of Peter Ackroyd came to mind. Peter is the contemporary chronicler of London. His brilliant ‘London, a Biography’ is a must read. Discovering that the eastside of the city had been been the home of other great chroniclers on strengthened my belief that Peter Ackroyd would be a great choice as writer of the play. Everyone I’ve mentioned the idea too have almost as much enthusiasm for the idea as I do. To say that Peter Ackroyd is busy is an understatement so it’s a real long shot he’ll find time, but he’s so perfect a choice it would be negligent not to try. So I telephoned his agent today.
Feb 14th Saturday
Following a telephone conversation with Peter Ackroyd’s Literary and then Theatre agent. I sent a brief description of the project and principles of a community play. Lucy Fawcett, Peters Theatre Agent had said my request wasn’t something she could automatically say ‘No’ to so had agreed to pass on a written request. We can now only wait and see. I read one of Peter Ackroyd’s essays, a manifesto for the city of London in which he expressed his hopes for developing community here, I paraphrase. I have fingers crossed he sees this as an opportunity to do just that.
Feb 16th Monday
We’ve been thinking about a venue for the play and the natural place is the new Aldgate Square itself. The square will have the prospect of being a ‘centre’ for the community, a place where residents can gather, meet, hold events, celebrate; as you would a village green. But building a square alone won’t do that, habits need to be broken, new traditions need to emerge. The play, in celebration of the square could promote the idea of the square as the new centre for the community activities and demonstrate a way to use it and during the process of finding and making the play, several ways of using it through parallel projects. It could be for all things; markets, fairs, sporting activities, concerts, meeting-place, a site for protest or celebration.
I’ve started looking at tents and Jacquie suggested a Spiegel Tent, something I’ve heard of but never seen. I contacted speiegetents for some sense of sizes, and cost. Crystal Palace 18mx21m total capacity of 300-350 isn’t big enough, that’s just double our potential cast. The Majestic 20m x 24m capacity 400 is extendable to 29m with a large foyer capacity 580, which is a more practical capacity. The Majestic has a diameter of 20m and a length of 24m. This spiegeltent has 16 alcoves of 6 persons each, the total capacity is 450 persons. The capacity for a dinner is 300 persons. The rental price for a period of 4 weekends with all its travel, set-up dismantling and insurance is about 37,000 euro. As well as being expensive it’s a too exotic, highly decorated venue of wood glass, seating cubicles and the like. We need to start with something more neutral and certainly cheaper. So I’m looking at alternatives. This is just a one-item glimpse of costing the play, which is just one part of the feasibility study.
Feb 17th Tuesday
Kirsty has had a fair few people that she’s talked to about the play suggesting us doing a documentary film around the play process, and that maybe we should film some of these early sessions; the meetings and soundings. She feels there is such a buzz around the play and that it would be a shame to miss these moments. She’s suggested doing a bit of filming at the influencers meeting on Thursday – not the whole thing but particularly interested in seeing the audiences reaction to what has happened in Tunbridge Wells; I’ve asked Paul Fulton who was in that play to come and talk about his experience.
Feb 19th Thursday
A really positive day started with our regular Thursday catch-up with Kirsty and Fabio, moved onto the monthly get together with the Set-Up Committee meeting and ended with a highly enthusiastic Influencers meeting. Come March we’ll be more focused on soundings and gathering local responses and ideas around the project, so we have to crash on with the feasibility questionnaire – gathering data and costing the play. We are discovering projects in the pipeline that could have a bearing on the choice of parallel project we plan including the Portsoken float for the Lord Mayors show, a photographic documentary project in Aldgate and a young people’s film making group working with Bubble an Brit. The Set up committee have returned all the draft policies with comments and edits, so I’ll get them updated. We discussed the public meeting, the potential aims and objectives of the project, sponsorship and prepared for the Influencers. Much was said about the potential of the square around which we ran a small sounding exercise. I’ll add the committee’s comments to the web sites ‘what people are saying’
There’s a possible strong sponsorship deal to be made with a City development group. I’m to prepare a draft sponsorship package.
The influencers meeting in St Botolphs church was well attended by representatives of groups across the city and beyond. Rebecca had laid on some drinks and nibbles, Fabio had put together a display of community play and past project material I’d given him. Jacquie gave a moving introduction about why she wanted a play for the city, I presented a powerpoint talk about the process and Paul Fulton, a participant of a number of previous plays talked about his experience, especially the ‘legacy’ of these plays. There was a really good Q&A through which it became apparent there is a lot of enthusiasm for the project, and a determination from a lot of groups to get involved.
Feb 20th Friday
Nice feedback from the team about the Influencers meeting
Dear all, it was a pleasure working with you yesterday. Ready for the next step! Fabio
Dear All thank you so much for helping to make yesterday evening such a successful meeting. Lots of good feedback and there are now around 20 new people buzzing with enthusiasm and telling others about the project. Hurray! Jon – your presentation was perfect and hit exactly the right note. As Kirsty said to me last night, every time I hear it I learn something new. Even better was your reaction to some of the questions, especially about this being your swansong. Everyone was visibly and, in some cases, audibly, moved by what you said and how genuine and passionate you were. Also, please pass on our thanks again to Paul, because he added real experience and authenticity. The distinguishing between a community play and amateur drama was very important and beautifully done, as were his personal insights. Spot on. Lydia, many thanks for dashing in and out of the rain at severe risk of hair frizz and helping to set things up. Kirsty and Fabio – great engagement and support as always. And Rebecca – a million thanks, as ever, just for making sure everything worked and went smoothly and making it all look seamless. What a team. Jxxx
Encouragement is a great part of good leadership
An E Mail from Peter Ackroyd’s Agent, enough to say I think the door is opened a crack. I’ve responded: “we wait with bated breath - it would mean so much to the city…”