Tag Archives: Ruth Mitchell

List of this weeks Hidden Stories:Hidden Places audio trails

I’ve been working with my ripple colleague Derek Frood to make audio trails for some Heritage open days, the national event is this coming weekend.

It is also the first week of the Jewish Heritage Days 2017 and here are three events where our cemetery audio trails can be heard.

Thursday 7 September Plymouth Cemetery Audio Trail.

2pm. Listen to the audios in the synagogue vestry and then take a walk up to the cemetery to see the graves. Free event but booking advised for numbers. Contact Jerry Sibley 07753 267616 or 01752 263162

Thursday 7th September Phonic FM Exeter

6-8pm. I will be appearing on Phonic FM’s first Culture Club.  Listen live on Phonic FM: 106.8FM in Exeter; phonic.fmworldwide. Listen again at www.mixcloud.com/phoniccr.

Sunday 9th September Exeter Audio Trail

Synagogue open 11-3 have a tour of the synagogue and listen to our audios with your refreshments. There will also be a film running to illustrate one of our stories.

Sunday 9th September Falmouth Presentation

12.30pm. Derek and I will be talking about how we unearthed stories from the Plymouth cemetery and how they turned into a project called Hidden Stories: Hidden Places. Places are free but we are asking people to sign up here http://thepoly.org/whats-on/event/491/hidden-stories-hidden-places

Sunday 9th September Falmouth Audio Trail

2-4pm in the Ponsharden Cemetery our audio trail will be part of a talk and walk in both the Jewish cemetery and it’s neighbour, the Dissenter’s burial ground. Derek and I will be there in person to hand out the headphones.

#ripple’s Hidden Stories: Hidden Places @PolyFalmouth

On Sunday September 10th I will be giving a presentation with my ripple colleague Derek Frood about our Hidden Stories: Hidden Places project. This grew out of our Plymouth Cemetery Audio trail, which took place in a hidden Jewish cemetery on Plymouth Hoe in 2016. After the unexpected success of the trail within the Plymouth Art Weekender we continued the research into Exeter and Falmouth and the outcome are two audio trails one for each place. On the 10th of September there will be a chance to hear them within the Jewish Heritage week and the Heritage Open Days. In Exeter you can hear the audio stories within the Synagogue which is open on the Sunday afternoon and in Falmouth you can walk around the Ponsharden burial ground between 2-4pm.

Before the cemetery opens we will be chatting about our research at the Falmouth Poly, how the three trails have cultural connections but how we’ve tried to make them creatively different; from spoken biographies in Plymouth to a more in depth story telling for Falmouth. The talk starts at 12.30 and should last roughly 50 minutes to an hour which will give people time to then head to the Ponsharden burial ground for the tour. This is a FREE event but we ask that people sign up so we can monitor numbers. Thanks

http://thepoly.org/whats-on/event/491/hidden-stories-hidden-places

http://www.dissenters.moonfruit.com/open-day/4587242113

Hidden Stories: Hidden Places is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England , Exeter City Council small grants scheme and  Feast Cornwall a programme that makes great art happen across Cornwall.

The Hidden Histories Seminar at Plymouth University 29-30 November

 

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I will be giving a presentation on Wednesday 30th November for a Hidden Histories Seminar organised by the Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery, (a Major Partner Museum in partnership with the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter) hosted in conjunction with Plymouth University and funded by Arts Council England. I will be talking about creating an audio trail for a Hidden Jewish Cemetery, how one starts to make a performance for a graveyard and the stories we eventually found. This is a project that I worked on with Derek Frood, together we are a.k.a ripple and you can find out more here or come along to the seminar, find out about our project and hear about the other diverse histories for Plymouth.

https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/whats-on/hidden-histories-2016

 

thoughts on making an audio performance for a hidden walled cemetery

 

 

In 2013 I made a performance for the Plymouth Synagogue, which is the oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in continuous use in the English speaking world. I spoke to the ladies of the very small, congregation and used those interviews, verbatim, to create my text. The performance has been performed inside the synagogue every year since and has helped to raise awareness, not just about the hidden history of the site but of the culture and people that have gone unnoticed by many who live here.
When the synagogue custodian came to me to ask if I would do a performance within the cemetery they were opening for the Plymouth History Festival in May 2016, I jumped at the chance. This cemetery is even older than the synagogue and in 1740 it was the garden of a Mrs Sherrenbeck, who gave it to the community for burial purposes. In those days the bodies of Jews who had passed over had to be shipped to London for burial but if a Jewish cemetery was geographically too far away it was acceptable to bury someone in the garden of a fellow Jew. Mrs Sherrenbeck allowed such a burial to take place and eventually gave over the land to the Hebrew congregation. When the plot became too small, adjoining land was leased and as the community grew from strength to strength so too did the burials. After several plots had been used twice, by lawfully interring new bodies on top of older ones, it was decided that this cemetery was full; the last body being laid to rest in around 1867.
So how does one go about making a performance for a cemetery? I have worked with site for ten years and I’ve learnt that you don’t go in, all guns blazing with an idea, instead you allow the site to speak. Mytheogeographer Dr Phil Smith says, ‘fingertip search your site like its a crime scene’ (Aspinwall, Mitchell & Smith, 2010:66),  we needed to go into the cemetery and listen to it, observe, and allow it to communicate with us as if it were our collaborator. With actor Derek Frood  (having worked together in theatre and audio performance) we visited the site; it was so calm and peaceful, and beautiful that it seemed to create its own performance and the stones, some broken some leaning precariously, were creating pathways throughout: the site was becoming its own theatre. Some gravestones are illegible being worn away, some illegible (to us) because they are in Hebrew but in the middle of the last century Dr Cecil Roth had the bright idea of translating all the remaining stones that could be read to keep for posterity and so began a labour of love by Rabbi Bernard Susser who created an archive of the graves.
And that is where the research started, the Rev Susser had not only left this invaluable publication of the gravestones but had written a book, The Jews of South West England: the rise and decline of their medieval and modern communities which was published by Exeter University Press in 1993. This was the starting point, but as we searched other avenues we kept returning to Susser, we found that the routes we were using, Susser had travelled before us. If we couldn’t find that extra family member then we realised we wouldn’t because Susser would’ve found them 50 years earlier, his research was that extensive. But unlike 50 years ago we had the advantage of the internet and the genealogy sites that proved invaluable for the family lines.
For the History Festival we decided to trial something and gather feedback from the participants. We decided to create small biographies for a handful of people buried in the cemetery and we would record those biographies onto MP3 players which the curious could listen to as they ambled around the gravestones. It was really successful and people said they were hungry for more so we knew we had to go away and think this through. We applied for funding from Vital Sparks within Plymouth City Council and from the Drake Foundation, both of whom fund community projects, then we could pay a sound designer and a gardener and also buy equipment that the synagogue could keep and re-use when they open the cemetery in future.

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The research was the most fascinating and the most frustrating part of the dramaturgy, some people were pre census, some had changed their names, some had arrived from parts of Europe that no longer exist and some were, for all manor of reasons, not on any records. Two ancestors came forward who had relatives in the cemetery and they shared their family trees, so we thought it would be a nice touch if they wrote their own ancestors’ biography. The rest was down to us. Yet what reads well on the page doesn’t always translate to recordings and once on our feet speaking the words we found we had to re-write and tweek lines to make the text sound like we were sharing stories out loud for the first time, to draw the listener in with our voices and keep them with us. Sometimes we needed the text broken up with another voice, sometimes that was just a throw away line, other times a different voice to take over the telling. We realised we would need a variety of voices to fill these stories that we unearthed; two murders, tales of bravery and heroism, of plague and famine plus connections with royalty, six generations of one family with royal ties that became untangled – thank goodness for those genealogy websites. We also noted that many were just ordinary lives, but are as important because, this cemetery shows life in all its guises but mostly in the ordinariness of it. People just getting on with their lives and assimilating themselves whilst at the same time being true to their faith and culture without flaunting it. It is this aspect that we felt had a relevance today, the people buried here came to England for a better life, fleeing persecution, some were the children of immigrants and in the eighteenth century Jewish immigrants stayed in Plymouth and the south west because of religious tolerance.  Susser says [The book] ‘describes in detail the integration of a foreign ethic minority  into the mainstream of English life, without entirely losing its distinctive characteristics’ (Susser, 1993:sleeve note). We can see today, from these hidden buried lives, how the stories from one small community can illustrate how much they gave back to their adopted home.

You can find more information on this and other audio performances here

 

The cemetery audio trail was researched and created by Ruth Mitchell and Derek Frood aka ripple  https://rippletheatreco.com

The audios were recorded and designed by Stage Technical Services, http://www.stagetechservices.co.uk

The cemetery will be open as part of the Plymouth Art Weekender on the 23/24/25 September, you can find us in Garrison Green, Lambhay Hill Plymouth PL1 2NP
Friday open 11-12noon :: Saturday open 2-3pm :: Sunday open 2-3pm

Aspinall, Rachel, Ruth Mitchell & Phil Smith (2010) The Hidden City Festival Handbook. Plymouth:University of Plymouth Press

Susser, Bernard (1993) The Jews of South West England: the rise and decline of their medieval and modern communities Exeter:Exeter University Press

Homeward Bound is homeward bound

Next month we will be taking my current show Homeward Bound back to my roots. The show deals with our childhood dreams and I share the hopes of my mother and grandmother and the restrictions that were placed on them.

 

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I grew up in Bradford within a three storey household of women, three generations to be precise (one generation per floor) and I later moved over the moors to Hebden Bridge, where I lived for ten years and where my son was born. It will be nostalgic and very personal to play in my home town at the Bradford Playhouse, where my mother was (almost) a fixture, or so it seemed to me growing up. I would be taken on a Sunday, on ‘fit up’ Sundays to watch the technical and dress rehearsals and eat in the basement cafe and have a celebratory drink in the bar afterwards. Anyone would think that sitting through a technical rehearsal at such a young age would have put me off the theatre but it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to say that those Sundays and my parents love of the Bradford Playhouse is what prompted my own childhood dream… to work in the theatre.

14th April; The Square Chapel  Square Road, Halifax

15th April Bradford Playhouse, Chapel Street, Bradford

16th April Bradford Playhouse, Chapel Street, Bradford

With technical support from STS Stage Services

Great previews for Homeward Bound @BikeShedTheatre this Saturday

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We have had great previews for Homeward Bound as it started the South West tour at the Brewhouse Taunton. The Western Morning News on Sunday had a lovely double page article written by Jemima Laing, which you can read here. Also Exeter Life has a great half page spread by Sue Carroll -see below

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and the British Baseball Federation have this article on their website click here

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You can also hear me being interviewed by Matt Faulkner for BBC Radio Somerset here (at one hour and 25 minutes in)

Homeward Bound Autumn Tour

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I’ve partnered with the South West Baseball League to create a tour of Homeward Bound, my show about my son’s love of baseball and my own Northern upbringing. From September it will be touring to all the south west towns and cities who have baseball teams that play in the south west baseball league. In receipt of a Homeward Bound flyer or programme, audience members have the opportunity to a free training session with their local baseball team.

Photos by Lee Hind & graphic design by Kerry Eggleton

The venues are