Monthly Archives: March 2015

Hidden Creativity at the Albany

Now we know you love reading the blogs that we put together here in the Communications team, but we know that there are many budding writers amongst our other staff and we wouldn’t want to deprive you of their insight into working in the creative industries. So we welcome you to the first of many blogs written by staff from across the organisation. This time we’re featuring Lilly, our Programmes Coordinator, who writes about the different creative talents of staff at the Albany.

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It’s not unusual to find someone working in an arts organisation who also likes to write. It’s not unusual to come across a person who enjoys painting, is interested in photography or who plays in a band but it is unusual to find them all under one roof. Outside of the daily emails and phonecalls, the invoicing and the admin many Albany staff lead lives informed by a desire to learn, create, collaborate and share. You can find a sculpture in the Programming Department, a glass blower in Finance, an aspiring playwright in the Cafe and you can’t walk through Reception without tripping over a Master’s student. I’m a painter, which doesn’t help in the slightest when I’m trying to juggle contracts, schedules and multiple room hires, but it does mean that I have more in common with those I work with than just the Company we work for. To some degree there’s a collective understanding here, that realising a creative project isn’t all romance and poetry but is more often belt and braces hard work made up of practical steps that get you from where you are to where you want to be. I may not paint at work, but the tasks I complete still feed back into the overall creativity of the building. Room hires and contracts may not be the most inventive thing to do, but being surrounded by so many different artists means that my job can run parallel to my painting rather than in opposition to it. The Albany isn’t perfect and there are times when I moan about my job (who doesn’t) but at the same time I’m all too aware of how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who believe in what they do in both their professional and personal lives.

Watch this space for more blogs written by Albany staff, and to see who’s who, visit our website.

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Who Are Our Audiences and How Can We Better Engage With Them?

On Saturday 31 January a group of people met at Canada Water Culture Space in order to discuss who are our audiences and how can we engage with them better? It was a  discussion designed for people who write about theatre – critics, bloggers, fans – and people who work in communications, marketing and PR, to find out more about each others’ motivations, frustrations and ambitions, and to ask how we can work together better without losing what makes our relationships with audiences distinct. Hosted by Dialogue and Amber Massie-Blomfield (Head of Communications at the Albany and Executive Director at Camden People’s Theatre), with invited speakers Lyn Gardner (The Guardian) and Stewart Pringle (critic, playwright, artistic director of the Old Red Lion, London).   cwcs

Maddy Costa has written about the discussion and we’d like to share her thoughts here.

If you’d like to open this conversation further then please tweet  and  using the hashtag

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Who Do You Think You Are?

rove3_billboardRove, a new work by one of our Associate Artists, J. Fergus Evans, is a personal exploration into family stories, heritage and ancestry, running until this Sunday 22 March. This emotional piece, infused with Evans’ poetic charm and gorgeous folk music by Rhiannon Armstrong, follows his family history stretching back to his Irish grandfather’s early days in the United States. In the final week of performances, our Marketing Coordinator, Allison Gold, looks into her own family history as well as those of other Albany staff.

As I watched Rove, I couldn’t help but relate Fergus’ experience to my own; he’s from the southern United States with Irish ancestry, while I’m from Canada with a very mixed bag of ancestry. It’s the North American plight for the most part; to be uprooted from your ancestral home and start from the ground up in a new country. Ancestry is such a hot topic in North America compared to the United Kingdom. While many people have lived here for generations, in places like Canada, it is very much the opposite.

I have always wondered what my family might look like if they hadn’t immigrated so long ago to Canada, it might not even exist today. I have family from all walks of life and from all different cultures. While much of my background remains a mystery to me, the things I do know of it are extremely varied. I do know that on my maternal line, the last Turner left Waterford, Ireland for a new home in Canada in the 1800s. I have also been told (so this may not even be true – could very well be one of my grandfather’s tall tales) that we’re descendent from actual Vikings. I am also part French Canadian (as a Brazeau family member) which means I’m a fluent French speaker too.

My paternal line is even more cryptic. I’m aware that one of my grandmothers was Northern Irish, even part of the Orange Order, meaning she was fiercely opposed to my parents marrying in a Catholic Church. But the most recent discovery was made when I first moved here to the United Kingdom to study my MA at Goldsmiths, my father told me about my great-grandfather Henry Gold, who last lived in a small town in Hertfordshire before immigrating. Imagine, here I am a foreigner to this country, taking a risk and moving here, when one of my close ancestors did the exact opposite move not long before.

Again though, I really have no evidence of any of these stories being true. Such is the plight of a 3rd, 4th or even 5th generation Canadian – a lot of us have lost any previous identity and have literally been absorbed into a whole new cultural identity. Canada is still such a young country, but it has been even more years in the making, building upon the cumulative lives of all those who decided to pack up their existence and take a chance somewhere new. I really envy those who have more of an idea of who their family actually were, who can track their beginnings hundreds of years back. Thinking of all the people it took, all the chances that were made that led up to my own existence here is all so humbling. Suppose one of my ancestors hadn’t left their home country for Canada, taken a chance on a foreign country and made the scary leap-of-faith that is emigrating? Then I wouldn’t be here in this ‘new’ country now.

Allison Gold, Marketing Coordinator, The Albany

Have a look at some other ancestral stories collected from the rest of the Albany team:

-There is a rumour that when my family moved over from Ireland, we changed our name from Montague to McCall in order to avoid some tax thing. This was many moons ago so we can’t confirm it, but it’s one of those family stories that we love to tell.

-Even though I wasn’t born in London, I’ve managed to find my way back to the neighbourhood my great-grandfather was born in, Deptford. William was a bare knuckle fighter (around the late 1800’s), as well as a beer bottler in one of the local breweries.  The first time he met his prospective son-in-law, also named William (Bill), they had a fight in the street. Bill must have won because he married Williams’ Daughter in the borough of Greenwich, where I now life. When I walk down the high street I often wonder if my great-grandad would recognise anything here now – probably not. I’m not sure how far my London family tree goes back, around 5 generations at least. I’ll investigate properly one day.

-I’m a direct descendant of Edward I, and also Charles Blomfield, the former Bishop of London, who has a huge, larger-than-life effigy on his grave in St Paul’s Cathedral. My great great-grandfather, Arthur Blomfield, was a noted architect who employed Thomas Hardy. One day they were excavating a graveyard as part of a building project. A coffin was dropped and split open to reveal a skeleton – with two skulls.

-My surname originates from Ireland not England believe it or not as a group of English traveled over there & began working in the role as we now know to be a Butler. When they came back over to England half went North which is where my family are from & the other South.

-I’m a descendant of Samuel Smiles, who wrote the book ‘Self-Help’ in 1855 which is still in print today: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Smiles Who actually, come to think of it, has a local connection – although Scottish, he ended up living on Granville Park road in Blackheath​ -a short walk from the Albs!

-I moved to Rotherhithe from New Zealand only to find out my ancestors worked on the docks in Rotherhithe and were all married/baptised in the church I walk past every day (I thought they were Scottish). Then my great great-grandfather (William George Cornelius Hingston) sailed to NZ in one of the ships built in the area!  I don’t know as much about the Golds, but I know that they were a well-known baking family in Lanarkshire in Scotland and had award winning oatcakes! Oh, and I am somehow related to Oscar Wilde, but I am not sure exactly how – something like a great great great uncle…

To hear more fascinating stories of family roots, don’t miss J. Fergus Evans in Rove. Performances run until Sunday 22 March. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

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This Play Isn’t Set in the 1970s – These Events are Happening Now

Black comes to the Albany next week to tell us a tale of a Zimbabwean family’s struggles to settle in to a Liverpudlian neighbourhood. Nikki doesn’t think her Dad is a racist… He just deeply cares about his community. But when a Zimbabwean family moves in over the road, her Dad starts laying down the law. This frank and honest look at racism in today’s world makes this show a provocative piece of work that is relevant to all communities across Britain.

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Keith Saha, Co-Artistic Director tells is more:
This blog is abridged, to read the full version click here.

Without giving too much away, Black is a story that centres around a young white woman called Nikki who lives on a predominantly white estate, when a Zimbabwean family move onto the close she turns a blind eye to the racism they face.

It’s a challenging piece, and the two actors that portray Nikki and the Zimbabwean teen Precious have an astonishingly challenging job to do in terms of the emotions it throws up for the audiences everywhere they go. Nikki doesn’t hold any punches in her language she uses, she is uncensored and hearing language like this has sometimes been difficult for some audiences.

I wrote this play in response to a real event a youth worker friend had told me about. She told me about an African family who had moved onto the estate where she was working, and they were met with hostility by a lot of the local community. On hearing this I was shocked and saddened, but not surprised.

On doing further research with young people in Liverpool, I soon learned that violent racist attacks were common, everyday casual racism was even more common. But often people didn’t talk about it.

It took me back to an incident that had taken place in Birkenhead in the late 70’s when I was growing up. A black family were moving in over the road and all of the street had come out to have a look. A husband and wife and two little boys the same age as me 4 or 5. The name calling started , the ‘N’ word was being shouted, then the stones started to get thrown, the Mum and Dad hurriedly took their kids inside. I was one of the kids that was also throwing stones. After the family went inside, one of the older lads turned and pointed at me ‘What about him? What about the Paki?’ They all looked at me, and then pounced I was thrown on the floor and was about to get a beating but fortunately the older kids in my family jumped in and protected me. At that time my family I was living with was all white, and I had not fully understood that my mixed heritage of Indian and English/Irish was an issue.

When I moved back up to Liverpool in 2006 I was acutely aware of the growing racial tensions that were coming back on a national level. Heightened by 9/11 and the global recession the rise the BNP and the EDL started to look ugly on the streets. Ten years later with the collapse of the BNP and the EDL we now have the acceptable face of racist views. UKIP and Britain First.

So what to do with this information? I wrote Black.

I wrote Black from the perspective of Nikki a young woman who was in the middle of all this. She is based on some young women I knew growing up and she also exists in the here and now. Black is based on events that are happening now.

As the tour carries on the tour continues, the reactions from the audience differ night to night and can be radically different even in the same location. A mix of people unaware of the situation, of young black people who are acutely aware and also young people like Nikki who are working their way through defining who they are and what their views are on immigration and a multi-cultural Britain.

My hope is that we don’t need to tour Black again or it shouldn’t be a show that will still be relevant in a few years. It will be a period piece. There are no easy answers but one thing I have learned over the past few weeks, talking openly about these things on a community level helps, highlighting these issues on social media helps, speaking out against racism and direct action helps.

You can see Black at the Albany on Tuesday 17 – Wednesday 18 March, 7.30pm.

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