Tag Archives: meet me at the albany

New Year, New Resolutions

It’s that time of year again where ‘new year, new me’ is the phrase on everyone’s lips, and here at the Albany is no exception. But if you’re struggling to figure out what you want to do differently this year, our Marketing Assistant Rachel McCall has five simple suggestions for you.

1. Be good to yourself

It’s so easy to get caught up in the fast, furious pace of London and 2015 is the year that you shouldn’t let it get you down. Mindfulness is a great way to take a little time out of each day to assess how you are feeling, what you want, and to figure out how you will achieve it. There are many apps for iPhone and Android that guide you through Mindfulness and take as little as 15 minutes out of your day.

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2. Start a new hobby

2014 saw the come-back of knitting, so we think that 2015 should take this one step further and see the rebirth of crocheting. If this takes your fancy then click here to find out how to get started. crochet

3. Eat adventurously

We’re so over left-over turkey curry and we bet you are too! A fun and easy resolution to do this year is to try new food and flavours. If you’re looking for an opportunity to do so then you can come along to our Bajan Dining Experience by In a Pikkle Pop-Up Restaurants on Friday 6 February and 6 March.

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4. Try something that you think you won’t like

It’s so easy to get into a rut with how you spend your free time, whether it’s binge watching Netflix, reading books by the same author or consistently seeing plays by the same writer or director. If you want to mix things up a little then we advise doing something or seeing something that takes you out of your comfort zone. For some ideas have a look at our new season. What have you got to lose?

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5. Volunteer your free time

It’s a classic one, but there’s a reason for it. Volunteering your time can be one of the most rewarding things to do, not just for you but for those who you are helping. At the Albany you can volunteer at Meet Me at the Albany, or find your local charity shop and see if they need help each week.

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If you decide to take on any of these resolutions then tweet us and let us know on Twitter at @TheAlbanySE8.

Good luck,

Rachel McCall

Marketing Assistant, The Albany

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‘Tis the Season to be Kind: How You Can Give Back This Christmas

Christmas Day is but nine sleeps away! That’s almost nine whole days in which to get into the Christmas spirit and to give something back: and perhaps to make a resolution for 2015…

Here are five simple ways you can make a difference in the Deptford area:

1. Give to a food bank

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A great number of organisations across Britain have been working hard this year to support families and individuals who are struggling to feed themselves. And it’s easy to get involved: when you’re doing your Christmas Dinner shopping, simply pop a few extras into your trolley and donate to a food bank. Lewisham Council has made a handy suggestions page of what to donate and where in the New Cross and Deptford area.

2. Meet Me at the Albany

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Described as ‘the kind of stereotype-smashing thing that sticks two knitting needles up at anyone who dares assume day care for older people is about flower arranging and endless cups of tea’, you’d be hard-pushed to find a more entertaining way to give something back to your community this Christmas.  Hosted every Tuesday, Meet Me at the Albany is a new take on day care for Over 60s that is always looking for volunteers, so what are you waiting for?

3. Reach out to Deptford

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Deptford Reach is a drop-in centre for adults over 16 years of age who are vulnerable through homelessness, mental illness, loneliness, social exclusion and severe poverty. They support more than 70 people each weekday through a programme of courses, workshops, activities and advice sessions. They work on employment skills, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health and creative expression to name a few; so if you can contribute towards any of there areas take a look and see how you can get involved.

4. Get Souped Up

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Nothing says winter like a hearty soup to warm you up. Lewisham Soup Kitchen serves soup to those in need every Thursday from 6 – 7pm, so get your ladle out and serve some steaming bowls of soup.

5. Invite a lonely neighbour to Christmas Dinner

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This week The Independent published an article explaining that 400,000 pensioners will be alone on Christmas Day this year. One simple way to change that is to invite someone you know will be alone on Christmas Day around to join you for your festive meal. It’s  a small gesture, and they might decline your offer, but if everybody asked a neighbour to join them then the shocking figure of 400,000 could be much lower.

So make this the most wonderful time of the year and do just one small thing to make someone else’s Christmas as festive as yours. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Rachel McCall

Marketing Assistant

The Albany

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Stella Duffy on Why the Albany is the Perfect Home for Fun Palaces

Brockwell Lido Fun Palace, Image by Tom Parker

Brockwell Lido Fun Palace, Image by Tom Parker

Fun Palaces is a free, nationwide celebration of arts, sciences and culture, taking place on Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 October in 130+ locations across the UK and internationally. The event celebrates the centenary of cultural innovator Joan Littlewood and brings to life the vision she shared with Cedric Price for the creation of a ‘Fun Palace’. We are proud to be the national home for Fun Palaces, and also to be part of the Deptford Fun Palace. Ahead of this momentous weekend, Fun Palaces Founder and Co-Director Stella Duffy explains why the Albany is the perfect home for Fun Palaces.

I’m 51. I’ve been working in the arts since I was 18 when I got my Equity card. For many of us, perhaps especially those from my generation – those of us for whom not getting a ‘proper’ job (before you could at least get degrees in non-‘proper’ jobs) meant saying no to an office, no to a desk, no to a set place to work – for many of us, saying yes to the arts meant saying no to a home. We didn’t think we needed or wanted a home. We wanted to be ‘free’.

And free is all very well, but it doesn’t take long to realise that free is also scary, tiring, and that sometimes what we really want, as well as free, is a home.

A base, somewhere to work from, somewhere that understands the kind of work we’re trying to make, somewhere that understands the kind of artist we’re trying to be, that can hold us while we’re trying to be the kind of artist we might become. And it doesn’t matter what stage we’re at in our work, EVERY artist needs this kind of support, every artist is emerging to some extent, every time they make a new piece of work. We all need support.

I’ve been lucky, as a novelist and short story writer, to have this in the publishers I’ve worked with; I’ve been lucky as a performer and director to have this in a couple of the companies I’ve been part of – they are the companies I still work with. But I can count on the fingers of one hand the theatres and arts centres where I feel truly welcome, as either a writer or a theatremaker – where I honestly feel they ‘get’ the work I care to make. (Interestingly, for those of you who think being published might rid you of all your outsider feelings – none of the ones I feel particularly welcome in are those that consider themselves “writers’ theatres”. Maybe that’s why I call myself a theatremaker not a playwright …)

I don’t think we look for THE home, as artists, as makers, I think we look for A home. A place that gets the work we’re passionate about now, a base that can support us to reach further than we’ve reached before, a space that will let us run with an idea, even when it’s slightly (or very) excessive, even when we don’t really know what we’re doing (and neither do they), just in case it works. A place that is, perhaps more importantly, brave enough to say yes, knowing it might not work.

The Albany is that place for Fun Palaces. Crucially, it calls itself an arts centre. It is not only interested in theatre, it is interested in arts. And it is right in the middle of a vibrant, bustling community – it is part of that community, truly part of it. It’s no accident that Sarah-Jane Rawlings, my Co-Director in Fun Palaces, had been working at the Albany last year on Meet Me at the Albany when I asked her to work on Fun Palaces with me. Meet Me at the Albany is a creative arts club for older people – it’s the antithesis of a traditional day centre. Every Tuesday the café at the Albany is full of vibrant, busy, noisy, LOCAL people, who happen to be older people, making the Albany their home. Not being looked after, or catered for, but creating by and for themselves. It’s a Fun Palace. While we were getting Fun Palaces off the ground last year, across the UK and beyond, the Albany were already making a Fun Palace for older people in their own café.

Stella Duffy, writer, actorSo when we needed a home – and fast – earlier this year, the Albany was the obvious place to turn. And because the Albany gets it, because they were already doing it, they welcomed us in. They’re us, we’re them – two of our team are working for Fun Palaces and the Albany at the same time; the Albany are also part of the Deptford Fun Palace; brilliant people from Meet Me at the Albany feature in the new film on our website.

When Sarah-Jane told Gavin Barlow (Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the Albany) that we needed a home, he immediately offered us a home there. And yes, we have a formal letter of agreement, and yes, our finances are carefully ring-fenced, and we’ve both done all the correct due diligence we need and want to be doing as publicly-funded bodies … but much as we needed a home for the business side of making Fun Palaces, for the funding side, we also needed a home that got it. That understood not just what we’re doing, but why we want to do it. Why we would be prepared to work so hard, for so long, on a dream. Because it’s the Albany’s dream too, and has been since it’s inception as The Deptford Fund in 1894. Access that is real, not just lip-service. Engagement that is about working with people to enhance our community, not just to tick boxes. Making a difference where we live.

The Albany was the right place, because it was already doing it.

Just as every Fun Palace maker is, right now, in the final lead-up to the weekend, already being a Fun Palace –working with their community, being artists and scientists in doing so, doing the work to make their weekend happen – so too, do we have our home at the Albany – because they were already a Fun Palace.

Stella Duffy, Founder & Co-Director, Fun Palaces

Fun Palaces takes place nationally & internationally on Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 October. For more information and to find your local Fun Palace, click here.

The Albany is part of the Deptford Fun Palace taking place at various locations and with an assortment of organisations and individuals in the Deptford area. For more information, click here.

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Bringing People Together through Opera

James Redwood (centre, in orange) leading the sharing event

Award-winning composer James Redwood (centre, in orange) leading The Albany Street Opera sharing event, 21 June

After a successful sharing event on Saturday 21 June, The Albany Street Opera is progressing well. The day offered the chance for all of the participants, from Meet Me at the Albany, Uncover Theatre Company and Lewisham A Capella Singing Group, to meet for the first time with composer James Redwood and devise a new opera, to be performed Saturday 19 July, 5pm.

Participants of the project range in age from 6 – 90 and come from a variety of backgrounds, many facing access challenges such as disability or language barriers. The sharing session saw twenty-five people come together to solidify their vision for the opera. Participants spent time getting to know one another, sang some simple rounds and worked in groups to make up song lyrics.They then shared the progress they had made on the opera itself since the project started in May.

The opera is inspired by John Bird’s book ‘The Necessity of Poverty’, which explores how the rich exploit poverty. Dramaturg Hazel Gould has been working with the groups on the development of the story around this theme and its ideas of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. The resulting plot is a dystopian future where the environment is so ruined that the most precious thing in the world is a spring of fresh water, protected fiercely by guards for the benefit of the ‘haves’. The Meet Me at the Albany participants have created the central character, Jean, who is on the run and  has her own theme song, created by the young singers of Lewisham Music Hub.

Clearly, the day was immensely valuable to the development of this new opera, and enabled a diverse group of people to meet, socialise and devise new music, irrespective of musical background, and sometimes with little to no music education. The project is in its first stage of development, with hopes to develop the work further into a full-scale opera production by the autumn of 2015/2016.

The Albany Street Opera has its first public performance Saturday 19 July, 5pm. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Have a look at some more pictures from the day (by photographer Charlotte E. Groves) below:

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This project is proudly supported by the Merry Trust, Arts Council England and the PRS for Music Foundation.

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Allison Gold, Marketing Assistant, The Albany

 

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Why We’re Proud to be the Home of Fun Palaces

Fun Palace medium, Emily Medley

Today we’re pleased to announce that we are the recipients of an Arts Council Exceptional Award, to bring to life the national Fun Palaces project, taking place across 80+ venues on Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 October 2014 and beyond. Gavin Barlow, CEO of the Albany, explains how our relationship with Fun Palaces came about.

In 2013, Stella Duffy started something rather magical. At Improbable’s annual Devoted and Disgruntled event, she posed a simple question: Who wants to do something for Joan Littlewood’s centenary in 2014, that isn’t another revival?

Joan was one of the Twentieth Century’s most significant theatre directors and cultural pioneers, and that question led to a discussion about bringing to life the vision Joan created with Cedric Price for the Fun Palace: one space linking arts and sciences, entertainment and education. Perhaps, the group thought, a Fun Palace could exist anywhere. They began to conceive a vision of Pop-Up Fun Palaces across the country, appearing for a glorious, weekend-long celebration of culture.

Stella teamed up with Co-Director Sarah-Jane Rawlings, the brilliant creative producer who helped to launch Meet Me at the Albany, the Albany’s artist led day club for the over 60s.

In many ways, Meet Me at the Albany has become the coalescence point for how we think about our work as an organisation. What we’re interested in is finding ways for communities – and often those who find it harder to access culture – to meet with artists and practitioners in a genuinely democratic, accessible space, for exchanges that are equally enriching for all parties. Meet Me at the Albany is, for us, the perfect example of that.

Five key principles underpin the Fun Palace:

• Fun Palaces are FREE
• Fun Palaces are LOCAL, with community involvement, engagement and participation at heart
• Fun Palaces are INNOVATIVE, finding new ways to bring the arts, culture and sciences together
• Fun Palaces are TRANSFORMATIVE, intending to transform the place/spaces they take place in: they transform the makers, and they transform the participants
• Fun Palaces are ENGAGING: Fun Palaces are about full participation. Sitting and listening is fine, as long as they also include opportunities to have a go

It was clear in discussions with Sarah-Jane that there were countless ways in which the thinking underpinning our work at the Albany married with (and is of course, directly or indirectly, inspired by) Joan and Cedric’s vision.

We host many free or extremely low cost events – it is possible to buy a ticket for £1 for any show in our season. We’re driven by our community: those £1 tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis to punters on Deptford Market, the beating heart of our local high street that adjoins our building and spills over into our café. And we present a diverse array of arts and cultural forms (you are often as likely to encounter a cooking demonstration, a gardening club, a creative writing workshop or a yoga session at the Albany as you are a theatre show).

But it is the idea of arts and culture as a level playing field, a space for free exchange between all participants, that resonates with us most. So it made perfect sense to us to work with Stella and Sarah-Jane – as well as a streamline but quite exceptional team – to bring Fun Palaces to life.

Now, a year and a bit on, over 80 partners have signed up to create their own version of a Fun Palace on Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 October 2014. Ultimately, everyone involved shares a belief that arts and culture transform lives. Joan believed that, too.

So in many ways, Fun Palaces is more than just a celebration of an extraordinary individual. It’s a national campaign that shouts, sings, shimmies, stomps from the rooftops: arts and culture are a crucial part of human life, and they are truly, truly glorious. Let’s make sure they belong to everyone.

 

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Why We Call the Albany an Arts Centre

‘ In 2014, we need to turn theatres into secular churches.’

This was the provocation of Honour Bayes in a recent blog for The Stage. She was writing about ‘events that bring the outside world into theatre – not just artistically-led platforms, but socially-led ones too’. She kindly mentioned Meet Me at the Albany, our artist led day club for the over 60s.

Her article chimed with many of the conversations that are taking place at the Albany on pretty much a daily basis about what we stand for, and, for the communications team, how we talk about the work we do. It provides an interesting context for a live discussion about how we define ourselves.

The Albany describes itself not as a ‘theatre’, but as an ‘arts centre’, and increasingly, as a ‘community arts centre’. This isn’t just semantics. It is significant for us because it reflects the fact that we operate in a very different way to most theatres – and we are funded to do so. While we have a strong programme of professional theatre (this season you can catch work from the likes of Kate Tempest, Jonzi D, Polarbear and Bryony Lavery on our stages), we are, first and foremost, driven by a consideration of the needs of our community. This is the principal reason we’re supported by our main funder, Lewisham Council, and their recognition of the role the arts and organisations like ours can play in fulfilling their community agenda means that the range of ways we are working with them is growing significantly, at a time when many local authorities are cutting arts and culture budgets entirely.

For example, within the last couple of years we’ve been contracted to take on the management of two libraries, both in Lewisham (Deptford Lounge) and over the border in Southwark (Canada Water Culture Space). Meet Me at the Albany forms a core aspect of the council’s programme of activity to tackle the issue of isolation in older people. We provide office space for twenty seven small charities, arts organisations and social enterprises, and we are working with the council and others on various enterprises to increase networking amongst businesses and the creative industries in the borough.

There’s a queasiness about the term ‘community’ in the arts: it hints at cringy ‘Legs Akimbo’ style outreach projects where artistic quality is compromised in the fulfilment of social agendas. Historically, we’ve had something of a love/hate relationship with it here. But today, we find it useful to embrace it as a prompt that drives us to, quite radically, interrogate the notion of community spaces: the role they play in people’s lives, and how they can serve the needs of the contemporary community.

Bayes writes about theatres fulfilling the role churches have played historically. At the Albany, we’re drawn to the idea of the ‘third place’. Originally defined by Ray Oldenburg, the ‘third place’ is a social environment distinct from the ‘first place’ (the home) and the ‘second place’ (the work environment). ‘Third places’ are the informal meeting places that anchor community life and facilitate broader, more creative interaction. The qualities of a third place are, according to Oldenburg:

–       Free or inexpensive

–       Offer food and drink

–       Highly accessible

–       Involve regulars

–       Welcoming and comfortable

–       A location for meeting new and old friends

Examples of third places might be a general store, a barber shop or a sports centre and of course, it’s a role that has historically been played principally by churches. The secret of Starbucks’ success was in part the fact that its founders capitalised on the need for third places at a time when churches were no longer playing this role in people’s lives.

The qualities of a third place go above and beyond what most theatres typically deliver. They are public places where people linger for substantial periods of time, throughout the day, a role certainly not fulfilled by West End theatres that may only open their doors an hour before a show starts, and offer only a restricted bar space with prohibitively expensive drinks.

The Albany is open throughout the day, offering a stimulating environment with affordable, nourishing food options and ease of engagement with others. On Tuesdays, visit our café and you might find yourself caught up in a Meet Me at the Albany sing-a-long, or an impromptu spoken word performance. On Wednesdays, Fridays or Saturdays the building will be buzzing with people spilling over from the adjacent market, nipping in to use our toilets or discussing their latest purchase over a cup of coffee. And for many local children, the relationship they have with our garden – whether through our Growing Up Club or helping out on our allotments with their class – is just as important as the shows they see in our theatre.

In short, the socially-led activities that Bayes refers to are the heart of what we do, and have been for a long time. But the crucial thing in all of this is that this foundation to our work enriches our ability to deliver great art. Artistic excellence is not a side issue – for us artistic innovation is driven by the need to access and engage with our wide and diverse audiences. For example our leadership on the Circulate project, a three year programme of large scale outdoor productions developed specifically to tour to outer London boroughs, was motivated by the need to access audiences for whom crossing the threshold of arts buildings is a huge barrier. Similarly our work in libraries is underpinning a major strand of our thinking about creating outstanding art that responds to the particular needs of audiences in this setting. Furthermore, by adopting an increasingly dynamic business model, we are securing new opportunities and resources to support the creation of new artistic output that truly resonates with the people of Deptford.

Amber Massie-Blomfield, Head of Communications, the Albany

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