Me and my research

Issue 115/09, p63, 01.09.2015
Rachael Drew, the community curator, at Scarborough Museums Trust
Using drama to renew the connection between local people and the first world war

Scarborough Museums Trust and local residents was covered in cobwebs and needed a metaphorical springclean.

Real Life: Retold was created as a community-focused drama and research project – in conjunction with the Stephen Joseph Theatre – with the aim of giving audiences a new way to connect with our first world war exhibition and to reinvigorate the venue in the minds of local people.

Three amateur writers produced stories set before, during and after the German bombardment of England’s east coast in 1914. Amateur actors performed set pieces within the gallery, in rooms with themes that matched the content of each scene.

Attaching characters and an emotional story to something small and common – shrapnel, for example – brought a new meaning to audiences. The backdrop of an original oil painting of Scarborough Harbour not only brought the drama to life but also attached emotive memories to the artwork.
A successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid meant that the scope and participation of the project could be widened, so the performance toured and was altered to suit Pannett Art Gallery, Heugh Gun Battery Museum and the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

A project like this creates a new relationship between the audience and the space. Seeing the building full of life and people creates the impression of not just a performance space, but also a place to laugh, talk and share.

The plays were performed 14 times and a DVD and publication documented the process. Feedback was positive: almost everyone said that they saw the gallery as a versatile space and somewhere they were more likely to visit again.

Rachael Drew is the community curator at Scarborough Museums Trust