On the 14th and 15th June, Wheal Martyn came alive. Each viewing point, settling tank, woodland path and museum yard was filled with a cast of 200 performers from the St Austell community.
Clay Walks, directed and produced by Suzie West from SpinDrift, was an epic and beautiful showcase of Clay Country’s past, present and future. With a cross generation cast of performers from 10 to 72, the story tellers, choirs, professional and undergraduate dancers, youth groups, primaries and college students, created, conversed and performed together at the outdoor museum. Interweaving the poetry of Jack Clemo, folk stories, live Cornish folk music and archived anecdotes with dance theatre and thronging percussive music the show took the audience on a promenade journey that built chapter upon chapter, into a huge all cast performance.
Clay Walks took place in June 2018, but it began its process in December 2017 as part of funded projects under the umbrella of Stomping Ground. This action research on place, identity and community partnership pedagogy set up many projects across Plymouth and Cornwall. The initial workshops and community engagement for Clay Walks at Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum built community interest and developed creative melting pots, working closely with Wheal Martyn staff and Cornwall College performing arts department.
Just wanted to say congratulations for the brilliant and inspiring performance last night at Wheal Martyn. I haven’t seen such an engaged, huge company of dancers like that, ever! I was delighted to catch it.
Clay Walks has maintained the co-creation methodology and has also enriched this process with more intergenerational dialogues. Groups were paired up in 2018 to collaborate during the creative process and share sites. We also used shared repertoire as a starting point for the creative process, initiating each group with the same material and also passing on the last group's moment vocabulary and creative ideas. This really helped to develop a unified set of imagery and stories, palette of vocabulary and arcing concepts.
A lovely evening, with beautiful images of the body in the landscape. The climax in the end was gorgeous seeing the diversity of groups and commitment of the performers
Unfortunately, the Arts Council Funding and therefore some of the match funding was not successful for Clay Walks so the level of research and professional paid artistic time was very limited. Our key aims were to celebrate Clay Country, and build a connection through the large cast, a connection that will sustain as lasting memories and pride. The responses from the large cast were of unanimous joy and positivity. The feedback from the audiences noted how connected and committed the dancers were to the performance project.
The process has been just as important as the final production, with each collaborating participant helping to shape the words, images, and sounds. The co- creation of the project was a very important aspect of the journey as it gave the cast a chance to share stories and build a relationship with each other and the landscape. The seven month build up to the production gave time for ideas to be passed through the huge cast like Chinese whispers, interweaving between and forming the production slowly but surely. The passing on of stories and the building of a community has been a hugely rewarding part of the project for everyone. The final production, so full of energy, connection and celebration is a true summing up of this epic journey.
As a former primary teacher and someone still involved in organising events, I cannot tell you how much I admire the way in which Suzie has led and inspired so many people of such diverse age and experience to come together in this extraordinary way. Her vision and creativity in using the landscape so imaginatively and the magnitude of the undertaking is amazing.
The onward momentum of this project and newly found community is something that will propel SpinDrift and the local performing community into the 2019 celebration of St Austell.
Director, Choreographer & Project Manager: Suzie West
Assistant Director: Morgen Jonson
Associate choreographers: Rob Mennear, Miranda Howard, Rose Kimberley
Dramaturg Karen Burdon
Writers: Maria Faulkner & Emily Woodman
Hall for Cornwall
Arts Council England - supported the R&D for Stomping Ground
FEAST - supported the R&D for Stomping Ground
SpinDrift dancers, story tellers and actors
Cornwall College Dance Drama and Media Students
Falmouth College BTEC Performing Arts Students
Hall for Cornwall Youth Dance,
Making Waves Exim Dance
Salt and Sky
Hornet Street Band,
Clay Youth Choir
Imerys Womens Choir
All Boys Dance
Mount Charles Primary School,
Special thanks to
Wheal Martyn staff for their open minded support and warm welcome
196 participants from 10 to 73 years old.