We are thrilled to be working with the Pavilion School and Unitas Youth Zone, on a project commissioned by artsdepot working with young people in Barnet. Here’s Coney JCEO and Executive Producer, Becki Haines to tell you more…
Coney pioneers all kinds of play, and increasingly in the last few years we’ve considered our playfulness social. Increasingly the theatre sector is considering itself in these ways, but actually most artists that I know of, have been social at the core for a very long time and we’re part of that. Who our work is for, why we’re making it and what people think of it is vital in an artist carving a trajectory of practice. With Coney, we’re lucky to work with some of the most established, unique, expert and leading artists in our country and beyond, and by pioneering these opportunities to talk directly to an audience, and different audiences, as you often do in interactive work, we’re carving some important knowledge around relevance and what the audiences that we meet like, enjoy and relate to.
At the moment we’re making a project which is doing this in a whole new way, for us. We’re working with a group of young people we’ve met through The Pavilion School and Unitas Youth Zone in Barnet, to make games and interactions that tell the world a little bit about them, what they’re good at and what they like. They’re simple questions, but questions these people really aren’t asked a lot. A lot of these young people’s circumstances have become really negative and they’re facing a lot. They don’t have a great relationship with mainstream school, or their community, and Coney, along with The Pavilion School and Unitas Youth Zone are bringing some positive conversations into their day to day.
In return to asking these questions, we get a load of questions back at us – “what is Coney’, ‘what you on about’, ‘what is Play’, ‘I don’t get what you mean by curiosity’, ‘are we making a video game’, ‘can I rip open that tea bag’, ‘give me those roller-skates’. And we’re re-navigating, exactly as we should be everyday, what Coney is and what the role is with this group of people.
We work with 3 groups across The Pavilion School and Unitas Youth Zone; one shy and powerful, another high energy and hilarious and the third a combination of the two. Everyone has an experience to bring, a story to tell and it’s our job just to be there to listen. At the end we want to make something that can be public, that tells the world a little bit about these young people, in their own voices and in their own words. But ultimately the pressure is off and the important thing is making meaningful conversations happen across each of our workshops. We work with The Pavilion School and Unitas Youth Zone’s excellent staff and people, who the young people all massively value and respect, and we design a space for a conversation. At the end we might provide a frame for their stories, to challenge perceptions and have their voices heard, but for now we’re just asking and listening and that’s enough.
Working on this are North London guy Dom Garfield and North London gal Emma Gannon, with help from me and Tassos along the way. We’re commissioned by artsdepot, who are on a much bigger journey to impact the young people in the borough, for which we’re just playing a tiny part. Every time we hang out with the young people it’s funny, challenging, hopeful, understanding and flipping the perceptions of what a group of young people like this would be like. I laugh, and its joyful, and I’m proud to watch them relate to Emma, confide in Dom, and for the hundred different ways they cheat at a game of Wolf.
A special shout out to Francesca Cross who is supporting us from artsdepot and has brought such patience, openness and care to this project, allowing it to take the organic shape it needed to.
I’m hoping we can share something soon that celebrates this brilliant thing in a way we’re all proud of, but in the meantime, get in touch if you want to chat about any of this or have stuff to share. We’re always keen for a cup of tea.
If you’d like to chat about this project or anything else, as always, just give us a knock.
Coney is represented here by Emma Gannon, Dominic Garfield, Becki Haines, Naomi Stafford & Tassos Stevens.