14 September 2017

Carnival Messiah: Proof That This World Needs Art

The wonderful Anna, who has been working at GCF as part of the Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship at the University of Leeds, reflects on the lasting legacy of Geraldine Connor’s magnum opus, Carnival Messiah

When I applied to do a summer research project on ‘The Impact and Legacy of Carnival Messiah’, I never imagined where it would take me. From being mic’d up to interview world class opera singers, to drinking tea with the Earl of Harewood, to spending an evening freestyling to Caribbean dancehall music with a group of strangers, I have been awed and inspired at every turn. After six weeks work I can safely say there is no simple way to describe my exploration of Carnival Messiah, but I’ll do my best.

Anna May at the Carnival Messiah the Film screening
Anna May at the Carnival Messiah the Film screening

Carnival Messiah was the pinnacle of Geraldine Connor’s artistic career, both an exceptional piece of theatre and a politically charged platform for social and personal transformation. With its beginnings as a student project in the 90s at Bretton Hall and developing into a huge scale professional production with performances in Leeds, London, and Trinidad, it has now been seen by over 750,000 people across the globe. Geraldine herself described it as a ‘spectacular musical showcase, featuring a multi-ethnic multitude of singers, musicians, masqueraders, dancers and actors […] the excitement, music and colour of Carnival blended with Handel’s most inspiring and exhilarating melodies’. The classical Christian story presented in an explosion of global art forms sounds bizarre and chaotic, and in many ways it was, but it worked.

Carnival Messiah 2017 1 - Photograph by Diane Howse
Carnival Messiah, Photograph by Diane Howse

Carnival Messiah was a dazzling spectacle that received standing ovations from audiences night after night, but it was also deeply enlightening and transformative. The production was embedded with history and politics; it aimed to educate the diverse community of Leeds about its rich mutli-cultural heritage, with a focus on Caribbean culture, looking at themes such as the migrant experience, the meaning of Carnival, and the history of the slave trade. Geraldine was concerned by the harmful divisions in our society, by the way cultural difference was being exploited for conflict and exclusion, rather than celebration and unity. She saw Carnival Messiah as a way to approach these issues in a non-confrontational way, while helping each participant to develop professional and life skills at the same time. Through art, Geraldine created a platform for empowerment, equality, and hope, and paved the way to space of ‘safety and well-being where all can co-exist in love, peace and harmony’.

Carnival Messiah 2017 5 - Photograph by Diane Howse
Carnival Messiah, Photograph by Diane Howse

Ten years since the last performance at Harewood House, and six years since Geraldine passed away, Carnival Messiah is still alive and kicking. Every single person (and I mean about a hundred of them) who have spoken to me about their experience seem buoyed up by some sort of external energy, a sense of truth and joy unique to Carnival Messiah. Each person has been on their own journey, both professional and personal, which continues to impact them even now. Every interaction, the face-to-face interviews, the phone calls, even the emails, have been full of life and taught me a multitude of unexpected lessons about the creative world, but also about life more generally. I feel privileged to have had my eyes opened to the very special world of Carnival Messiah and am grateful to everyone I have met and who made this possible.

Carnival Messiah is the perfect example of good art. While drama, dance, music, design etc. may be seen primarily as a creative outlet, a source of entertainment, or a showcase of talent, we must not forget its powerful potential to enrich and transform people’s lives. To me, this is what art is, and this is what we should be striving for.

If you were involved in Carnival Messiah and would like to share your experiences about the production with us, please get in touch: info@gcfoundation.co.uk.

24 August 2017

Project Update – Forest Dreaming

It’s been three weeks since we wrapped up another very successful creative lab. This year’s intensive week long creative workshop brought together an amazing creative team, artists, semi-professional performers, new graduates and young people to explore scenes from Forest Dreaming, a newly commissioned musical theatre production based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Forest Dreaming

The original concept for Forest Dreaming came from Geraldine Connor and is being brought to life by writer Pat Cumper and composer Dominique Le Gendre. Forest Dreaming takes Shakespeare’s most popular comedy and combines it with Afro-Caribbean arts, inspired by a contemporary multi-cultural society. The production is set in two worlds; Theseus and Hippolyta’s world of order, commercial business and technology which contrasts with the enchanted forest and organic natural world of the market.

Forest Dreaming, production, musical, arts, shakespeare, artists, actors, creative

The production’s score was brought to life for the first time during the creative lab, and the week culminated with an on-site ‘dress rehearsal’ at Kirkgate Market.

The whole team are looking forward to the next stage in the development of this exciting project with special ‘pop-up’ previews of Forest Dreaming at Kirkgate Market on Saturday 16th September. For more information, click here.

Forest Dreaming, score, music, musical
The cast and creative team of Forest Dreaming in rehearsal. Photos by Sally Molineaux

This project has been made possible through support from Arts Council England which we are hugely grateful for.download

31 July 2017

Creative Lab 2017- Forest Dreaming

A dedicated group of young aspiring performers have been working alongside artists, Khadijah Ibrahiim and Donald Edwards in our summer series of Creative Café workshops.   The young people have been exploring scenes from our new production Forest Dreaming. Building their skills and confidence to prepare them to work alongside professional musicians and singers in our Creative Lab.

The Lab will take place in August bringing together an amazing creative team, artists, semi-professional performers, new graduates and young people to work on Forest Dreaming.  Bringing the newly commissioned score to life for the first time.   When we have finished we will let you know how it’s shaping up!

This project has been made possible through support from Arts Council England which we are hugely grateful for.

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28 July 2017

Remember Carnival Messiah? Anna wants to Speak to you!

Hi, my name is Anna. I’m currently studying English and Sociology at the University of Leeds, and am lucky to have the opportunity of working with the Geraldine Connor Foundation over the next two years as part of the Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship (UGRLS). Over the summer I’m exploring the impact and legacy of Geraldine’s creation ‘Carnival Messiah’, with a particular focus on the production at Harewood House in 2007.

Anna

Carnival Messiah was widely praised for its community engagement, bringing professionals, semi-professionals locals and international artists on to one stage. To this day the foundation is inundated with stories of the effect Carnival Messiah had on individuals.

I’m interested in learning from artists, participants and audiences about their experiences, the influence the production had on their lives, and also their personal memories in order to try and capture the joy of the production. In building an archive of material about ‘Carnival Messiah’, not only am I hoping to record and celebrate its legacy, but I’m also hoping to demonstrate the importance of the arts more generally. Especially in a time when funding is being cut at every corner, I believe that the arts should be valued in all walks of life, both as a creative outlet and as a powerful tool for personal growth and social change.

If you took part in Carnival Messiah, or even if you simply went to see it and would like to share your experience then we’d love to hear it. Get in touch by emailing info@gcfoundation.co.uk with your name, contact details and a brief description of how you were involved, and we’ll go from there.

 

I hope to hear from you soon!

Anna

 

 

6 July 2017

Accepting CV’s for Performers and Singers

The Geraldine Connor Foundation are seeking Singer and Performances for 2 ‘pop-up’ style performances in Leeds.

Applicants can be professional, semi-professional or students but must have a strong singing voice. You must also have experience of performing in character. You can be based in Leeds, across Yorkshire or work nationally.

Please send your CV to SELINA@GCFOUNDATION.CO.UK in order to receive your Casting Call invitation.

You MUST be available for the following dates:

• 1st Casting call – Friday 14th July in Leeds
• Rehearsals 31st July – 4th August in Leeds
• Performance 26th August in Leeds
• Performance 16th September in Leeds

 

casting call

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