Looking for a new opportunity to develop your creative skills and perform to a wide audience? The Geraldine Connor Foundation is currently searching for young creatives aged 14+ and based in Leeds who are interested in music, spoken word, dance or film to create and take part in a production celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Windrush.
What was Windrush? The ship called ‘Empire Windrush’ brought the first wave of Caribbean migrants to Britain in 1948, marking the beginning of the mass immigration movement in the UK that resulted in an estimated 172,000 West Indian born people living in the UK by 1961. To many, they are known as the Windrush Generation. Our brand-new production that you will help create will explore this momentous historical event and its impact in Britain today.
Weekly workshop sessions will be on Monday’s 6-8pm at the Mandela Centre in Leeds, starting on Monday 20th November, and lead to performances in June 2018. We are looking for passionate and creative young people interested in exploring their cultural heritage to sign up for this exciting new project, which will also allow you to achieve the Arts Award at Bronze or Silver level. Please note, these workshops are free to attend and, although this opportunity is unpaid, it is a fantastic chance to develop your creative skills and work alongside professional artists.
Want to find out more and express your interest? Please get in touch! Contact the Geraldine Connor Foundation by email at email@example.com or phone us on 0113 243 1166. For more details on this exciting project, click here.
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.
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 was a dazzling spectacle that received standing ovations from audiences night after night, but it was also deeply enlightening and transformative. The productionwas 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’.
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:firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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 email@example.com with your name, contact details and a brief description of how you were involved, and we’ll go from there.
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
We interviewed Akeim Buck and Omari Swanston-Jeffers about their careers so far and what to expect from their Creative Café on ‘Physical Theatre‘ on Thursday 30th March 2017.
How did you become an artist?
Akeim: It’s only since last year that I got used to saying ‘I’m an artist’. After graduating from Northern Contemporary Dance school I decided that I wouldn’t pursue other careers. It was trial and error for a while, whilst I was studying I tried to do other weekend jobs but they never seemed to work for me, whereas dancing, leading workshops and working with kids seemed to come naturally.
Omari: I’ve always been an artist, but professionally I suppose once I graduated from university and started working. I had work as a runner in tv for a while but during uni I started getting paid for dance and teaching and other skills, since I graduated I’ve been getting more and more paid work.
Who and what inspires you?
Akeim: Bob Marley is one of my biggest inspirations. My mum is an inspiration and then just people and their stories. The work itself inspires me because I try to stay true to it and create new work always trying to compete with myself to be better.
Omari: My biggest inspiration is my grandad, he came from the Caribbean and was able to build up a great family and provide for them and then, when he was older he moved back to the Caribbean and built his own house. My surroundings inspire my art, I look at different artists and different music. I find a lot of inspiration in black/afro-Caribbean culture, but not to the exclusion of other cultures.
What was the proudest moment of your career?
Akeim: Recently a piece I was successful in a grant application, there was an audience member who was a 1st generation Greek who watched the piece 3 times, first when it was just a rough draft, secondly when I posted something online and then most recently the completed piece. He told me that it ‘made him want to do something’, the man made a mix for the people of Aleppo. It showed that we don’t have to shout and scream to be activists, instead we can use our natural skills to do something for others as well as ourselves. I was really proud that it was my work that helped him to get to that place.
Omari: Graduating from Roehampton University with a first-class degree in Creative Writing.
What do you think are the challenges for young artists?
Akeim: Getting people and organisations, to believe in and trust you. Getting Arts Council funding is touch, when you do you feel like you’re a child who is finally get recognition and becoming an adult.
If you want to be seen as a professional and taken seriously you have to know what you want. If you don’t, what other people think of you and want from you will end up defining who you are as an artist. When you get feedback you have to think about what to take on board and what you should leave aside. Ask yourself if it aligns with your vision, and what you want. You are the artist not the art so try not to get to precious about your work or objectify yourself.
Omari: Financially sustaining themselves. It’s important to be a business person as well an artist.
What can we expect from your Creative Café workshop?
Akeim: To build your confidence in devising movement as an actor as well as taking direction and being honest and truthful with the directions you are given.
Omari: Lots of fun, lots of learning and lots of skill and passion.
Where can we find out more?
To find out more about the Creative Café and register for updates CLICK HERE!
To find out more about Akeimcheck out the following links: