Posts Tagged ‘Yorkshire’

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In Newspaper Contributions, Terror on April 7, 2015 at 3:04 pm

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Horse was shot dead and dumped ‘over £30 debt’ – The Times

In Crime, Newspaper Contributions on October 17, 2014 at 9:19 am


The Mill City of Dreams Review – The Cadaverine Magazine

In Theatre Reviews on November 4, 2012 at 4:53 pm

What happens in those patches of time when you are left to waltz with your memories? This is the question posed by Freedom Studios’ stunning piece of promenade theatre, The Mill City of Dreams. Based on months of intense research, historical documents and the collection of oral histories from ex-workers, this play records individual experiences of Bradford’s textile industry from boom to bust. You journey through time and space within the abandoned Drummonds Mill, and witness its reincarnation through the memories of its own Bradfordian workers.

In 2002, Drummonds gates closed forever but were reopened by Freedom Studios to re-awaken its resonant ghosts and memories in order to tell its history. Getting to Drummonds is an adventure in itself. (You are warned beforehand to dress warmly and bring sensible footwear.) As you enter the Mill, you get a sense of its epic stature before being ushered into its stylishly lit presentation area in the foyer. You are hurled into the company of eccentric Swedish businessman Anton Dahlin, who buzzes around, schmoozing with various audience members before he beckons you to encircle a large model of his plans for renovating Drummonds. He proceeds to interact with the audience, convincing you that his lavish plans for tennis courts, apartments and restaurants would be a necessary injection of modernity into the old, decaying Mill. There is a sudden power-cut; an embarrassed Anton storms off to fix the lights, leaving you shrouded in darkness. A clicking sound, and a torch light appears from behind the audience. You turn around to be greeted by the tuneful whistling of Frank, the mill’s caretaker and your tour guide for the next hour and a half. Weaving you through the various rooms within the old mill, Frank draws you into a patchwork of memories from his long sixty-five years at Drummonds.

The thundering sound of busy machinery grows louder, Frank raises his voice, he slides open a heavy, red metal door and the temperature drops as you are invited into a vast, dark space. Copious amounts of wool are draped and tangled about the roof beams to form a pathway, like eerie cobwebs reminiscent of the weaving looms. Frank introduces you to Maria, Petro and Yakub, characters based on real life immigrants who came to Bradford for work. They all have their own stories of escape and ambition, stories made all the more powerful by their being real. Through comic interjections, Frank reveals the great sense of fun and camaraderie that once reverberated through that same building. True to the Freedom Studios style – epitomised in their tagline ‘where people and artists come to play’ – there is a large cast of supporting actors from the local community, in order to reinforce its strong Bradfordian identity.

Madani Younis, the Artistic Director of Freedom Studios and co-writer of The Mill City of Dreams, explained that his ambitious project aimed to harness Bradford’s history in a meaningful and tangible way. He explained to me how, although the Yorkshire skyline is majestically crowned with silhouettes of the mills, ‘they all have a history which we don’t know.’ Bradford’s diverse community and its role in the textile industry are crucial to this history. Although Drummonds is no longer functioning as it once was, you can almost feel the spectral presence of those who used to work there. The conversion of the mill into a performance space keeps its history alive, as well as the dreams of those who flocked to this city in its industrial prime.

Janek Schaefer, the play’s sound artist, ‘likes playing with sound and noises.’ He is responsible for inventing a spectacular soundscape so convincing that you might as well have worked at Drummonds yourself. From roaring machinery to clicking snooker balls, each room has its own distinct atmosphere. The impressive use of lighting provided by Lumen emphasises the malleability of such open spaces as the audience is manipulated to feel both intimidated and nostalgic. The top floor of the mill appears like a shell, carved out, as if from the skeletal wooden beams that uphold the ceiling. (Of course, more wool is draped throughout). The bright stage lighting presents a much more formal and appropriately theatrical environment as you watch the workers prepare themselves for Drummonds’ closure. When the characters leave this space, you can hear the echo of their footsteps into the distance, back into history. The silence that reverberates around the slowly emptying attic is in stark contrast to the previous workers’ instructions booming out of the speakers, the music, laughter, and whirring machinery. Freedom Studios has done its very best to convey the reality of the past by retaining as much authentic detail of Drummonds’ history as possible. The script, characters, set, props and sound all drip with the residue of past reality.

The audience is immersed in fragmented vignettes of Frank’s memories. The Mill City of Dreams is a celebration of the ordinary – rescued from the black hole of history. It is difficult not to disassociate your footprints from Drummonds’ workers who would have stood in the exact same place as you, only decades earlier. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the performance is its setting. You feel privileged to be in the eponymous mill. Past and present collide in a moving and unique portrayal of a place so steeped in the cultural and industrial history of England.

The Mill City of Dreams

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