Machine Women is an exciting new participatory theatre project inspired by the life of Betty Tebbs, a paper-mill worker from Lancashire who joined her first trade union at 14 and dedicated her life to fighting for peace and the rights of women workers. The project will draw out and celebrate the unheard voices of the country’s female machinists and factory workers who gave their lives to British Industry, including Lancashire weavers, Chatham’s ‘women of the Ropery’ , and hat makers of Luton.
Machine Women will explore the working conditions and physical reality of factory life, the links between rhythm and labour and the sign language (Mee-Maw) used by workers to communicate through the noise. The work will also acknowledge the loss of industries and the knock on effect on communities’ and individuals.
Through this project, Luan Blake will explore what threads unite these women from different parts of the UK. Their stories will be captured through the development of a multiform theatre experience, including live/recorded text, film, newly composed soundscapes, clog dancing, and protest song. An archive of stories will be curated to leave a lasting legacy in each town the work is developed.
Hat Factory and LV21 are keen to draw on the industrial heritage of their home towns and to harness this exploration to bring new audiences into their venues, working with mainly working class, diverse communities. Machine Women shares this drive to create work about, and for, those not normally engaged in arts activity.
July – work with venues to plan and publicise participatory activities in their towns.
August/October – Outreach work in partner towns. Creation work with a writer, designer, curator and film maker to explore the creative responses.
November – Continue work with the artistic team and a project mentor to design full production idea.