One of the responsibilities of working as a producer is to have your eyes on the future; where will this piece go? How can we fund it?
For me, the joy of working on Machine Women has been the opportunity to engage far more creatively, to properly help shape both the process of making and the form of the piece.
Together with Luan and Tara I have explored themes and ideas about women in work, British industrial history, the sense of location, families, and the female working body. We’ve talked about traditional dance, industrial music, class structure, identity, landscape and politics.
In Chatham, we shared stories with a group of women who’d had a range of blue collar jobs, who remembered how their hands moved back then, who thought fondly of the camaraderie they shared with others on the production line. Working on the Lightship LV21 enhanced the sense of industry. It provided great ideas for sound in its echoing spaces and for imagery in huge coils of rope and chunks of machinery. Chatham Docks has inspiring locations for creating work and enthusiastic staff, keen to share their knowledge. That LV21 and the Royal Dockyard are hoping to work together – and that in a small way we helped to bring them together through Machine Women – is encouraging for future development of the work. That area of Kent is going through almighty change right now and it’s important to hold onto and celebrate the history of the place; the Women of the Ropery will certainly feed into whatever Machine Women becomes.
Luton was once very rich in manufacturing and fortunately some remains, in the small, private factories of hat makers and finishers. The Hat Factory, and in particular Luton Culture’s Caroline Wallace, were extremely helpful in connecting us to the history of the town. We spent time with two sisters, both in the hat trade, both with a brilliant turn of phrase. Their terminology, and descriptions from exhibits in the local museum, might become lyrics for a work song. Luton has a varied demographic and the town is almost of two parts, split by a ghastly 1970’s shopping centre. Machine Women would be well placed to bring communities together here, in one of the amazing Victorian buildings currently standing empty.
Bringing our learning from our days on site into The Basement was both daunting and wonderful. How to distill everything we had seen, heard, recorded and witnessed – and how to progress that into performance? This was the sort of creative play at which Luan excels and I am a novice, so it was really rewarding to contribute to the process. We are still at a fairly early stage of development, but I feel we know in broad terms want how we want Machine Women to manifest.
And we couldn’t know that now if we hadn’t ventured out to Chatham and Luton, been supported by venues there and shared their local knowledge, and become friends with women who worked there.
I’m excited to be taking the project forward creatively and, as will become more pertinent, as producer. An eye on the present, an eye on the future. That’s a good way of working.
Lisa Wolfe, Creative Producer, 15 February 2016