A Year in 12 Stories

As we come to the end of 2020, we want to share some of Live & Local’s success stories from the year, as a little bit of light amid the darkness. Despite the year we’ve had, 2020 has seen communities pull together, new opportunities for artists and collaborative projects across the Live & Local network.

From an online film festival, to LivingRoom projects, to socially-distanced live shows, this year has been one like no other, and every day from now until Christmas Eve, we’ll be adding a story to this blog post, each celebrating a different achievement.

1. Well-attended shows from January to March

On the 18th of March 2020, we were very sad to announce that we were to cancel all upcoming shows due to Covid-19. This is not to say that we didn’t have a fantastic run up until this point. From January through til March, audiences across our network were filling seats in their local village halls, churches and community venues to watch exciting performances – from music to family shows and from dance to theatre.

2. John Laidlaw, Executive Director of Live & Local, collected his MBE.

Some of you may remember our
announcement that our Executive Director, John Laidlaw, was
appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to the Arts last year. After 30 years of dedication to rural touring, he collected his medal in January this year.

“John has expanded the provision of high-quality arts and entertainment throughout the Midlands bringing thousands of professional shows to under-served rural communities”

David Porter, Company Secretary to the NRTF board

3. LivingRoom projects

“It’s acted as a catalyst to make new friends”
Community participant

Created as a response to Covid-19, Live & Local LivingRoom paired 10 community groups with 10 professional artists from a wide range of backgrounds. They collaborated, via Zoom workshops, phone conversations, socially-distanced rehearsals and more, to create new artworks which were then shared with the community. The final results included a CD, live online concerts, short films, a book and more.

Watch our short film below to see how communities came together to create something positive during lockdown.

Our LivingRoom playlist on YouTube includes music, film, poetry, prose, artefacts and memories shared by a heritage group, a WI group, a community library, residents of a new village, a young carers support group and a volunteer COVID-19 support group. 
After the success of Live & Local LivingRoom in Warwickshire, we are pleased to say that we are able to expand this exciting initiative to reach the rest of our network. 

“(it’s) helped all of us to develop our creative talents in new ways”
Community participant

4. Lockbusters

The Lockbusters Project launched early July. The scheme involved packs of DVDs, based on certain themes, being sent out to communities, along with information about the films. Participants could write their thoughts in a film journal (prompted by questions in the information pack) and pass it along to the next participant. They were also invited to take part in discussions online at the Lockbusters website.

Many promoters requested a second pack and left some lovely comments about the scheme:

“Thank you for the chance to take part in the Lockbusters scheme which has been enjoyed within our community by adults and families alike. The feedback has been so positive we would like to continue with another pack and have really enjoyed interacting with one another during these strange times, swapping opinions on each film and book which we may not have done normally. We have found the comments that each of us have made in the notebook really interesting. . . all in all I would highly recommend the scheme as a way of keeping the community in touch with one another”.
Community participant

5. Secured funding from BFI & Warwickshire Creative Health Alliance

In late November 2020, we were awarded funding by Warwickshire’s Creative Health Alliance to create an extension to our Live & Local LivingRoom project. The new project, Big Picture Show at Home, will consist of a collection of curated DVDs (short films, archive footage and videos of our LivingRoom projects) that will be delivered to the homes of some of the most vulnerable members of communities across the Warwickshire.

We are also very excited to announce that we have secured another round of funding from the British Film Institute which will enable us to keep our wonderful film schemes going, continuing to bring the magic of cinema to our audiences.

6. Our network of wonderful promoters
supporting vulnerable people in their communities. 

Of course, none of our work with communities would be possible without our wonderful promoters. It’s been quieter than usual in village halls this year, but our promoters and volunteers have been working hard to help their villages and towns through the pandemic. 
Classes on Zoom, WhatsApp support groups and VE Day celebrations, offering a helping hand and raising spirits. That’s not all, of course. Many of our wonderful promoters are doing many wonderful things. To name a few:

Holly, the promoter at The Kenilworth Centre, has been coordinating food parcels and pharmacy runs; Peter, from Great Carlton Village Hall, has set up a support group to help vulnerable people;  a voluntary group has sprung up in in South Kesteven to help people, mostly comprised of L&L audience members; at Marton War Memorial Village Hall, David continues to produce the village newsletter; Wendy from Stockton Village Hall creates the community newsletter, picks up prescriptions and bakes cakes every day for the elderly in the village; in West Lindsey (featured on Look North due to its community spirit and resilience) a new voluntary group has been formed; and Hoton Village Hall have been doing lots of virtual and socially distanced events.

We celebrated Volunteers’ Week back in June and you can read more about the work our promoters are doing here, along with various Promoter Spotlights on the blog.

7. Outdoor and indoor film screenings were held during summer and autumn.

Similarly to live shows, cinema screenings were put on hold back in March. Towards the end of summer, we were thrilled that a few screenings were able to take place again, including an outdoor screening of ‘Grease’ at Exhall Cricket Club.

8. Sharing the love for pubs with Inn Crowd

2019 saw many performances in pubs in association with The Inn Crowd. While the situation this year means we were only able to have one Inn Crowd performance, we’ve been working on some other exciting projects. Currently, poet Brenda Read-Brown is working with The New Inn in Norton Lindsey (the first community-owned pub in Warwickshire) on an Inn Crowd remote residency where she has created a crowd-sourced poem that will be shared in the new year.

About the project, Brenda said:
Working on the ‘Crowd round’ project, with Inn Crowd, Live & Local, and the New Inn, has been a delight. The poem I constructed for the pub could not have been written without the thoughts and words of pub regulars; 26 of them gave their ideas, and each one is represented in the final poem. It’s obviously a great pub – in fact, reading what everyone said about it has made me want to go there as soon as it’s possible to do so.

Winter Warmers is another initiative we’ve been working on. Pubs will be receiving sets of postcards with specially commissioned poems on. The pubs involved are:
 The Nelson Arms in Middleton; Nemo’s Bar in Leicestershire; The George and Dragon in Stoke Golding; The College Arms in Lower Quinton; The Thorold Arms in Harmston; and The Royal Oak in Collingham.
We’d also like to mention The Fleece Inn in Bretforton, Worcestershire who have been a promoter with Live & Local live shows for a long time now.

9. Successful Covid-secure pilot show in September

On 25th September, we held a successful covid-secure pilot show, ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ by Townsend Theatre Productions at Reepham and Cherry Willingham Village Hall in Lincolnshire.

100% of survey respondents reported feeling safe at the show and audience members left some wonderful feedback:

“This was the safest I had felt all week.”

“I’ve missed these live performances because attending them is one of my greatest pleasures.”

“To be able to walk to an event is always brilliant. Also lovely to be back in with the community. I know we couldn’t socialise but it was great to simply see, and be with, other people. Guessing who was under the masks was good fun!”

10. The Live & Local team grew

In October, Live & Local recruited two new members of the Audience Engagement. Rachael (right) has joined us as Audience Engagement Officer and Connie (left) has joined as Marketing & Publicity Assistant. They have been with us now for over two months.

11. Big Picture Festival moved online

After the success of the 2019 festival, Big Picture Festival returned for its second year, only this time online. It was a new and successful venture with a community-focused theme, celebrating the work of local and international filmmakers. There was a whole host of content on the festival website and something for everyone – from feature films and music to spoken word and shorts. We look forward to returning next year with the third annual Big Picture Festival.

Many thanks to our supporters: The Bridge House Theatre, Warwickshire County Council, BFI and Warwick District Council.

12. The generosity of our audiences and Friends

Thank you!

We’ve seen communities go from strength to strength this year and we’d like to thank our audiences and Friends for their support and generosity throughout 2020. We’re grateful that people have been open to our new ways of working and new, Covid-safe projects – your support does not go unnoticed. As this year comes to a close, we’re looking forward to a bright 2021, and hopefully welcoming audiences back to Live & Local shows.

On a final note, Emilie Lauren Jones, poet, and team member at Live & Local, has written a beautiful and uplifting Christmas poem. Watch and enjoy, and we’ll see you again in the New Year.

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