“A short film made with communities around the country about what it means to be human” – by Claire Hodgson, Co-Artistic Director
Working with communities is how we can really make change. It is some of the most joyful work we do.
When I was locked in, locked down and unable to work in person Connecting Communities, helped me through a difficult time. I was separated from my mum, my sister, my nephews and nieces. My partner, child, and myself found the third lockdown a really big struggle. The home schooling and trying to keep work and our income alive was a big stretch. Even though I had never met the Connecting Communities participants in person, I felt connected to them. I have a great deal of gratitude to the people involved in this project because they really helped me through.
During the pandemic, we developed a short film made with communities called ‘Human’. It feeds into the themes we explore in our live show Human. We created it together with the Extraordinary Bodies creative team, our international network of circus artists, communities from Plymouth, Rochdale and Poole, and with help from biggerhouse film. We made this film online, working from our living rooms, dining room tables, and bedrooms. Our communities connected virtually. The result is something that we value immensely as a company, as artists, and as humans.
This is how we make work, and we’re proud of this method. Because it means that as a company, we develop meaningful relationships and conversations with the people in the places we tour to. This is integral to our creative process and it influences the methods we choose, the themes we explore and the shows we make. It’s not always obvious how this works, so let me explain.
Creating a short film made with communities across the country
With support from the National Lottery’s emergency fund, we connected with these three communities over several weeks. We met online, we checked in, we danced, we asked questions, we listened to each other, we explored creative prompts. And so we began to develop our own thoughts and feelings about who we are into short films, poems and dances. We celebrated this work though an online mini festival which we called ‘PlyDaleBya’ produced and hosted by our Unexpected Leaders.
This work taught us so much. It taught us more about facilitating work online, about access in digital spaces, and about creating something wonderful without being in a room with each other. We learnt together through sharing our experiences. We asked ourselves and each other: ‘What does it mean to be human? right here, now, in this moment in time?’.
We became supporters for each other and as much as we hoped to support communities at a time when networks and social contact were disappearing, this work also supported us. At a time when theatres were closed and creatives were out of work, we carried on working. We kept on employing artists and we kept on being creative.
Weaving a live show and a short film together
Rebecca Solomon, one of the performers in our live show Human, also worked with the Rochdale group. We love that this relationship was made, and that our performing circus artists are also part of our Connecting Communities work.
As we began to think about making Human early in 2021, we had already learnt so much about working remotely, relevant themes and about how digital was now a bigger part of our lives. The conversations we’d already had, became the questions we asked and answered remotely: questions about food, sweets, mums and life-changing moments. When you watch Human, you can see how digital remote performances have also weaved their way into the show.
The fact that Human focuses on our experiences of family, loss, bereavement, and uncertainty is no coincidence. These themes were emerging in our communities as we lived through lockdowns. But in the moments where we are unsure and unstable there is also blue sky and possibility.
We are so excited to share with you our short film ‘Human’. We hope it resonates with you and would love to know what it means for you to be human. If you would like to share, leave a comment on the YouTube video or DM us on social media.
It is not easy to make change happen. Changing belief systems takes time and we cannot do it alone. But if we don’t move forward with this change, injustice, inequality and exclusion will always be with us. And we will all be poorer for that. You can help us to make work that is with, for and about our communities. You can help us to represent the diverse makeup of our society, onstage and off it and in the audience. If you like us believe that we can transform understanding and our relationships to create a fairer, richer world, join us: