‘Chatting Back’ with Made in Bristol

under-a-cardboard-sea-rehearsal-room-photographer-jack-offord-low-res-3276Over the past eight weeks, Made in Bristol, our resident company of theatre-makers in-training, have been busy working alongside Wyldwood Arts and the residents of St Monica Wills on the creative arts project ‘Chat Back’. Here, Made in Bristol trouper Maddie talks us through the whole experience and how it’s helped to develop their theatre-making skills.


I’m Maddie Coward, a member of Made in Bristol 16/17. I’m 18 and I finished my A levels in July of this year. Prior to starting Made in Bristol this September I had been a member of Young Company since I was about 13.

For me, Made in Bristol is a great opportunity to learn in a very hands on way which I don’t think I’d be getting on another course.
The first piece of work we’ve been involved in has been an inter-generational project working with residents at St Monica Wills House, in collaboration with Wyldwood Arts, to create and perform work with and about them.

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Wyldwood Arts had already established a weekly group with them called ‘Chat Back’ which we soon became an integrated part of. Chat Back is a group that allows residents to talk about their lives in a safe environment; it also uses a few small dramatic exercises to help keep those who are able moving.

Made in Bemy (as we nicknamed them after their Bedminster address) have been a group of funny, engaging and passionate people who were a joy to devise with.
For me the most striking thing about meeting them was that they didn’t act their age. In just a few words we could see the teenager coming out in all of them, which I guess brings me on to the central theme that we decided to structure our work around: ‘When you were 17…’. While for me that’s only a year ago and nothing that special, to the residents it seemed to bring back youthfulness to them as they talked.

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As theatre makers, I found we were really challenged by this as it involved the teaching techniques we’ve developed with Young Company as much as our own performance skills. For us, the constant aim was to make something representative of the people we knew and that was faithful to what they would want.

In essence, I’d say it was a big lesson in dramaturgy. Instead of making a piece from scratch, we learned to act as facilitators and enabled them to tell their own stories. This was so incredibly exciting to be a part of and we hope that, with this experience under their belts, they’ll be able to continue telling their stories for years to come – and I can say now, they have a lot more to tell…


To find out more about Made in Bristol and further projects our Outreach department are involved in, click here.

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