This Island’s Mine (2017)

This Island’s Mine was an experiment in close-up theatre, made for performance in people’s homes or around tables in pubs and clubs. It’s a play about the lived history of a particular place. Two characters, Barbara and Danny, build a tabletop map of the Dockfield area of Shipley, using ordinary household objects to represent its buildings. The changing objects chart the changing landscape of the area — as Danny and Barb explain what they’ve discovered about its history from digging around in Bradford library. They also tell their own stories of growing up here in the 1960s and 70s. The characters are fictional, but what they say is based on material drawn from interviews with a range of Dockfield residents both past and present. The intimacy of the staging was designed to encourage spectators to contribute their own memories and observations, either during or after the play itself. In other words, it’s a play based on conversations, presented as a conversation (over a drink, around a table), which sought to encourage further conversation.

cific place. Two characters, Barbara and Danny, tell the story of the Dockfield area of Shipley, while reflecting on their own memories of growing up in the area. The characters are fictional, but what they say is based material drawn from interviews with a range of Dockfield residents both past and present. The intimacy of the staging was designed to encourage spectators to contribute their own memories and observations, either during or after the play itself.

In other words, it’s a play based on conversations, presented as a conversation (over a drink, around a table), which sought to encourage further conversation.

 

Dockfield is a neighbourhood sandwiched between the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, with Bradford Beck on its western boundary (hence, “this island” – although it isn’t really one). It’s an area where residents have always lived alongside (and often worked in) the various mills and factories that grew up along the river and canal, taking advantage of the water supplies and/or the transport links they provided. The homes in the area include 19th Century mill cottages, 20th Century council houses, and now 21st Century new-build apartments, built on former mill sites. And it’s an area that’s still evolving, still changing, with new industries replacing old ones. Saltaire Brewery, for example, in the heart of Dockfield, was one of our performance venues.

We ended up performing the piece not just around Dockfield, but also in other Shipley locations (full list at the bottom of this page). We even showed it once in Manchester, for people who didn’t know Shipley at all. What we discovered, in the process, is that the story of Dockfield is also — in a way — the story of many other places. We had spectators from the Black Country and from Cumbria, for example, recounting their own stories of growing up surrounded by industry — of the smells and the sounds, the water and the wildlife. It turned out that This Island’s Mine is a play about what we remember, and what we value, about the places we’re from. And perhaps it’s also about how we can build on the past, to think about the future.

For further details and description, see this blog post – and also this one.

Or click here to read the full script of the play.

Credits:

Actors:     Steve Bottoms and Kat Martin

Director:   Simon Brewis

Written by Steve, with devising input from Kat and Simon.

Special thanks to: Carl Barber, Tony Brannon, Gladys Davis, Lyze Dudley, Sue Meek, Anna Parker, Alice Phillips, Chris Uttley, David Wade.

 

Performances: in addition to private performances given in people’s homes in the Dockfield and Lower Holme area, we gave the following public performances:

Baildon Woodbottom Working Men’s Club  – Tuesday 11th April

Kirkgate Centre – Wednesday 12th April

Saltaire Brewery Tap – Wednesday 12th April and Wednesday 19th April

Fanny’s Ale House – Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd April

Salts Sports Association Bar – Sunday 23rd April

Martin Harris Centre, University of Manchester – Wednesday 26th April