Creative Dundee

Blog: Theatre, Healing and Community.

Photographed by David P Scott.

In this blog, Jade Anderson—one of the Creative Practitioners taking part in CULTIVATE—shares more about her collaboration with Gate Church Carbon Saving Project.

CULTIVATE is a regional leadership programme for Creative Practitioners and Local Communities to collaboratively engage, create and produce locally relevant work, with a climate and social justice lens, across the Tay region.

Now halfway into their commission, the Creative Practitioners have been invited to share more about their journey so far, and how they see their project evolve in collaboration with communities.

Jade is working with the Community Wardrobe, on Perth Road, Dundee. She wants to use storytelling, performance and theatre to explore ideas of memory and reduce the stigma attached to second-hand clothing.

Updates: Jade will be hosting Wee Wardrobean exhibition of work by groups she’s worked with, a pop-up community wardrobe and plenty of other activities to take part in, at the Wellgate Centre, from Sat 19 to Fri 25 February 2022.

Growing up, life wasn’t the best. I went through a number of things that left me quite withdrawn from my community, I had very low self-esteem, not very much confidence and was eager to get as far away from Dundee as possible. After having my son at nineteen, I struggled a lot with my mental health due to the stigma of being a young mum on benefits and then thinking about climate change just made me feel even worse. Everything seemed very hopeless for a long time.

Then at the age of 21, I saw my first ever play – Equus at Dundee Rep Theatre. I know it sounds dead cheesy but it changed everything, that first theatrical experience literally ignited a fire in me that still burns furiously to this day. Suddenly I was excited about things again. I tagged along to a local amateur drama company feeling far too shy to commit to anything, just hoping to observe and was cast in my first show, I was hooked.

It was seeing Irene MacDougall in The Tempest in 2012 that convinced me that I had to be an actor. I wasn’t going to be content with it as a hobby it was going to be my career. I joined the Rep Community Company just as they were about to stage She Town and that’s how I got involved with facilitating. I met the incredible Amanda Lowson during rehearsals and she said I’d be a great fit to assist the Youth Drama Therapy group and so I did.

Since then I’ve gone on to get my HND in Acting & Performance from Dundee and Angus College as well as my BA (Hons) in Acting for Stage and Screen from QMU and Edinburgh Napier Universities. I also assisted, collaborated and ran a great number of community-focused groups and projects along the way.

Jade facilitating a workshop with Stand Easy, Dundee.

The one thing I’ve seen without a doubt is the incredible healing and regenerative powers of creativity. Participating in the arts turned my whole life around when I was at my lowest, helping me tackle the harder things in life such as climate worries, my sexuality, my class and my past. It is now helping me reconnect with that community I was so eager to leave behind and I want to ensure that other people of Dundee get the chance to experience the same thing.

The reason I was drawn to this role with Cultivate was that I often felt that there is a one size fits all message being pushed on people to make better choices for the planet, such as “Switch to a new electric car instead of petrol.” “No don’t drive a car use public transport.” “No don’t use buses get a bicycle”. We are being continuously beaten over the head with the doom and gloom of it all which can be overwhelming when you are already struggling just to get by day-to-day.

This really started grinding me down leading to a very common reaction of getting to a point where you just shut down and stop engaging, making it easier to become isolated and our mental health starts to suffer.

So many of us live sustainably out of circumstance, reusing, recycling and walking because we have to. All the while being overwhelmed and made to feel like we are not doing enough. So I wanted to work towards highlighting and celebrating the things we already do. Leading with love and positivity to ensure we are taking care of each other as well as the planet.

Throughout my commission, I am connecting with the amazing organisations and groups already working in our communities, so that I may engage with as large a variety of participants as possible. First, I am using my time to initiate and join existing conversations about climate change, finding out if it’s something that is being thought about and what it means to the participants — this way, not only can I gauge how big an issue it is for communities, I also can see if the different groups have similar concerns and opinions, or not, depending on their ages, backgrounds, etc.

We will then use storytelling to explore the memories our clothes hold and imagine how these memories can go on when we pass them on to others. I hope this will help people to think a lot more about what their clothes mean to them and also de-stigmatise the use of second-hand clothing.

The dream is to have the amazing stories and creations the participants will create put on display for a week in the Wellgate Centre, along with a pop up of The Community Wardrobe, including workshops on upcycling and a corner for mending and repair, a knitting circle. The participants will all come along and enjoy the work they have all created together, even though they were apart in the making, and hopefully, this will encourage them to implement their own Wee Wardrobes in their community spaces.

The biggest challenges I foresee are getting folk to take part and—for those who aren’t familiar with storytelling or already involved in theatre—getting to start creating their own work.

I’ve deliberately led my participatory work with the term storytelling as it’s less intimidating than the words Theatre, Drama or Performance. I’m very excited to find new ways of engaging each group and getting them to the point where they are happy to create and share something new.

Coming to the end of my time with CULTIVATE, I hope that the participants will keep working together and exploring storytelling and performance, using nothing but their voices to create something exciting they are proud of.

Working with The Community Wardrobe has been one of the best things about this commission so far. The team behind it are incredible and the wardrobe itself is such a lovely place to be in. I’ve been volunteering as regularly as possible since I found out I got the commission and it’s been amazing. There is a real joy in sorting through the donations, hanging them out and seeing people being genuinely excited by the things they find.

The wardrobe draws in such a brilliant mix of people because there isn’t the stigma attached to it that you can find with other placesthe focus isn’t on giving clothes to those most in need, its focus is on reducing as much waste as possible to help save the planet.

One older gentleman came in and treated himself to a new suit; he was so excited because he hadn’t had one for twenty years. Little ones also love coming in and having a look around, choosing their own clothes from the racks.

What I’m most excited about is having the pop-up exhibition, wardrobe and workshops in the Wellgate Centre early next year, and introducing more people to the Community Wardrobe and the amazing work they do—hopefully inspiring other places and organisations to start their own Wee Wardrobes, not just as a way to tackle how much clothing goes to waste, but also as a way to reconnect with the people around us.

CULTIVATE is a pilot project, which engages communities with climate justice through creativity and peer-education. We’ll be sharing insights into each of our first six Creative Practitioners commissions over the coming weeks. Read more about our Community Partners and the six commissions.

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