In 2015, we launched our ‘On Top of the World’ partnership project with the Royal Exchange Theatre to engage with isolated, elderly residents in our tower blocks by involving them in cultural experiences which had previously been unavailable to them.
Following on from a string of well received performances at The Gorton Monastery and The Yard Theatre in 2017, residents from Gorton and Hulme tower blocks worked together again to take part in a series of acting workshops led by professional coaches.
For many of the participants this was their first exposure to theatre and performance, as they had previously viewed cultural activities as something beyond their reach. Through taking part in the project they have been to the theatre, devised and performed their own plays, and have gained much more than just new theatrical skills!
“Taking part in things like this makes me feel younger”, explained David who lives in one of our Gorton blocks:
"I love acting, and when I found out about this group a friend said to me 'why don't you go along, you might meet some nice people', which I have!".
When Noel first joined the group he was struggling to find his confidence, he had become isolated and found it difficult to interact with other residents in his building. Since taking to the stage with On Top of the World, his confidence is back and he’s eager for more:
“Doing stuff like this brings me back out of myself… it lets me feel like the person I want to be. I like being involved in it; putting on plays, going to the theatre and the art galleries, it’s stuff I wasn’t doing before and now I’m seeing all these new things.”
The project began by identifying residents willing to become cultural ambassadors for One Manchester, encouraging peers to participate in cultural and social events taking place in the tower blocks and throughout the city. Thanks to this partnership working, over 200 residents were directly involved in the project, taking part in theatre classes including acting and set creation, script writing workshops, and cultural trips.
The culmination of this project was a 40-minute stage performance, written and produced by the residents and the Royal Exchange Theatre. Working with theatre professionals, the residents used their own life experiences to create a production which allowed them to express their views and shed a light on what life is like for those living in tower blocks.
The play was performed to two, sell-out audiences at the Royal Exchange Theatre, shown at the One Manchester offices, put on at HOME for a VIP invited audience and taken as far as London to spread the message of those living in high-rise accommodation.
On Top Of The World gave residents of Gorton and Hulme the chance to create and build long-lasting relationships with their community and the people living in them. For us at One Manchester, it gave our team the opportunity to directly hear from our tenants, to listen to what they had to say, when they wanted to say it.
Doing stuff like this brings me back out of myself… it lets me feel like the person I want to be. I like being involved in it, going to the theatre and the art galleries, it’s stuff I wasn’t doing before.