What is our natural landscape worth to us?

Tuesday 10th March 2015

The Common posterWhat is our natural landscape worth to us?

Five conversations - one play – The Common comes to Kings Heath, 17th March.

Beaford Arts and China Plate present The Common, supported by The Birmingham and Black Country Nature Improvement Area. In spring 2014, five writers went to North Devon to explore what the natural environment means to its people. They got to know old farming families, incomers and returnees. They met rural life in mugs of tea at farmhouse kitchen tables, on windswept hills, under rusting barn roofs and from backies on a farmer's quad bike.

These encounters and conversations fed the writing of The Common, a performance work of five dialogues about life and land. Two performers (Charlotte Melia and Martin Hyder) play ten characters examining their relationships with each other and the landscape which connects them with life itself.

Rural arts organisation and cultural ambassadors for North Devon's Biosphere Reserve, Beaford Arts initiated this project. "In north Devon, we’ve always known the value of our land.” says Mark Wallace, Director of Beaford Arts “Now, as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and as one of Natural England’s Nature Improvement Areas, we’re increasingly under the national and international spotlight. But it’s the rural communities, living with the land for generations, who made this landscape. This new show is about the values we still hold in common - about the voices which should still be heard."

Six months on from its world premiere in North Devon, The Common is going on tour with an exclusive showing at Defra’s Headquarters in London and then to three other NIAs – Meres & Moses, Morecambe Bay and Wild Purbeck, as well as in the only urban Nature Improvement Area right here in Birmingham and the Black Country. The Common is a local play with national significance, it captures the environmental zeitgeist and its universal relevance makes for vital viewing in every community.

One of the five writers, Inua Ellams, said "It was a job of listening, of conversations that were heart-breaking, overwhelming, passionate and multi-layered. When it came to writing, I didn't know where to start, but an idea crystallised after I met a farmer, his wife and two sons."

"They told stories and anecdotes to illustrate how complicated a process it would be. How there are some aspects of the land that simply cannot be valued, that are (by that definition) priceless. He referred to us as townies, and he and his colleagues as country folk. He did not like townies. As a black African I'm used to prejudice, I found it refreshing, dare I say thrilling, to be prejudiced because of where I lived rather than the colour of my skin. As we talked and I asked the right questions, he began to relax and slowly 'you townies' became 'those townies'. We 'othered' them so we could point and laugh."

Talking about her part in the development process, another of the writing team, Charlotte Josephine explains "The piece I wrote was mainly inspired by meeting photographer Rosie Anderson. I read her charming ‘personal post on a place called home’ on her website on the train down and knew we’d be friends. Her passionate post about the closing of Hatherleigh Market really struck a chord with me. It’s heart breaking when we sacrifice tradition, community and culture for financial gain."

The Common will be performed in Kings Heath Community Centre on 17th March. Tickets are free but limited so booking is essential. Details below:

Kings Heath Community Centre
17th March, 20:00
Tickets FREE but must be reserved visit thecommonbirmingham.eventbrite.com



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