The Old Cinema in Western Road, Bexhill is a building falling into dereliction, unused for the last seven years. With the participation of members of the community we collected wedding stories, dresses, photographs and memorabilia and transformed the cinema foyer into an installation about weddings. We also staged impromptu live events discovering a diversity of local talent which included tap-dancers, a wedding singer, tango dancers, lindy hop dancers, a klezmer band, a jazz band, a folk band, an accordionist, a jazz singer and a singer songwriter.
The climax of our two weeks residency in the building was an event performance through the town of Bexhill to the De La Warr Pavilion where we screened a film of our interviewees telling their wedding stories.
By hiring a limousine for the bride and groom and using it as a mobile theatre it provided a focus for an event which extended to streets, shops, cafes, the beach, the promenade and impacted hundreds of people. The limo supported the playfulness and fun of the occasion. It enhanced one of our remits of working in non-theatrical spaces and took us into the heart of the community on a busy Saturday in a spectacular fashion.
The theme of weddings was a magic ingredient. At least forty people told their wedding stories some of which were shown on the ‘marriage bed’. This was a four poster covered in paper by our designer Liv Wright and looked like a present waiting to be unwrapped. It doubled as a screen and a place to lie down and watch.
During our two week residency at the Old Cinema our impact on the local community was effusively recorded in our comments book:
lovely to see this beautiful building being used for the community’, ‘great to open this space up and lure people in with music, atmosphere and artiness’, ‘magic’, ‘moment of beautiful, intriguing romanticism’, ‘amazing’, ‘lovely installation’, ‘love the video’, ‘fun’, ‘wonderful dancing and band’, ‘absolutely brilliant’, ‘a community project that is really working’.
BAND OF GOLD has only scratched the surface of what’s possible. It’s begun to reveal a community to itself and an appetite for art which relates to ‘ordinary’ people’s lives.
Our programme thanked over seventy participants who contributed creatively to some element of BAND OF GOLD. One of them wrote the following on the performance questionnaire, a comment typical of many:
‘Just to thank you for all the time, effort, planning, preparation and to encourage you to keep on doing it. Community has got lost, we need to introduce things like this to those who have not experienced it, for the sake of our society.’