Major community project saw Southmead soap opera hailed a huge success

Meadows to Meaders - The Company

The Meadows to Meaders cast and crew - all residents of Southmead, Bristol

Local residents took to the streets of Southmead estate this weekend to perform in Meadows to Meaders, a live soap opera written about Southmead in Bristol. It is the culmination of a major Bristol Old Vic Engagement and Myers-Insole Local Learning CIC project collecting local people’s recollections of life on the estate from the 1930s onwards.

On Sunday 2 July, over 250 eager audience members were treated to a sunny day as real-life drama swept through their streets. Nearly every member of the local cast and backstage team are first time theatre makers who had no idea what they were letting themselves in for – or what they’d end up getting out of the experience.

Lucy Hunt, Bristol Old Vic Engagement Director said: “It has been fantastic to be involved in such deep community engagement during the process of making Meadows to Meaders. Working with the residents of Southmead to uncover their local history and to see them grow in confidence as performers has been a real privilege. Community work of this nature can have a huge impact on an individual, their relationship to their surroundings and encourage a sense of pride and ownership of local heritage.”

Ruth Myers, Myers-Insole Local Learning CIC said: “It was lovely to see both performances packed out, with many people in the audience having contributed stories that informed the soap opera able to then watch other members of Southmead community bringing them to life. Meadows to Meaders has been a hugely successful collaboration and we are very thankful to Arts Council for England, Heritage Lottery, Quartet Community Foundation (#Fourteen) and Heritage Schools for making this possible.”

The whole community has become part of this project, with participants from 82 year old Kath Horseman, who remembers moving into the brand new estate in 1934, who had her poetry featured in the show, to Allison, a mother of four who is pregnant with baby number five – the youngest member of the cast! Even the local vicar Tanya, who only turned up to open the hall for rehearsals, found herself as one of the leads.

The project shows how drama isn’t just about becoming an actor but about celebrating communities, building self-confidence and forging a sense of belonging.

Bristol Old Vic is delighted to confirm that it has had its funding from Arts Council England approved for the 2018-2022 period, alongside many of our colleagues in other regional organisations. The funding goes directly into these kinds of projects, getting out into the local community and engaging with people who may not have thought theatre could matter to them.

This project was supported by:
Meadows to Meaders supported