Being a part of the When Yesterday Was Young project for me was a very eye opening and hugely enriching opportunity; to be a part of a project designed to teach and showcase true events that happened in our area for young people who would have no outside
encouragement or option to learn about their history, or older people who actually lived the lives we as performers were emulating was an experience I won’t soon forget.
Throughout the project we got to take part in workshops that gave us an inside look into many different areas of mining and mining communities which was something that really benefitted us, as it meant that we had a lot of source material to choose from when it came to developing the show. I feel that our partnering with Beamish Museum and the National Coal Mining Museum was a huge edge for us in regards to developing our knowledge base for the project, as the workshops that we took part in from Beamish were a great way of teaching us more about the kinds of things that even we as young people (who actively engage with their local history) wouldn’t know, most especially the science workshop. It was great to learn about the way the mines worked down to the air flow and the development of the systems used to move coal, as that’s an area that we don’t really touch on, and I found it very enjoyable.
During the visit to Wakefield I definitely felt very engaged with the different workshops and the tour of the mine, as each of the workshop leaders were very honest and open and clearly very knowledgeable regarding what they were talking about. I enjoyed listening to the performed workshop as that was obviously something that we could incorporate into the performances that we did, which was very helpful. I feel, however, that the people I engaged the most with were most definitely the men we met whilst at Wakefield, David and Rich, as getting to hear such personal stories from them was probably the moment that a lot of us
realized just how much the men who worked in mines, even up to them closing, really loved what they did. It’s baffling to think that they would want to go back to work when the conditions they worked in were so appalling, but both Rich and David and every other person we spoke to throughout the project said the exact same thing and cited the camaraderie as the main reason. There was a true sense of family between the men who worked together and you could sense just how much the men at Wakefield really loved their brothers, through hearing them talk about men they’ve lost and seeing them interact with those also working at the museum, which was a very special thing to be able to see first hand.
In the rehearsal period I didn’t get to experience a lot of the creative process as I work full time, however I was always very excited to get into the space and learn more regarding what I needed to know for the performance, regardless of how I felt before stepping through the door, which I feel is a testament to just how important we all felt this project was. The performance week was the pinnacle of our work and preparation, and to go through the week having so many audience members being moved to tears and so many others saying that we made their minds travel back in time to their earlier days was incredible and I feel that our love for the project and the responses we were getting was a driving force for many of us throughout the very busy week of shows, and I am infinitely proud to have been a part of such a dedicated and important project.