Gipton: the musical!

20 July 2015

"Gipton the Musical has been a journey for the community and all of us have been involved. It’s been the process, the conversations that happen in the spaces in between, the relationships that we’ve formed."

For the past 18 months, residents of the Gipton Estate in Leeds have been hard at work devising, researching and rehearsing Gipton: the Musical. 

It's a community led production which not only brings together members of the community, but also gives them the opportunity to relive the rich history of the local area.

The culmination of their hard work will be performed at West Yorkshire Playhouse on Saturday 18 July and will star over 200 children and adults from the Gipton area.

The project, which is supported by Space2, a local arts charity and funded by People’s Health Trust using money raised by HealthAmaze through The Health Lottery, has supported local residents to delve into the history of their estate and seek out real life stories about local people.

Emma Tregidden, Creative Director, said:

“The residents of Gipton are extremely proud of their area and there is a strong sense of community. Gipton: the Musical gives residents the chance to tell their stories and challenge negative stereotypes. At the same time, the residents have been working together for months now in developing the musical – doing everything from storyline research, set building, writing songs and of course acting – and as a result there is a greater sense of connectedness amongst the residents.

"The performance itself will bring together people from across the community, such as older people’s groups, primary schools, Gipton Together and churches – everyone is involved.”

As well as strengthening the community as it is today, the project has encouraged the residents to relive and celebrate some of the great stories and characters from the estate’s past. Together they chose to focus on the story of Graham Tempest, who grew up on the estate in 1955 and fondly remembers pushing a piano up the street from his auntie’s house to play for his mother. This is one of many local memories that form the basis of the storyline.

Set in the summer of 2015 Gipton the Musical tells the story of a local man, and his memories of bonfires in the roads, football in the streets, the Picture Palace and nights at the local dance halls. He is the world champion at sitting down and drinking tea, preferring his own patch of grass in Gipton to the bright lights of Leeds.  But when his wife and his family move on, he has to face the Ghost of Gipton past and take stock of his life.

Since last April local people have been offered opportunities to sing, dance, make costumes, build sets, design the lighting and even write the script.

Here's what some of the cast have been saying:

“I think it’s absolutely fantastic that twelve months ago all this was just an idea. I’m absolutely thrilled with it, and I can’t get into discussion about the show without getting emotional – growing up in Gipton, this is a tribute to my mum and dad.” Graham

“Everyone seems to know about it, it’s great. It’s lovely that a play can be done about a well-known estate and I love how it’s bringing people from the community together. “ Jessica

“I’ve loved working with all these people involved in the musical. I’ve loved every minute of it – especially the rehearsals. And it’s been a great deal of fun!” Steve

“I’ve improved my skills in performing arts – and I’ve really enjoyed it.” Frankii

“I think it’s great that a very mixed group of people of all different backgrounds and ages have gelled so well together. There’s no bossing around - it’s all just come out of the story. And it’s great that an oldie like me can get on the stage.” Jennifer

“I’m getting more confident through doing the play. I was very quiet at the beginning and now I’m really enjoying it. I think it will make me more confident in other ways.” Anna

“I always wanted to be an actor when I was older, and it’s great to get this experience and meet new people. And it’s fun!” Eli

“I’m having lots of fun and everyone in the cast seems to like what I’m doing. But they’ve all got way more lines than me so I don’t know why they applaud me! I’ve really enjoyed it.” Isaac

“I’ve enjoyed playing in it. It’s been an experience I’ll never forget – being on stage at the Playhouse in front of all them people, I think it’s the most fantastic thing.” Peter

"Gipton the Musical has been a journey for the community and all of us have been involved.  It’s been the process, the conversations that happen in the spaces in between, the relationships that we’ve formed. The stories that are shared and journeys we have all been on. We are all having an adventure!  The dedication from everyone has astounded me." Emma

Boff Whalley - former musician and song writer with the alternative Leeds-based group Chumbawamba – and who has written the new, all singing, all dancing musical in collaboration with the community of Gipton, said:

“We’ve talked to lots of people and researched Gipton’s local history. On the whole everyone wanted the show to be set in the present day, and to include the different generations who live in the area.  It’s been a brilliant process, and there has been a lot of collaboration with different groups to come up with the words for all the songs in the show.

"All too often this sort of work is about the end product, the play itself. But Gipton the Musical has been very much about the process, with people learning new skills and gaining the confidence to sing, act and perform.  For some of them it’s been absolutely life-changing.”


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