Why Erdington Is Worth Its Weight In Gold
As we head into full swing with our Furnace productions this month, we chatted to the acclaimed writer and performer - and proud Erdingtonian - Selina Thompson, who talks to us about We Come And Pave The Streets With Gold, and what it will mean for the people and cafés of Erdington.
What inspired you to work with community groups in Erdington?
Erdington is where I grew up, and when I think of home, that high street and that community is what I think of. It's a real honour to get to make work so locally to where I grew up, and rarer than you'd think for most artists.
Why was it important for people from Erdington to be involved?
Because art that takes place where we live belongs to us all - and because the work itself is about how Erdington is this gorgeous melting pot of cultures, ages and life experiences. I hope we get lots of participants and I hope that they have an amazing time. I want them to feel celebrated and appreciated in the spaces we build together.
Tell us a bit about the different groups and people that you've been working with.
I've been based at the Polish Welcome Café, and we'll be doing three pieces along various cafés on the high street - one that is focused on single men, another focused on our community's elders, and the final piece focused on women in Erdington who are active in their community. We're being supported by the Historical Society, as well as the organisations that regularly use OIKOS and St. Barnabas' Harbour Café.
What was it about the three cafés in Erdington that drew you to base your piece around their people?
I was aware that all three of the cafés were united in the Love Your Neighbour campaign, and that all of them were seeking to make Erdington a vibrant hub. They were working to make the high street a space that people socialised in and give it optimism and energy, at a time when a lot of the shops have closed down and when some people in Erdington were feeling let down and abandoned by the government. This felt like a hugely important project to be a part of, and I wanted to try to have my production do its little bit to support those spaces in their aims.
What do you hope the local community will gain through their involvement?
I hope that maybe it can be the first of many projects that connects these cafés, and that maybe some people who haven't used them before will now want to spend time there. I also hope that for the small moment of time that the work is on, it opens up a space for people to think about all the strengths of our community.
What did you find most rewarding about collaborating with the local community?
Working on a socially engaged project and feeling like an insider, but also seeing how much Erdington has grown and developed since I was a teenager living here. It's been wonderful making a piece about the high street at the same time as I have moved back to live here.
We Come And Pave The Streets With Gold plays at the Harbour Café at St. Barnabas Church, Erdington High Street on Wednesday 19 July from 12-3pm. Booking is not required and performances are free - simply pop in and out anytime on this day, between 12-3pm.
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