Imelda May and Lisa O'Neill join Imagining Ireland at Barbican
15th Jan 2020
In Summer 2018, Serious were approached by Great Ormond Street Hospital, with an exciting and innovative request: work in partnership to commission and produce a new show, for those in the hospital community aged 12-18, which could then be toured to other children’s hospitals across the country.
Having previously worked closely with world record holding beatboxer, rapper and spoken word artist, Testament, on our children and young people’s project Pass it On, we were delighted to invite this phenomenal musician to lead the artistic content of the show.
Over the Autumn, Testament spent time with young people at Great Ormond Street Hospital in a series of consultation workshops, asking patients to share their own stories and ideas for a performance aimed to be created for, and with, the young people, and addressing the gap in arts provision for teenagers in paediatric healthcare settings. These sessions included everything from sampling vocals, beatboxing and creative writing.
The result of numerous sessions with participants is Threads: a performance which interweaves these personal stories and ideas. Using spoken word and beatboxing, along with multi- instrumentalist Drew Archie, the show includes three stories touching upon super villains, inter-dimensional beings and rock bands. Each story ends with a dilemma. Testament invites the audience to decide what the character should do, using freestyle rap to incorporate the new ideas and end the tale.
Crucial for the hospital setting, the show can be adapted for children who are not able to make it down to auditorium style showcases, through personalised performances. On the bedside, a child can choose one story to hear, but they are also able to listen to the others online.
Following extensive rehearsals and refining of the show through scratch sessions with the hospital community and show Director Nickie Miles-Wildin, expectations were high for the premiere of Threads which took place at GOSH on the 11th March, during which the artists performed to the hospital community, many of whom had been involved in identifying the young people to work on the project:
"FANTASTIC!! Amazing talent. Stories were gripping and delivered amazing”
“So powerful to have the voices of the young person in healthcare HEARD. Thank you so much. Such amazing storytelling." - Health Research Play Specialist.
Throughout the week, we hit the road and brought the show to other healthcare settings across the country. On Tuesday, we visited The Becton Centre in Sheffield – a space for young people suffering with mental health difficulties, where patients enjoyed Testament’s freestyle rap, which included words, characters and objects which the audience had requested. Who knew Beyoncé, a red sports car and a unicorn could feature in the same piece?
On Wednesday, we headed to Nottingham, where Testament and Drew Archie again performed personal sessions for patients by the bedside, and later in the evening shared the performance with a youth group made up of teenagers who were outpatients of the hospital. We were thrilled to hear how well received Threads had been by the audience:
“The show was mint”
“Really enjoyed the stories, great method and unique way of telling the stories. Extremely talented duo.”
On Thursday, we headed further up North, bringing the performance to Leeds Children’s Hospital, performing bedside sessions and later a performance in the lecture theatre at the hospital. Many participants were treated to freestyle beatbox performances and patients were inspired to test out their own skills – the next generation of musical talent.
To find out more about the project, and to listen to the audio recordings of the stories, please see this page and let us know what you think!
This tour has been made possible with the generous support of Arts Council England.
With thanks to Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity, GOSH Arts, Jamie Fletcher, ATA Records & Tim Owen at The Message Trust Manchester.