Do You Hear The People Sing? Batley and Spen Does…..!

West End Theatre Director Nick Evans talks to the Music Workshop team about an exciting community singing project in memory of MP Jo Cox…

“One year ago the horrific murder of Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, shocked the country. In a nation that was divided by the Brexit debate, and with the news seemingly filled with bleak events across Europe and America, there was a real sense of not knowing ‘what to do’ to make things better. As a theatre director on shows like ‘Billy Elliot’ and ‘Mary Poppins’ my skills seemed less than useful.

Tributes in Parliament Square for murdered MP Jo Cox.

In the Summer, when a group of Jo’s friends in Parliament approached me to think if there was ‘anything theatrical’ we could do to celebrate Jo’s life and values, my skill base seemed suddenly relevant. I knew from my work with Sir Cameron Mackintosh, that the wonderful Boubil & Schoenberg musical ‘Les Miserables’ was Jo’s favourite show. Together with the brilliant new MP for ‘Batley & Spen’ Tracy Brabin, we got to work.

Over the last few months we have assembled 100 young people with a range of skills as singers, actors, designers, dancers, stage management and production crew, all drawn from Batley & Spen and the surrounding communities of West Yorkshire. This August, ‘Les Miserables’ will be staged in traverse (we think for the first time ever) in an empty industrial space in Batley. The project sees directors, musicians, choreographers and designers from top shows like Billy Elliot, Aladdin and Mamma Mia come to Yorkshire to inspire the next generation of talent.

The project has been driven by that talented young people of the region, and they are quick to talk about how the project has affected them. Alice Schofield, 16, from Batley said,

“Les Mis is all about the people coming together and starting a revolution for the good of everyone, and I think Jo Cox really believed in the community coming together to make a better society, a better world”

Michael Frith, 18, from West Yorkshire is playing the iconic role of Val Jean, and says working with a team of West End professionals has been a unique experience,

“Having an opportunity like this, being local, being free, being so accessible is an absolute privilege”.

The project has worked closely with the schools in the constituency, and a student of Upper Batley High School, Bilal Khan, 13, is clearly relishing making his acting debut in the role of Gavroche,

“It just goes to show that a place like Batley & Spen can pull a West End Musical off as well, and opportunities like this don’t come knocking on your doors every day. If you really want to do it why not, no one can stop you – just go and do it like we have done”.

As a visiting director, I’ve been blown away by the talent I’ve encountered in the area. The young people involved have an innate bravery, and I think we can make something really special happen for this brilliant community – and for the friends and family of Jo Cox – in putting together a show that will hopefully have a lasting legacy in Batley.”

The Company are hoping to attract fundraising and support from local people and businesses to realise the project. Their JustGiving page is at https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/bsyct/hearthepeoplesing

Performance dates are 9th -12th August, and information about tickets for the show will be available from the end of this month at www.hearthepeoplesing.com



 

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