News Article

11th Mar 2020

Jennifer Bell on One Side Lies the Sea

Jennifer Bell is a composer and performer, based in Bristol, who works with everyday stories. She is the co-creator of One Side Lies the Sea and we took the opportunity to catch up with her to find out a bit more about the show…

What made you want to create this piece of theatre?

This is a period of unprecedented change, both politically, culturally, but also in terms of industry. It felt to us like the coasts, that being on the edge of the nation, took the brunt of some of those changes.

We felt that this was a good time to really dig down and find out actually what people believed and felt – for instance, there are a lot of myths around why people voted the way that they did in terms of Brexit, and how people really feel on the coast, so I guess we wanted to unearth some more sincere and true stories.

How did the process of creating the show work?

Everything in the show is from a recollected conversation or straight from somebody’s mouth, verbatim. It started with writing songs, which are portraits of people through song, and through and alongside these we are telling people’s stories based on our conversations.  There’ll be some reflections as well and also some film. But mostly it’s through spoken word and song.

How have you found the experience?

It’s been really fantastic; we’ve been really embedded in the coastal communities we wanted to focus on – we went to these places and had real conversation; we stayed with people, we went on walks with them. They weren’t just like formal interviews, we actually got to know them.

We learnt so many beautiful fascinating details about people’s lives. In what ostensibly are very ‘ordinary’ stories, we just uncovered the most surprising, heroic, laudable, extraordinary people.

But we didn’t want to shy away from the tensions that we uncovered as well. What we found interesting is that a lot of those tensions come down to this one simple thing: where you see home. And how you relate to home. And how much sovereignty you feel in your place of home and what gives you that sense of sovereignty.

Would you say that’s become the central theme of the piece?

Yes I think it has. It’s about leaving and remaining: what it means to leave the place you’re from, and what it means to remain in the place that you’re from. Everyone can relate to that. There’s no single person who hasn’t done one of those things!

What are some of the stories you’ll be telling and characters you'll be playing?

It’s been really incredible to meet some of the people who fish on the Solway. There’s a guy called Mark Messenger who we met - a regular guy who runs a pub – and he described this ancient noble tradition of standing, like a Zen master, in the Solway and fishing in the way that the Vikings did. It’s absolutely bonkers – he argued that it’s as old as 3000 years old.

Then there’s also another woman called Sue who’s the only female pilot launch coxswain in the UK, and who has built up from scratch an in-shore rescue service because the RNLI won’t go to where’s she’s from in Hornsea. And now she and a whole team of volunteers rescue people. She’s incredible.

I’m from Cornwall; we also went down there and spoke to people who I know really well and we went to places that I know really well, and I’ve discovered through this process that these places have basically died. Some of the towns that I grew up in are no longer what they used to be. So it’s been a personal journey as well.

Find out more and book your tickets.

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