Women and Power

WOMEN AND POWER Brave New Worlds

July 2019

Nominated and produced in association with Oval House

Before their Seedbed residency, performance company Brave New Worlds had mostly made indoor theatrical work, but Seedbed enabled them to take their concepts outdoors onto Greenham Common heathland.

Playing with ‘embodied costume’, they created short films and a 360 VR film, and a sound walk for the audience using bone conducting headphones.

Brave New Worlds is a performance company based in Southeast England and Lithuania. Their work sits on the intersection between performance, theatre and visual arts, pushing the boundaries of each of these in an attempt to create something new.

After seeing a piece Brave New Worlds had made for a church in South London, 101’s Seedbed creative associate, Bill Gee, approached them to suggest making work for outdoors.

At first they were cautious, but encouraged by 101, they decided to use a Seedbed residency to explore concepts of women and power.

Inspired by the location of Greenham Common and its military history, and the way nature had reclaimed it so quickly after the US air force left, they decided to create a piece inspired by the Greenham Women’s peace camp, which Kate remembered going to as a child with her mother.

At first they only intended to do some research and development, but this swiftly turned into producing a performance on Greenham Common involving local participants, which was presented to audience of over 100 people – and created in just two weeks on site at 101.

Brave New Worlds' video about the project

They also created four short films – Greenham Echoes - with film maker Thomas Ellis, and a 360 VR film with Ben Turnbull. These were made in the belief that to reach wider audiences it is essential to find ways of sharing work digitally that amount to more than a filmed live performance – to create something that works specifically online.

Working with sound artist Caroline Devine, they developed the performance in the form of a soundwalk, incorporating first person testimonials from women who had been at the Greenham Common women’s peace camp. This accompanied the audience through three distinct spaces on Greenham Common in which they encountered costumed performers, embedded in the landscape. The walk culminated in a finale on the only remaining fragment of the USAF airstrip, with a choreographed performance by the participants.

Images used with permission from Brave New Worlds

As Brave New Worlds had not worked outdoors before, Kate and Valentina hugely appreciated the support from 101 – from seeing their potential to create art for outdoors, to the very practical production assistance that looked after every detail. This included a golf buggy that whipped them round the site in far less time than they could have walked it; providing all the space they needed for the huge swathes of cloth to make costumes; and handling all liaison with Greenham Common Trust.

The 22 local women who participated had differing levels of dance, drama and musical experience, and engaged in three costume led movement workshops in the run up to the final performance. Lead artists Kate and Valentina felt the participants made an immeasurable contribution to the development of the piece, despite the short time they had to work with them, and now plan to work far more extensively with participants in the creation of their work. The participants found it a rewarding experience.

“The biggest impact was making us think we are a company that makes work outside – we don’t see ourselves going back to the black box space – so it was totally transformational. They [101] saw something in us we couldn’t see yet.”

“My most memorable moment was meeting a lady who had actually been at the camp as a protester and hearing her stories.” … “The walk through where we saw how the project came together for the first time - incredibly moving and powerful piece of work” …. “Seeing women and girls of all ages come together to put on this wonderful piece of Herstory.”

Volunteer performer Brave New Worlds

“Really enjoyed it – the bone conducting headphones really interesting –intimate - could hear people talking to you – and the music coming across the common and all of the sounds of nature.”

“The mixture of the sound in our head – they’re talking to you personally – the sound of the wind blowing across the common.”

“The image of everyone walking was beautiful …. all different ages, different abilities”

Audience members' comments