Community heritage project ‘Storyboat 700+’ is setting sail again this New Year with a creative programme of activities designed to engage the people of Portishead and celebrate the 700th anniversary of St Peter’s Church.
The initiative, supported by funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will shine a light on the role St Peter’s in Portishead has played over the centuries in the area’s rich history and gather 700 individual stories to create a flotilla of tales from the town. The stories will each be written and drawn up on 700 card boats that will form a stunning, wave-shaped aerial sculpture to be displayed in the nave of the Church with the final installation launched on Sunday 20 June 2021.
Originally planned for 2020, the event was postponed in March due to coronavirus. Since then, St Peter’s Church has been working with North Somerset arts organisation, Theatre Orchard, to re-imagine the project in a Covid-safe way.
St Peter’s Church spokesperson, Verity Eastwood Dewing said: “We’re delighted that Storyboat 700+ is afloat once more and ready to welcome the local community on board! We’re looking forward to lots of people joining us in sharing their stories and creating individual boat designs which capture personal recollections, thoughts and hopes that bring us all together. Each completed boat will form part of a larger, collective narrative celebrating the extraordinary heritage of the area and Grade 1 listed St Peter’s Church, one of the oldest buildings in Portishead that presides at the heart of the community.”
Stories will be gathered in a number of ways to ensure as many people as possible can be included in the project in a Covid-safe way. People are invited to share their stories of Portishead digitally at firstname.lastname@example.org and via social media, which will then be transcribed onto individual card boats to make up the final flotilla sculpture.
People who would like to design a Storyboat independently can contact email@example.com to have a boat template delivered to them.
Alternatively, post lockdown, templates will be available in St Peter’s Church, located at Church Road North, Portishead, for people to collect and return in person. To encourage people to take part and provide top design tips and artistic inspiration, Storyboat 700+ has put together a video with community artist Helen Wheelock to show people how to get started and decorate their boat templates, which can be viewed on Facebook at storyboat700plus and at theatreorchard.org.uk.
The project’s journey will culminate in the unveiling of the Storyboat 700+ flotilla sculpture on Sunday 20 June as part of St Peter’s Church’s patronal service. In the afternoon, the project is planning free, Covid-safe activities at the Church, including socially spaced promenade tours in the Church grounds, where youth members of MultiStory Drama Academy group will perform seven vignettes, featuring stories representing 700 years of history. The tours will end inside the Church where people can view the illuminated flotilla sculpture alongside an installation of lit-up wicker structures created by artist Helen Wheelock and representing different parts of Portishead.
Visitors can also listen to a specially created soundscape featuring younger members of MultiStory and St Peter’s Church groups talking about the future of Portishead, which will provide a unique legacy for the community. Cellist Sarah Moody is composing a ‘Storyboat 700+ Overture’ for the event drawing upon different musical influences from world-famous band ‘Portishead’ to local sea shanties, which she plans to play live at the Church and will be recorded for visitors to enjoy on the day and in years to come.
The Storyboat 700+ Flotilla sculpture will remain in the Church for several months before being dismantled in October. The intention is for the boats to then be upcycled into a Community Prayer Coracle in a giant weaving-together of the town’s stories.
All planned project activities are subject to change depending on Government guidance surrounding Covid-19 at the time.
Angela Athay-Hunt, Engagement Manager at Theatre Orchard, said: “Whist we have had to re-imagine parts of our original ‘Storyboat 700+’ programme of community activity, we are still planning to bring a wonderful theatrical, musical and visual experience that truly celebrates Portishead and its people – shining a light on past and present heritage as well as creating a beacon legacy for the future at St Peter’s Church. Storyboat 700+ is all about celebrating people and community and there’s never been a more important time to be connected and share each other’s stories.”
Storyboat 700+ is supported by funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The exciting heritage project has been made possible by money raised by National Lottery players.
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