MAKERS AND PLAYERS

Meet the artists, performers, creators and crafters, our ‘Makers and Players’, who are already making Prescot a creative destination ahead of the Knowsley Borough of Culture and the opening of The Shakespeare North Playhouse in 2022

A total of ten groups and individuals were chosen from over a hundred applications for this community pilot project as part of the Prescot High Street Heritage Action Zone. For the past 12 months, local theatre group Imaginarium Theatre, have worked with the Prescot Cultural Consortium, Knowsley Council, The Shakespeare North Playhouse, and Historic England to highlight and celebrate the skill and talent which already exists in the town. The 'Makers and Players' project, curated by Imaginarium Theatre, celebrates the vibrant and varied trades and creative skills already bringing Prescot to life. Each of the ten participants has a link to the town which influences their work and gives back to the community- whether through simple connection or care.

You can learn more about each of our ‘Makers and Players’ below by watching their interviews, filmed in and around Prescot throughout the year, by clicking on the videos below...

Cal McKenna

Cal is an allotment gardener at the local Stadt Moers Park allotment site. She grows numerous fruits and vegetables and makes relishes, jams, chutneys and an ‘explosive’ elderflower champagne! This year, with the aid of her partner, she has also begun to propagate dahlias. She passes on the flowers in exchange for a donation to the Alzheimer’s Society. Explaining why her plot is vital to maintaining her mental and physical health, Cal says, ‘I grow a good deal of what I like to eat. I need to be active and creative and having an allotment means I have to solve problems, plan, be hopeful and make do and mend. It has also been a safe place to do all of these things even during the pandemic.’ Cal has also been able to make use of materials bound for the skip from the construction site of The Shakespeare North Playhouse with special thanks to Kier. ‘We use these materials to upgrade our allotment site to better meet the needs of the plot holders. We have started a community ‘Remembrance Plot’ where people can rest, reflect and remember. The raised beds for people with limited mobility have started to be repaired . The toilet block has been re- roofed and we are in the process of repairing and upgrading the accessible toilet. We have been able to do these jobs because of the ongoing support given to us by local companies.’

Holly Blue & Conor Burns

Holly and Conor are both active members of Prescot’s creative scene. Holly is a freelance fire performer and dancer, having performed at festivals across the country, she is in high demand both on and off screen. More recently, she could be seen acting in Imaginarium Theatre’s outdoor tours. Conor, who is also an actor, has been with Imaginarium Theatre since 2015. He credits his grandfather for his passion for acting, immersing himself both in-front of and behind the camera. He can be seen on Netflix series, ‘The Irregulars’ and in upcoming feature film, ‘Dalíland’.

Having recently moved into their first home together in Prescot, the town is very close to their hearts. Conor says, ‘I moved to Liverpool in 2014 with nothing. No friends, no job, no clear direction beyond wanting to act- then I saw a post advertising auditions for Imaginarium’s, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. It was an experience and an opportunity I’ll never forget.’ Holly has a slightly longer-standing connection with Prescot, ‘My mother was born here and my grandad worked at the BICC for 22 years, in an office above a boiling hot foundry. I grew up in Rainhill but have a lot of good memories in Prescot. As performers we can’t believe we’re going to be lucky enough to live so close to The Shakespeare North Playhouse!’

Alexandra Kevlin

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Alex is an artist and multi-crafter. She makes a multitude of pieces, specialising in recycling and up-cycling items with a focus on ethically-sourced, vegan-friendly crafts. At the moment, she is painting on canvas, drawing, sculpting and making jewellery. However, one particular craft bears special mention- ‘I have made customised Flower Pot Men for over ten years... once a business, now a hobby.’ One particular piece of Alex’s work may be more recognisable to local residents. During the pandemic, Alex explains how her creative energy flourished and she wanted to try something big. ‘I tried new crafts, leant new skills- I felt like I was creating for me as opposed to a request or order. So, on Easter Sunday, I weaved a 50ft rainbow across a boundary fence just over the road from Whiston Hospital. I added a recycled plastic butterfly to represent each person lost to COVID within our community. I wanted the rainbow to be visible from the hospital.’ The rainbow art was featured on BBC North West Tonight and remained there until recently, in support of our local NHS staff.
 

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Emily Parr

Emily is an artist, drawing landscapes in pen and watercolour pencil. As a member of the Community Curators group for The Shakespeare North Playhouse, she has also sketched dozens of template designs for the Elizabethan blackwork tapestry that will displayed in the theatre.

During lockdown, Emily put out an appeal on social media for people to send her images of a place that meant a great deal to them. Emily then selected a photograph each day, and recreated the image as a personal sketch. ‘I vowed to produce a sketch each day to cheer up those willing to share their happy memories, as well as cheer up myself! A few people requested to purchase their bespoke pictures, so I decided to set up a small business online to manage commissions for my ‘Happy Places’.

Emily is also a writer and performer, ‘I completed the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Playwright’s Programme and produced my one-woman show as a result’.

Daniel
Wilson

Daniel makes ‘a very popular’ piccalilli at home in his kitchen. He shares the jars with other local residents, often swapping them for other homemade items or crafts. Occasionally there may be an exchange of labour!

He explained, ‘Making piccalilli provided me with a way to bring a little joy into my friend’s lives during lockdown. The fact that each jar gets better with age meant that they had to be patient before tucking into it, so it gave them something to look forward to, other than the outs re-opening!’ Daniel has also been the Town Clerk of Prescot for nine years, becoming a resident shortly after he took up his post. Of living and working in the town, he says, ‘I am proud to have the opportunity to make a difference in the place I live.’

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Karl
Hilderbrandt

Karl is a musician, also performing spoken word pieces and other forms of poetry. During lockdown, he was able to perform gigs online, having had more time to create and rehearse his own original work. He also spends his days working within the local community, something which heavily influences his work. When discussing what inspires his creativity, Karl told us, ‘A lot of my writing and performing stems from observation. Clocking the way the world and its inhabitants carry themselves. The way our days are singed and soaked with opinion and bombarded by half truths and contradictions.’ During lockdown, Karl also found that his art could offer comfort to those stuck indoors, glued to the daily news reports- ‘I simply wanted to try and provide some respite from the white noise we all have to endure at the minute’.

Joanne 
Blackwell

Joanne is a stop-motion animator, working from her own home studio. She is currently working on an independent animation called, ‘The Timekeepers’, which is inspired by the rich watchmaking history of Prescot. The story tells of Arthur, a watchmaker whose trade is being affected by imports of factory-produced watches from America and Switzerland, and how his young apprentice might just have answer.

Her family ties to Prescot have inspired Joanne’s most recent venture, ‘My late mother and grandparents were all from Prescot and they all lived opposite the BICC where they also worked. Making an animation inspired by Prescot’s history is, I think, my way of connecting to my mother’s side of the family.’ Joanne has been keen to reflect the time and industry accurately, ‘I hope to make an accurate replica of a Prescot watchmaker’s workshop, by looking at the artefacts and reference photos displayed at Prescot Museum.’

David Kernick & Rob Howard 

Both David and Rob are both key figures at Prescot Parish Church. David is a musician and the church’s choir director, whilst Rob is a professional composer and a director of the annual Prescot Festival of Music and the Arts.

During the pandemic, both had to adapt their practices to deliver the Prescot Festival digitally through a series of live-steamed events. Rob desires how his work changed, ‘I took the opportunity to continue to compose new works, working with the Prescot Parish Church choir to create online performances of my compositions, recording different singer in different locations onto one track.’ David also found the introduction of a nightly Compline (Night-Prayer) delivered online, brought local people together. ‘It sustained us through the most uncertain times. It’s astonishing how, such an ancient practice suddenly became so relevant to so many.’

Natalie Gilmore

Natalie is a landscape painter, alongside her full-time role as the Director of Finance and Operations at the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Theatres. Her passion for painting helped her connect with her local community and created an affinity for our green spaces during lockdown. She has painted scenes from local parks including Stadt Moers and Carr Lane, working mostly with acrylic paint to create striking colours by the over-layering of paint.

 

Of her work, Natalie says, ‘My style varies depending on what kind of day it’s been. I can get lost in concentration and produce very detailed work, made up of thousands of individual dots and dashes of contrasting colour- or I can be mush more expressive, working quickly to try and capture both shape and texture. Often, a finished piece will end up being a mixture of both.’

Lee Clotworthy

Lee is a theatre director and writer. He currently leads the Young Actors Company at Imaginarium Theatre, directing their annual performance as part of the National Theatre Connections Program. Lee also works as an actor, often travelling to London to audition for commercials.

He also described having to adapt his work during lockdown- ‘I have had to make theatre games accessible for a digital environment and learn how to edit video as the show was part of the National Theatre Connections Digital Festival for Home Theatre in Manchester. Also as an actor, all of my castings and auditions have had to be through self tapes which creates a totally new dynamic.’ Lee is a true Prescotian, working and living in the town having spent some time in London for study and work, ‘I was born and raised in Whiston on a council estate, and I was 9 when I moved to Prescot. After ten years away due to career and University, I have finally settled down in the town I have been frequenting since I was born.’

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