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Urban Scrawl

Autumn 2013 Edition

yorkshires only homeless theatre company


33 Hints to the Occupied

Following the success of our critically acclaimed show, No Further Action, we bring you our extensively researched play, 33 Hints to the Occupied. Opening at Seven Arts on Friday and Saturday 22nd & 23rd November, 33 Hints to the Occupied drops audiences behind enemy lines in Nazi Occupied Europe, providing a truly authentic and immersive experience of the unparalleled courage of Resistance Fighters and SOE (Special Operations Executive) Agents fighting against murderous tyranny. In a terrifying Dark Age where societys norms are held hostage to thugs, psychopaths, and monsters, where cruelty is rewarded and kindness is punished, audiences will witness the death defying bravery of ordinary men and women in their struggle for survival. 33 Hints to the Occupied takes its title from the first resistance pamphlet produced and circulated in Paris after the German invasion of France (1940). We invite the audience to experience with us the resilience and ingenuity of the multitude Peoples caught up in the Nazi nightmare, to gain a true flavour and understanding of their heroism and humanity. 33 Hints to the Occupied draws an equivalence between the experience of being homeless and of living in an occupied country in each case you essentially lose your citizenship and your rights, you become disenfranchised, and your life becomes about survival. We hope to inspire a deeper understanding of how humans can triumph even when everything appears lost. Supported by arts@leeds, our special pre-show spy lab training school on Saturday 23rd at 7pm will offer members of the audience training in; Poem Coding and encryption; Morse transmission and receipt; interrogation techniques; message camouflage; other covert and ingenious skills.

I recently watched and reviewed the latest production from Urban Sprawl, Yorkshires only homeless theatre company. They help people who are affected by issues such as homelessness and use theatre as an arts engagement tool to help increase awareness of the problems that vulnerable adults in society face. They also work to raise the self-confidence and independence of the Richard Preston in No Further Action people involved in the company. No Further Action, their most recent play explicitly explores issues such as abuse, discrimination and stigmatisation.
No Further Action a Review The stage is dark, and sparsely set. A haze of smoke partially obscures the chairs that are scattered about the stage. One of the chairs lies on its back as if kicked over in a fit of temper. The three piece band starts to play and No Further Action begins. Despite the serious subject matter, Urban Sprawls take on abuse of vulnerable adults in society is made immediately accessible and is neither over-dramatised nor undermined. It is a poignant and unfalteringly honest account of how life can be for vulnerable adults. The performance is made up of a series of snapshots into the lives of different people, who are all victims in some respect, whether it be of a loved one, of the system or purely of circumstance. Some have happy endings and demonstrate how things could be if everything worked out okay, for example the extra care provided for David, who is disabled, and his sister who does not have the means to care for him. (cont. overleaf)

On 20th July 2013 we lost our leading man, Richard Preston, who died aged 26 due to a complication with his epilepsy. His illness had only recently been acknowledged by Housing Benefits as a factor in their decision making on his behalf, which was a real triumph and vindication for Richard despite being an intelligent and erudite communicator, getting yourself heard by the powers that be remains an uphill struggle for the have nots. In the meantime Richard was building his own future learning guitar with Cloth Cat and becoming an aspiring actor and thespian with Urban Sprawl. Richard joined us and stayed with us from early 2011 onwards. He was very proud of his theatrical track record with us, and acted in We R Leeds, Filth, 2012, Wrecked, FYI, Snap Shot, and The Great Crypt Review Show. He gave his most impressive, formidable performance in his last show, No Further Action, just a month before he died. Richard was a Near Peer Mentor who actively supported others wanting to get involved with our work whilst moving gradually further and further away from the chaos which typifies the homeless existence. Richard smelled the coffee and had made his decision he was going to be an artist, and nothing would stop him. In the weeks prior to Richards departure he worked on scripts by Shakespeare and Athol Fugard, played guitar on Little Bird and Scarborough Fair, was reading Anne Franks Diary as research for our show, 33 Hints to the Occupied, and ran the Leeds 10K for St Georges Crypt. Richard Preston was a young man who would have gone all the way his talent, skill and commitment left us in no doubt that he was destined for a life in professional theatre. Tragically that opportunity was taken away. However, his example remains with us and serves as a real Legacy for all those choosing to transform their lives and embrace a creative and positive future.

Legacies of War Legacies of War Urban Sprawl are starting a new exciting project to coincide with the centenary of the First world war. We are partnering up with Leeds University to run a joint project as part of Leeds Stories. This is a six week project in which clients can learn how to research the history of people who lived in Leeds during the First World War. We will be concentrating on the issue of homelessness and how it affected people living during WW1. There will also be the opportunity to learn about genealogy (tracing family trees). The six sessions will be lead by historical experts from Leeds University helping trace our heritage and learn more about what happened in Leeds during the war. If you would be interested in taking part in this project contact
FRIDAY SESSIONS Ever wanted to be on stage? Have your moment in the spotlight? Be an actor, director, writer or musician? Then let Urban Sprawl provide you with the perfect opportunity. Every Friday at St. George's Crypt, we run music and drama sessions from 11-3. Our sessions are geared towards creating theatre performances, street theatre and musical groups. Between 11 and 12 the Urban Sprawl stage band take the lead, playing and practicing music and songs, some for performances and others just because we enjoy it. Take a look in our songbook and pick something you like, or let us help you to learn something new. Come and join us if you enjoy a good sing, nothing clears the mind and puts a smile on your face quite like it! 1 o'clock sees our theatre session take centre stage. For two hours we play games and run exercises designed to tickle and nurture the creative spirit in all of us. You can get as involved as you want, feel free to come and observe some sessions, or jump straight in and help create scenes right from the off. But remember, every good actor needs a good director, so if acting isn't your thing then help us to direct and write scenes of your very own. We work in a collaborative fashion, which means everyone is involved, every opinion matters and you create what you want to create.

Fridays 11-12 Music 1-3 Drama @ St Georges Crypt

Samba Saturdays Samba Band! This 17th August saw the start of Urban Sprawl's new Samba project. For six weeks Sprawlers are getting the amazing opportunity to learn how to play Brazilian Samba music. With Matt Parkinson teaching both clients and volunteers alike, the project is moving towards a performance at St George's Crypt, with a second performance looking likely at East Street Arts. The sessions focus on introducing participants to samba batucada (carnival samba). This style of samba is extremely lively and highly rhythmical with an infectious beat. If the first few sessions are anything to go by then Urban Sprawl are well on their way to having the country's only homeless samba band! Sessions run from St George's Crypt every Saturday until 21st September. We are hoping to be able to extend the project so watch this space. If you are interested in joining in please contact us.

Urban Scrawl Interview Matthew Kelly

How long have you been a member of Urban Sprawl?

About 2 years
How many shows have you been in?

Er, 4, 5 Wrecked, 2012, FYI, (N.B Matty performed in FYI at three separate events On the Edge 2012, Lincoln Green Building Bridges, Trinity Arts Event)
What is your first memory of Urban Sprawl?

My first memory was in the Crypt, living in a bedsit down Cross Green, I was a pisshead and a druggy and Urban Sprawl gave me the confidence to get out of it.
How does being a member of Urban Sprawl make you feel?

More confident, Im better with my reading, more confidence. I feel like Im part of the team.
Do your friends and family in the wider community support your artistic work?

No Further Action Review (Cont. From front page) full time. Many do not tell such a happy story, but reflect the extreme powerlessness that many vulnerable adults experience when trying to get their lives back on track. Pervading the play is a feeling of helplessness and disbelief, especially regarding the care systems that should be in place to help people who are in these situations. This is displayed in the very last scene, where a care worker reports than a colleague is abusing the people in his care. The response of the person in charge is chilling, and the thought of the scenario playing out in real life is shocking. The voiceover that joins the scenes together constantly repeats the resonant line this isnt me, portraying a sense that the victims themselves are just as shocked as the audience about what is happening to them. Many of the issues that are shown throughout No Futher Action are issues that some of the cast have been directly or indirectly affected by. Director Damian Colman claims that the performance intends to inform [the audience] about our experiences of the people we work with and this sliver of real life experience gives No Further Action power, drive and purpose. The cast speak of drama and the work of Urban Sprawl as therapy, allowing some of them to confront their demons in a safe environment. Others speak of the performance as giving them confidence and self-respect, showing that Urban Sprawl is doing good on the inside as well as the outside. No Further Action is mostly improvised, reflecting the transitory nature of the company as well as the skill of the actors. It is usual for people to come and go, and so the cast are used to acting in a reactive and adaptive way. There are several standout performances Sophie Macwhannell is evocative as a victim of an overly controlling husband, and Richard Preston portrays several different but equally convincing characters throughout the play. Urban Sprawl is a small but mighty theatre company, and No Further Action is inclusive, informative and absorbing. It celebrates the use of drama as a tool to widen peoples perspectives, to deal with difficult subject matters in a creative way and also to build confidence. No Further Action deals with problems that many people will not be aware exist and so it is incredibly important for society in this respect. After watching the show and talking to the cast, it seems as though No Further Action is equally as important for cast members and audience members, and it is this realisation that really encapsulates what Urban Sprawl is all about challenging misconceptions and ultimately changing lives.

Yeah, sort of. My brothers behind me, my mum is sort of, some of them are and some of them arent like, What are you doing that stuff for youre acting like a divvy, all that drama and stuff.
How do you see your future panning out? What would you like from your future?

A good future with Urban Sprawl, more acting and theatre and hopefully be on TV.
What would you say to other people whove been or are homeless? Should they get involved?

They should get involved, get more confidence to get out of being homeless, but also more confidence overall, in their lives.

Hannah Voss