A Deep Dive into SW!M 75
Written by Rachel Hare
Over 30 Weston people making a splash in and around our beautiful Marine Lake!
Over 20 NHS workers’ stories rippling through a brand-new musical soundtrack!
One wonderful showcase celebrating 75 years of our National Health Service!
As composer Harry Bassett wryly observes, SW!M 75 sounds ‘a tiny bit bonkers’. However, it promises to be a glorious tidal wave of movement, voices and sound that brings people together from across to community to honour the NHS. The project is led by Deborah Paige (a freelance director and acting coach with an impressive CV in theatre, television, film, radio drama and drama schools) and Claire Hodgson (the co-artistic director of both Diverse City and Extraordinary Bodies, the UK’s leading professional integrated circus company). It is brimming over with talented collaborators, including Harry (a musician and composer who you might remember from the Paraorchestra at Weston’s Whirligig Festival earlier this month) and Jamie Beddard (co-artistic director of Diverse City) and Dave Young (a performance poet and artist who is known as the Shouting Mute).
As Deborah explains, the piece centres on NHS workers talking about water, ‘how they use it at work or enjoy it for leisure – or maybe have wonderful childhood memories of places bear water which are dear to them […] it’s a story of the power of water in our lives – how we need it, celebrate it and, if we want to survive, how we must look after it’. She recalls an ‘extraordinary two days’ listening to the workers’ stories at Weston hospital’s Rafters Restaurant, where people would tell the team ‘I haven’t really got anything to say’ and then talk for ten minutes or more as thoughts flowed into new memories and ideas. The piece features around twenty practitioners and support staff, including Radiographers, Paramedics, A&E Speciality Registrars, a Geriatrics Consultant, a Trainee Nurse Associate and a Theatre Support Worker. Deborah notes that ‘it was a real eye opener for me finding out how many roles and jobs were represented. Like many workplaces, the hospital is peopled by jobs most of us never knew existed – not to mention how many different colours of uniforms there were!’
Deborah worked with Harry to compile stories and soundbites into the music, much of which he wrote specifically for the performance. Harry explains that the NHS workers words ‘form their own part of the music’, swirling through a score which ebbs and flows ‘to moments of joy and celebration, but also moments of reflection and tranquillity’. He describes a truly collaborative and intuitive co-production process where each element of the performance influences all the others: ‘One thing that excites me about a project like this is how it constantly evolves and changes… There are always little intricacies that pop up throughout the creative process, which can take stories to a whole new dimension. You come up with one idea, but then you try to develop it and a brand-new and better idea emerges!’
The soundtrack will be brought to life by a community of dancers and swimmers performing in and out of the Marine Lake. The cast includes members of the recently formed Super Synchro group, NHS workers, and anyone else brave enough to take the plunge! Here again, the project champions diversity, inclusivity and togetherness, welcoming D/deaf, disabled and non-disabled performers equally. Choreographer Claire explains ‘It’s an opportunity for all the community to take part’, ‘to meet people of all abilities and ages’, ‘to be together in Weston and create a community show for everyone’. Over thirty community members have been rehearsing every Monday in September and everyone agrees it is coming along swimmingly.
SW!M 75 is a celebration produced with and for the NHS and all it provides for us. Deborah writes that ‘we want the show to be a reminder that we need to say thank you and to value and celebrate 75 years of the NHS in the community’. Claire shares a personal story: ‘I was born in the NHS; my daughter was born in the NHS; and the NHS extended my dad’s life so that he got to meet my daughter – and for that I am profoundly grateful’
SW!M 75 will be performed at the Marine Lake at 2pm on Sunday 1st October, as part of Weston Arts + Health Weekender, co-produced by The Arts & Culture Programme, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust and Super Culture. You don’t need a ticket, so please just come and enjoy this watery extravaganza which is sure to make waves.
Supported by the National Grid’s Community Matters Fund, SW!M 75 has been co-produced by Super Culture and Diverse City, following the success of Mowlem Theatre and Diverse City’s SW!M performance in Swanage Bay during the 2022 Jubilee celebrations.
You can listen to the soundscape online or in the RNLI building on Sunday 1st October.
See our event listing for more information: https://superculture.org.uk/listings/swim75