Friday, 12 March 2021

Things We Broke During Lockdown - A Creative Response to Quarantine Based on Public Experiences

Things We Broke During Lockdown  Video Shorts – A Creative Response to Quarantine from Valise Noire Storytelling Theatre.


Blog post by Alice Flynn, Co-Director, Valise Noire, February 9th, 2021.

March 2020: the UK went into lockdown. Instantaneously, everyday life was shattered into isolated parts as the whole nation stayed at home. 

Our regular routines were disrupted, our daily rhythms punctuated by an exercise hour – if we were lucky – or a nervous trip out to get necessities. There was a quick dissolution of identities: parents and guardians became teachers, roles changed as jobs were lost or put on hold. 

New phrases became the norm as our wording evolved: furloughed, social distancing, shielding. Bubbles and mask became mandatory as this time of quarantine continued.

Each day, we met the unknown. Sometimes, it was the little things that caused a pause: ‘Was this really happening?’. If we broke something it was hard to fix, hard to get parts, or the expertise needed. 


Broken Open – An Unprecedented Period in Global History

This got us thinking about the larger picture. Lockdown brought much to the surface. All that was cracking or already broken, was seen more clearly: the systems of society, dynamics in the home, our own behaviour patterns and habits.

Valise Noire Storytelling Theatre wanted to document this time, capturing people’s experiences at the level of the micro and mundane. We didn’t want to forget the details of this strange era. We also wanted to engage with people, to create a sense of camaraderie, care and creativity, while we were all apart.

We were very grateful to receive emergency funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to support our work in 2020 as creatives and to bring our new project to life. And so, Things We Broke During Lockdown began.

We used social media to invite people to share their lockdown ‘breakages’ with us. We heard from those who smashed and trashed objects, those who broke bones and hearts and homes. We were told of losses and longings, shattered perceptions, fragmented routines and broken communication.


Breaking Free

We found new ways of communicating and relating - often through an unstable internet connection! We Zoomed like never before and online parties, dance and quizzes became an unexpected part of our lives. 

Valise Noire Lockdown Videos

We wrote and filmed a series of comedy sketches, poems, snippets and insights, monologues and even a few out-takes. You can view our videos on our YouTube channel.

Lockdown 1.0 tested us, it was messy and not at all graceful. In many ways, it prepared us for the year that has followed. I write this piece during lockdown 3.0, February 2021 here in the UK. The traumatic effects of this global pandemic continue to unfold inside us and around us. And yet, humans, adaptable as we are, continue to create and find ways to meet the challenges. Hopefully, and humbly, we’re learning about what was and wasn’t serving. We know the simplest of things are the richest: hugs, house visits, hanging out with loved ones, shared spaces, groups of more than six, smiles… We’ve been broken open…

Thank you to all who have shared your quarantine experiences with us and to The National Heritage Lottery Fund for the funding that enabled us to purchase the technical equipment to bring the work to life.

Things We Broke During Lockdown – A Creative Response to Quarantine, can be viewed here

Credits: inspiration from the general public, as well as ideas and improvisation from Michele O'Brien and Alice Flynn. Written by Alice Flynn, performed and directed by Michele O'Brien and Alice Flynn.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Join Valise Noire performing in CARGO

Enthusiastic about performing, singing, dancing and 
making contemporary site specific performance?
Come and join us for a great experience 

Thursday, 24 November 2016

CARGO by Valise Noire celebrates £36,400 Heritage Lottery Fund grant

Valise Noire has received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), it was announced today. This exciting project, CARGO, in Poole, Dorset and led by Valise Noire, has been awarded £36,400 to bring Poole's maritime heritage out of the archives, interpret and share through performances on Poole Quay during the European Maritime Festival in May 2017. This exciting heritage project also has additional grant support from the Cultural Hub, £2,000, and Poole Culture Fund, £2,000.
Valise Noire is a storytelling theatre company that creates, tells and interprets stories through oral and visual forms. Formed in 2011 Valise Noire was born from a collaboration by Michele O'Brien and Hazel Evans to explore the ways in which stories are collected and communicated, exploring cultural and heritage topics. Working with communities, the public and schools, outcomes of projects are workshops, exhibitions and performances.

As part of the Poole Maritime Festival (celebrating European Maritime Day) CARGO will deliver key information at a crucial time where the Great Quay of Poole is being celebrated. It will be able to reach large audiences through major art/heritage performances. This is a one-off opportunity to deliver a wonderful learning, sharing and celebratory experience for thousands of people who may not otherwise have opportunities to learn about Poole's local and global heritage.

Commenting on the award, Hazel Evans said: “It’s wonderful that we have been awarded this grant and we can’t wait to get started. Poole is a very special place and there’s so much more to discover and share about our maritime heritage, the mysteries of cargo travelling the seas, the wisdom of heritage and sea life. We are all really excited about creating a dynamic project with interactive way of telling stories and performing for people, in order to share our heritage and history with them.”
Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we’re delighted to support this project which will enable volunteers and young people in particular to creatively explore Poole’s maritime history and play a key role in sharing this integral part of the area’s heritage at the Poole Maritime Festival.”

About Valise Noire

Valise Noire is a collaboration between Michele O'Brien and Hazel Evans, who have previously collaborated to produce 'Poppy Fields', a Heritage Lottery supported project to commemorate the First World War, and 'The Girl and the Shoes’ a modern fairy-tale that has enthralled audiences young and old. The outreach of their work together includes workshops in a vast range of schools, community organisations, museums and arts centres across Dorset.
Michele combines experience in theatre, dance, storytelling, pre-school, choreography and directing. She brings history to life through characters that educate and challenge audiences. She is an Associate Artist for Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival and is currently working with the National Trust at several properties including a newly commissioned pieces on William John Bankes at Kingston Lacy House and stories of King John at Corfe Castle.

Hazel is Associate Artist at Lighthouse Poole. Her work is inspired by the play between the inner and outer landscapes of the body, mind, soul and environment. As a multi-disciplinary artist she uses illustration, writing, performance and her voice to interpret multidimensional landscapes taking the spectator on a journey, with an invitation to meet a part of themselves. Hazel's work includes artistic direction, exhibition curating, project management, workshop facilitation, working with arts organisations in UK and Europe, schools, community groups.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)

  • Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @heritagelottery

Further information

For further information, images and interviews please contact Michele O'Brien and Hazel Evans at Valise Noire on 07977 969 080

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

End of project - Thank you for Poppy Fields

Thank you to everyone who helped make the Poppy Fields project a real success, revealed more stories, made poppies and shared our local heritage of The Great War in Poole and Bournemouth.

To download a resource pack please visit Lighthouse Poole website

Valise Noire Storytelling Theatre received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the project, Poppy Fields. Awarded through HLF’s First World War: then and now programme, the project focuses on the creation of thousands of poppies made out of paper and wire which have been included in site specific performances and shown now as a collection in this exhibition. The poppies have been created by children from Cultural Hub schools, the public, care homes and youth groups across Poole and Bournemouth. Performing Arts, The Arts University Bournemouth and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

To mark the Centenary of the First World War, Poppy Fields is enabling local people in Poole and Bournemouth to come together to preserve the memories and heritage of the people who lived through the First World War.

The Poppy Fields performances are contemporary interpretations inspired by local stories from World War One, seen through the eyes of two First World War nurses, performed by Michele O'Brien and Hazel Evans. Research has been carried out at Poole and Dorset History Centres, The Imperial War Museum London as well as uncovering local stories first hand.

Sites for performances have included the fallen trees near the War Memorial in Poole Park, Green Park on Longfleet Road near Poole Hospital which is built on the site of The Cornelia Hospital and Bournemouth Town Hall which was formerly the Mont Dore Military Hospital. A three day pilgrimage took place in the Summer of 2014 as a walking performance, Michele and Hazel started at the Cordite Factory in Holton Heath at dawn and continued to visit numerous heritage sites in Poole, including War Memorials, churches, schools, parks and places of significance during World War One. The performances have been a key aspect of the project in order to disseminate local heritage stories as an engaging and immersive experience for the audience.

Poppy Fields is a Valise Noire project In partnership with The Heritage Lottery Fund, Bournemouth and Poole Cultural Hub, Borough of Poole, Lighthouse Poole’s Centre for the Arts, Wave Arts Education Agency, Activate Performing Arts, The Arts University Bournemouth and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

We would also like to express addition thanks to:
Sound: Momo:tempo sound design for the performances
Photographic Documentation: Sharon Gadellaa for documentation of the Pilgrimage, Danika Westwood for documentation of site specific performances
Filming: Hartley Woolf and Sebastian Wrigley for the Poole Park performance
Costumes: Tom Murphy and Lucy Sammons from the Arts University Bournemouth
Family Documentation and WW1 artefacts: Steve Limburn
Cultural Hub Schools: Ad Astra First, Bethany and St Clement's Bournemouth, Bishop Of Winchester, Canford Heath Infants, Canford Heath Junior, Haymoor Junior, Heathlands, St Luke's, Poole High.
Poole and Bournemouth Libraries
Poole Museum and History Centre
Borough of Poole Culture and Community Learning Team
Lewis Manning Hospice

Monday, 1 September 2014

Arts By The Sea Bournemouth

Poppy Fields is delighted to be part of Arts By The Sea Festival 2014 in Bournemouth. A special performance will be created specially for the site of Bournemouth Town Hall and War Memorial on the 30th September. More information here.

 Poppy Fields for Arts By The Sea Festival

 Arts By The Sea Festival

Live illustration of world map 
as part of Poppy Fields Mont Dore performance

Monday, 5 May 2014

             POPPY FIELDS

This year sees the launch of Poppy Fields, a dynamic project by Valise Noire Storytelling Theatre, Michele O'Brien and Hazel Evans, to commemorate the First World War. Poppy Fields is a multi-faceted heritage and arts project incorporating the making of thousands of poppies to be included in site specific performances and an exhibition opening at Lighthouse Gallery on Wednesday 15th October to coincide with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra's commemorative concert.

- 5th August - 7.30pm
Poole Park near the fallen trees and Memorial - Book your FREE ticket here 
- 30th August - 7.30 pm
Green Park, Longfleet Road near the Hospital - Book your FREE ticket here
- 11th November - 7pm - Lighthouse Gallery


- 2nd August  - 10am-12pm - Poole Museum
- 23rd August - 11am-1pm - Dolphin Centre
- 13th September - 10.30am-3.30pm - Lighthouse 

- 15th October - 22nd November - Lighthouse Gallery

More information at Lighthouse Poole 

We need thousands of poppies for the Exhibition in October
Please make as many as you can as we are looking to collect thousands made by schools, groups, and the public.

Learn how to make poppies in this video and download the template from Lighthouse website
Then drop them into the following collection venues:
Lighthouse Poole
Poole Library
Bournemouth Library

There are 2 sizes of poppies we want to make. Please feel free make a selection of both.

Materials for basic simple template:
  • Red paper to make the petals
  • tissue paper, craft paper, any kind of red paper.
  • Green paper to make the leaf
  • craft paper, any kind of green paper but not tissue paper
  • Black paper
  • craft paper, any kind of paper but not tissue paper
  • Wire
  • 30 cm (approx). Thick enough to stand rigid with the poppy on the end
You will also need:
  • Scissors
  • PVA glue (not watered down)
We would also like to encourage people to get creative and use different materials to create the poppies. Please use the template as a guideline for size, but feel free to get creative with your ideas for poppy making. For example poppies could be made by using a variety of different methods and materials such as knitting, using wire or metal, collage, material and different fabrics. We look forward to receiving your creations.

This template can be printed out to A4 size to create the poppies

In partnership with The Heritage Lottery Fund, Bournemouth and Poole Cultural Hub,  Borough of Poole, 
Lighthouse Poole’s Centre for the Arts, Wave Arts Education Agency, Activate Performing Arts, 
The Arts University Bournemouth and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Launch Show - The Girl and The Shoes

2012 saw the launch of the new fairy tale shows The Girl and The Shoes and Killers Heels, written, directed and performed by Valise Noire Storytelling Theatre to sell out audiences at Lighthouse Poole.

Inspired by the Grimm Fairy tales, with light and dark versions of a story, Valise Noire deliver enchanting and engaging storytelling performances for both children and adults.

Drawing on their life experiences and their talents for the performing and visual arts, Valise Noire have created a new contemporary story that transports you to the heart of Paris in a shoe shop with a very unusual shoemaker. The Children's show with make you giggle and grin, whilst the adult version explores the darker side of love and entrapment.

Listen to the main theme of the show soundtrack produced by Momo:tempo