Gipton: The Musical
Gipton the Musical was an all-singing, all-dancing hilarious show celebrating life on the estate both past and present, co-produced by local people.
It was performed on the 18 July 2015 at West Yorkshire playhouse to a sell-out crowd, a culmination of 18 months of devising, researching and rehearsing by the residents of the Leeds’ Gipton estate, with over 200 local people involved. The play was written by Boff Whalley, musical director and former member of Chumbawamba.
The project supported local residents to delve into the history of their estate and seek out real life stories about local people that were used within the creative process in an accessible and engaging way. Local people were offered opportunities to sing, dance, make costumes, build sets, design the lighting and even write the script.
As well as strengthening community cohesion and resilience, the project encouraged the residents to relive and celebrate some of the great stories and characters from Gipton. Those involved decided to focus on Graham Tempest, who grew up on the estate in 1955 and fondly remembers pushing a piano up the street from his auntie’s house to play for his mother. This is one of many local memories that form the basis of the storyline.
Set in the summer of 2015 Gipton the Musical tells the story of a local man and his memories of bonfires in the roads, football in the streets, and nights at the local dance halls. He is the world champion at sitting down and drinking tea, preferring his own patch of grass in Gipton to the bright lights of Leeds – sitting in his front garden watching the world go by. When three generations in one house decide to move, George finds his world shrinking. He has to face the Ghost of Gipton past and take stock of his life.
Emma Tregidden, Creative Director, said:
“The residents of Gipton are extremely proud of their area and there is a strong sense of community. Gipton: the Musical gives residents the chance to tell their stories and challenge negative stereotypes. At the same time, the residents have been working together for months now in developing the musical – doing everything from storyline research, set building, writing songs and of course acting – and as a result there is a greater sense of interconnectedness amongst the residents.”
Here's what some of the cast have been saying:
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic that twelve months ago all this was just an idea. I’m absolutely thrilled with it, and I can’t get into discussion about the show without getting emotional – growing up in Gipton, this is a tribute to my mum and dad.” Graham
“Everyone seems to know about it, it’s great. It’s lovely that a play can be done about a well-known estate and I love how it’s bringing people from the community together. “ Jessica
“I’ve loved working with all these people involved in the musical. I’ve loved every minute of it – especially the rehearsals. And it’s been a great deal of fun!” Steve
“I think it’s great that a very mixed group of people of all different backgrounds and ages have gelled so well together. There’s no bossing around - it’s all just come out of the story. And it’s great that an oldie like me can get on the stage.” Jennifer
“I’m getting more confident through doing the play. I was very quiet at the beginning and now I’m really enjoying it. I think it will make me more confident in other ways.” Anna
“I’m having lots of fun and everyone in the cast seems to like what I’m doing. But they’ve all got way more lines than me so I don’t know why they applaud me! I’ve really enjoyed it.” Isaac
“I’ve enjoyed playing in it. It’s been an experience I’ll never forget – being on stage at the Playhouse in front of all them people, I think it’s the most fantastic thing.” Peter
Gipton the Musical was a Space2 project in partnership with the residents of Gipton, Gipton Together, Gipsil, St Augustines Catholic Primary School, St Nicholas Catholic Primary School, Woodlands Primary Academy, Wykebeck Primary School and West Yorkshire Playhouse.
A full recording of the play can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVeEVTxEvvI