Luke Prowse Baldwin interviews Katie Mahon and Molly Rumford, Artistic Director and Company Manager for Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company.
Can you tell us a bit about your company and what it is you’re trying to do?
Molly – So we run Bloom’ Buds Theatre Company; that’s Bloomin’ without the ‘g’ because we’re from Yorkshire, and what we do is work that aims to increase access to opportunity and to the arts for people from a working class background.
Katie – So we do community workshops on a weekly basis in community centres and youth centres. We do public events, summer fun days and big performances at public events at the community centres and we do exhibitions, and the stories that we collect and the experiences that we collect from that kind of work all informs our professional theatre pieces.
“Our work is around confidence and aspiration building”
So you are clearly very passionate about working with the community, which is lovely to see. What sort of work is it that you do with them?
Molly – So all of our work is around confidence and aspiration building. We are the first of our families to go to university and when we got there, it was such a different environment to what we’re used to. We thought: ‘well, no wonder people from where we’re from don’t want to go there’, we’re not really prepared for what it’s going to be like. So we wanted to go back to the communities we are from and encourage people that university or any job that they wanted to do is possible for them. So that’s what we do. We do a lot of dream job stuff and CV building and just building general confidence that we find the arts is really good to explore.
Katie – Just working with these young people so that they can see what they are capable of. A lot of the time they don’t know their own skill set because they are all very bright young people but because not a lot of people have asked them before “what do you want to do when you’re older?” or they’ve never had to fill in a job application before or anything like that. So that’s the kind of stuff we do. We mentor a lot of young people on a one-to-one basis as well to get them into college or to access further opportunity.
Molly – And then we do a lot of community artwork as well. In our weekly drama club we always work towards doing a performance that is performed at community events. The Rockwell Community centre, that we work in mostly, has a big summer festival in July, so we prepared a twelve-minute performance that was performed there and that was an opportunity for the performers to put their skills into practice but also for the people in the community to experience the arts which is something that isn’t normally brought into their communities.
What about the show itself? Without giving too much away, what is it about?
Katie – So Brenda’s Got a Baby is a verbatim play all about working class women and the struggles that we face to access opportunity. We just started off with the title: “The Role of Working Class Women” and we knew that was going to be the topic of the play and then we started interviewing young women that were young mums and working class students about the struggles they face accessing opportunity. Then we put all of those stories into the play. So we’ve got two fictional characters: Amy (who’s 18 and going to university) and Brenda (who’s 16 and she’s pregnant). It is all about them trying to understand each other and support each other but they’ve got very different views on what they should be doing and they’re both trying to explore each other’s difficulties and they both don’t really know much about what the other one is going through and that is what you see through the play.
“These people do rely on these sessions every week and we build relationships with these people”
Since you’ve been in Edinburgh you haven’t been able to run your regular sessions, has that been difficult for you? How has that affected your company?
Katie – It is difficult for us because we wouldn’t be doing this every single year. The reason we have come to the fringe is to make our name as a professional theatre company and really throw everything at it that we’ve got, money-wise, energy-wise, time-wise to really make our name as a company. With the sessions that we were running; when we get back we are going to do a re-launch of everything. It is difficult because these people do rely on these sessions every week and we build relationships with these people. In the singing group we’ve got a lady called Colleen (she wouldn’t mind me saying her name), she’s 82 and she comes every single week and she was absolutely gutted that it wasn’t going to be on for five weeks. But at the same time we’ve learnt so much from being here and that’s going to enrich what we do so much when we get back. And we are working to improve our network of volunteers, so we’re working with volunteers so that they become confident enough to facilitate sessions in our absence, because we are studying at the same time as well, to keep that consistency going. Sometimes, when you have to miss it for a few weeks you do lose people because their lives are so day-to-day and they don’t know what is happening from one end of the day to the other. It is difficult. You’ve got to really work hard at keeping up the relationships.
Molly – Us being here is not just raising awareness for the play or for the company but it means that we get to talk to people about the community work that we do as well and that all brings up the profile of everything that we do, particularly community work because people are so interested in it. And that means we can access more funding because people are more aware of what we’re doing and more supportive.
Finally, what is next for Bloomin’ Buds going forward?
Molly – Well, we’ve got loads of things planned. We are carrying on our community work but want to expand that because we’ve got into a bit of a routine now and we want to spread our wings a bit.
Katie – We’ve applied for a lot more funding so that we can do it on a much bigger and better scale. We hope to tour Brenda’s got a Baby in community spaces and in professional theatre spaces as well. We are going to be working on our next piece, which will be launched very soon. And we’ve applied for arts council funding for that and we’ve got a lot of different people on board for that. Lots of little side projects going on that will feed into the bigger pictures.
Molly – We’re becoming the next level as a company now, for us it’s a real turning point, particularly being here at the fringe, a lot of people now know who we are, we are getting the reviews, we’re getting the audience reactions and that is an incredible thing for us that we can take home and use to get more funding and use to enhance all of the community work that we do so it is a real turning point for us now, we are really excited to see what lies ahead for us.
Katie – Watch this space!
More information about Bloom’ Buds and the work they do can be found here on their website.
More information and tickets for Brenda’s Got a Baby, which is performing until the 25th August at The Space on North Bridge, can be found here.
Image: Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company
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