Fresh Plans

Ishbel McFarlane has performed her new interactive theatre experience with groups of young and old residents of Cumbernauld. Here, she shares some insights in to the towns each group built during the show and highlights the issues, debates and common interests which came to light during each session.

Dispatches from Supercity

Crudville. Supercity. Clintown. Jefflandia. Knewtown. Pitsville. Shaun Junior. Paxtoun. Jjam. Dragon City.

These are some of the names that were selected for the various towns designed by school children, and participants of CACE Older People Active Lives, as part of my show, Plan.

They. Are. Great.

Jefflandia? Come on! Dragon City? Yes please!

In Plan, the audience play a jury of ordinary people in a post-war world. They must design a town for some or all of the 40,000 displaced people living nearby in a tent city. They choose how to spend the money they have, buying houses or swimming pools or hospitals or train tracks or any of the other things that land could be used for in their new city.

Once they have done that, they design the city itself – deciding whether to have houses nearer parks or schools, whether factories should be near the population for ease or away from it for noise and pollution.

Over the course of a fortnight of performances, a dozen different cities were built, each with their own design, their own benefits and their own problems.

The range of names that the groups chose is indicative of the breadth of kinds of town that were designed. Some were optimistic, like Paxtoun, named with the Latin word pax to represent peace after the war. Some groups felt they had made a place to live that was better than anywhere else, so they proudly called their place Supercity, or Shaun Junior, suggested, rather unsurprisingly, by someone called Shaun. They are imaginative and often quite American with suffixes like ‘-ville’ and ‘-landia’. They are playful with puns like Clintown (possibly for Hillary?) and Knewtown.

But what I found interesting were the names like Crudville and Pitsville. As part of the show, we reflect on the work that has been done on the city, and we often found things like insufficient road access, or lack of connection to the towns nearby, or even the fact that not all groups housed all of the 40,000 refugees. But it was before that process that groups chose a name. Even when given a blank slate to design somewhere, knowing all they know about the problems in the real life place where they live, many groups were not optimistic about the possibilities for new life.

And yet.

And yet the discussions about what to include in the towns was passionate and well argued, whether people were justifying paying more for better housing, or having things to do for fun in the town, or why town halls and places of worship were needed to create community.

Interestingly all the groups of older people were concerned that there was enough for young people to do, and every single group of school children made sure to include a care home for the older people.

After the groups took part in Plan, they met with the two writers they will be working with, Mike and Daniel. They talked about their experience, about the failures and triumphs and they connected their new place to Cumbernauld. It has been so interesting to see which things about Cumbernauld that they like and hate. The wonderful green space was often brought up by the older people as a great strength of the place, but one young girl, when asked what was wrong with Cumbernauld said, ‘There’s so much grass EVERYWHERE’.

But they also thought about what they love about the place that they live in, what is important to them. Mike and Daniel used Plan as a jumping off point to explore the past and future of Cumbernauld, as well as some pretty exciting ideas for new stories, which I am looking forward to reading.

It is hard to make a place to live that pleases everyone, but working in Cumbernauld has been a great chance to think about what the most important things are in our cities: houses, transport, food, work and people. In the discussions someone suggested that People Make Cumbernauld. And in this case, People Made Pitsville or Crudsville, but we are all really working to make Supercity.

You can take part in performances of Plan during ReimagiNation: Cumbernauld on 20 and 21 May. Details, times and ticketing information will be announced in April.

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