art / theatre

Drunken Chorus

Having a bit of a do

17 November 2021

This week we catch up with arts organisation Drunken Chorus, as their free-to-attend inclusive festival of theatre, dance and cabaret, A Bit Of A Do returns to Stanley Arts. We chat to joint directors Chris Williams and Sheena Holliday to find out more about their organisation, their events and how they collaborate with other local organisations to help make the arts more inclusive and accessible.

Drunken Chorus

Cabaret Night (photos: Tamar and Jo)

Croydonist: First of all, where is Drunken Chorus based?

Sheena and Chris: Most of our work happens in Croydon – including our flagship project A Bit Of A Do festival, which takes place at Stanley Arts in South Norwood. And our DISCO DISCO workshops for learning disabled and autistic adults happens in central Croydon – we’re currently looking for new participants for these workshops (contact details at end).

Croydonist: How did the organisation come about?

Sheena and Chris: Drunken Chorus was founded in 2007, as a theatre company making touring performances. But we’ve developed and changed over the years – becoming a charity in 2015, and producing the first edition of A Bit Of A Do festival in 2017.

Drunken Chorus

Just Like Larry Walters (photo: Parri Thomas)

Croydonist: Can you tell us a bit more about your ethos.

Sheena and Chris: We’re all about supporting, promoting and creating interesting, contemporary and alternative performances that are accessible and inclusive. We do this by: providing support for disabled and non-disabled artists to create work and develop their artistic careers; running theatre workshops for local learning disabled and autistic adults; making and touring accessible performances; and producing our annual festival – A Bit Of A Do – featuring work by disabled and non-disabled artists.

Drunken Chorus

Love and then Lighthouses (photo: Marianne Chua)

Croydonist: Who makes up the Drunken Chorus team?

Sheena and Chris: We’re a small team – we are joint directors, and we have a few freelancers who work with us on a semi-regular basis.

Croydonist: What are you most looking forward to about this year’s’ A Bit of a do’ festival?

Sheena and Chris: This year is full of firsts! We’ll be presenting a family show for the first time – Punk Alley by Moxie Brawl. And we’ve put together a digital programme for anyone who can’t attend the festival in person – this is something we will continue to do in future years, to make the festival even more accessible. And we’ve got some really amazing artists performing, such as Ellen Renton, and Forced Entertainment. So we’re really excited to welcome audiences back after such a long time away due to the pandemic.

Drunken Chorus

Left: GymJam (photo: GymJam). Right: Reach Theatre (photo: Zac Mahrouche)

Croydonist: Can you tell us a bit about your collaborations with other Croydon arts organisations?

Sheena and Chris: We work with lots of other local organisations. Our theatre workshops (DISCO DISCO) actually used to be part of Club Soda, so we work closely with them, as well as SLiDE Dance and Turf Projects, who are both involved in this year’s festival. Club Soda and Gig Buddies will be hosting a Devoted & Disgruntled discussion event at Turf Projects as part of the festival, to discuss how to make Croydon’s social scene more accessible.

We also work with Willow Learning for Life, who run our front of house and box office, and this year have made a brilliant film about the festival and accessibility.

Drunken Chorus

Just like Larry Walters (photo: Parri Thomas)

Croydonist: What has been your most memorable event?

Sheena and Chris: That’s a tough one! We have so many great memories from previous editions of A Bit Of A Do. One of our highlights was Jess Thom (aka Touretteshero) and Captain Hotknives, performing at our first ever festival in 2017. They performed some semi-improvised songs, influenced by Jess’s tics. It was a perfect show to launch our festival – a joyful celebration of neurodiversity that really captured the spirit of A Bit Of A Do.

Croydonist: Classic interview question – if you had to invite three creatives to a dinner party (dead or alive) who would they be?

Sheena and Chris: We’d love to have Jarvis Cocker, Larry Walters and Alan Barton (Black Lace) round for tea because they were inspiration for our shows ‘Love and then Lighthouses’ and ‘Just Like Larry Walters’. We’d serve them a buffet of ham sandwiches and cheese & pineapple on sticks.

Drunken Chorus

Left: To Move In Time 2 (photo: Hugo Glendinning). Right: Within Sight (photo: Sarah Grant)

Croydonist: Where do you go in Croydon for inspiration?

Sheena and Chris: We love having a walk through Surrey Street market as there’s always a lot going on. Also just walking around the streets of Croydon and spotting the little pieces of art always inspires us.

Croydonist: What’s next for Drunken Chorus?

Sheena and Chris: Straight into planning the next festival!! As part of this we’re going to be providing development support to three disabled artists/companies to create new shows for 2022. We’ll be providing a bursary, professional mentors, free rehearsal space and advice, and the artists will then present their finished work at the festival next year. So look out for more info on this.

Thank you to Sheena and Chris for chatting with us.

Drunken Chorus

Sheena and Chris from Drunken Chorus (photo: Parri Thomas)

A Bit Of A Do festival runs from 18 –28 November 2021 at Stanley Arts and online. Book your free tickets here.

Festival highlights

Live Events

‘A Bit Of A Knees Up’ Cabaret Launch Night
A night of cabaret, comedy, music, theatre and dance from Drunken Chorus and special guests including: Chris Fonseca & Harry Jardine, contemporary dance from Hull-based company Tamar & Jo, music and comedy from Sarah Fisher, Frank the Drag King and comedy from Frankie Thompson.
19 November, 8pm

To Move In Time
An unnamed protagonist speculates playfully about what he’d do if he were able to travel backwards and forwards in time. A new text by Tim Etchells/ Forced Entertainment, performed by Tyrone Huggins
20 November, 8pm 

Punk Alley
A family dance show with live music performed by inclusive dance company Moxie Brawl
21 November, 4pm 

Digital Events

Hello
Sign up to receive text messages from Bertrand Lesca & Nasi Voutsas for 7 days throughout the festival
18 – 24 November 

Anthropocene: The Human Era
A digital ‘choose your own adventure’ experience from physical theatre company GymJam
Throughout the festival

DYSCO
A relaxed online dance party hosted by DJ DYSCOURSE aka artist and disabled dance maker Aby Watson
18 November, 7pm 

To find out more about Drunken Chorus’ DISCO DISCO workshops contact sheena@drunkenchorus.co.uk or call 02032869532.

Check out the Drunken Chorus website here, and follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Photos courtesy of Drunken Chorus. Header image: Love and then Lighthouses (photo: Marianne Chua)

Posted by Julia

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