Julia O’Connell looks at the life of a sheet metal worker

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Julia O’Connell looks at the life of a sheet metal worker

Award-winning writer Chris O’Connell and visual artist Julia O’Connell, co-directors of Coventry’s Theatre Absolute, are leading a creative research project – Witness – inspired by the Daimler building and the stories and lives of the labourers and tool makers who worked there during the building’s manufacturing past. 

We asked Julia to share some of her experiences ahead of their sharing event at the Festival of Imagineers:

I’m part of a creative research project at Daimler Powerhouse with writer Chris O’Connell. The research project is funded by IDP. As an artist, being able to have a dedicated period of time to research early ideas and ’play’ is rare and it has been brilliant to be able to trust the silences within this period of work without the pressure of creating an ‘end’ piece as such for the time being. So huge thanks to IDP!

I’ve spent the first week collecting images from the Powerhouse, as well as talking with Chris about the site and what direction we might shape our research as we work towards the full production in 2017.

I’ve also become fascinated with the work of sheet metal workers too and after an early visit to Premier have such admiration for the skill and art of hand shaping and forming metal at an industrial scale.

Here’s a fab American archive film I found on the web that gives an insight into the job of a sheet metal worker, using traditional hand skills. Something which Premier in Coventry are themselves still teaching these days alongside the newer technologies: The Sheet Metal Worker

In our research, we’ve considered not only the Daimler site and its unique heritage but also its current use and future work under the guardianship of Imagineer. We’re particularly struck by the canal nearby and how that can ‘deliver’ both goods and people to and from the Powerhouse or should it be ‘Power’House… I’ve also thought about gender during my time here. Imagineer is led by a team of women and how that fact in itself sits within the site’s previous historical context and male dominated hierarchies.

We will be sharing our initial responses to the site on Friday 30th September at 1pm. Do come along and hear what we have been up to. Leave plenty of time to check out the building too.

Julia O’Connell

WITNESS will receive its full premiere in 2017. Julia and Chris run Theatre Absolute. In 2009 they founded the UK’s only professional Shop Front Theatre in City Arcade, Coventry.