Wonderstruck project

This blog was originally started to give some idea of what is was like to experience Wonderstruck, an amazing project which took place in November 2014 at Manchester Museum.  I’ve moved the info pages about the event to this one, so you can still get all the info on what the project was and who were the brilliant minds behind it.

Wondering what?

How does wonder feel? What does it sound like?

Why do we feel wonder?

Wonder is childlike, it is uninhibited, it makes our mouths smile and our eyes glitter and our voices exclaim. As children, we wondered at everything. We asked questions, a multitude of whys and whats and hows and whens and whos and wheres until our parents finally said “I don’t know.” Which is when we turned detective. Where is the source of our wonder?

Manchester Museum is full of wonder. An access point to worlds beyond ours, worlds that have been left behind in the hundreds upon thousands upon millions of years that this world has gone experienced. Travel between the tropical rainforest and ancient Egypt in a few steps. Go downstairs into the Triassic era. Upstairs to the albatross. And make sure you don’t miss the tiger – he wouldn’t appreciate it. Where else can you be a tourist through time? What else can make you feel wonder like this place?

And so it seems right that Wonderstruck is in Manchester Museum, the most likely place for wonder to strike.

Since September, four community choirs (the Manchester schools Network Choir, Golden Voices Community Choir for older people, the all-female She choir and the Ordsall A Cappellas), have been joining forces … in Manchester to create Wonderstruck, a large scale performance combining text, movement and song to create a weekend of wonderful surprises for museum visitors on 15 and 16 November 2014. 

As well as the Manchester choirs taking part, people have been invited to get involved in a range of different ways from being part of a flash mob choir made up of individual members of the public, to stage management volunteers who will make sure that everything goes smoothly on the day.

People United website. Wonder Commission.

They are led by Dan Bye, Sarah Punshon, Boff Whalley and Josh Coates, and you can read more about them on the Wondering Who? page of this blog.

We should never lose our sense of wonder, It is something that is harder and harder to experience the further along we progress in life and time, and it is something that should be cherished past childhood into adulthood and all the way out of it again.

Bring on the wonder.

 Wondering Who?

Wonderstruck is the brainchild of collaboration. This community performance inspired by the collections at the Manchester Museum is captained by Daniel Bye, Sarah Punshon and Boff Whalley, with Josh Coates as first mate, People United backing the voyage, and the crew made up of museum staff, visitors and community groups. But enough of this ship analogy. Let’s meet the makers of wonder:

Daniel Bye is a writer, director, performer and all-around good-guy, best known for his acclaimed show The Price of Everything and award winning How to Occupy an Oil Rig. He’s trained with the RSC, made work for the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and has even been described as “intelligent” by the Guardian. In his own words, “aren’t people nice?”

Sarah Punshon has directed shows, developed scripts, curated museums, and probably still had time for a nice cup of tea. She has spent two years as the assistant director for the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and has also directed for the Young Vic and Salisbury Playhouse, among others, and has curated a programme of arts/science events at the Natural History Museum in London. She’s also obsessed with maths, but don’t let that put you off.

Boff Whalley is probably best described as a doer of things. He is a published writer, playwright, songwriter and musician. He was the lead guitarist for Chumbawumba. Currently working with Red Ladder theatre company, Boff’s play We’re Not Going Back, a hard-hitting comedy with music about the miner’s strike of ’84/85, recently received four out of five stars from The Stage. And he may get knocked down, but he gets back up again. (I’m sorry, I had to get a reference in. Sorry.)

Josh Coates is a theatre maker from the depths of Bolton who explores the role of the storyteller in contemporary performance. He has worked alongside Blast Theory and Belarus Free Theatre, and is co-founder of performance company and band Tin Tin. Josh has presented work in Manchester, Newcastle, Lancaster, London and Norway. His motto? First, the world. Then – Bolton.

People United are interested in arts, science, and social change, working with artists, academics and activists to explore the potential of the arts in making a difference in the world. They commission artists, organise collaborations, unite communities and generally provide the perfect backdrop to projects such as this. They always back the good guys. They should wear capes.

Wondering where?

Wonderstruck is taking place at Manchester MuseumIn just two weeks time, Wonderstruck will be filling these hallowed halls with the sound of over a hundred voices, each and every one of them professing the wonders within the walls.

I have always loved Manchester Museum. If you haven’t been there, then get to it. Preferably on the weekend of our performances. The museum is awesome. As in, full of awe. It has everything you could want from a museum. Grizzly bears, samurai armour, dinosaurs (skeletons, not live ones), ancient coins, mummies. You can play spot the frog in the vivarium. And their new exhibit about Siberia is brilliant.

As well as being extremely cool, the Museum is one of the best places for learning. And you are never too old to learn. There are things in there that are over one million years old! What is there not to learn?! Whether it is through the information displayed next to the artefacts or through the various interactivities that take place (geared towards kids, but we are all kids at heart, right?), I can guarantee that you will come away having learned something new.

And the staff are just as helpful, with a bizarre range of knowledge. They seem to love where they work and are happy to chat to you about anything. I had a great conversation a while ago about the difference between an archaeologist and a grave robber. The answer? A degree.

I know that most of the things you can learn about in a museum, you can learn online. But there’s nothing quite like being able to wander through time and space within a building. And nothing fuels the imagination like being able to gaze into the eyes of a Samurai mask, knowing that somebody once wore it into battle. That armour may have saved someone’s life. That sword probably took someone’s life. Those bowls and plates were used in the day to day lives of people ten thousand years ago. 

In summary, museums are amazing. That’s about all.



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