The Blackie's summer Play Scheme of 1984 was the "Yours Naturally" project which ran for 6 weeks from 24th July - 2nd September, constituting 66 sessions in total. In all, there were 9 theme-specific workshops running throughout the Play Scheme as well as a 'Natural Cosmetics' workshop introduced towards the end of the summer. A number of trips and days out were also organised as a key part of the Play Scheme.
Research / Inspiration
The theme of nature had been previously touched upon during the Easter Play Scheme of 1984 "Spring Tree-T" with a theme of trees and wood. Prior to this the Blackie had also staged 3 Vigils for peace, the last of which used the image of a tree as a symbol for peace. This is the "tree of life" which became a feature of Play Schemes at the Blackie for years to come.
Above photo of the tree which spread the full width of the basement with dancers in front of it
The ground floor and upper dome area were utilised for the Play Scheme. In preparation both children and adults worked to gather materials for both the workshops and for decorating the workshop areas, including the new space for the coffee bar on the ground floor.
Both areas were stencilled with leaves, plants and seeds. Plants, including ivy and ferns hung everywhere and a frieze was created out of natural materials to run 80 feet around the walls of the ground floor. The new layout and decorations were a hit with visitors to the Blackie.
Above the coffee bar with its stencilled front and the seating area
Workshops and Games
Jewellery Making - A variety of jewellery items were made in this workshop from natural, found objects such as seeds, pebbles and feathers. Each jewellry item was a theme for the week (so for instance earrings, brooches, bracelets, etc.) The results were displayed against a black and white backcloth on a wall and were grouped by the location that their component parts had originated from; for instance a "Formby Hall collection" or a "North Wales collection".
Above montage of natural and found materials
This workshop started off with work on creating photo montages of natural objects found at the beach or in forests. This work allowed children to see how a photo is processed. This later led on to using the technique of macro photography - in which close-up shots of a single feather or flower are taken to fill up the whole photo - to develop photos for use in a guessing game, and later as decorations for the walls of the coffee bar area.
Above close up photography
Cookery - is always a popular activity. In Yours Naturally the kids produced foods which would normally come as packaged, pre-made items in supermarkets, in order that they could see what goes into making them for themselves. These were made as much as possible from 'natural' ingredients and were also packaged as gifts to be taken home.
Above and left photos of the cookery workshop at the Blackie
In addition to cooking at the Blackie, when workshop groups went on trips out there was, where possible, cooking on an open fire.
Storytelling and singing were also popular activities around the fire.
Storytelling - Storytelling was its own workshop both around the camp fire on trips out and indoors as well where children were encouraged to create and tell stories about underground animals.
In the lower dome area, visitors were led into a small chamber by candlelight and introduced to the home of "Nora the Rat". As the Play Scheme wore on tales of Nora's adventures at the beach, museums and swimming baths developed more and more detail. Many of these stories were recorded but we don't think the recordings survive.
Pebble Painting - A collection of pebbles and larger stones were amassed and brought back to the Blackie to be decorated to reflect a word, phrase or name with "stone" in it. Once completed the pebbles were displayed in a pigeon-hole compartmented box. The range of designs was wide with images representing "corner stones", "stone the crows" and "stone deaf" to name but a few.
Above the pebble painting workshop in action.
Above the Pebble Box during creation and below the Pebble Box on display during Down To Earth
Half a dozen kids and staff also took part in a Wirral Play Day at Arrowe Park which featured a pebble painting workshop - running along very similar lines to the one the Blackie was running - and a dance workshop leading to the creation of two dance numbers.
Gardening - On the stage, in the centre of the ground floor, was the gardening workshop where the kids helped plant some fast-growing seeds like peas, cress, alfalfa and mustard. They were able to watch see them grow over the course of the summer and photograph them.
Right photograph of the growing cress
In addition, miniature box gardens were developed, these included small plants, grasses, mosses, stones and shells. These items were collected during the many day trips to local nature spots over the summer.
Above the garden boxes being created
Dance - The dance workshops took place in the basement area. Working with a professional dancer young people created and rehearsed dances inspired by nature. The young people were taken out to local beaches and parks before returning to the Blackie to put together short dances inspired by the the places they had visited. They then later returned to the dances 'natural' place to perform the routine for that space - so 'a dance for West Kirby beach' or 'a dance for Sefton Park'.
Above the dancers rehearsing in the basement - it is a sad fact that we do not have any photos of the dances being perfromed in the places which inspired them.
Music - Back in the lower dome songs were created and recorded using 'natural' instruments such as logs, bamboo, sticks and the human voice, as well as sounds recorded from nature such as the wind, rivers and birdsong.
Wood sculpture - Pieces of broken wood and driftwood found in forests, on hillsides and beaches were collected and brought back to the Blackie to be thoroughly cleaned, whittled, sanded and varnished to form sculptures. These were then mounted and displayed against a black backcloth, on specially constructed shelves.
Working with the wood and a sculpture on display
Cosmetics - This workshop began later on in the summer. It produced cleansers, moisturisers and face packs from natural ingredients including strawberries, cucumber and honey. Copies of the recipes used were given out to the girls who took part, so that they could replicate them at home.
Trips and excursions were clearly an important feature of this Play Scheme. In addition to the trips made to beaches, parks, forests and hills of local areas, in order to collect the myriad objects to keep the workshops running, we also conducted supervised trips to the University of Liverpool swimming pool, a Wirral Play Day held at Arrowe Park mentioned earlier and full day trips in which two or three workshop groups went out together and performed dances, told stories and cooked around a camp fire.
Additional trips saw kids taken to specially selected venues outside of Liverpool to introduce them to new experiences and ways of life. These included a flour mill, raspberry farms and the Welsh hills. The open sessions in the autumn of 1984 also featured activities with this 'nature' theme, such was its success and popularity.
We regret that we do not have any surviving records of the people and businesses that made the Play Scheme possible by contributing their time and materials. If you have any information regarding this or any other Play Scheme organised by the Black-E we would very much appreciate you getting in touch. Thank you.