Report: Elsoms Creates

“For us it’s been an interesting process.  Our first reaction was why not let’s give it a try, as it’s developed it’s become an interesting opportunity for us at Elsoms to reflect on who we are and what we do – we spend a lot of our time looking forward and planning what we’re doing in business, this is a good opportunity to stand and watch, but also to reflect on who Elsoms are, what we are and some of our values, and the people who work here” Roger Keeling, Chairman, Elsoms

In Summer 2014, Transported commissioned Assault Events to work with Elsoms Seeds in Spalding as part of our Transported Live strand, developing a dance and music piece based on the company, and for the company.

Assault Events, founded in 1996 by Sophy Smith (Artistic Director of Music) and Sandie Fisher (Artistic Director of Dance), are a Creative Arts company covering a broad spectrum of the arts, including contemporary dance and music. The Assault Events and Elsoms Seeds Project drew on one of Transported’s key aims to bring the arts to people where they least expect it, and this project enabled those working at Elsoms Seeds to enjoy the arts within their workplace without having to go out of their way, or disrupt their daily routine.

“The main aim of this project was to make art happen where art wouldn’t normally happen” – Simon Hollingworth, Transported

Elsoms Seeds was established in 1844, and although it operates with partners abroad, the company’s headquarters remains in Spalding. Over this long period of time, Elsoms has maintained its independence as a locally run family business. The idea of heritage and the sense of belonging within Lincolnshire made the company an ideal location for the project and presented an interesting focus for Assault Events to work from. As the performance was to take place within a new warehouse, Assault Events and Transported wanted the performance to be about the location, and the people.

Assault Events spent an initial six weeks with Elsoms to gather information about and research into the colleagues, the daily activities at the factory and the history of Elsoms Seeds itself. A further two weeks were then spent developing music and rehearsing the performance leading up to the final event.  One colleague, Katie Baxter, performed as a musician in the final event after not having played for many years.

 “There were different levels of engagement, including Katie playing the violin in the performance, approximately twenty colleagues who got involved in the process, other members of staff who watched on coffee breaks etc., and colleagues who just came to see the performance” – Sophy Smith, Assault Events

The final piece that they created was incredibly personal to Elsoms, and it was clear within the performance that key elements of the company, such as its history and workforce, were chosen as stimulus for development by Assault Events.

The project brought all the employees at Elsoms Seeds together and there was a sense amidst the Elsom employees when they viewed the final piece that the company valued and wanted to invest in the colleagues that work there.

“It makes you feel patriotic to the company and have a sense of pride about where you work.  It’s easy to forget where you have come from especially when the company has such a rich history” – Roger Keeling, Chairman, Elsoms

“It feels strange now not having the company around and having that interaction and creativity going on” – Melanie Ebbage, Elsoms

“It opened up people’s eyes to how valuable the arts can be” – Katie Baxter, Elsoms

Schools across Spalding were also asked if they would be interested in getting involved in the project with Assault Events and Elsoms Seeds, and Spalding High School were keen to get involved. Workshops running alongside the project, held at South Holland Centre, focused on how performers and artists can develop a piece of visual or performance art from a stimulus, using the Elsoms Seeds project as a case study for the students.  Some students from Spalding High School attended the final performances, and excerpts of the performance were also shown to the general public in Spalding Market Place after their premiere, during which Sophy from Assault Events discussed and explained the thought behind each aspect of the performance.  During the course of the project, over three hundred people were involved and/or saw the final performances.