ONSCENE – The Creation of Polly Dolly

For Open Studios 2014, a team of young women from Collage Arts’ apprenticeship programme got together helmed by professional themers, Gemma and Tracey, with the aim of creating an astonishing piece of larger-than-life sculpture to take pride of place on the Chocolate Factory’s buzzing second floor. As you’ll see from the video and picture, the end results were truly incredible, and the excitement of the people involved on the day as palpable. Below is what they had to say about the project, as well as some comments from visitors…

Watch about the process of creating Polly Dolly:


Created by: Gemma, Tracey, Mel, Hannah, Linnet, Justyna, Zaki, Fern, Shezell and Soumia

“After an educational trip to Chessington Park, we were inspired to create a realistic exhibit for Chocolate Factory Open Studios. The Chocolate Factory name calls up memories of childhood sweets: Liquorice Allsorts, Aniseed Balls, Jelly Babies, Dolly Mixtures, and Sherbet Fountain. All these, and many more besides, were made by Barratt’s of Wood Green, the former residents of the Chocolate Factory.

Everyone remembers the icon of Liquorice Allsorts – Bertie Bassett. We introduce his wife, Polly, made up of Dolly Mixtures from the Chocolate Factory. In our exhibit, Dolly is seen painting as the Chocolate Factory is now an arts space.”

– Linnet, Justyna

“Theming is like invisible work that you don’t realise how much has gone in to produce the atmosphere of a ride at Chessington. You can’t use rusty corrugated iron roofing because of health and safety so you have to create the same effect using paint. Most theming occurs where the visitors can see it for example in the queue where the visitors spend the longest time or waiting in front of the ride entry point. Themers make the buildings look older from Egypt to the Wild West without compromising health and safety.”

– The Theming Group
“I can’t believe how realistic the theming effects look.”
– Mel

“Amazing attention to detail”
– Hannah 

“Thanks to this workshop we can appreciate the amount involved in theming.”
– Linnet

“Working as a themer you have to be adaptable to outside weather conditions and work with specific materials that means you have to finish the job whatever time it takes.”
– Justyna

Using Theme Parks as its start point the theming lab grew into a mini design studio, factory workshop and video production company.

Many of the young women taking part had no hands on experience or training in this area but they brought skills, aptitudes and a willingness to work together.

This was an intense project, the participants received a lot of industry information directly from the professionals and they had to translate that into a real design solution for exhibition at the Chocolate Factory open studios.

It was a process of discovery for the participants and the industry professionals as they worked through the tasks at hand, the site visits, the brief, the design process, the making and the final installation all taking within 8 working days.

The video and photographic footage is invaluable evidence of the laboratory. The participants experienced a wide range of professional skills in this creative experience and they got to contribute their own skills and experience along the way.

– Gemma

ONSCENE was a brilliant opportunity for Collage Arts to pilot projects in which industry professionals from the scenographic and stage craft sector in the UK to work directly with our young people. These projects met a variety of professional briefs in theming, sound design and stage design. Young members of the team were supported, coached and directed throughout the collaborative process of researching, designing, making and installation. The impact of these pilot projects includes encouraging young women into the Art Construction sector, an area still widely dominated by men and enabling young people to transfer their enthusiasm for music to another context, that of sound design

The ONSCENE project has opened a doorway for young people at Collage Arts to experience the artistic landscape where traditional scenography craft skills meet contemporary digital technologies. After researching the scenography and stage craft in the UK, Collage Arts identified 2 key areas to target their programme of work within the ONSCENE project. They targeted young people from black and ethnic minorities to encourage and support them to try out working in technical theatre including prop research and sourcing, sound and projection design and they enabled young women to get a taster of art construction working with women art construction workers. All Collage Arts programmes are non-formal and project-based and these were no exception.  Pilot courses aimed at Levels 3-4, which replicated the industry norms of professional behaviour for runners, tested the learning methodology and the mix of individualised support, team-working and participating in artistic practice.  This was followed by Laboratories (Levels 3-6) which placed young people directly with scenographic and stagecraft professionals in a working environment, addressing a professional brief with production deadlines and public exhibition to over 10,000 people. One of the key benefits to working with our colleagues across Europe was that we were able to take young people to experience working on projects with their peers in another European country. Some of your young people went to see a scenographic company and the extensive film industry lot in Rome and worked with other young people, there, on a project. Thanks to participating in the ONSCENE project, we now have young people who are interested and actively seeking work, further training and entering Higher Education in this field. The benefit of bringing young people into direct experience of broader horizons and accessing broader range of working professionals in the workplace can inspire, influence and incentivise them towards creating their own futures.

– Dr Denise Stanley, Collage Arts UK.

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Photography: Tracy Waller

The ONSCENE project is funded by the European Lifelong Learning Programme.

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