Last week James Graham held a focus group at Hull Truck Theatre with 11 of the over 2500 Hull 2017 volunteers, so that he could gain an insight into their experience of the year and the processes behind the volunteering machine. James asked the group if volunteering had changed the way they feel about their city, and if they have needed to ‘learn’ how to talk about art with members of the public. The volunteers discussed their personal highlights of the Hull 2017 programme, talked about friendships that have developed over volunteering sessions, and shared anecdotes of working on headline projects such as the Turner Prize and Nayan Kulkarni's public art installation Blade.
James has been given special behind the scenes access to the running of the festival whilst writing the play. He’s spoken to many people involved, including Hull 2017 CEO Martin Green, members of Hull City Council and employees of partner organisations to get a full picture of how a civic festival comes together.
James has three other plays currently running; Ink and Labour of Love in the West End, and Quiz at Chichester Festival Theatre.
James Graham, playwright, said:
"The army of brightly coloured volunteers have been the most visible part of City of Culture, and I also personally think it's one of the most inspiring features of the year. So of course they HAVE to feature in our play about the year. I've been privileged to meet them throughout 2017, and my session last Wednesday was incredibly useful - not to mention hilarious. They certainly weren't backwards in coming forwards with stories and memories, I'll say that much. But it also re-confirmed to me what a uniquely positive experience being a Hull 2017 volunteer has been.’
Mark Babych, Artistic Director at Hull Truck Theatre, said:
‘James is dedicated to making the play as accurate as possible. He’s taken the time to speak to all sorts of people who are involved. It’s exciting that he’s still conducting research and rewriting elements of the play – after all, there’s still a month of the year to go and still so much to happen. The play takes place on the handover day to the next UK City of Culture and we have no idea who that’s going to be yet! It will continue to evolve until opening night.’