Community Engagement

Community engagement was a key feature in The Corner Shop project. Ordinary people were provided with many points of entry into the project.


"I have learnt how much work is involved in putting on a production and also how every small part is very important."
Community Performer (aged 17).

"I feel privileged to have my own story presented to me and others. What you managed to create was so beautiful."
Respondent - shopkeeper.

"I really enjoyed helping to make the set. I worked at my own pace and it was amazing to see the space transform over the time I was there."
Design Placement.

"I took part to overcome shyness. It was great meeting new people. My confidence has grown and I felt special."
Community Performer (aged 13).

"I really enjoyed stewarding for The Corner Shop and being part of this fantastic production. I made a lot of new friends and contacts with the cast and production crew and hope to stay in contact and possibly work with them again in the future."
Community Steward.

"When I realised it was my story... I had a lump in my throat. It took me right back to being 19. I was at the shop."
Respondent - family member

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Main Body
1 of 6 by Robert Day © 2009

2 of 6 by The Corner Shop Project Partnership © 2008

3 of 6 by Black Country Touring and Foursight Theatre © 2008

4-6 by Black Country Touring and Foursight Theatre © 2009

Community Engagement

Community engagement was a key feature in The Corner Shop project. Ordinary people were provided with many points of entry into the project as researchers, performers or archivists. We provided them with training and a framework for participation.

The oral history community researchers were of varying backgrounds and skills. Most had no experience of interviews, a few had some and one person produced his own 'Talking Newspaper' aimed at a visually impaired audience.

After providing training in oral history interviewing and audio recording techniques 16 volunteers were equipped to conduct their interviews. Most individuals made choices about whom they wanted to interview and some were provided with leads.

An oral history interview is a unique shared exchange at the point of interview: the respondent is able to journey through their life, reflecting and expressing. They were able to talk about their experience of living, working or growing up in a corner shop. The average interview lasted one hour. There were 31 interviews by 36 respondents.

Eleven shops that weren't able to commit to interviews due to time participated by being photographed for the project. Our intent was to highlight shop culture including some of the less public aspects: storeroom, office etc.

Led by Foursight Theatre, two Year-7 and one Year-5 classes (88 children) at 3 schools participated in their own mini-parallel corner shop project. The children were stimulated by visits to local shops and the archives. They interviewed shopkeepers at their schools. They then worked with three professional artists to create their own site-specific promenade performance at school watched by the local community.

During 2008 a team of 12 volunteers of varying backgrounds worked alongside the professionals on the theatre production. Some had links to theatre as young graduates and others had no experience at all. Four were design placements and assisted with the building and painting of the sets and 8 took part in the performance, their ages ranging from 10 to mid-50's. The community performers were used 'sensitively' - within their capabilities so that they could deliver their roles to a high standard and for it to be a positive experience, rather than them feel exposed performing alongside more experienced professionals. During the 2009 theatre production there were 8 design placements and 14 community performers (aged from 11- 22).

There were 31 volunteers who worked as stewards during the theatre production. They were trained in Front-of-House duties and Fire Evacuation procedures. Their primary role was to manage the audiences' experience through assertive stewarding: splitting the audience into small groups when necessary and ensuring the frail and mobility impaired were seated and all had a comfortable experience. A volunteer on work experience with Black Country Touring was responsible for recruiting, training and managing the stewards.

Sandwell Community History and Archive Service ran training in archive research for 7 volunteers. They were introduced to the project and its materials. The training covered information sources, online tools and good practice. The information researched contributed to the Corner Shop project archive and informed the exhibition.

There was an unexpected theme where people who had connected with the research and earlier (2008) production, including some audience members, volunteered to take part in the many roles on offer e.g. a Polish shop-owner who was interviewed in 2008 worked with us as a steward in 2009; an audience member from 2008 - their spouse worked as a set maker in 2009.

Recruiting, managing and meeting the expectations of volunteers is time consuming. Some require little monitoring others require hands-on management. The Corner Shop project was successful because of the composition of the team: of project partners, specialist professionals and (varied and young to old) community volunteers. The project equipped participants to engage with competence to deliver their work. Overall there was a collective sense of team working towards shared objectives.

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