On 17 October at the Maryhill Burgh Halls, the partnership between Shelter Scotland and the Scottish Opera came to fruition. Now looking up at the huge Scottish Opera sign, which was hanging on the building where all the ‘magic happened’, I asked myself why was it such a good thing to be part of? Why was everyone euphoric at the end of the workshop?

The partnership between Shelter Scotland and the Scottish Opera, as part of the Glasgow Mental Health Festival, has been a magical and exciting journey. Over the process of seven weekly workshops, parents and children have acted, developed characters and written songs to create the story of ‘The Magic Boot’.

At times the project has been a real challenge for all involved, many of whom had little social contact and a not much experience of group work.  However, this has been an incredibly enriching experience for all parents, children and staff. The group’s focus has brought everyone together to develop new skills, make costumes, find their singing voices, try out acting and play games such as ‘rubber chicken’.

During October the cast of The Magic Boot met for three days of intensive rehearsal culminating in the performance. This, for most, was their first ever performance on stage in front of an audience.

The story of Magic Boot is about seeing life through the eyes of each other. From a personal point of view this project embodies family unity triumphing in times of adversity, both in the underlying message of the production but also in the commitment given to the production and creative process by the parents and children who have actively engaged in it.

After the performance I spoke to several of the performers, Nicola, who took part with her two children Elise and Caleb, said ‘you were finding your voice and everybody’s ideas were being listened to, also you realised you didn’t necessarily have to be a great singer to be able to sing. It all happened so naturally’.

Jim, who participated with his daughter Samantha, told me it was the first time he had even been in a play, even at school he never had been in a play, and he said “if I can do this, I can do anything!”

Nikki said ‘there was something genuinely therapeutic about the work we did, coming up with ideas that were later rehearsed and then became part of the performance. To create something that was actually embraced and was then going to be performed and celebrated was something very special for all involved.’  Nikki also said ‘It gave me a boost and something to look forward to.  We worked together as a team, as equals and everyone felt that they had been part of something good and that they didn’t want it to end.’

Caroline told me that ‘being asked to be a part of The Magic Boot was an amazing opportunity that I could not miss, through doing this I have gained self confidence, I feel truly honoured to have worked so closely with so many talented people. Seeing how far we have all come from day one to the performance is overwhelming’

With all the challenges that homelessness brings to a household, it is to the credit of all the families involved that they turned up every week to sing and act their hearts out. The whole thing tuned into the creative talents of all involved and hopefully people can build on the new skills and abilities.

Jason Staddon, who was the composer involved in the project, has written about his own experiences throughout the project.

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